There are a few simple rules to follow when anticipating what the Rangers might do this week in the First-Year Player Draft.
• Pitching is always high on everybody's list, but the Rangers insist on taking the best player available at that particular moment.
• The Rangers like athletic, multitalented players in the middle of the diamond: catcher, shortstops and center fielders.
• The Rangers have a stated philosophy of covering their own backyard and not getting beat in Texas, but they have an affinity for players from the Southeast and Georgia in particular.
That's not to say the Rangers won't look everywhere. In 2012, Texas found slugging prodigy Joey Gallo out in Las Vegas.
But since Jon Daniels took over as general manager, the Rangers have had 20 first or supplemental first-round picks over the past eight Drafts. Of those 20 picks, four have come from Georgia, three have come from Florida and four others have come from either Alabama, Tennessee or South Carolina.
This year, Texas has the 30th overall pick. The Rangers forfeited their own pick to sign Shin-Soo Choo, but received the 30th overall pick in compensation for the Orioles signing outfielder Nelson Cruz.
The 2014 Draft will take place from Thursday-Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, at 5 p.m. CT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 11:30 a.m. CT on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker. You can keep up to date by following @MLBDraft, and get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
In about 50 words
This is an important Draft for the Rangers. Under the complicated rules of international amateur signings and how much they spent in 2013, Texas will be limited to how much it can spend in that area this summer. Those handcuffs come off in 2015, but unless the Rangers find some $250,000 bargain gems in Latin America, their best chance of adding top talent to the farm system will come through the Draft.
This draft is supposedly deep in pitching. The Rangers are probably drafting too low to have a crack at TCU left-hander Brandon Finnegan. But if they want players from their own backyard, there are two high school pitchers to watch in Howe, Texas: right-hander Garrett Fulenchek and right-hander Michael Kopech from Mount Pleasant. One or both may be there in the second round.
By the time the Draft falls to the Rangers at No. 30, it will be difficult to tell who on their master list will still be available. High school left-handers like Foster Griffin from Orlando, Fla., have appeal. In their Mock Draft, MLB.com's Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo have Texas taking Florida high school second baseman Forrest Wall, a premium athlete with speed and a plus bat. Interestingly, Callis has Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher going at 31. The Rangers drafted him out of high school in 2011 but couldn't sign him.
Rangers bonus pool
The Rangers have a total of $4,820,700 to spend on their top 10 picks, including a slot value of $1,760,500 for the No. 30 pick and $957,900 for the 59th overall pick in the second round. Texas has $2,015,500 available to use on international amateur signings, but the club is limited to $250,000 per player because it went 15 percent over the spending limits in 2013.
The Draft pools cover the top 10 rounds and any bonus money in excess of $100,000 given to players taken in rounds 11-40. If a player selected in the first 10 rounds doesn't sign, his assigned value is subtracted from his team's pool.
A club that exceeds its Draft pool by 0-5 percent pays a 75 percent tax on the overage. The penalties get much more severe at higher thresholds: the loss of a first-round pick and a 75 percent tax for surpassing it by more than 5 and up to 10 percent; the loss of first- and second-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 10 and up to 15 percent; and the loss of two first-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 15 percent.
The Rangers, having stocked their farm system with some impressive offensive talent over the past two to three years, don't have any glaring needs in the farm system. But big hits taken by the big league club as far as pitching injuries to Martin Perez and Matt Harrison reinforce the ever-present need to add pitching. The Rangers could use more left-handed pitching, which is why Griffin could be of interest.
The Rangers like pitchers with power arms -- Alex Gonzalez in 2013, Collin Wiles in '12, Kevin Mathews in '11, Luke Jackson in '10 and Tanner Scheppers in '09. Who doesn't? They also like athletic outfielders, including Lewis Brinson in 2012, Zach Cone in '11 and Jake Skole in '10.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY
Keone Kela was a 12th-round pick out of Everett (Wash.) Community College in 2012, whose velocity has been on the rise the past couple of years. He is now at Double-A Frisco, he can hit the radar at 100 mph and is developing into an intriguing power reliever. But nobody is rising faster than Gallo, who was taken out of high school two years ago and has developed into the premium power prospect in all of baseball. He could be in Double-A by the All-Star break.
Pitcher Nick Martinez is becoming one of the best Cinderella stories in the business. He was an 18th-round pick out of Fordham in 2011 and a converted infielder who zipped through the Rangers system. Martinez is now in their rotation.
In The Show
In addition to Martinez, Rangers Draft picks currently on the team are Robbie Ross Jr. (second round, 2006), Nick Tepesch (14th, '10) and Mitch Moreland (17th, '07). Colby Lewis was taken by Texas in the supplemental first round in 1999 but left the organization for five years from 2004-09 before returning as a free agent. Former Draft picks Derek Holland (25th, 2008) and Scheppers (first, '09) are on the disabled list.
Rangers' recent top picks
2013: Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Class A Myrtle Beach
2012: Lewis Brinson, OF, Class A Myrtle Beach
2011: Kevin Matthews, LHP, extended spring camp
2010: Jake Skole, OF, Double A Frisco
2009: Matt Purke, LHP, Unsigned