THE NEWBERG REPORT — AUGUST 8, 2007

We’re a week away from the deadline for the Rangers to come to terms with their 2007 draft picks, 28 of whom remain unsigned. Key among them are righthander Blake Beavan, taken 17th overall, and two of the club’s three supplemental first-rounders, center fielder Julio Borbon (35th overall) and righthander Neil Ramirez (44th overall).

Fourth-rounder Garrett Nash, a high school outfielder from Utah with an awaiting scholarship to the national champion Oregon State squad, and fifth-rounder John Gast, a Florida high school lefthander coming off an elbow injury and bound for Florida State, have not signed either. But Beavan, Borbon, and Ramirez are the ones on the front burner.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus wrote a feature yesterday on the status of the players chosen in the conventional first round, and of note was the fact that Randy and Alan Hendricks are advisors to seven of the first 26 picks. They profile as follows:

13. College infielder, signed for $1.575 million ($100,000 more than last year’s number 13 pick)

16. High school infielder, signed for $1.44 million ($110,000 less than last year’s number 16 pick)

17. High school pitcher, unsigned

18. High school infielder, signed for $1.395 million ($155,000 less than last year’s number 18 pick)

20. High school pitcher, signed for $1.35 million ($150,000 less than last year’s number 20 pick)

23. College pitcher, signed for $1.26 million ($140,000 less than last year’s number 23 pick)

26. College pitcher, signed for $1.1925 million ($132,500 less than last year’s number 26 pick)

The lone Hendricks Brothers player not to sign thus far? Beavan, the Irving High School righthander who has committed to the University of Oklahoma as well as Navarro Junior College, the latter of which he could attend and be eligible for redraft next June.

Chances are that Beavan and the Rangers will come to terms — last year’s 17th pick, Wake Forest third baseman Matt Antonelli, signed for $1.575 million, and Goldstein suggests that the Rangers are at $1.4 million (in line with the 10 percent drop in slot that most first-rounders have signed for thus far) while Beavan seeks $1.7 million — but with just three weeks remaining in the Arizona League season, it may be that he won’t see any game action before fall instructs since it’s been over two months since he’s faced hitters.

And unless I’m missing something, it will have nothing to do with whether Texas were to sign Beavan to a 2007 contract or one that’s not effective until 2008. As I discussed in the July 12 report, the new CBA provision regarding Rule 5 is dependent on the player’s signing date, not the effective year of his contract. So if Beavan signs, he’ll be Rule 5-eligible if not on the 40-man roster by 2011, regardless of whether he plays this summer and regardless of whether he signs a 2007 or 2008 deal.

Contrary to all the ink that the Beavan situation has gotten, virtually nothing has been written about Borbon (the University of Tennessee product, advised by Scott Boras) and only a little has been written about Ramirez (the Virginia high school pitcher with a Georgia Tech commitment, advised by Larry Reynolds), but those are obviously two players that the Rangers want to add to the system. Last year’s 35th and 44th selections signed for $950,000 and $775,000, respectively.

Of the three, I’d guess Beavan is the most likely to sign, followed by Borbon, with Ramirez the greatest challenge. I just can’t see Beavan going to Navarro and expecting to improve his draft position dramatically while inviting the risk of injury in the meantime.

The Rangers’ top Navarro alum, Frisco third baseman Chris Davis, is 6 for his last 10 with two homers and two doubles, after starting out 1 for 11 as a RoughRider. Between Bakersfield and Frisco, the 21-year-old slugger is hitting .301/.345/.588 with 30 doubles, 27 home runs, and 102 RBI, trailing only Alex Rodriguez in all of baseball in runs driven in. In the Rangers organization, Jason Botts has 81 (including his three big league RBI), Oklahoma’s Nate Gold has 79, and Clinton’s Chad Tracy has 76.

Botts has drawn 82 walks, exceeded only by Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Nick Swisher, and Low A Greenville DH Jonathan Still.

In its recent ranking of prospects by position (on the basis of “ceiling, performance and prospect status”), Baseball America judged Oklahoma’s Eric Hurley to be the number 10 right-handed starter prospect in baseball. Clinton’s Kasey Kiker was the number eight left-handed starter, Bakersfield’s Max Ramirez was the number seven catching prospect, and Frisco’s Taylor Teagarden was number 10. Frisco’s German Duran was the number nine second baseman, Davis was the number 10 third baseman, and Bakersfield’s Elvis Andrus was the number six shortstop.

In the Class A edition of Baseball America’s “Best Tools” survey of league managers, Davis was recognized as the best power prospect in the California League (from his time with the Blaze) and Johnny Whittleman (while with Clinton) was judged to have the best strike zone judgment in the Midwest League. The Carolina League rankings included Andrus (while with Myrtle Beach) as the most exciting player and best defensive shortstop, and Ramirez (while with Kinston) as possessing the league’s best strike zone judgment.

Ramirez is hitting .361/.425/.528 since joining Bakersfield.

Teagarden, who was promoted to Frisco upon Ramirez’s arrival in the Kenny Lofton trade, has this fascinating split in Frisco: he’s a 5 for 9 hitter (.556/.583/.778) while playing catcher, and 0 for 15 when DH’ing.

Righthander Brennan Garr forced a promotion to Bakersfield after holding Midwest League hitters to a .177 average in 39 Clinton innings over the season’s first three months, punching out 50, issuing just 16 walks, and coaxing 2.58 as many groundouts as flyouts as he posted a 2.31 ERA. He’s been even better with the Blaze, giving up two runs (1.59 ERA) on only five hits (.128 opponents’ average) in 11.1 innings to go along with 15 strikeouts and only two walks. Stunningly, right-handed hitters are 0 for 19 against the 23-year-old righty.

The Rangers’ second first-rounder, righthander Michael Main, has now thrown 9.2 Arizona League innings and has yet to be scored on. He’s allowed four hits and walked five, fanning 13.

Clinton first baseman Mauro Gomez is the Rangers’ minor league player of the month for July, having hit .359/.407/.786 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI in 27 games. The 22-year-old is in his fifth pro season since signing with Texas out of the Dominican Republic. He sits at .274/.330/.481 for the season, with a Midwest League-leading 20 homers and 67 RBI.

Frisco righthander Armando Galarraga got the nod as the organization’s minor league pitcher of the month for July, going 3-1, 1.58 in six starts, including a one-hit shutout and a two-hit shutout. The league hit .156 off the 25-year-old for the month, during which he led the Texas League with 42 strikeouts.

Good day for the players the Rangers got from Boston in the Eric Gagné trade. Lefthander Kason Gabbard (5-1, 3.93) wasn’t at his sharpest but threw a quality start, holding Oakland to three runs in six innings to earn the win in his Rangers home debut. While center fielder David Murphy singled in four trips in his Oklahoma debut last night, center fielder Engel Beltre went 4 for 9 out of the leadoff spot in an Arizona League doubleheader.

Texas signed 17th-round pick Mitch Moreland, a first baseman who also starred on the mound for Mississippi State. The Rangers will keep the lefthander, who won the Home Run Derby at the Cape Cod League’s All-Star Game in 2006 and projects to hit with massive power, away from the mound.

Bakersfield’s game with Visalia was canceled last night, after seven Visalia players were involved in a one-car accident the day before. Infielder Blake Sharpe reportedly sustained a fractured skull.

Toronto released shortstop Royce Clayton.

The independent South Coast League suspended South Georgia infielder Joey Hooft for 10 games for violation of the league’s drug policy. Shortly thereafter, South Georgia manager Wally Backman resigned.

For those of you who didn’t see it in the handful of local and national stories the past week, it has come out that the Angels apparently never offered first baseman Casey Kotchman and lefthander Joe Saunders to Texas for Mark Teixeira, despite widespread reports that they had. The Angels reportedly offered Kotchman and righthander Ervin Santana, who had pitched his way back to AAA. Big, big difference.

According to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, when shopping Gagné, Texas asked the Yankees for outfielder Melky Cabrera and righthander Ian Kennedy and asked the Mets for outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitching prospects.

The price for center fielders Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, and Mike Cameron just ticked up. Arizona’s Eric Byrnes extended yesterday for three years at $30 million, establishing the contract that Gary Matthews Jr. got last winter as a benchmark, rather than an aberration.

Duncanville High School has been such a baseball factory for so many years, producing first-rounders like Keith Creel and Todd Ritchie, plus expansion draft headliner David Nied and fellow big leaguers Chad Allen, Brandon Fahey, Cliff Bartosh, and Chris Eddy (not to mention my BBI teammate and former Mets, Astros, Orioles, and Red Sox farmhand Chris Hill). It’s a bit sad that the program’s greatest bullet point, at this point, is now Mike Bacsik’s place in history as the man who delivered the pitch that Barry Bonds turned around for number 756.

Bacsik, the recent BaD Radio intern and a dead ringer for Daniel Benzali, was born in November 1977, months after his father’s third and final season pitching for the Rangers. Mike Sr. faced Hank Aaron on August 23, 1976, getting him fly out to right and giving up an infield single, five weeks after Aaron had hit his final home run. Stated another way, Mike Sr. and Mike Jr. faced Aaron and Bonds when each had 755 home runs.

Mike Jr. would pitch for Texas himself in 2004, contributing 15.2 innings (and serving up longballs to the less prominent Melvin Mora and Larry Bigbie).

Fellow lefthander C.J. Wilson, coming off a 6-9, 5.05 season with Frisco, sat out that 2004 season, recovering from Tommy John ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery.

A lot of you weren’t with me in 2005 or 2006 when I tried to persuade you to believe in Wilson.

On March 17 of this year, I wrote: “C.J. Wilson isn’t yet the star that he’s wired to be, but I’ll never bet against him.”

He’s on the verge of invalidating the first part of that comment.

Are you with me yet?

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

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