June 2007

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 13, 2007

Who has a record of 4-13, an ERA of 6.90, more than 12 hits allowed per nine innings, a home run surrendered every six innings, about five strikeouts per nine, and four walks per nine?

Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, combined.

Opponents are hitting .382/.449/.618 off Millwood. Think about that. There’s not a hitter in baseball whose batting clip is as high as the *average* Millwood opponent, and only two (Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez) who have a higher OPS.

The elephant in the room is the mounting stack of stories about a rift in the clubhouse, rumors of dissension between a manager who has never managed at this level and a group of players who have no history with him. It’s boiled to the point that every local columnist and a good number of national columnists have weighed in — mostly hatchet jobs with the exception of one local writer who suggests that Ron Washington deserves from the media an effort to avoid dealing in unattributed clubhouse gossip — and while it’s not as irritating as watching bad defense and bad baserunning, I’m getting sick of it.

Mainly because there are beefs in the dugout and in the room on every team at every level in every sport, particularly on those that are playing poorly. And it’s only when teams are playing really poorly that these stories find the light of day.

If there were disagreements about game-calling or count-working on a team that was 33-31, instead of 23-41, there wouldn’t be one paragraph devoted to it.

I’m not saying the stories are untrue. I’m not saying they don’t matter. I have two policies I’ve tried to adhere to since starting this newsletter: (1) I don’t break news, even if I hear something I trust; and (2) I don’t devote space to commentary on someone else’s commentary. I try to limit my writing to analysis of news reported elsewhere, and my own observations regarding things I can see for myself or that I can base on my own research, with an occasional reference to trade rumors or similar developments being reported by reputable media outlets.

I’ll admit there there’s a possible head-in-the-sand thing going on, too. I’ll write about pitchers not getting outs and defenders not making plays and my team not winning on getaway days, but I don’t want to write about guys wearing the same uniform not getting along, because I want to believe it’s not any bigger a deal than it is in the Milwaukee or Cleveland or Boston clubhouse.

But I’ll say this: If the team with the worst record in baseball *isn’t* worked up about it and busting water coolers, then that’s a story.

While on the subject of things that irritate me, here’s one that I have no problem addressing: Rick Porcello. Would I have been pumped to see Texas take a shot on the high-profile high school righthander, especially at pick number 24? Sure. But the media is completely missing the point on the reason Texas and a whole lot of other teams did not use a pick on the 18-year-old, considered by many to be the top high school arm in last week’s draft.

It’s not the money.

Well, for some teams it probably was. Scott Boras is reportedly seeking $7-10 million to keep Porcello from attending the University of North Carolina.

But why are reporters everywhere ignoring the bigger piece to this puzzle?

Porcello wants a major league contract.

I spent 30 minutes the other day researching to come up with an exhaustive list of the high school pitchers who have gotten big league deals to start their careers. A complete rundown of the pitchers in that category, so we can once and for all look at the wisdom of going down that road from a franchise standpoint, and decide whether Porcello is worth adding to that illustrious registry of young pitching prodigies.

Here goes.

Todd Van Poppel and Josh Beckett.

Not Jeremy Bonderman or Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels or Scott Kazmir or Clayton Kershaw or Matt Cain or Adam Loewen or Homer Bailey or Chris Gruler or Gavin Floyd or Mark Rogers or any other high first you can think of in recent years (or in any year).

Van Poppel and Beckett. That’s it.

How many innings do you think those two Texas-bred righthanders pitched in high school, compared to the New Jersey-born Porcello? Is Porcello ready to pitch a full, unregimented minor league season? Can his team afford, on the other hand, to bring him along methodically when the options clock begins ticking as soon as he reports to duty?

He would get a fourth option by way of the loophole that addresses players who have exhausted three options before five full seasons as a pro, but so did Van Poppel, and we know how that worked out. How do you think the Tigers will feel if they put $8 million in Porcello’s pocket and he goes on to pitch for six big league clubs, mostly in middle relief?

Beckett made it pay off. And Porcello might, too. But are the odds good enough that they warrant that sort of bonus commitment?

Van Poppel made less in his career (a little more than $7.5 million) than Porcello will probably get from Detroit before he throws a minor league pitch.

And one additional reason that Texas might have had not to go down the Porcello path, an issue that Detroit didn’t face: Let’s say the Rangers took Blake Beavan at number 17 and Porcello at 24. At 35, not wanting one Boras pick to hold up the other, Texas passes on leadoff-hitting center fielder Julio Borbon and takes another high school pitcher — maybe Neil Ramirez (whom the club took at 44 and was in fact the first high school arm taken after 35).

The Beavan slot calls for about $1.5 million, the 35 slot around $1 million. If Texas took Porcello between them, and agreed to pay him upwards of $8 million in a $1.3 million slot, how would that affect negotiations with the other two high school righties, Beavan and Ramirez? Probably not positively.

Every reporter in town is making this out to be a black and white issue — Texas passed on Porcello because of his asking price! — but I think that ignores two bigger issues: the demand for a big league deal, and the impact that taking him would have had on talks with the other high school pitchers the club drafted high.

Final draft results for Texas, including Friday’s 45 choices:

1 (17) Blake Beavan, RHP, Irving High School (area scout: Eddings)
1 (24) Michael Main, RHP, DeLand High School (Fla.) (DeMutis)
Supp. (35) Julio Borbon, OF, Univ. of Tennessee (Wood)
Supp. (44) Neil Ramirez, RHP, Kempsville High School (Va.) (Ardolina)
Supp. (54) Tommy Hunter, RHP, Univ. of Alabama (Wood)
2 Matt West, 3B, Bellaire High School (Tex.) (Taylor)
3 Evan Reed, RHP, Cal Poly (Guggiana)
4 Garrett Nash, OF, Jordan High School (Utah) (Pratt)
5 John Gast, LHP, Lake Brantley High School (Fla.) (DeMutis)
6 Bobby Wilkins, RHP, Valhalla High School (Cal.) (Flores)
7 Tim Smith, OF, Arizona State Univ. (Pratt)
8 Jonathan Greene, C, Western Carolina Univ. (********)
9 Davis Stoneburner, SS, James Madison Univ. (Va.) (Ardolina)
10 Andrew Laughter, RHP, Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette (Taylor)
11 Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, St. Rose High School (N.J.) (Matsko)
12 Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Collierville High School (Tenn.) (Wood)
13 Kyle O’Campo, RHP, Riverside Poly High School (Cal.) (Flores)
14 Matt Lawson, 2B, Missouri State Univ. (Smith)
15 Hector Nelo, RHP, St. Thomas Univ. (Fla.) (Alvarez)
16 Josh Lueke, RHP, Northern Kentucky Univ. (Giegler)
17 Mitch Moreland, 1B, Mississippi State Univ. (Wood)
18 Ryan Tatusko, RHP, Indiana State (Lee)
19 Kyle Murphy, OF, Univ. of Kansas (Smith)
20 Kenny Smith, 2B, Western Carolina Univ. (********)
21 Erik Davis, RHP, Stanford Univ. (Metzger)
22 Donnie Ecker, OF, Lewis & Clark State (Idaho) (McGraw)
23 Jacob Kaase, SS, Texas Lutheran (Taylor)
24 Chris Gradoville, C, Creighton Univ. (Neb.) (Smith)
25 Andrew Wilkins, 3B, Broken Arrow High School (Okla.) (Eddings)
26 Kevin Keyes, OF, Connally High School (Tex.) (Taylor)
27 Drew Gray, C, Longview College (Mo.) (Smith)
28 Mike Ortiz, 1B, Miami Palmetto Senior High School (Alvarez)
29 Ryan Falcon, LHP, Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro (********)
30 Ben Henry, RHP, Loris High School (S.C.) (********)
31 Anton Maxwell, LHP, Oregon State Univ. (McGraw)
32 Gaspar Santiago, LHP, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Thon)
33 Jared Hyatt, RHP, Georgia Tech Univ. (********)
34 Chase Huchingson, LHP, Fayetteville High School (Ark.) (Eddings)
35 Jeff Schaus, OF, Barron G. Collier High School (Fla.) (Alvarez)
36 Brian Dupra, RHP, Greece Athena High School (N.Y.) (Matsko)
37 B.J. Salsbury, RHP, San Jacinto High School (Cal.) (Flores)
38 Hunter Hill, RHP, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Tex.) (Eddings)
39 Tyler Fleming, RHP, Cowley County Community College (Kan.) (Smith)
40 Sean Meehan, RHP, Centralia High School (Wash.) (McGraw)
41 Thomas Edwards, 1B, Rutgers Univ. (N.J.) (Matsko)
42 Jason Sowers, 1B, Cowley County Community College (Kan.) (Smith)
43 Joey Rosas, LHP, Yavapai College (Ariz.) (Pratt)
44 Kris Jiggitts, RHP, Colby Community College (Col.) (Smith)
45 Ryan Turner, LHP, Georgia Tech Univ. (********)
46 Yoandy Barroso Revilla, OF, Miami Springs High School (Alvarez)
47 Ben Petralli, C, Sacramento City College (Metzger)
48 Dillon Baird, 3B, Yavapai College (Ariz.) (Pratt)
49 Brandon Hayes, OF, Sheldon High School (Or.) (McGraw)
50 Paul Zarlengo, 1B, Marian Catholic High School (Ill.) (Lee)

Smith, Moreland, and Maxwell are playing in the College World Series.

Moreland homered on Friday to help Mississippi State to a win, and doubled twice and recorded the save as his club downed Clemson, 8-5, on Saturday to secure a berth in Omaha. Texas plans to develop Moreland, who won the Home Run Derby at last summer’s Cape Cod League All-Star Game, as a first baseman.

Bobby Wilkins is the highest pick to sign thus far. A San Diego State University commit, he went 5-5, 1.01 for Valhalla High this season, fanning 74 in 64.2 innings with a low-90s fastball and an advanced change. The 6’4", 225-pound Wilkins told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he signed for "six figures" plus additional allowance for education expenses. His slot called for a bonus in the low 100,000s.

Raunado (Louisiana State), Pomeranz (Mississippi), O’Campo (Cal State Fullerton), Huchingson (Arizona State), and Dupra (Notre Dame) are among the high school arms that are considered strong bets to go to college, but Texas will make a run at signing them before the August 15 deadline. Same goes for Keyes, a University of Texas commit with massive power at the plate and in his right field arm. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Keyes as the number 54 prospect in the draft.

Baseball America ranked Dupra as the draft’s number 116 prospect, suggesting he projected to go somewhere around round four if it weren’t for signability issues.

Fleming was the Rangers’ 20th-round pick in 2006. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll transfer to Wichita State for the 2008 season.

Gradoville’s coach at Creighton was Ed Servias, uncle of Rangers director of player development Scott Servais, who also caught for the school.

Petralli is Geno’s son, and was Zach Phillips’s catcher in 2005 at Sacramento City College — where Geno also played collegiately.

Hayes is the nephew of former big league outfielder Von Hayes.

Law, incidentally, ranked the Rangers’ Day One work (Beavan, Main, Borbon, Ramirez, Hunter, West, Reed, Nash, Gast) as the best in the entire league. A former executive in the Blue Jays baseball operations department, Law is especially high on Main.

Baseball America was impressed with the Rangers draft as well. Said executive editor Jim Callis: "The Rangers have to be celebrating. They wanted pitchers and never could have dreamed that they could have pulled off getting both Texas high school righthander Blake Beavan at No. 17 and Florida prep righty Michael Main at No. 24. And then it kept on going . . . Texas got the best college center fielder in Tennessee’s Julio Borbon at No. 35, two more very good arms in Virginia high school righthander Neil Ramirez at No. 44 and Alabama righty Tommy Hunter at No. 54, and then a pure high school bat in Texas prep third baseman Matt West at No. 80. Wow."

Evan Grant reports for Baseball America that the Rangers had projected lefthander Derek Holland, the lefthander they took last year in the 25th round and signed last month as a draft-and-follow, as a fourth- to seventh-round pick if he’d gone back into this draft.

Cincinnati drafted Rangers scouting director Ron Hopkins’s son Ross in the 40th round out of a Seattle-area high school.

Law pinpoints California high school outfielders Isaac Galloway and Aaron Hicks, University of South Carolina Justin Smoak, University of San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz, and Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez as his top five prospects for the 2008 draft. Law pegs Longhorns outfielder Jordan Danks as the draft’s number 20 prospect.

My greatest hope for the big club’s road trip in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, next to more wins than losses, is for Sammy Sosa to hit at least two home runs, though I’d settle for one. It’s Jason Botts time.

Actually, it’s more important that Sosa string together a decent run of good at-bats (rifling that shot to the right field fence last night: more of those), so that the Rangers have an opportunity to move Sosa for something. Texas traded Andres Galarraga in 2001 for lefthander Erasmo Ramirez, a reliever who was too old for AA; outfielder Chris Magruder, who was too old for AAA; and righthander Todd Ozias, a reliever who was too old for AA. Turned out to be an example of good scouting by Texas. That’s probably the upside of what we can expect for Sosa, but he needs to get back into a mini-groove.

And if he doesn’t (it looks like he’ll get just one more start on this NL road trip), move on anyway. It’s far more important over the second half of this season to figure out where Botts (who will be out of options in 2008) fits than to get Sosa more at-bats.

The papers are saying that Mark Teixeira may need more than the minimum 15 days on the disabled list to get his strained left quadriceps back in playing shape. Three weeks? Four weeks? He’s proven in the past to be extremely resilient. Hopefully he’s back and at full strength no later than that.

The timing of his recovery is crucial, obviously.

That’s now 62 at-bats for Marlon Byrd, and he sits at .403/.449/.468 with only eight strikeouts. And he’s playing the kind of outfield defense that his resume promised but that he didn’t show in March in Surprise.

In 77 at-bats, Victor Diaz (.273/.288/.623) has eight home runs and 10 singles.

And one walk.

Brandon McCarthy’s middle finger callous has torn again, and his Thursday start is up in the air.

In his six starts since April, McCarthy is 3-0, 3.26, allowing just two home runs in 30 innings and limiting opponents (Boston, the Yankees, Milwaukee, Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Houston) to a .202 batting average. His stretch has been totally obscured by the team’s slide.

Matt Kata cleared waivers and elected to take free agency rather than accept an outright assignment.

Texas named Bakersfield catcher Taylor Teagarden (.338, eight home runs, 18 RBI in 21 games; 19 walks, 19 strikeouts, minor league baseball-leading 1.199 OPS and .485 on-base percentage) and Clinton righthander Omar Poveda (3-1, 1.99, 30/9 K/BB in 31.2 innings) the organization’s player and pitcher of the month for May.

Outfielder John Mayberry doubled in a run in four trips in his Frisco debut yesterday afternoon.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz homered twice for Oklahoma on Monday.

Like Botts, he’ll be out of options when the season ends.

The Rangers released RedHawks catcher Nick Trzesniak to make room for Chris Stewart on the roster.

Frisco placed six players in the Texas League All-Star game: righthanders Eric Hurley and Doug Mathis, catcher Kevin Richardson, infielders German Duran and Casey Benjamin, and outfielder Anthony Webster.

Eight Clinton players made the Midwest League All-Star team: righthanders Omar Poveda and Brennan Garr, lefthanders Phillips and Broc Coffman, catcher-outfielder Chad Tracy, infielders Johnny Whittleman and Jose Vallejo, and outfielder K.C. Herren.

LumberKings lefthander Kasey Kiker gave up one hit (an infield single) in five scoreless innings on Monday, punching out eight and walking three. The 19-year-old’s numbers are just sick: 2-1, 2.45 in five starts, 35 strikeouts in 22 innings, .187 opponents’ average.

Whittleman and Herren have gotten most of the attention among Clinton hitters, but Tracy is one RBI off the Midwest League lead, with 50 in 61 games.

Phillips took a perfect game to the eighth inning on Friday.

Bakersfield righthander Michael Schlact (2-0, 1.38, no walks in 13 innings) was named California League pitcher of the week.

Righthander Jose Marte was sent from extended to Clinton, and first baseman Ian Gac made the reverse move. Texas released lefthander Jared Locke and righthander Juan Jimenez, and purchased the contract of outfielder Jon Weber from the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent Northern League, assigning the 29-year-old to the Blaze.

Fargo-Moorhead turned around and signed outfielder Tydus Meadows.

The Dominican Summer League is underway. Predictably, Omar Beltre (15/3 K/BB in 8.2 innings, 1.04 ERA) and Alexi Ogando (5/1 in 7.2 innings, 0.00 ERA) are dealing. Juan Grullon (presumably the same pitcher who has previously been called Gueris Grullon) and Miguel De Los Santos have shown up in the stats as well, but Fabio Castillo, Wilmer Font, and Carlos Pimentel have not, suggesting those three might be headed stateside for the short-season leagues. Spokane opens its Northwest League season on June 19, and the Arizona League kicks off on June 22.

A pitcher named Wilfredo Boscan has thrown 7.2 scoreless DSL frames, scattering three hits and no walks while fanning 11.

Third baseman Emmanuel Solis is also missing from the DSL stats. He’s unquestionably a player to watch once the short-season leagues get rolling.

The Mets released Chan Ho Park, and Houston signed him to a AAA contract.

St. Louis promoted righthander Andy Cavazos to the big leagues after he fanned 28 Pacific Coast League hitters in 25 relief innings for AAA Memphis. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick in 1999, acquired by the Cardinals in the minor league phase of the 2002 Rule 5 Draft, has fanned two, walked two, and allowed two hits in two scoreless innings since arriving in St. Louis.

The Atlantic City Surf of the independent Can-Am League released catcher Angel Sanchez.

I’m going to have to close reservations for Newberg Report Night in the next few days. Please send payment in right away if you plan to attend. Thanks.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 11, 2007

The Rangers’ updated record on getaway days (the final game of each homestand and the final game of each road series): 3-13.

Michael Young’s updated push to put together a fifth straight 200-hit season: this torrid run he’s been on puts him in a position to hit the mark by simply hitting .299 the rest of the way, getting the same number of at-bats per game that he’s amassed so far.

Outfielder John Mayberry has been promoted to AA. The Rangers’ 2005 first-round pick was leading the California League with 16 home runs but was hitting just .230/.314/.496 for Bakersfield, with 64 strikeouts (third-highest total in the league).

Mayberry replaces outfielder Ben Harrison on the RoughRiders roster. Harrison, who returned to action two weeks ago after missing the season’s first seven weeks following off-season shoulder surgery, was hitting .174/.321/.304 in 23 Frisco at-bats.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 10, 2007

THE NEWBERG
REPORT

We were down to our final out, blanked for eight and
two-thirds with baseball’s best 2007 closer on the mound, having just registered
a three-pitch strikeout and a comebacker for out number two.  The way this
season has gone, you knew the odds.  If you even gave so much thought as to what
the odds might have been.

Then Brad Wilkerson stepped to the plate.  And then
Ramon Vazquez.  And Gerald Laird and Kenny Lofton and Marlon
Byrd.

Neither Brad nor Ramon nor Kenny nor Marlon was around
in 2004.  Gerald was but it was his disjointed rookie season, half of which was
erased by a broken thumb. 

But Michael Young was around for 89-73 that year, and so
was Francisco Cordero, around for a season that gave us lots of moments like
last night’s.

Whether Brad and Ramon
and Kenny and Marlon will be around the next time this team wins, it’s hard to
say.

But Michael will be. 

And I will be. 

And games like that one
give us a reminder of why we care about this so much, how it felt when we were
repaid with moments that matter, and how it’s going to feel for those of us
hanging in there for the next time this team strings together a season of
moments like that. 

Not for the bandwagoners
who will call themselves huge Rangers fans the next time this team is playing
meaningful September games.  For you and me.

It, unquestionably, will
rock.

 

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — JUNE 9, 2007

It seems almost as foreign as it would be (will be?) to report that Mark Teixeira has been traded:

Iron man Mark Teixeira is headed to the disabled list, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, due to the strained left quad he sustained last night.

And this one was a bit startling as well:

Kam Loe is being optioned to Oklahoma.

So says the Star-Telegram, which suggests the assignment is to let Loe work in the AAA rotation to further develop his offspeed pitches.

To replace Teixeira and Loe on the roster, Brad Wilkerson will be activated and Travis Metcalf will be recalled.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 8, 2007

It was another episode in an increasingly familiar stretch of baseball, another night on which the Rangers took themselves out of the game early due to ineffective starting pitching and awful defense. Earlier in the day, espousing the “best player available” approach, the organization’s braintrust went heavy after pitching and defense in the draft, devoting six of nine Day One picks to the mound and two to center field sprinters.

If you were concerned that Jon Daniels was going to lean toward the quick fix given the way the big club is playing and his own contract, which extends through 2008, you’ll be pleased to know that Texas spent six picks on high school players, none of whom figures to reach Arlington during the term of Daniels’s existing contract. For that matter, the three college players chosen aren’t likely to see Rangers Ballpark before 2009 themselves.

Grading draft classes is sort of foolish, especially in baseball, within hours of the draft rather than years, but having read a lot of player evaluations, both before and after the draft, and having talked to some media experts whose opinions I trust, I feel pretty good about yesterday.

Some quick thoughts:

1. I thought we were lucky to get high school righthanders Blake Beavan and Michael Main where we did.

2. I was against the idea of taking Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon at 17 or 24, and there were plenty of publications predicting that Texas would do just that. Popping him at 35 wasn’t as difficult to get behind.

Will it take more than slot to sign Borbon, since Scott Boras advises him? Not sure, but Beavan and Main sound like they are eager to sign, and that should mean that the Rangers can step out of slot a bit on Borbon, if needed.

3. Love the Rangers’ final pick of the day, Florida high school lefthander John Gast. Having already had Tommy John surgery, there will be repeated references to Angels southpaw prospect Nick Adenhart as Gast rehabilitates, but add righthander Nick Masset to the comp as well. The difference will be that, if Gast signs, he’ll rehab under the tutelage of the Rangers’ staff rather than at home in Florida, which is what Masset did during his now-antiquated draft-and-follow season with St. Petersburg Junior College. More on Gast’s upside in a bit.

4. My only real disappointment was that we didn’t take a shot at high school righthanders (and Boras clients) Rick Porcello (who lasted until the 27th pick) or Matt Harvey (who lasted until 84), but there are obvious reasons why they fell as far as they did.

Boras is making noise that it’s going to take at least $7 million to sign Porcello, but that’s not the worst part. Setting the money issue aside, Porcello is apparently insisting on a big league contract, which means his options will kick in as soon as he signs. If he signs close enough to the August 15 deadline that it’s a 2008 contract, it still means he’ll need to be in the big leagues for good by Opening Day 2011; if he signs earlier than mid-August, he’ll be out of options going into 2010. If that seems like a long way off, it’s not. If Eric Hurley had signed a big league contract when drafted, for instance, he’d have been out of options this year and would not only be in Texas right now, but the club would not be able to send him down if he were struggling. And this is a guy who has had very few bumps in the road developmentally and yet is still just in AA.

Todd Van Poppel’s career was ruined by the big league contract he demanded and got right out of high school. I want my team to be willing to step out of slot to pay for the right player (Mark Teixeira, Taylor Teagarden, Johnny Whittleman, Marcus Lemon, Vincent Sinisi), but giving a high school pitcher a major league deal is just asking for trouble. We’ll see if Detroit succumbs.

As for Harvey, who was considered by some to be the best high school arm in the draft when the 2007 season began, Texas passed on him six times. But Harvey was passed over a lot on Thursday, maybe because of Boras, maybe because of his commitment to North Carolina, maybe because of reasons we don’t know about. But there’s something going on.

Hated to see the Angels be the team to step up and call his name. They took a chance on Adenhart three years ago that paid off. Hopefully they won’t be able to sign Harvey.

Here was the path my thoughts took: If we took Porcello or Harvey, we’d be able to give a shot to signing him, and if we didn’t, we still had four other picks in the first round, plus we’d get an added pick in 2008, one pick after the slot that was used on him in 2007. Since Texas is unlikely to have many, if any, compensatory picks in 2008 by virtue of losing Type A or Type B free agents, the possibility of ending up with an extra pick next year if the club failed to come to terms with Porcello or Harvey made the downside sort of interesting.

But then I thought about the effect that negotiating millions of dollars above slot with one of those two high school righthanders would have had on talks with Beavan (if we took Porcello at 24) or with Beavan, Main, and Ramirez (if we took Harvey as late as 54). That might have endangered multiple picks, and that’s something we can’t afford in this draft.

My gut tells me I would have been happier if we had locked down the right to negotiate with Porcello or Harvey. But my common sense tells me that the decision not take one of them was probably the rational one.

5. Random thought: Baltimore took Matt Wieters at number five, and the point was made repeatedly that the Orioles had never before invited a negotiation with Boras. Wieters may be the first fifth-pick-out-of-Georgia-Tech-advised-by-Scott-Boras for the Orioles to deal with, but could there be another one not too long from now?

6. Toronto took Houston high school third baseman Kevin Ahrens with the 16th pick, which Texas forfeited to the Blue Jays by signing Frank Catalanotto.

7. Finally, before getting into an analysis of the Rangers’ picks, let me say this about ESPN: whoever decided that it was better television to have a coffeehouse conversation with Barry Larkin and several others than to broadcast the picks in the supplemental first round ought to be fired. If they thought that anyone other than diehard fans of 2007 baseball was watching ESPN2 in the middle of a weekday afternoon, they’re as clueless as we all figure they are. Maybe the SportsCenter generation wants to hear Dave Winfield talk about the good old days. But the SportsCenter generation wasn’t tuned into ESPN2 in the first place. And for at least half an hour, the MLB.com audio feed continued to simulcast the ESPN broadcast, meaning there was no way to see or hear the draft unfold.

Rant over. I hate ESPN.

On to the players:

1 (17th overall, taken with a pick awarded for the loss of Carlos Lee). BLAKE BEAVAN, RHP, Irving High School (Tex.) (Ranger first-round picks since 1990 include Mark Teixeira, John Danks, Thomas Diamond, Kasey Kiker, John Mayberry Jr., Drew Meyer, Rick Helling, Carlos Pena, Benji Gil, Scott Heard)

He stands nearly a foot taller than Kasey Kiker, and throws from the other side, but like last year’s first-round pick, Beavan wants to sign (his slot calls for about $1.5 million), and it appears that Texas is going to put him on a path not unlike the one they set Kiker out on after signing him last summer. Beavan said yesterday afternoon that he understands his career will start in Spokane, where he’ll face mostly college competition, and based on how he’s toyed with high school hitters, it sounds like a challenge he’ll be ready for.

The 6-7, 210-pound Beavan went 9-2, 0.19 for Irving High this spring, striking out 139 hitters in 73.1 innings (nearly two per inning) and walking only four — four! — while he scattered 23 hits, an average of two a game. On March 6 he struck out 18 in a perfect game against Irving MacArthur.

As a junior, Beavan went 8-2, 1.29 with 100 strikeouts in 59.2 innings and was named Baseball America’s Youth Player of the Year (an award won the last four years by Delmon Young, Adenhart, Cameron Maybin, and Robert Stock). In his sophomore year, he went 7-3, 0.65, fanning 97 in 64.2 frames. Beavan went 1-6, 1.76 with 88 strikeouts in 50 innings as a freshman, earning the team’s one victory in a 1-23 season.

Beavan commands an explosive fastball in the mid-90s (touching 98) with a plus slider that Baseball America called the third-best secondary pitch among all high school pitchers in the draft (though other publications called the pitch’s development level suspect). He has a change that he didn’t really need in high school and that he’ll need to develop in order to get left-handed hitters out in the pros. His fiery mound demeanor is described as extreme confidence or arrogance, depending on who you ask. I heard Perfect Game’s David Rawnsley comment during the yesterday’s proceedings that Beavan “doesn’t like hitters.”

And he’s faced hitters he doesn’t like on a pretty big stage. Last summer he pitched for Team USA in the quarterfinals at the IBAF World Junior Championships, traveling to Cuba and firing an 11-strikeout, complete-game shutout in front of a hostile crowd that included 40 armed guards and members of Fidel Castro’s family.

Scouts praise the big righthander’s easy delivery (Roy Halladay) but some have concerns about the recoil in his arm after he finishes (Troy Percival, K-Rod). There is some thought that the mechanical issues could relegate him eventually to a closer’s role, but that’s not even a consideration at this point, and if he takes well to instruction, probably never will be.

Leading up to the draft, the consensus in the mocks was that Beavan wouldn’t get past the Indians, who had the 13th pick (and made my day when they had Bud Selig call out the name of Beau Mills). In fact, the minor league pitcher most frequently mentioned as a comp for Beavan is Cleveland blue-chipper Adam Miller, the McKinney product who is dealing in AAA in his fifth pro season and is a near-lock to join the big club sometime this year. Beavan is saying he wants to be in Arlington in three years. That’s a longshot, but if he stays healthy and dominates from the start, it can’t be ruled out.

Look at it this way: Hurley was drafted three years ago, and although it would be premature to throw him into a big league fire right now, it’s nonetheless been a topic of conversation among media and fans.

Depending on how things go this summer, chances are good that Hurley and Beavan will go into the 2008 season as this franchise’s number one and number two prospects. Beavan signed a letter of intent with the University of Oklahoma, but it’s one that he won’t honor. He’s going pro: Count on it.

1 (24, taken with a pick awarded for the loss of Gary Matthews Jr.). MICHAEL MAIN, RHP, DeLand High School (Fla.)

Peter Gammons said during the draft that at least three teams wanted to draft Main (whom Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein called a “crazy great athlete”) as a center fielder. You can be sure Texas wasn’t one of them.

The 6’1″ Main hit .457 with 22 RBI and 24 stolen bases for DeLand High this season and was named the third-best high school athlete in the draft by Baseball America, but it was his mound work that earned him Gatorade National Player of the Year honors. The righthander went 12-1, 1.02 for the Bulldogs this season, striking out 121 hitters in 82.1 innings with a mid-90s fastball (judged third-best in the draft among high schoolers) that has touched 99 and stays down in the zone with late movement. He mixes in a power curve (triggering at least one Tom Gordon comp) and a potentially above-average change, and not surprisingly fields his position well.

Tim Hudson is another name that comes up from time to time when prototyping Main.

Main has been on the map for a long time. In 2004, Baseball America named him the top 15-year-old baseball player in the nation in its annual “Baseball For the Ages” feature. That fall he registered 94 on the radar gun while pitching in Mexico for Team USA’s Youth National Team in a qualifying tournament for the 2005 World Youth Championship. A year ago several publications called him a candidate to be the top prospect in this week’s draft. He missed some time as a junior with tendinitis in his rotator cuff, but there are no health questions now.

Boasting a 4.1 GPA, Main has committed to Florida State, but his signability is not considered to be an issue. He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he has a deal in place and expects to sign with the Rangers in the next few days.

Main was a Team USA teammate of Beavan’s. It’s too soon to tell whether he’ll start out with Beavan at Spokane after signing, but you can bet that the Rangers’ vision after the first round went the way they had hoped was that Beavan and Main will eventually team up in Arlington as two core members of the pitching staff.

1-Supp (35, taken with a pick awarded for the loss of Carlos Lee). JULIO BORBON, CF, University of Tennessee (Colby Lewis, Jason Romano, Corey Lee, Mike Bell)

There are things to love about Borbon — plus plus speed, bat control, ability to drag bunt, outstanding range in center field. There are things to question — low walk totals, subpar throwing arm, basestealing inefficiency.

But for Texas, which had already taken two pitchers and had two more picks in the 19 slots that would follow number 35, the opportunity to take the draft’s first college outfielder, one who was projected to go as early as the middle of the first round (and, accordingly to a number of mocks, to the Rangers at number 17), was one the club didn’t want to pass up. This choice has the feel, more than any of the Rangers’ other choices yesterday, of being a “need” pick, but he was taken later than almost every projection had him going, and so from that standpoint it can be argued that he might very well have been the best player available as well.

Borbon’s stock was sky-high after the 2006 season, when he led the gold medal-winning Team USA in hits, triples, and stolen bases at the FISU World Championship Tournament in Cuba. But this January, Borbon, a preseason first-team All-American, fractured his left ankle in practice when he slid awkwardly into second base on a play where there wasn’t even a throw. That same week, Baseball America had ranked him as the number six draft prospect in college, number nine overall.

Surgery followed, and Borbon missed a couple months, and all eyes were on his running game to see how the injury would affect his ability to impact games with his feet, both offensively and in the field. He answered those questions, stealing 10 bases in 13 attempts once he returned to action and playing plus defense in center field. His draft stock increased as the season wore on, and comparisons to Johnny Damon revived.

Baseball America called Borbon the third-fastest college baserunner in the draft (clocking in as fast as 6.28 seconds in the 60-yard dash), and the second-best college athlete. He possesses a little pop in his bat, even if not fence power at this stage. In his three seasons with the Volunteers, he has hit .355/.392/.477, with 30 doubles, 13 triples, seven home runs, 100 RBI, 122 runs, and 41 steals (in 52 tries) over 629 at-bats, but his average and on-base percentage in his disjointed 2007 were the lowest of his college career.

The Boras client told reporters yesterday that he wants to sign. He’s a very important prospect, especially if the club is trying to find ways not to have to spend $60 million over five years to bring in an aging player like Torii Hunter to fill the void left in center field by Gary Matthews Jr.’s departure. That’s not to say that Borbon could arrive in 2008 — there’s no chance of that — but if he takes to the pro game this summer and the Rangers believe he has a chance to eventually play every day in Texas, leading off and patrolling center field, maybe the club will decide it doesn’t need to commit four or five years to an expensive center fielder.

1-Supp (44, taken with a pick awarded for the loss of Gary Matthews Jr.). NEIL RAMIREZ, RHP, Kempsville High School (Va.)

After taking Borbon nine picks earlier, Texas returned to the high school pitching landscape and chose Ramirez, a high-ceiling righthander who, like Beavan and Main, commands a fastball in the mid-90s with life.

The 6’3″ Ramirez went 6-2, 1.46, fanning 74 in 52.2 innings in 2007, disappointing some scouts who believed after his 4-3, 1.05 junior season (67 strikeouts in 42 frames) that he would be a lock to fit somewhere in the first round. Going into this season, Baseball America called him the number 11 high school prospect in the country (Main was number nine, Beavan number 16) and placed him on its Pre-Season All-American Second Team. But mechanical inconsistencies (and possibly a back strain that cost him about a week this spring) pushed him down to the sandwich round.

Ramirez, who has committed to Georgia Tech, was a 2006 Aflac All-American and 2007 Louisville Slugger High School Pre-Season All-American, along with Beavan and Main in each case.

Ramirez mixes an 11-5 curve and a change with his explosive fastball, though the secondary pitches are works in progress. His fastball command and natural deception are the things that the scouts are drawn to, and he proved in the Cal Ripken Sr. Summer Collegiate League, in which he was named the top prospect while pitching against college hitters, that he has the kind of upside and polish that give him every chance to become the pitcher that, a year ago, he seemed to be well on his way to becoming.

1-Supp (54, taken with a pick awarded for the loss of Mark DeRosa). TOMMY HUNTER, RHP, University of Alabama

Hunter is big. Really big. Some have compared him physically to Jonathan Broxton, the Dodgers reliever that Texas targeted when it was shopping Alfonso Soriano two summers ago. Others have been less kind, invoking the name of David Wells. Standing at 6’4″ and listed at 250, the double black-belt, two-time Junior Olympic judo champion projects as a high-octane, late-inning reliever, a role the draft-eligible sophomore filled on occasion at Alabama, starting at other times.

Hunter (who was drafted in the 18th round out of high school by Tampa Bay) went 10-3, 3.30 as a freshman (earning Freshman All-American recognition) before working out of the bullpen for Team USA in the summer, helping the squad win the gold medal at the FISU World University Championships in Cuba. In 21.1 innings, he went 3-0, 3.80 and scattered 19 hits and four walks while punching out 23.

As a sophomore in 2007, Hunter went 7-5, 3.87 in 11 starts and 15 relief appearances, fanning 80 and issuing 22 walks in 117.1 innings with an arsenal featuring a low-90s fastball.

Rule 4 states that any player who turns age 21 within 45 days following the draft is eligible for that draft. Hunter will be 21 on July 3, and accordingly he was eligible to be chosen this week. This does give him the added leverage of a return to school for two more years — and two more drafts — so this might be a player that will command above-slot money to sign. He says, however, that he won’t let negotiations drag — he plans to decide sometime next week whether he’ll sign or return to Alabama for his junior season.

Nine spots after Texas chose Hunter, San Diego used the penultimate pick of the sandwich round to take Ohio State lefthander Corey Luebke, who was the Rangers’ 22nd-round pick a year ago.

2 (80). MATT WEST, 3B, Bellaire High School (Tex.) (Johnny Whittleman, Vincent Sinisi, Nick Regilio, K.C. Herren, Jason Bourgeois, Jason Grabowski)

Given the fact that Texas had made five choices before taking West, it’s easy to overlook this pick as one that fell outside of the higher-profile areas of the draft, but considering that West was the number 80 pick in a draft class that, by all accounts, is deeper than the 2005 draft that produced Johnny Whittleman for the Rangers at pick number 67 and Taylor Teagarden at number 99, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the West pick.

A high school shortstop for the powerhouse Bellaire program in Houston, West went into his senior season as a Rawlings Pre-Season All-American and a candidate to go in the supplemental first round, but he saw his stock slip a bit during the spring. Nonetheless, scouts think his plus bat speed could develop into legitimate power, and he’s praised for his ability to go the opposite way. Athletic but just an average runner, West hit .545 with eight home runs, 43 RBI, 61 runs, and 31 stolen bases in 77 at-bats.

West will probably move to third base as a pro due to his 6’2″, 195 frame that is still filling out, and so the development of power at the plate will probably be the key to his potential to become a big league regular. He has committed to both Arizona State and San Jacinto Junior College but is expected to sign.

3 (110). EVAN REED, RHP, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (Hank Blalock, Taylor Teagarden, Chad Tracy, Michael Schlact, Barry Zito, Ryan Dempster, John Hudgins)

The Rangers’ division rivals in Los Angeles and Oakland made higher-profile picks just after Texas took Reed, as the Angels selected Connecticut high school righthander Matt Harvey eight picks after Texas and, two picks after that, the A’s took TCU righthander Sam Demel (whom Texas chose in the 35th round in 2004), also a college reliever.

Did the Rangers make the right call? Area scout Todd Guggiana, who found Kameron Loe in the 20th round, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Reed has a power arm (mid-90s fastball, slider) that settled in for Cal Poly in late relief in 2007, after he had started the year before. In 32 Mustang appearances this season, he went 4-3, 3.19 with 11 saves, permitting 36 hits and 18 walks in 42.1 innings while fanning 41. Despite concerns that his fastball is too straight, no hitter took him deep all season.

For what it’s worth, Reed told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that he expects to give starting another try once he signs.

4 (140). GARRETT NASH, CF, Jordan High School (Utah) (Wes Littleton, Brandon Boggs, Marcus Lemon, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, Ryan Glynn)

When I saw one scouting comp suggesting that Nash reminds some of Cleveland center field prospect Trevor Crowe (whom I suggested recently trying to pry loose in an Eric Gagné trade), at least defensively, I perked up. Nash has been a middle infielder in high school, but like Crowe he’s apparently going to shift to center field, where his plus plus speed can be put to better use.

Nash ran a 6.27 60 last summer and one publication characterized him as the fastest high school player in the country. He utilizes his speed well, running the bases effectively (racking up 120 high school steals while getting caught just once) and showing good range in the field.

A switch-hitter, Nash hit .434 with 27 RBI and 32 swipes in 27 games this season, the third straight campaign in which he earned First-Team All-State honors. Scouts see power potential from the right side but none from the left.

Nash will play for reigning national champion Oregon State should the Rangers fail to sign him. The area scout responsible for recommending the Nash pick was former Rangers southpaw Andy Pratt, in his first year scouting for the organization.

5 (170). JOHN GAST, LHP, Lake Brantley High School (Fla.) (C.J. Wilson, Chris Davis, Michael Kirkman, Mike Nickeas, Matt Lorenzo, Warren Morris, Ryan Dittfurth)

A risk worth taking. Before Gast injured his elbow in mid-April, he had turned himself into a potential first-round pick, touching 94 with a plus curveball and command of both. Lefthanders like that don’t last long in the draft. Had he not been hurt, he probably would have gone in yesterday’s top two rounds.

A Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American, Gast had a 5-1, 0.58 record, punching out 66 in 34 innings, when he hurt himself and underwent May 1 Tommy John surgery. He obviously won’t pitch this year and probably won’t in 2008, either. But if Texas can sign him and rehab him like the Angels did with Adenhart in 2004, this could be a huge acquisition.

Under the old CBA, Gast would have been a strong candidate to forgo his commitment to Florida State and instead enroll at a junior college, creating a draft-and-follow opportunity like Masset did in 2000, when he opted out of his scholarship to Louisiana State and pitched for St. Petersburg before signing with Texas on the eve of the following draft. But under the new rules, Gast will have until August 15 to sign with the Rangers, with no draft-and-follow possibilities. Otherwise, he’ll likely go to Florida State and redshirt in 2008.

Rounds six through 50 take place today. And then we can start to envision how the Rangers might staff the Arizona League and Spokane rotations, with Beavan and Main and Ramirez (should they sign) joining a promising collection of arms that includes pitchers like Fabio Castillo, Jake Brigham, Wilmer Font, Geuris Grullon, and Carlos Pimentel.

And that brings up a point that must be made. For yesterday and today to pay off the way they need to, it’s not necessary that all, or even most, of those pitchers are wearing Rangers caps four years from now.

In fact, it’s not conceivable.

At least a couple won’t be able to get AA hitters out. Another one or two might get hurt, as much as we don’t want to think about it. And who knows, maybe three years from now, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels (yes, that’s right) trades Main and third baseman Emmanuel Solis, both of whom are starring in Frisco, and big league left fielder Chad Tracy to Colorado for free-agent-to-be outfielder Brad Hawpe, who helps Texas separate itself from the Angels on the way to a playoff berth.

Not all nine of the players Texas drafted yesterday will reach the Rangers’ 40-man roster. The key is to get as many of them as possible onto somebody’s 40-man roster. The effort to find players capable of getting there continues this morning.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 7, 2007

There’s very little consensus among the mock drafts this morning as to who the Rangers’ picks will be at number 17 and number 24 in the first round, but this is fascinating: Baseball America’s Jim Callis has Texas taking Florida high school righthander Michael Main at 17, and New Jersey high school righthander Rick Porcello at 24.

Porcello, a Scott Boras client, touches 98, mixes it with a good change, and in many mocks is projected to be the second pick in the entire draft. I’ve read at least one assessment that says some scouts call him the best high school righthander in the draft since Josh Beckett, who was the number two overall pick in 1999 and got $7 million and a big league contract from Florida.

Boras was Beckett’s advisor, too.

I focus on the Callis mock because he’s the man. In 2005, he pegged picks 1 through 18 perfectly, even though the baseball draft is easily the most difficult draft to project.

The pick that broke Callis’s mock in 2005 was the Texas choice at number 19. The Rangers chose John Mayberry Jr., while Callis had them taking Travis Buck, who is now starting in the outfield for Oakland.

Buckle up. Scott Lucas will send out a draft preview shortly, and he’ll also flash the Rangers’ picks in the early rounds once the draft gets underway at 1:00.

Big, big day.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — JUNE 6, 2007

Guess who the following pitching line belongs to?

 

IP H R ER BB K

5.0 6 4 4 2 3

 

That’s the Rangers’ starter’s average effort, roughly, over
these first 59 games.

 

Ugh.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 6, 2007

Those of you who were around the Newberg Report six years ago might have smirked, as I did, when Mark Teixeira stepped in last night against Jason Grilli (whose name has appeared 37 times in the Newberg Report since 2001). A fitting tribute to draft week.

Over the weekend I heard a talk show refer to Thursday as the most important day in Rangers history. While I wouldn’t go that far, we’ve referred to tomorrow’s massive significance, to the opportunity that Texas has in this draft to reshape its farm system and perhaps, in turn, its fortunes over the next generation of Rangers baseball.

Eleven years ago, the Rangers had picks 18, 24, 32, and 53, a quiver that looks somewhat like this week’s 17, 24, 35, 44, and 54.

As the 1996 draft approached, the newspapers and radio shows weren’t calling it the most important day in franchise history. That April, Texas started out with seven straight wins and had at least a share of first place for all but three days of the season. The club had never been to the playoffs, but the division lead hovered around five games in the days leading up to the draft, and so the likelihood is that the Rangers’ draft power was never mentioned by the media until Draft Day itself.

Doug Melvin, in his second Rangers draft, focused heavily on pitching and primarily on hurlers he thought could arrive quickly, just as he did in his first draft the year before, when he popped Florida State righthander Jonathan Johnson with the seventh overall pick, passing over a college pitcher like Matt Morris who wasn’t considered quite as big league-ready, a high-ceiling high school arm like Roy Halladay, and a slam-dunk college hitter like Todd Helton.

Notably, Melvin’s better picks in 1995 were on a third-round Canadian high schooler (Ryan Dempster), a couple small college hurlers (Ryan Glynn and Mike Venafro), two junior college righthanders (Danny Kolb and Brandon Knight), and a high school hitter (Craig Monroe). But he stayed with the philosophy in 1996, owning four picks in the first 53, to favor pitching and to find some that could help in Arlington soon.

With pick number 18, Texas took Tennessee righthander R.A. Dickey, a three-time All-American and star on Team USA. At 24, the Rangers grabbed Tampa high school righthander Sam Marsonek. At 32, the choice was N.C. State southpaw Corey Lee, and at 53, with the club’s second-round pick, they selected James Madison University righthander Derrick Cook.

Dickey, for all his intangible positives, hasn’t been a very good big league pitcher. And he didn’t come quickly, because of arm injuries that may or may not have had anything to do with the missing ulnar collateral ligament that was discovered during an extensive team physical as he was about to sign with the Rangers. But the pick was not considered to be a reach. Baseball America projected Dickey — who was regularly clocked at 96 leading up to Draft Day — to be in the mix for the Giants at number seven and, if San Francisco passed on him, the likely choice of the A’s at number 10.

Marsonek, a big, hard-throwing specimen, was projected to be a second-round talent. Arm troubles and ineffectiveness limited him to 182.2 innings in three seasons and led to his trade to the Yankees (with Knight) for outfielder Chad Curtis in 1999. He made one big league appearance for New York in 2004 (1.1 scoreless innings), finishing out a 10-3 home in Yankee Stadium, against his hometown Devil Rays. Marsonek is out of baseball.

Like Marsonek, Lee managed one big league appearance before taking his game briefly to Japan in 2005. After three strong minor league seasons (26-18, 3.86), the wiry lefthander split the 1999 season between Tulsa (8-5, 4.44) and Oklahoma (3-0, 2.02) and earned a call-up late in August, entering a 7-7 tie in the 11th at home against the Yankees on the day he arrived. Lee gave up a three-run Tino Martinez home run to take the loss, which cut the Rangers’ lead in the West to 5.5 games. Lee was optioned to Oklahoma four days later, and would never get back to the majors, though Melvin did use him to acquire Herbert Perry after the 2001 season, a solid deal.

Cook was projected to go about where Texas took him, if not a bit earlier, based purely on projectability. Baseball America described him as an “enigma” in college, a prototype with “little feel for his craft” who “[hadn't] learned how to pitch in three underachieving seasons at James Madison.” In six minor league seasons, all but 6.2 innings of which came as a Rangers farmhand, Cook went 34-29, 4.29.

Interestingly, Cook was teammates with Venafro at James Madison. The 29th-rounder has obviously had a measurably better career than the second-rounder, which speaks less to the Rangers’ decisions to take those two where they did (Venafro was passed on 793 times in 1995, including 28 times by Texas, before his name was called), and more to the amazing crapshootiness of the baseball draft.

Instead of Dickey, Texas could have opted for less of a quick fix and taken high schoolers Jake Westbrook or Gil Meche, who were taken three and four picks later.

Rather than Marsonek, the Rangers could have gone to the other coast and chosen Nick Bierbrodt, who went to Arizona six picks later. But there were five picks between the two pitchers who didn’t even get the one big league appearance that Marsonek did.

If Texas decided to go young when it selected Lee, the pick might have been Canadian righthander Chris Reitsma or New York righty Jason Marquis, high school pitchers who went two and three slots later.

Cook went immediately after the Cubs chose high school outfielder Quincy Carter, and before 12 largely forgettable names that rounded out the second round.

It’s probably fair to look back at the Rangers’ 1996 draft and call it a disappointment, given the strength that Texas went into Draft Day with, but because the Rangers were on their way to their first-ever playoff appearance and a string of three post-seasons in four years, it wasn’t a huge story at the time.

When it became a story was when that string of playoff seasons came to an end and the farm system wasn’t churning out rotation help, or significant help anywhere else in the lineup for that matter. By 2000, Texas probably envisioned that at least two of the four pitchers that the club chose in the first two rounds in 1996 would be impacting the staff and alleviating the need to go out the next few seasons having to sign two or three free agents to fill the rotation.

It was that 2000 season when Texas had somewhat similar draft strength, but the club didn’t capitalize on picks 24 (California high school catcher Scott Heard), 35 (unsigned University of North Carolina outfielder Tyrell Godwin), 39 (Baylor righthander Chad Hawkins), or 56 (Houston high school infielder Jason Bourgeois). A little forgiveness is warranted, though, as the 2000 draft was historically weak at the top.

Not the case in 2007. There is added scrutiny as the Rangers get set to use picks 17, 24, 35, 44, and 54 tomorrow, and it’s not only because the big club is having an abysmal first half and the farm system is thin at the upper levels. It’s because this is considered to be one of the best draft crops in years, maybe even since before that 1996 draft.

Even though they didn’t directly impact the Rangers’ playoff clubs in 1996, 1998, and 1999, to me the greatest string of moves that a Rangers general manager has ever put together were the trades for Rafael Palmeiro (Cubs) and Julio Franco (Indians) and signing of free agent Nolan Ryan on December 5, 6, and 7, 1998.

Can Jon Daniels and Ron Hopkins and the Rangers’ team of area scouts and crosscheckers nail things tomorrow and Friday and give this franchise another landmark couple days of moves that end up impacting the core of the roster down the road and helping this team eventually get back to October?

We’d settle for a repeat of the Rangers’ 1999 draft class, which, although it didn’t quite work out as planned at the top (supplemental first-rounders Colby Lewis and David Mead), nonetheless produced Nick Regilio (second), Hank Blalock (third), Kevin Mench (fourth), Aaron Harang (sixth), Justin Echols (11th, part of the package used to get Chris Young from Montreal), Jason Jones (13th), unsigned Noah Lowry (19th), and Jason Botts (46th).

Also taken in that 1999 draft was 30th-round pick Dustin Smith, a catcher out of a Kansas high school. Smith didn’t sign but Texas drafted him again in 2000, this time out of Cowley County Community College, eventually signing him as a draft-and-follow. Smith is now an area scout for the Rangers, responsible for the same Midwest territory he came out of (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas). He replaces Mike Grouse, the area scout who had signed Smith as a player. Grouse, who is responsible for Travis Hafner, Ian Kinsler, Travis Hughes, Doug Mathis, Travis Metcalf, and Steve Murphy, among many others, is in his first year as Central Crosschecker for the organization.

It’s probably not a stretch to say tomorrow is the biggest day yet in the professional careers of Grouse and Smith, and Hopkins and Jake Krug and Kipp **** and Doug Harris and Kevin Bootay and Randy Taylor and Todd Guggiana and another dozen or two baseball grinders. Including Gary McGraw, whose scouting territory is home to Phillippe Aumont, an 18-year-old horse from Quebec who most say has more upside than Canadian pitchers Dempster or Reitsma or Eric Gagne or Rich Harden had as amateurs.

It’s adrenaline time.

I had planned to talk today about Ron Washington, Gagne, Kinsler, Victor Diaz, Brandon McCarthy, Vicente Padilla, Nelson Cruz, Matt Kata, Taylor Teagarden, Omar Poveda, Nate Gold, Brad Wilkerson, Joaquin Arias, Jon Weber, Chan Ho Park, Cody Smith, and scouts from the Braves and Tigers. But those notes will have to wait.

And with apologies to Texas 7, Detroit 4, in the big picture that this season has forced us to look at earlier than we’d like, that result takes a back seat to tomorrow, which is, to be sure, one of the most important days in this franchise’s history. Given where everything stands right now, there’s a much bigger win at stake in the war room.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 3, 2007

We hosted a birthday party this afternoon at one of those kids’ gymnasiums where you can sit back and watch the kids run and bounce and swing and basically engage in an exercise of absolute abandon with very little chance of hurting themselves, or anyone else. It’s controlled recklessness, genius in a way.

Then we came back home in time for me to flip on the bottom of the fourth.

I know this isn’t something that Elias can quantify, but good grief: it’s simply not possible that any team in any year has given up so many runs that were not earned.

I’m not talking about unearned runs (though there have been plenty of those). I mean the runs that aren’t unearned but that nonetheless are not earned by the other team’s offense. Runs that scored because of throws to the wrong bases. Hit batsmen. Forgetting the number of outs. Bad routes or late jumps in the outfield. Booted grounders that get scored as hits because they weren’t necessarily routine.

I’ve never seen anything like this. It directly affects runs allowed, but that’s not it. It has to affect our pitchers mentally, who probably end up trying to be too fine instead of trusting their stuff. It probably affects our hitters, who end up pressing to scratch back after gifting the other team a few runs. And surely it affects the fielders themselves, who start to defend more tentatively and, though we hope not, might even take a scarred confidence with them to the plate.

Bad defense is tough to take, no matter if you’re one of the guys in uniform or, like me, a diehard fan slothfully sprawled out on his couch, having returned home from an hour and a half of watching kids running around wildly.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 2, 2007

Seven times in last night’s nine innings the Rangers put their first two hitters on base. Must be a franchise record, don’t you think?

A dazzling 8-6-3 twin-killing triggered by Kenny Lofton when he robbed Adrian Beltre of a home run in the seventh and a nice sliding stop by left fielder Marlon Byrd on a Jose Vidro double down the line in the third obscured what was otherwise another offensive night on defense.

Seventeen runners left on base. Criminal. But a win is a win. Even if it was a freakin’ softball game.

Mark Teixeira’s 501st consecutive game played was cut short in the fourth inning when Ichiro Suzuki’s one-hop laser from center field to the plate glanced off Kenji Johjima’s mitt and nailed Teixeira beneath his left eye. Clearly dazed, big bruise, but no fracture. A mild concussion makes his readiness for tonight a gametime decision. His games played streak is second only to Miguel Tejada’s.

Getting the chance to consistently watch Eric Gagné, it’s easy to see why he was developed as a starting pitcher, given his three plus offerings, a rarity for a closer. What’s amazing is that one of the greatest closers in history (at least for a short time) was such a pedestrian starter (4.68 ERA in 265.1 big league innings, with home games in a pitchers’ park).

The Rangers’ 20-loss May was the first in franchise history.

The club lost 100 games and 105 games in its first two seasons, and hasn’t lost in triple digits since. At this pace, Texas would lose 103 times this year.

Righthander Vicente Padilla is the first-ever Ranger with eight losses before June.

The three runs Seattle scored off Padilla in the first on Thursday marked the 25th time this season — in just 54 games — that Texas had fallen behind 2-0 or more in the first inning.

Can we continue playing the late-inning percentages with Matt Kata, who seems completely out of rhythm at the plate?

In his two big league seasons with the White Sox, righthander Brandon McCarthy held left-handed hitters to an anemic .201/.274/.356 line, striking them out once for every four at-bats. This year lefties are hitting .275/.333/.488 off McCarthy, fanning once every eight at-bats.

Perhaps the biggest news of the night on the farm: Taylor Teagarden played defensively for the first time since landing on the disabled list in mid-April with soreness in his right elbow, on which he’d had Tommy John surgery a year and a half ago. The 23-year-old returned to action on May 10 and was outstanding offensively for the month, hitting .338/.485/.714 in 77 at-bats — with eight home runs and 19 walks in 21 games — but he appeared only as a designated hitter. Teagarden caught Bear Bay and Danny Touchet over the first six innings of Bakersfield’s 5-4 win in San Jose last night, nailing one of two would-be basestealers and hitting his 11th homer of the season in the first inning.

Oklahoma lefthander John Rheinecker has thrown 11 scoreless innings (six hits, three walks, five strikeouts) in his two starts since arriving from extended spring training, where he was rehabbing due to back issues.

Frisco righthander Kea Kometani, who went 8-5, 4.69 for the RoughRiders last season after a promotion to AA one year ago today, started off this season by going 1-2, 5.64 in six starts. Moved to the bullpen, the 24-year-old has fired seven scoreless innings in relief, scattering two hits and three walks while fanning eight.

Texas placed Bakersfield righthander Kendy Batista and Clinton outfielder Craig Gentry on the disabled list, assigning utility man Nick Cadena to the Blaze and first baseman Ian Gac to the LumberKings out of extended.

Texas gave catcher Miguel Ojeda, whom the club had designated for assignment a week ago, his unconditional release to allow him to play in Mexico.

Our own Scott Lucas has put together a really impressive statistical chart breaking down the top players in the Rangers farm system, at http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/minorstat.htm.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Texas had informal discussions with Barry Bonds at the Winter Meetings but made no contract offer. A close friend of the aging slugger is quoted in the story to say: “Barry talked to me a lot about Texas. . . . [He] talked about being a DH and going to the American League. He loved the idea of hitting in that ballpark. I really thought he was going to end up there.”

The draft is Thursday. The Rangers pick seven times in the first 110 selections. Last year they had two picks in the same span.

Would have been eight of the first 111 had Rod Barajas signed the Blue Jays deal that he’d verbally agreed to in late November. Texas would have gotten an additional compensatory pick (I believe at number 62) had the Barajas deal with Toronto gone through.

Several mock drafts have Connecticut high school righthander Matt Harvey going to Texas at number 17. Not long ago there were no mocks that had him lasting that long, and some pre-season rankings had him as the top high school prospect in the nation. Harvey works in the mid-90s with a power curve and developing change, and despite his Scott Boras ties, I’d be thrilled if we get to call his name on Thursday.

Not so crazy about the idea of Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon, who has had issues at the plate this year, hasn’t worked enough deep counts for a leadoff prospect, and doesn’t throw well. Don’t mind taking a shot on someone like that, but I’d rather see 17 and 24 devoted elsewhere. Borbon probably isn’t around at pick 35, but if he is, then sure, take a chance there.

Most indications are that Irving righthander Blake Beavan will be gone before the Rangers pick.

TCU righthander Sam Demel is projected to go somewhere between the supplemental first round and the fourth round. He was the Rangers’ 35th-round pick in 2004 out of Spring High School.

Atlanta catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is taking ground balls at first base, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark. If you read my May 31 report, you know why that could be significant.

Turns out Seminole Junior College righthander John Maschino wasn’t the final draft-and-follow ever signed by the Rangers. The club also came to terms before Thursday night’s deadline with Auburn righthander Chris Dennis and Purdue righthander Dan Sattler. Texas also signed undrafted senior free agent Jordan Stewart, a righthander out of Avila University.

Dennis, the Rangers’ 40th-round pick last June, went 3-3, 3.66 in 23 relief appearances for the Tigers this season, fanning 42 and issuing 13 walks in 39.1 innings. The fifth-year senior missed the 2005 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Sattler, also a fifth-year senior, was sidelined early in the 2007 season with a strained oblique muscle and ended up going 1-3, 6.45 in seven starts and four relief appearances for the Boilermakers, amassing 21 strikeouts and 16 walks in 37.2 frames. He was chosen by Texas in the 44th round last year.

Stewart, who attended Paso Robles High School (alma mater of Jason Botts) before heading to Kansas City to pitch for Avila, closed games for the Eagles, compiling 29 saves and a 2.34 ERA in three seasons — though the sidewinder’s ERA this year was 7.27, despite fanning 43 hitters and walking nine in 26 innings this season.

Righthander Johnny Lujan, whom Texas sent to the White Sox for catcher Chris Stewart in January, is 1-3, 4.73 with four saves for High A Winston-Salem, but the numbers are slightly misleading. Pressed into spot start duty on May 24, Lujan (who made six starts in 83 pro appearances while with the
Rangers) got spanked for eight runs in 2.2 innings. In his 17 relief appearances, he has an ERA of 2.73, with 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 29.2 frames.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent Northern League released outfielder Tydus Meadows.

Prizes pulled together so far for the Newberg Report Night raffle, eligibility for which will be participating in our charity effort that day (more details on that part soon):

* Ian Kinsler signed 8×10
* 2 Kam Loe signed 8×10’s
* Game-used lineup card signed by Kam Loe
* Josh Rupe signed ball
* Joaquin Arias signed ball

Grand prize: game-issue warm-up jacket signed by Ron Washington, Michael Young, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kam Loe, Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird, Brad Wilkerson, Jason Botts, Jamey Wright, John Rheinecker, Desi Relaford, Joaquin Arias, Freddy Guzman, Drew Meyer and Kevin Richardson.

Stay tuned for more.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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