Last June, I expended something close to 800 words on a long-winded introduction that attempted to make some sense of the Rangers' controversial first-day selections of Zach Cone and Kevin Matthews. This year, such creative measures are not necessary, as the Rangers' ceiling-oriented philosophy was plainly apparent with their two big picks at the top, and the third pick, despite being somewhat off the board, could be perceived as necessary in order to sign their second pick due to baseball's convoluted new draft-spending restrictions. You may not be in complete and unconditional love with these picks, but you probably at least understand why they were made, and that's good enough ... for now.
What follows is an in-depth look at each of these three amateur players procured by the Rangers on the first day of the Rule 4 draft, complete with all the requisite positional/demographic/vital info, the best all-time picks at each respective pick, and, where available, video. I would urge you all to keep an open mind with each of these names, as the developmental process of turning these kids from well-regarded prep talents into legitimate professional ballplayers is just getting started, and draft classes cannot be accurately graded from snapshot scouting profiles. If you can accept those universal truths, then you can better appreciate the info contained therein:
No. 29: OF Lewis Brinson | DoB: 05/08/94 | 6' 4", 185 lb.
School: Coral Springs High School (Florida) | Slot Money: $1,625,000
Best No. 29 Picks: D. Kingman (1967), G. Brett (1971), A. Wainwright (2000)
The Rangers were connected early and often to prep arms in the vein of Matt Smoral and Lucas Sims and Ty Hensley at pick No. 29, but they opted to drill a little further down in committing their first pick to Brinson -- the archetypal loaded toolshed with monster athleticism and, by several accounts, the highest or second-highest ceiling in the draft, as one scout remarked to Jason Parks that Brinson boasts "1:1 upside." That's No. 1 overall pick upside for the uninitiated, and, on that basis, it's pretty easy to understand what motivated the Rangers to make this pick, as there wasn't another player available that late in the first round that could possibly bring such lofty promise to the organization.
Now, as you can probably tell, this is an enormous high-variance pick, a pick that very likely won't pan out ... but with the amateur flameout rate being what it is, one can see the logic in at least dreaming big with that pick that probably won't pan out anyway. It's also worth noting that at least one draft pundit (Kevin Goldstein) didn't foresee Brinson making it past the Athletics at No. 34 overall, meaning that in spite of this pick being a perceived reach due to Brinson showing up in the 50-something range in the pre-draft rankings, the Rangers clearly didn't feel that he was going to make it to their next pick at No. 39. When your guy is out there for the taking, you pounce.
The scouting book on Brinson isn't too terribly complicated, and could probably be replicated with a fair degree of accuracy by smashing your head into your keyboard until you had spelled out "TOOLS UPSIDE ATHLETICISM" a few hundred times consecutively, but the specifics are where the narrative takes an interesting turn. Brinson's lean, athletic frame has evoked multiple comparisons to Cameron Maybin, and the tools trail close behind the physique, as he boasts plus speed/quickness/arm strength, and profiles as a premium defensive center fielder with more than enough in the tank to handle the range-associated demands of the position; ESPN.com's Kiley McDaniel remarked that Brinson will go out and flash "70 speed, [a] 70 glove, [and a] 60 arm" on you."
From an offensive standpoint, Brinson displays good bat speed and raw power, but the weaknesses in his scouting profile begin to manifest here, as he disappointed scouts this past spring "with his lack of consistent hard contact," and, at present, brandishes a long swing with mechanical holes that's holding back his bat speed. As such, Brinson is also regarded as one of the rawest upper-tier players in this draft class -- somebody who currently faces a profound lack of identifiable baseball skills, who needs all of the benefits conveyed by physical maturity and professional instruction in order to overcome the present lack of polish and have any chance of seeing his monster upside actualize.
One of the players Parks mentioned as a comparison for Brinson is Greg Golson, another veritable toolshed who was drafted 21st in the 2004 amateur draft, never really went anywhere in the Phillies organization, and was traded some years later to the Rangers, who also fell short in their bid to crack the Golson riddle. Golson still hasn't gone anywhere, and at least part of his failure to stick at the big league level is likely tied to something ESPN.com's Keith Law mentioned in a chat a few years ago, whenhe mentioned that he had never seen a first-round pick with less feel for the game than Golson.
The Rangers no doubt believe that Brinson has all of the qualities needed to resolve his relative lack of polish (namely, work ethic and receptiveness to instruction, both of which are said to be present in abundance where Brinson is concerned), and no doubt also believe that Brinson has more pure feel for the game than Golson; there's no reason to believe they'd pop him with their lone top-30 pick if they felt he was incapable of overcoming such challenges. Again, though, there's a strong likelihood that we look back at the Brinson pick 4-5 years down the line and see that there was little to no payoff at the end of the tunnel. If it does pan out, however, we're looking at a bona fide, no doubt future star, and that's more than you can say for many of the players flanking Brinson on the draft board.
Signability Outlook: Excellent, as Brinson is expected to forgo his commitment to the University of Florida, and when queried by the media last night, he spoke in terms of a deal being all but finished. There's an inherent developmental benefit in getting your guys signed as quickly as possible, because the sooner you get them signed, the sooner you can introduce them to professional instructors and acclimate them to the pro-ball environment, and it's good to see this moving forward with such swiftness.
No. 39: 3B Joey Gallo | DoB: 11/19/93 | 6' 4", 200 lb.
School: Bishop Gorman High School (Nevada) | Slot Money: $1,324,800
Best No. 39 Picks: Don Baylor (1967), Mel Hall (1978), Todd Hundley (1987)
Gallo was pegged to go as high as No. 11 (Athletics) in several of the mock drafts that circulated around the blogosphere yesterday, but he slid well beyond that point and ultimately fell all the way into the Rangers' laps at No. 39. I think that if you were to dig around enough among the various scouting services, you'd find the Gallo pick to be perceived as a great one this far down in the draft, especially since his one monster tool (power) is something that teams will pay out the nose for in the open market. To add a little context to this point, Keith Law had Gallo ranked as the 23rd-best prospect in the draft in his final rankings set, and Scout.com's Frankie Piliere had him all the way up at No. 11.
So, yeah, the power is inordinately huge; per Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole, Gallo's raw power is "staggering" in nature, and commonly draws 70-plus grades from scouts, and provided that the hit tool develops to the necessary extent, he will stand a good chance of becoming the rare player capable of banging 35-40 homers on a seasonal basis. The questions on the hit tool, however, are fairly significant, in the sense that scouts wonder if the power tool will be marginalized by his inability to make enough contact -- the product of a swing and approach that generates plentiful swings and misses. For what it's worth, Law's present/future hit tool grades on Gallo are 35/45, which, from the most optimistic vantage point, translates into a future batting average of .265-.275.
The other major aspect to this pick that needs to be taken under consideration is where Gallo fits on the big league diamond. Ideally, you keep Gallo at third base and take full advantage of his tremendous arm (he showcased an elite fastball that touched the upper-90s in high school), but there's already talk of his frame being too big and his defense too borderline to keep him at the hot corner for the long haul; a move to first base would neutralize the arm and raise the offensive expectation, as good-hitting third basemen are tougher to find than good-hitting first basemen, and such a cross-diamond move would force him to raise his OPS by 70-80 points to remain at the same level among his peers.
One more thing worth noting: Clearly, the Rangers did not make this pick with the intention of Gallo failing as a hitter and/or overhauling him as a pitcher, and Gallo adamantly opposed the pitching route going into the draft, but the fact that he does boast such a special arm -- and that, per Keith Law, he could have been a top-10 prospect in this draft class if he had committed to pitching -- does suggest that not all may be lost if the hit tool doesn't actualize as hoped, and if he ends up stalling out in the minors.
I vividly recall an anecdote from Jim Bouton's Ball Four where it was explained that a two-way player could commit to hitting and always come back to pitching if it didn't pan out, because a live arm is still a live arm at the end of the day, but that committing to pitching and then trying to go back to hitting was incredibly difficult, as hitting is driven by repetition, and extended time away from that repetition severely erodes the required skill set. With that fully in mind, there is a built-in backup plan in place here if, for whatever reason, Gallo doesn't develop as expected at a corner, because he could still conceivably turn around, go the way of Matt West, and become a viable pitching asset. It's still a tad far-fetched, and I'd much prefer to see Gallo pan out as a slug-heavy monster, but having more pathways to the majors is never a bad thing.
Signability: Questionable to decent, if only because Texas first has to buy Gallo out of a commitment to LSU, and will very likely have to go above slot money in order to do it. Rangers amateur scouting director Kip Fagg does fully expect all three of the team's top picks, and from that standpoint you can easily argue that Gallo is perfectly signable and that this deal will get done in very short order, but with such harsh penalties awaiting any team that dares to defy Bud Selig and go appreciably over its allotted budget for its first 10 picks, I'm not prepared to call this a done deal just yet.
No. 53: RHP Collin Wiles | DoB: 05/30/94 | 6' 4", 185 lb.
School: Blue Value West High School (Kansas) | Slot Money: $954,800
Best No. 52 Picks: Ralph Garr (1967), Carl Crawford (1999), Ryan Sweeney (2003)
In recent years, the Rangers have demonstrated no great willingness to strictly adhere to the draft prospect rankings proffered by the mainstream, and this pick is something that you can safely consider to be an off-the-board pick; Wiles was ranked just 268th overall in Baseball America's pre-draft rankings, and given only that information, one could easily perceive this as a reach, or an overdraft, or an otherwise questionable choice. It should be noted, however, that this wasn't a selection that came flying out of left field, as Keith Law actually mentioned in his final mock draft that the Blue Jays were eyeing Wiles up as a potential sandwich-round pick.
In any event, though, Wiles is a prototypical Rangers draft pick -- a tall, projectable high school kid with improving velocity (upper-80s at present and touching the low-90s on occasion, with room for growth as he reaches physical maturity), an advanced breaking ball and change-up, feel for the art of pitching, and good mechanics that allow him to spin his offerings into the plate with command. I would suspect that the Rangers view Wiles as somebody with mid-rotation upside if the heater eventually ends up sitting in the lower-90s, who stands a better chance of achieving that upside than some other high school arms thanks to the strong pitchability, and who has at least a small chance of becoming something more special than a mid-rotation guy if the whole package really flourishes in pro ball
Signability: Excellent, as Wiles told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Rangers "matched what [his people] were looking for, so it's basically a done deal." There's been a lot of theorizing done on the possible ulterior motive of the Wiles pick, as it's generally thought that he'll sign a below-slot deal and therefore give the Rangers extra money to play with in their effort to get Gallo under contract; I don't have much trouble buying into that, but I also think that the Rangers really like what Wiles brings to the table, and that affordability wasn't the driving force behind this pick.