THE NEWBERG REPORT — June 5, 2008: Every pick matters.

Figuring
out how to spend the million(s) it will take to sign your first-round pick is
crucial, but even though for most of us, the names get a lot less familiar
after that, the work is no less important.

Consider
this: Nine of the 30 pitchers assigned to start Wednesday’s games around the
league were first-round picks.  Not
surprising.  But six of them (Roy Oswalt,
Ted Lilly, Zack Duke, Manny Parra, Mark Hendrickson, and Jesse Litsch) were
taken in the 20th round or later.

The
Rangers have had a 2006 draft pick already get to the big leagues.  Danny Ray Herrera was their 45th-round selection. 

The
club’s 25th-rounder that year, lefthander Derek Holland, is probably nearly as
untouchable as first-rounder Kasey Kiker and fifth-rounder Chris Davis.  Every pick matters.

Which
group would you rather have today: Dave Krynzel, Kenny Baugh, Jeremy Hermida, Michael
Aubrey, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Max Scherzer, and Phillipe Aumonte?

Or
Joel Hanrahan, Dallas McPherson, Jon Lester, Jerry Owens, Curtis Thigpen, Jon
Egan, Josh Rodriguez, and Mitch Canham?

Some
of you will say Group Two, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t based on Lester
alone. 

The
point?  Group One includes the players
taken with the 11th overall pick this decade. 
Group Two is all of those chosen at number 57, which is where Texas sits in Round Two
today.  Again: Every pick matters. 

The
Rangers’ second-rounder last year, Houston Bellaire infielder Matt West, was a
footnote in the local papers because Texas
had already selected five other players in the first and supplemental first rounds
before getting around to West. 

But
another way to look at it is that the Rangers’ final supplemental first-rounder
last year was Alabama righthander Tommy Hunter,
who is on a tear right now toward Arlington.  He was chosen 54th overall, a lot closer to
today’s second-round position than West (number 80) was.

Then
again, the 2007 draft crop was exponentially deeper at the top than this year’s
— the players chosen in the 50’s last June probably would have projected a
dozen spots higher today, or more.

Texas will make its third-round
pick at number 89 today.  In the 2000
draft, another one considered to be relatively weak in the first few rounds,
who went 89th?  Princeton righthander
Chris Young, to Pittsburgh.

As
for draft philosophy, we’ve talked about it repeatedly: you hope that your team
drafts the best player available when its turn comes up, regardless of
position, not only because it’s crazy to assume you can anticipate what your
big league needs will be in three or four years, but also because prospects
frequently get traded for major leaguers, and you obviously aren’t going to be
able to predict what teams you’ll potentially be dealing with three or four
years down the road — or what those
teams’
needs will be.

Three
of last night’s starting pitchers were traded to their current teams by Texas:

Cincinnati‘s Edinson Volquez
two-hit Philadelphia
over seven scoreless innings, fanning eight and earning his eighth win.

Oakland‘s Justin Duchscherer
lowered his ERA to 2.32 after holding Detroit
to two runs on three hits in 6.2 innings, getting his fifth win of the season.

White
Sox southpaw John Danks held Kansas City to two runs in 5.2 innings — his ERA is 2.11
in his last 10 starts — but got a no-decision when the Chicago bullpen coughed up a 4-2 lead.

Volquez,
an undrafted Latin American signing, was basically anonymous until after he’d
ditched his “Julio Reyes” cover.  Texas traded him well.

Duchscherer
was originally an eighth-round pick by Boston.  The Red Sox traded him well, sending him to Texas for veteran
catcher Doug Mirabelli.  For that matter,
it was a sensible deal for the Rangers. 
But they then traded him poorly, shipping him to Oakland
during spring training in 2002 for Luis Vizcaino but flipping Vizcaino to Milwaukee less than a
week later for a hugely disappointing left-handed minor league reliever named
Jesus Pena.

Danks,
of course, was a Rangers first-round pick, taken ninth in 2003 out of Round Rock
High School.  Texas
hasn’t chosen that high since.  It was a
sensational pick.  Some will suggest that
the book shouldn’t yet be closed on the trade that sent him to Chicago, but it looks
terrible right now.  An argument can be
made that the White Sox wouldn’t trade Danks for Delmon Young, Nick Markakis,
or any of the other six players who went ahead of him in that year’s draft.

But
the point, at least for today’s purposes, is that the Danks pick, made on a
recommendation by prolific area scout Randy Taylor, was a great one.  There will be players drafted today and
tomorrow who, if they develop well, will help Texas by being traded.  Whether they are traded well is an issue for
another day. 

The
job of Rangers scouting director Ron Hopkins, baseball operations manager Jake
Krug, national crosschecker Kip ****, his regional lieutenants Kevin Bootay,
Mike Grouse, and Doug Harris, and their team of nearly 20 area scouts, guided
by a draft philosophy espoused by Jon Daniels, is to find kids today and
tomorrow who they believe, in the hands of Scott Servais and his entire player
development crew and the organization’s farm instructors and managers and
coaches, will take to instruction and develop into players that at least one
franchise will believe belong in the big leagues — whether it’s the Rangers
themselves or another club that has something else Texas wants.

Having
seen nothing more than a little video on these guys, which means my opinion is
meaningless, I think the result that would excite me the most this afternoon
would be to hear Texas call the name of Aaron Crow or Aaron Hicks (or Eric
Hosmer, but it’s looking almost out of the question that he’ll be there at
11). 

Intrigued
some by Christian Friedrich and Ethan Martin and the college first basemen,
Yonder Alonso and Justin Smoak. 

Not
as fired up about Andrew Cashner or Shooter Hunt or Gerrit Cole.

But
what do I know?  Almost everyone who
covers the draft for a living says this is the most unpredictable first round
in many years.  I’m not going to pretend
I know which way Texas
should go.

I’m
just ready for this thing to get underway so I can start to get my head wrapped
around the upside of the five new players that the Rangers will add to their
deep farm system today, and another few dozen tomorrow. 

Watch
your mailbox for up-to-the-minute news flashes from Scott Lucas as each Rangers
pick comes down today, and for a really, really long Newberg Report tomorrow.

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

=====================================

ADDENDUM:

Final guesses on the Rangers’ first-round pick from the
experts:

Jim Callis, Baseball America:  RHP Ethan Martin, Stephens
County HS
(Georgia)

Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com: 
RHP Aaron Crow, University
of Missouri

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus:  Crow

Keith Law, ESPN:  Crow

Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News:  Crow (or LHP Christian Friedrich, Eastern Kentucky, if Crow is gone)

T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com: 
RHP Shooter Hunt, Tulane

For what it’s worth, Callis has
Crow going ninth to Washington, two spots
before Texas
picks.


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