On a night where the Texas Rangers' rotation ERA climbed even closer to the 7.00 mark, it's good to have something else to talk about.
Although the MLB draft is perhaps the biggest gamble of any professional sport, today nonetheless marked a key moment in the organization's future. The Rangers came into today's draft holding five of the draft's first 54 picks, a bounty made possible mainly through the departures of Carlos Lee (picks #17 and #35), Gary Matthews Jr. (pick #24 and #44) and Mark DeRosa (pick #54). Would Jon Daniels and the scouting department come out of Day 1 successfully, or choke in the eyes of the draft experts?
Let's find out.
#17 | RHP Blake Beaven
School: Irving, Texas (HS)
6'7", 210 lb. | Born 1/17/89
Irving High School senior Blake Beaven was linked with the Cleveland Indians (who ended up selecting Beau Mills at #13 overall) before the draft, so the Rangers were fortunate to have Beaven slide to them. The 18-year-old right-hander was widely considered as one of the top high school pitchers coming into the draft, with his repertoire including a mid-90's fastball which can touch 96 MPH, a low-80's slider which projects to be a plus pitch, and a low-80's changeup, although he relies much more on his slider. He has excellent command of his fastball.
Beaven's a very confident young pitcher, and knows how to win: he went 8-2 with a 0.21 ERA, four walks and 124 strikeouts in 66 innings for Irving. He also threw a complete game shutout against Cuba in the pressure packed IBAF World Junior Championships while pitching for the USA Baseball Junior National team. There are some concerns about his mechanics, particularly that he doesn't utilize his legs enough in his delivery. However, these issues aren't regarded as a major drawback. He's committed to play for the Oklahoma Sooners, but he's regarded as a fairly easy signing at this point. At this slot, I don't think the Rangers could have done much better than they did.
#24 | RHP Michael Main
School: DeLand, Florida (HS)
6'1", 171 lb. | Born 12/14/88
Continuing their recent trend of drafting high school pitchers in the first round, the Texas Rangers selected right-hander Michael Main at #24 overall. Main is an incredibly gifted athlete, who has second or third round talent as an outfielder. Main's biggest asset is his devastating mid-to-high-90's fastball which has been clocked as high as 99 MPH, and has late movement on it. He also has a mid-80's slider and a changeup, both which have good movement on them as well. Most importantly, he has learned how to pitch, and his command is solid.
It sounds as though Michael Main was Texas's first choice at #17 if Beaven had been picked before then, so Jon Daniels must be thrilled to have snagged him at #24. However, despite Main's incredible talent as a baseball player, the fact still remains the Rangers passed on Rick Porcello, who was considered as the top high school pitcher in the draft, but slipped due to signability issues and his agent being Scott Boras. The pitching rich Detroit Tigers snapped him up at #27 instead, and while his price tag will undoubtedly be high, Texas could regret passing on Porcello.
#35 | CF Julio Borbon
6'1", 190 lb. | Born: 2/20/86
Vladimir Guerrero. Ichiro Suzuki. David Ortiz. Those are some names that strike fear into the hearts of Ranger fans, but none of them seemed to scare Ranger fans as much coming into the draft as Julio Borbon. Borbon was projected by several sources to be taken by Texas at #17 or #24, and while he was consistently ranked within the top 25 players available, taking Borbon with one of those two picks would have garnered a lot of criticism. Indeed, Texas dodged several bullets, as the DMN reports they would have taken Borbon higher if Beaven or Main had been selected by another team. Yikes.
The 21-year-old Borbon was probably the best college outfielder in the draft, but that's not saying much considering it was a relatively weak crop. He offers excellent speed, bat control and bunting ability, and is considered a plus defender in center field due to his great range. However, he has little power, a below-average throwing arm, and questionable plate discipline. Borbon broke his ankle in January of this year and was forced to miss several months, leading to perhaps his worst season with the Tennessee Volunteers.
Despite these question marks, Borbon is a much more tolerable pick at #35 than he would have been at #17 or #24, and he's expected to be a fairly easy sign, even though he is advised by Scott Boras. At best, Borbon could evolve into a Johnny Damon or Kenny Lofton type player. It will be interesting, to say the least, how the Rangers approach the coming offseason with such a strong crop of free agent center fielders available when they just selected their center fielder of the future - well, for the moment anyway.
#44 | RHP Neil Ramirez
School: Kempsville, Virginia (HS)
6'3", 190 lb. | Born: 5/25/89
Neil Ramirez came into his senior season as one of the top high school pitchers in the country, but mechanical issues and a back injury hurt his stock and dropped him to the supplemental round. He possesses an explosive sinking fastball which he can run up to 96 MPH, an 11-to-5 curve which ranges from the mid-to-high-70's, and a low-80's changeup, although it lags well behind his plus curve. He has above average command of his fastball, but he'll have to gain better command of his secondary pitches if he wants to move to the next level.
Ramirez's biggest mechanical flaw is that he rushes his delivery a bit, leaving his arm behind and causing his pitches to flatten out too much. Nonetheless, he is regarded as quite polished for a pitcher of his age, and if the Rangers can work the kinks out, they'll have a very exciting young pitcher on their hands.
#54 | RHP Tommy Hunter
6'4", 250 lb. | Born: 7/3/86
Tommy Hunter was perhaps the biggest reach the Rangers made in their first day of the draft, but make no mistake: the guy can play. Hunter has four pitches, including a solid fastball that sits in the low-90's but can run up to 94 MPH, a decent changeup, and a power slurve from 82-84 MPH. The Jonathan Broxton comparison has been thrown around considerably with Hunter, due to his great size on the mound - and that's not exactly referring to his height, either. Scouts aren't high on his body, but he's more athletic than he appears, considering he won two Junior Olympic judo championships.
Hunter likely projects as a future setup man in the bullpen, but there's also the chance he could evolve into a #4 or #5 type starting pitcher. He's a draft eligible sophomore, and he plans to decide whether he'll sign with the Rangers or go back to Alabama for his junior season sometime next week. Tough to say which way he's leaning at this point, but I'll give a slight edge to him probably signing with Texas.
I'll recap the final picks of the Rangers' first day of the draft tomorrow.
Overall Day 1 draft grade: ?