ARLINGTON -- Kevin Matthews is a 5-foot-11 left-handed pitcher from Richmond Hill (Ga.) High School who throws a fastball, slider and changeup. He can also do a 360 dunk with a basketball. "Yeah ... I guess you can say it's been done," Matthews said. The Rangers don't want him for his basketball skills. They think he is another high school left-hander who can join a group that already includes Robbie Erlin, Robbie Ross and Martin Perez. That's why the Rangers used the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft to select Matthews on Monday night.
"Very athletic and a great makeup," said Rangers scouting director Kipp Fagg. "He's got a feel for pitching, and he pitches like he has a chip on his shoulder. We feel he has a big upside. He fits right in with Martin Perez, Robbie Erlin, Robbie Ross ... the kind of guys we're trying to build with." The Rangers also believe Matthews will sign quickly, which is why they took him over some potentially tough signs like Dallas Jesuit Prep outfielder Josh Bell. "I want to sign," Matthews said. "I want to get started as soon as I can, get used to the guys and the program. The sooner I get started, the better." The Rangers like that part. Two years ago, they took high school left-hander Matthew Purke in the first round and were unable to sign him. The Rangers expect a quick resolution with Matthews, who won't turn 19 until Nov. 24. "We talked about everybody out there," said general manager Jon Daniels. "There are some guys out there who were tough signs we would have taken in the right spot, but they weren't there. Some guys were there that weren't recommended by our scouts but might still be somebody we take eventually." Both Purke and Bell remain undrafted and will still be on the board when the draft resumes Tuesday at 11 a.m. CT. Purke just finished his second season at Texas Christian and Bell is committed to the University of Texas. Matthews, who has committed to the University of Virginia, was 4-2 with a 1.68 ERA in 10 games as a senior at Richmond Hill, a 4A school just outside Savannah. He pitched 42 innings, allowed 14 hits and 14 walks and struck out 94. He was the Region 3 Pitcher of the Year and Rangers area scout Ryan Coe worked hard on him all season. His next stop will likely be Surprise, Ariz., to begin his professional baseball career. "I'm really happy I got drafted by the Rangers," Matthews said. "They have a really good player-development program. I feel I can develop my changeup a little more, my slider a little more and manage the game more. They can help me with that." The Rangers and Matthews are undeterred by his size. Perez, Erlin and Ross are all left-handed and the same height as well, and are a combined 16-3 with a 2.45 ERA this season. "I use that to prove people wrong," Matthews said. "To me, that's never been a problem. When I go to these workouts, all the pitchers are 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-4, and I'm always the shortest guy. I don't think size matters as long as you get it done."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.