Recapping Day One of the Rangers draft.

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You can look at the top
of the Rangers’ 2010 draft class in one of two ways.

 

You can fixate on the
fact that the club’s picks at 15, 22, 45, and 49 were ranked by Baseball America, two weeks ago, as (respectively)
unranked, 51st, 126th, and 98th on the
publications assessment of the draft’s top 200 prospects.

 

Or you can note that
the Rangers’ first three picks were each speculated at some point in the week
leading up to the draft by either Jim Callis of BA, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, or Keith Law of ESPN to be the Rangers’
first overall selection at 15, and that two of the players were considered to
be riding the most helium on draft boards in the last couple weeks.

 

You can view the apparent fact that, according to several
sources overnight, the Rangers were on the verge of coming to terms with their first
two picks – at slot or lower – as a sign that (1) they were overdrafted strictly
because of their signability, or (2) the Rangers have gotten off to a great start
by locking down those two down, giving them some cost certainty as they head
into the remaining 49 rounds without having dipped into the $1-2 million pad
they have budgeted for going over slot throughout the draft class.

 

Is outfielder-defensive back Jake Skole the next Grady Sizemore?  Or the next K.C. Herren?

 

Can Kellin Deglan buck the odds at the most difficult
position to draft well at (as Peter
Gammons wrote on Saturday
: “The 35-year history of the Draft is lined with
monumental mistakes selecting catchers”)?

 

Is flamethrowing Florida righthander Luke Jackson the next
Eric Hurley?  Or the next Shane Funk?

 

With several high-profile pitchers still on the board, and
Tommy Mendonca a year into his pro career, was the selection of Mike Olt a
duplicative shot taken on a power/defense third baseman with hit tool questions,
or a worthwhile effort to add another slug prospect to a system relatively thin
in that area?

 

In the baseball draft, there are often more than just two
sides to every coin, particularly before the players even get on a plane.  This year that feels more true than usual, when
compared with recent drafts that had a Justin Smoak or Tanner Scheppers to wrap
our arms around instantly, or even a signability decision like Rick Porcello or
Matt Purke to get the talk shows fired up about.  In spite of the Rangers’ firepower (four of
the first 49 picks) and handicap (budgetary issues reportedly handcuffing the
club more than in recent drafts), most experts probably won’t single Texas out -
at least through the first and supplemental first rounds – on a short list of
the winners or the losers around the league.

 

It’s always wise to adopt a “time will tell” attitude on any
baseball draft, but with the top of this Rangers class, it seems almost obligatory.  Even without a Smoak or Porcello story to get
in the way of a good Tony Romo golf segment on local radio this morning, any or
all of the Rangers’ four picks last night could end up factoring in heavily to
the big picture – or all four could disappoint.

 

The Rangers’ four Day One selections:

 

1
(
15th overall, pick awarded for failure
to sign 2009 1st-rounder Matt Purke
).  JAKE SKOLE, OF,
Blessed Trinity High School (Ga.)
(scout: Ryan Coe)

(last
year’s first-round pick: Matt Purke; recent Rangers first-round picks include
Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Kasey Kiker, Thomas Diamond, Mark
Teixeira, John Danks, Carlos Pena; best number 15 pick in last 25 years: Chase
Utley [Phillies, 2000]
)

 

Jake Skole, safety prospect.

 

In football, at least.

 

In baseball?  Maybe not.

 

Georgia Tech wanted Skole as a defensive back, offering the First-Team
All-State selection a full scholarship to play safety for the Ramblin’ Wreck as
well as an invitation to walk onto the baseball squad in the spring, where he’d
be teammates with his brother Matt, an All-Conference third baseman who just
completed his sophomore season at the school. 

 

But was his selection by the Rangers last night a safe
one?  Judging by his placement (if at
all) on the various mock drafts published the last few weeks, and by his reportedly
imminent agreement to a signing bonus at or near slot, you might think so. 

 

The Rangers deny it.

 

First-year scout Ryan Coe, who joined the Rangers in October
after coaching at Kennesaw State University since 1998 (he had former Ranger
Jason Jones in 1998-99), got to know Skole and his family when Skole was 12 years
old.  There were scouts around the league
in on Skole when the 2010 season began, but none probably had a book on the kid
like Coe, who also coached Skole in summer camps. 

 

Before Skole’s high school senior season got underway, he
was nowhere to be found in
BA‘s pre-season ranking of the top
100 high school draft prospects, or the top 20 outfielders.  When he then tore ligaments in his ankle
three games into the season, getting tangled up with the opposing first baseman
as he was trying to beat out a bunt, he presumably fell off the radar for a lot
of clubs, and certainly the industry publications.  The injury cost Skole nearly two months of
action and, combined with what was thought to be a solid commitment to the
Georgia Tech football program, much play during most of the mock draft season.

 

But he returned in time for Blessed Trinity’s two-week playoff
run, and in six games he hit .452 with six home runs and 21 RBI.  In what would be his final high school game,
on May 24 in the Georgia Class AA semifinals, Skole went 2 for 3 off of Cook County
High School righthander Kaleb Cowart, whose 97-mph fastball helped make him the
Angels’ top pick last night, 18th overall.  Skole singled and doubled off Cowart, barreling
the ball both times, and suddenly his name started showing up on mock drafts
and in blog write-ups.  If anything, it
might have forced Texas to think of Skole with the 15th pick -
assuming he lasted that long (
BA‘s Jim Callis wrote on Friday that
Toronto at number 11 was “one of a few clubs in on [the] fast-rising” outfielder,
and John Sickels suggested that Tampa Bay had strong interest at number 17) – rather
than waiting to use a later pick on him.

 

But regardless of where Skole thought he might go before his
late May high school heroics, he’s apparently not inflating his price to the
point at which negotiations would drag on into nervous territory (as the 15th
pick, which was compensation for last year’s unconverted Matt Purke selection,
would leave Texas empty-handed and without any 2011 compensation if it failed
to get a deal done by August 16 [unless the pick were a college senior]).  Skole has reportedly already called Georgia
Tech football coach Paul Johnson to tell him he’s not coming to school, and an
agreement with the Rangers could come this week, putting Skole in line to be in
uniform when the short-season leagues kick off later this month, assuming his
ankle is ready to go.

 

The Rangers will administer a physical before finalizing any
deal, but they’re confident that the ankle is fine.  Both sides are evidently prepared to agree to
something in the range of a slotted signing bonus (which would presumably fall
just short of $2 million).  This won’t be
like the Yankees’ negotiations five years ago with fellow two-sport Georgia Tech
recruit Austin Jackson, who turned pro out of Denton Ryan High School for a
reported $800,000, which was a record figure for an eighth-round pick.

 

Incidentally, Skole won’t need to actually play college
football for the five-year amortized bonus we discussed yesterday to be available.  The league has to approve the five-year option
for two-sport players, and apparently it’s a near-certainty for players like
Skole with demonstrable two-sport opportunities, even if they never play the second
sport.

 

A left-handed hitter who stands 6’1″, 188, Skole has shown raw
power and good bat speed, though he’s had difficulty with offspeed pitches.  A tremendous athlete who was timed at 3.79 to
first and 6.54 in the 60, he’s generally graded as a corner outfielder but the
Rangers believe he can handle center field. 
The future power grade and plus arm belie the occasional Johnny Damon comps,
and though he might not profile as complete a player as Grady Sizemore, that
name does come up, and not just because of the defensive back background. 

 

As Skole develops, a J.D. Drew type of ceiling might make
more sense than a Damon upside, especially once the organization gets to work
on his swing mechanics.  (And on that
point, don’t be surprised or discouraged if Skole shows very little punch for a
month or so.  The Rangers typically allow
a first-year player 75 or 100 at-bats before they start to modify his approach -
unless he asks for help sooner.  For
reference, in past Newberg Reports there are well-documented stories about how the
club handled Chris Davis and Tommy Mendonca in their draft years.)

 

Kevin Goldstein’s comment moments after the pick was straightforward:
“Skole is brilliant at 15.  Tons of tools
and signable at 15.  Just fantastic.”

 

The Rangers insists that while the signability is a plus,
they chose Skole because he was at the top of their board when pick number 15
came up.  Now, does that mean Zack Cox
and Stetson Allie, for instance, weren’t on the board at all given their
anticipated bonus demands and the unprotected nature of the pick, or did Texas
simply prefer Skole from a talent standpoint? 
We won’t know that answer, just as we didn’t for years regarding Minnesota’s
choice of local prep Joe Mauer over Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira at the top of the
2001 draft, a decision that was widely characterized then as a signability concession.

 

Does Skole, who fairly or not will be inextricably linked to
Purke (just as Scheppers and Milton Bradley are connected), have Purke’s upside?   At this
point, no scout would say yes to that question. 
But was Skole a signability pick? 

 

The Rangers insist he wasn’t.  But the willingness to sign quickly does mean
we ought to start finding out about him right away, and that’s something we can
all look forward to.

 

 

1
(
22nd overall). 
KELLIN DEGLAN, C, R.E. Mountain Secondary School (B.C., Canada)
(scout:
Gary McGraw)

(best
number 22 pick in last 25 years: Rafael Palmeiro [Cubs, 1985]
)

 

Just two years ago, Texas was thought to have more depth at
catcher than it knew what to do with.  Every
national columnist was speculating as to which blue-chip pitching prospects around
the league Texas would be able to choose from by trading one if not two or
three of Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez.

 

Daniels, rightfully so, said before the 2008 season:
“Catching certainly is the strength of our organization.  We’ll just let it play out. . . . Some people
may look at it as a logjam or that we have decisions to make, but I look at it
as you can’t have enough of a good thing.”

 

Today, Laird is gone, Saltalamacchia and Teagarden are
wearing AAA and AA uniforms, and Ramirez is in Texas, backing up a 34-year-old journeyman
getting the first chance of his career to be a frontline backstop.

 

Catching is hard to develop. 
And risky to invest in.  But the
Rangers have seen as much of Kellin Deglan as any club, and they believe he has
a chance to be a tremendous asset, both at the plate and behind it. 

 

A product of a British Columbia high school that has no
baseball program, Deglan (who turned 18 last week) played for the Langley Blaze
of the wood bat British Columbia Premier Baseball League (which counts Rich
Harden, Justin Morneau, and Ryan Dempster as alums) as well as Canada’s junior
national team, which traveled to the Dominican Summer League in May and faced clubs
that included the Rangers’ Dominican affiliate. 
His club also toured Arizona in March, passing through Surprise at one
point.  (Deglan also spent a week living and
working out with Morneau this winter.)

 

Big at 6’2″, 200 but considered athletic for the position,
Deglan throws well and shows a feel for the game.  He has good hands and quick feet, logging pop
times at or just under two seconds.  The left-handed
hitter flashes plus power, and scouts believe he will compete with the bat,
though as with most catchers, patience will be required.  Those makeup and leadership buzzwords will
pop up with Deglan, too, which of course is probably as important for catchers as
any other position.

 

Deglan’s commitment to Florida International is moot, as he
has reportedly already agreed to a below-slot signing bonus of $1 million,
pending a physical later this week. 

 

The Rangers system now boasts catching prospects from Venezuela
(Tomas Telis and Leonel De Los Santos), Mexico (Jose Felix), Australia (Guy Edmonds),
New Jersey (Vin DiFazio), Colombia (Jorge Alfaro), and British Columbia (Deglan).  (Prediction: Texas drafts Columbia University
catcher Dean Forthun in the 50th round tomorrow.  Not really.) 

 

Would it have made more sense for Texas to roll the dice at number
22 on a riskier over-slot player like Cox or Allie or Anthony Ranaudo or Zach
Lee, since a failure to come to terms with the player would have meant extra
money to allocate to other picks (or July 2 international free agents) and an
extra first-round pick next year, when presumably the budgetary constraints
will be less onerous?  Surely it was an
option the front office discussed, which must mean they love what Deglan brings
to the system and had no interest in forgoing the chance to add him to the fold
just to strengthen other parts of the draft or the budget in Latin America.

 

Especially when he was willing to sign for less than slot,
which will help with the rest of the draft and on July 2 without deferring the
pick for 12 months and losing that year of development.

 

 

1-Supp
(
45, pick awarded for loss of Marlon Byrd). 
LUKE JACKSON, RHP, Calvary Christian Academy HS (Fla.)
(scout:
Juan Alvarez)

(last
year’s supplemental first-round pick: Tanner Scheppers; past Rangers
supplemental first-round picks include Julio Borbon, Tommy Hunter, Neil
Ramirez, Colby Lewis, Chad Hawkins; best number 45 pick in last 25 years:
Gerald Laird [Athletics, 1998]
)

 

Like Skole, Luke Jackson was a late riser, figuring in last
month as a possible third- or fourth-rounder before showing up yesterday as a “strong”
possibility for the Rangers at 15 or 22 (both according to Keith Law) or as
Florida’s choice at 23 (Jim Callis).  It’s
not clear how easy a sign he’ll be, as he has a commitment to pitch for the
University of Miami in the bag, though he has suggested he’s motivated to turn
pro.

 

Jackson, a prep soccer player who didn’t play baseball
year-round and who didn’t take up pitching at all until the ninth grade, sat
91-94 with late life for scouts all spring, touching 96 late in the season (up
from 87-91 a year ago).  His arm action
is clean and at 6’2″, 180 scouts believe there’s projection for more (and for
workhorse durability), but an inconsistent 12-to-6 curve and changeup kept him
from sitting in the same pre-draft tier as fellow Florida prep pitchers Karsten
Whitson and A.J. Cole – though Cole remains on the board this morning, while Texas
made sure Jackson didn’t get out of the supplemental first round.

 

The 18-year-old went 8-0, 0.90 with two saves in 10 starts
(including three shutouts) and four relief appearances for Calvary Christian
this spring.  In 54.2 innings, he scattered
30 hits (.155 opponents’ average) and 19 walks while setting 87 hitters down on
strikes.  He drilled seven hitters and yielded
one home run.  At the plate, Jackson hit
.308/.396/.436 in 78 at-bats, going deep twice and driving in 22 runs.  Interestingly, he also committed 12 errors (five
on days he pitched).

 

There’s objectively less pressure to convert on this pick
since it came in the supplemental first round rather than the first itself, but
the last two times Texas has had supplemental firsts, they’ve turned out to be
the key picks from those drafts.  Last
year, Scheppers keyed the draft class (with first-rounder Matt Purke not
signing).  In 2007, two of the club’s
three supplemental firsts – Julio Borbon and Tommy Hunter – have paid off
sooner than first-rounders Blake Beavan and Michael Main, predictably so given
their relative stages of development when drafted.

 

Jackson won’t fit into either category – he won’t follow
first-rounders who fail to sign and he’s not clearly further along
developmentally than the Rangers’ top two picks – but there’s no reason to
assume the Rangers don’t have hopes just as high for the one pitcher they took
on Monday as for the other three players they selected.

 

 

1-Supp
(
49, pick awarded for loss of Ivan
Rodriguez
).  MIKE OLT, 3B, Univ. of Connecticut (scout:
Jay Heafner)

(best
number 49 pick in last 25 years: Carlos Beltran [Royals, 1995]
)

 

Tremendous raw power and premium defense at third base.  Sound familiar?

 

The Rangers used a second-round pick last year (62nd
overall) on Fresno State third baseman Tommy Mendonca, who profiles in much the
same way that University of Connecticut third baseman Mike Olt does. 

 

Olt comes to the Rangers having just set UConn’s all-time home
run record with 44 – eclipsing the 43 that Jason Grabowski, the Rangers’
second-round pick in 1997, hit for the Huskies – but it’s his defense that
Baseball America
tabbed as third-best in the draft (at any position) and that Director of
Amateur Scouting Kip **** wanted to talk about last night: “We feel like [Olt] is
a premium defender at third base,” said ****.  “He profiles as a power bat, but his strength
is big-time defense.”

 

Texas has spent early picks on third basemen with some
regularity the last few years, but Johnny Whittleman (second round, 2005) and
Matt West (second round, 2007) and Mendonca have each had their share of
struggles.  In a system short on
productive corner bats, Olt will get a chance to establish himself as a reliable
defensive player whose bat will play at third. 

 

Olt played shortstop as a freshman at Connecticut, hitting
.318 with 13 home runs and setting a school record with 61 RBI.  He was named the top prospect in the New
England Collegiate League the following summer and then hit .301 (eight homers
and 40 RBI) as a sophomore, missing a third of the season with ankle and wrist
injuries.  Healthier in 2010, Olt hit
.318/.401/.659 with 23 home runs and reestablished the school’s season RBI mark
with 76. 

 

The 21-year-old has good hands and feet, solid range, and a
strong arm from third.  There are holes
in his right-handed swing – he struck out 54 times in 264 at-bats this season -
but the bat speed is there, and scouts believe in his approach at the plate and
coachability.  It’s been a long time since
third base was so uniformly thin in the big leagues, and in Olt the Rangers see
a player they obviously believe could give them an developmental asset, particularly
if he can make more consistent contact and take advantage of his power
potential while providing lockdown defense at third.

 

 

The second round kicks off at 11:00 this morning, with Texas
picking 72nd overall.  The club
then picks at 103 in the third round, 136 in the fourth round, and every 30
picks thereafter.  Today’s proceedings
will conclude with the 30th round, and the 31st through
50th rounds will take place tomorrow.

 

 

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

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

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