Injuries don't faze Texas in drafting arms

Injuries don't faze Texas in drafting arms

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers aren't afraid of taking a chance in the Draft on pitchers with a history of arm issues, and that was the case again on Tuesday.

Left-hander Jake Latz, who has pitched in just three college games over the past three seasons, was taken in the fifth round out of Kent State, and left-hander John King, who may end up needing Tommy John surgery, went in the 10th round.

"There are lots of guys who have come back from Tommy John and been very successful pitchers," scouting director Kip Fagg said.

In the third round in 2015, the Rangers took right-hander Mike Matuella, who was considered a potential No. 1 overall pick before undergoing Tommy John surgery, and who is now pitching at Class A Hickory.

King was 8-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 12 games and one relief appearance for the Cougars. He missed time because of an elbow injury, although he was able to pitch in the NCAA Tournament.

"We figure he is a legitimate prospect," Fagg said. "We have to do some more medical, it looks like a Tommy John down the road. We didn't see this guy as a normal 10th-round pick. If he was healthy, he would have gone way better.

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"But these guys do come back, and the success rate is pretty good. It's time missed, but when they do come back, they are legitimate guys, not just organizational-type guys you might take."

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Latz, a big-time high school prospect out of suburban Chicago, was the Illinois High School Player of the Year in 2014. He was drafted in the 11th round by the Blue Jays that year but elected to go to LSU instead. It didn't go well, as a fractured left elbow and thoracic outlet syndrome limited him to just three games in two years.

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Latz decided to transfer to Kent State, and the NCAA did not grant him a medical waiver. He had to sit out a season but was able to throw for scouts in batting practice sessions on campus. The Rangers were in attendance and took a chance in the fifth round.

"He could have pitched this year, but he wasn't eligible," Fagg said. "We have an extensive history with him. He hasn't pitched much, but it's a four-pitch mix. It's a starter look. His arm is clean. With all the medical work, we are good with it right now. I just know the dude is healthy now; he has been pitching all year, and he'll go out and pitch this summer."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.