June 2010

Good Scheppers.

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It wasn’t Colby
Lewis’s best start of the season, but close to it. 

 

But his eight-pitch
at-bat in the sixth inning, facing off against Milwaukee righthander Yovani Gallardo,
was one of the great Rangers’ at-bats of the season. 

 

With Texas ahead,
2-1, Vladimir Guerrero singled and Josh Hamilton doubled to lead off the inning.  Justin Smoak then struck out looking and Max
Ramirez went down swinging, and Gallardo probably felt like he’d all but
escaped,

with punchless number
eight hitter Andres Blanco and Lewis slated to hit.  Brewers manager Ken Macha put Blanco on
first, asking Gallardo to get Lewis out to end the inning. 

 

Gallardo – top 10 in
the National League in strikeouts (and ERA) – snapped off a curve that broke
more than a foot to start the at-bat, and Lewis swung through it.  Lewis then looked at a 94-mph fastball that missed
a bit outside.  Then he fouled off
another sharp curve.  And fouled off
another 94-mph heater.  And fouled off
another curve.  And watched a curve that
Gallardo buried in the dirt.  And fouled
yet another 94-mph fastball.

 

And Lewis then did
bad things to a curve that broke 12 inches but stayed inside, raking it just inside
the bag at third base and down the line for a two-run single to give himself
and his teammates a 4-1 lead.

 

Gallardo then struck
Elvis Andrus out, just as he’d done with Smoak and Ramirez earlier in the
inning.

 

C.J. Wilson faces
Josh Johnson tomorrow night, and has immediately fallen far behind Lewis in the
battle for starting pitcher bragging rights at the plate.

 

Alexi Ogando didn’t
pitch yesterday (why Frankie Francisco was called on to pitch the ninth inning
of a 7-2 contest, in a day game after a night game in which he’d thrown 26
pitches, I’m not sure).  But Tanner
Scheppers did.

 

Ryan Aber of the Daily Oklahoman and Bob Hersom of
OKCRedhawks.com shed some light on the Rangers’ plan with Scheppers, who made
his first minor league start yesterday and held Albuquerque scoreless on two
hits (by ex-big leaguers Michael Restovich and Nick Green) and no walks,
fanning a pair of Isotopes (ex-big leaguers Jay Gibbons and Restovich).  Meanwhile, Oklahoma City spanked Vicente
Padilla for six runs (four earned) in his 5.2 rehab innings.

 

Scheppers threw 55
pitches, 37 for strikes.  Of his 40
fastballs, a number touched 99 mph, and he mixed in a good curve and
inconsistent change.  In blanking the
Isotopes, he lowered his RedHawks ERA to 1.57 and his opponents’ batting average
to .188.  In 23 AAA innings, he’s walked
10 and punched out 29.  The 23-year-old
righty has now faced 28 straight hitters without a base on balls.

 

RedHawks pitching coach
Terry Clark told Aber and Hersom that the organization’s plan for Scheppers is
to make three more starts at about four innings apiece (which would bring him
to 46 innings between AA and AAA for the year). 
He’ll then be shut down for a week (just as he was early this month),
and make another four starts at five innings each, which would raise his total
to 66 innings as of the last week or so of July. 

 

At that point -
assuming Scheppers hasn’t first been summoned to the big league bullpen – Texas
will be right up against the trade deadline, having blueprinted about 35 or 40 more
2010 innings for Scheppers.  A majority,
if not all, of those innings will probably come in the Texas bullpen.  The plan is for Scheppers to help the Rangers
in relief this year, and in a best case, in their rotation next year, when the
organization believes he’ll be ready to log 150-200 innings.  The timing of all this is interesting, given
that Texas might be weighing opportunities to trade for another power arm to
stick in the bullpen for the stretch run – but they might have the right guy in
AAA right now.

 

The big league focus
is on this week’s series in Florida and Houston, as it should be, but when you get
looks at Ogando and Scheppers this summer, with Tommy Hunter and Neftali Feliz
and Derek Holland ahead of them and Martin Perez and Blake Beavan and Pedro
Strop behind them, it’s going to be hard not to think about where this pitching
staff is headed over the next couple years.

 

 

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Good

 

Harden to DL. Ogando to Texas.

I promise objectivity with this report.

 

In 2003, one was on the fast track for Oakland,
starting the season pitching in AA and moving quickly up to AAA before getting
to the big leagues in the middle of the season. 
The other was A’s property as well, a tools monster who flashed
brilliance on the field but in whom Oakland didn’t really know what they
had.  He was an outfielder known as Argenis
Benitez.

 

Today, they’re together again but now in Texas,
and the roles have reversed.  The latter is
no longer an outfielder but instead a pitcher, no longer Argenis Benitez but
instead Alexi Ogando, and he’s the AA-to-AAA-to-Arlington fast-tracker, while
Rich Harden, a rookie phenom in 2003, is someone that, despite all his obvious tools
and occasional glimpses that they’re still in there somewhere, is a complete
mystery, at best.  

 

Alexi Ogando has been recalled and will join
the Rangers bullpen, after an odyssey to the big leagues like few others, and
Rich Harden has been removed from the rotation (with no announced replacement
yet) and parked on the disabled list, victim of a left gluteal muscle strain. 

 

My pledge of objectivity prohibits me from the
obvious follow-up line.

 

Jamey

 

On tap.

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Josh on tap no more

On and off and on and off

Whatever works, man

 

Here’s the funny thing. 
When Josh Hamilton started the 2009 season, at the urging of Rudy
Jaramillo, by ditching the toe-tap that he used throughout his storybook 2008 campaign,
the experiment lasted a dozen games (.229/.283/.354).  Readopting the toe-tap for the balance of the
2009 season, he hit a more respectable .274/.321/.438 the rest of the way.

 

In 2010, maintaining the toe-tap, Hamilton seemed to be
going just fine through the end of May (.281/.335/.500).  But Clint Hurdle then persuaded him to drop the
toe-tap again, and since that time he’s a .436/.450/.846 hitter in 39 at-bats.

 

In his three Rangers seasons, Hamilton is a .293/.352/.501
hitter in 1,104 toe-tappin’ at-bats.  He’s
a .322/.355/.575 hitter in 87 tapless at-bats. 

 

It’s pretty clear that the key for Hamilton is not whether
he’s tapping his toe, but instead that his head’s right at the plate.  Right now, he’s as locked in as he’s ever
been as a Ranger, whereas the last time he went without the mechanism he’s
going without now, he struggled terribly. 
He seems like the type of player who can cripple himself by overthinking
things.  See it, hit it.    

 

We all know Vladimir Guerrero was the all-time Rangers killer
in Arlington.  In 193 at-bats as a visiting
player, he hit .394/.471/.705 in Rangers Ballpark.

 

This year he’s hitting .381/.407/.669 at home. 

 

What a monster.

 

Speaking of which, the Smoak Monster is hitting .400/.514/.667
in 30 June at-bats. 

 

(I found this interesting: Smoak is up to .222/.339/.389
overall.  Frequent comp Mark Teixeira is
at .226/.341/.391.)

 

Meanwhile, Julio Borbon is 13 for his last 24
(.542/.538/.667), and like Smoak just about every one of hits (and several of
his outs) lately have been barreled.

 

But Ian Kinsler is hitting .192/.288/.231 in his last 52
at-bats (and that’s with several fluky base hits among the 10 he’s had).  I’m not sure I can remember him looking this
uncomfortable at the plate, mechanically.

 

Still, no team in baseball is hitting at anywhere near the
level that Texas is in June.  The club’s
.329 average is the only mark in the big leagues over .300 this month, and its
.499 slug is percentage points higher than Boston’s and far ahead of everyone
else.

 

All other things equal, bullpens tend to come into play more
often in National League parks, and Tommy Hunter, while not as sharp as he was
Saturday when he went the distance against Tampa Bay, gave the club a solid six
last night and set up an uncomplicated night for the relief crew.  Darren Oliver (three strikeouts), Darren O’Day
(one strikeout), and Frankie Francisco (one strikeout) were perfect over an
inning each (throwing a first-pitch strike to all but one Mariner over that stretch),
and the pen is relatively rested going into this stretch of nine NL games in 10
days, all on the road.

 

In fact, in the four-game series Texas just completed, O’Day
is the only pitcher on the staff who pitched twice (one perfect inning on
Tuesday and another on Thursday, 23 strikes out of 31 pitches).  That’s remarkable.

 

Hunter’s effort was the rotation’s third straight quality
start, after Colby Lewis (one Seattle run) and C.J. Wilson (two runs) each delivered
seven solid innings.

 

Hunter is going to have a long career starting big league baseball
games.

 

Oliver since May 8: one earned run (0.59 ERA) on eight hits
(.160 opponents’ average) and four walks in 15.1 innings, with 22
strikeouts.  He’s fanned nine of the last
13 batters he’s faced.

 

Francisco over the same stretch: three earned runs (1.98
ERA) on nine hits (.188 opponents’ average) and three unintentional walks in
13.2 innings, with 23 strikeouts.

 

Ichiro in the four-game series against Texas: 1 for 15, and an
official scorer’s changed ruling away from a hitless trip.

 

But you were betting on Borbon getting five more hits in
three games than Ichiro did in four in this series.

 

Ron Washington plans to start Guerrero in right field every
other day in Milwaukee and Florida, getting two starts in each of those
three-game series.  He hasn’t revealed
his plans for Guerrero’s usage in Houston next weekend.

 

In 45 at-bats in Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Guerrero is a
.356/.431/.667 hitter.  In Florida’s Sun
Life Stadium, his slash line is .305/.350/.515 in 167 at-bats. 

 

It looks like Nelson Cruz (hamstring) won’t be back Tuesday
as planned.  He felt some soreness behind
his left knee running the bases yesterday, got a cortisone shot, and will head
out on a rehab assignment, at the soonest, early next week. 

 

Derek Holland, after cutting a 30-pitch side session short
after 17 pitches on Wednesday, says he’s fine and should throw again today.

 

Incidentally, when Oklahoma City
righthander Tanner Scheppers makes his first start as a Rangers prospect on Sunday
,
his Albuquerque opposition will be Vicente Padilla, who made rehab starts for
High A Inland Empire on June 3 and June 8. 
Los Angeles is expected to activate Padilla after Sunday’s start.

 

Brandon McCarthy is back on the AAA disabled list with inflammation
in his right shoulder.

 

Righthander Danny Gutierrez, having served out his 50-game banned
substance suspension (after testing positive for a prescribed ADHD medication
that he didn’t secure a therapeutic use exemption for), made his 2010 debut in relief
for Low A Hickory last night, giving up a run on a single, double, and two
walks in an inning of work. 

 

Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago is at it again, suggesting that
Texas has “serious interest” in White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. 

 

(Yeah, yeah, Pierzynski gains 10-and-5 rights on
Sunday.  Too much is being made of
that.  He already has some level of
no-trade protection.  And knowing he’s
not going to be asked back this winter by Chicago, as Tyler Flowers gets closer
[despite a current month-long AAA slump], he has plenty of reason to accept a
trade to a contender and try to rehabilitate his market value.)

 

(I still don’t want him.)

 

Cleveland released righthander Jamey Wright.

 

Boosted by the just-completed 5-2 homestand, Texas has the best
home record in the American League (23-11). 
 On the road (10-16), however, only
Seattle (8-20) and Baltimore (6-25) are worse. 

 

But Milwaukee (10-17) is the worst home team in baseball,
and Florida (17-15) and Houston (14-20) are in the back half as well. 

 

Something’s gotta give in these next nine, and with Texas clicking
on all cylinders right now, this road trip is set up for the club to get that
road W/L healthier and extend what is now a 1.5-game cushion on the Angels and
two games on Oakland.

 

Important road swing on tap.

 

 

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Good day.

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Total wins by a
margin of at least five runs out of the Rangers’ first 29 victories: Three.

 

Total wins by a
margin of at least five runs out of the Rangers’ last three victories: Three.

 

Number of times in 2007 an opponent held Ichiro Suzuki to
one hit over three consecutive games: Eleven.  (Texas was one of them.)

 

Number of times in 2008 and 2009 combined an opponent held
Ichiro Suzuki to one hit over three consecutive games: Three.  (Texas was one of them.)

 

Number of times in 2010 an opponent has held Ichiro Suzuki
to one hit over three consecutive games: One. 
(Monday, Tuesday, and last night.)

 

If the official scorer hadn’t reversed his ruling and
awarded Ichiro a fifth-inning double on what was originally ruled a Justin
Smoak error, we’d be looking at the first time since April 2006 that one team
has held Ichiro hitless three straight days.

 

Texas has won 11 of 13 games in the red jerseys this year.

 

Derek Holland had to cut short his first bullpen session since
left rotator cuff inflammation forced him to the disabled list.  His 30-pitch session yesterday lasted 17
pitches before he complained of a “minor pinch” in his shoulder. 

 

Rangers third-round pick Jordan Akins, a toolsy outfielder from
Union Grove High School in Georgia, told UCFSports.com that he has agreed to
sign with Texas for $350,000, forgoing a football-baseball scholarship to the University
of Central Florida.  If the figure is
accurate, it appears to be right at or maybe slightly over slot.

 

Texas took bench coach Jackie Moore’s son, Johnathan Moore,
in the 45th round yesterday. 
The Houston Baptist catcher hit .355 with six home runs and 51 RBI in 54
games this season.

 

The Rangers’ 39th-round pick yesterday, University
of Alabama-Birmingham righthander Ryan Woolley, was taken in the sixth round a
year ago (by Atlanta) but didn’t sign.  The
Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 2007, outfielder Garrett Nash, was chosen yesterday
by Arizona, also in the 39th round, 15 picks before Texas tabbed
Woolley.  Nash has been on a Mormon
mission the past two years.

 

Matt Purke is the Louisville Slugger NCAA Freshman Pitcher
of the Year.  He’s gone 13-0, 3.40 for
TCU, fanning 122 and walking 27 in 95.1 innings.  The Horned Frogs are in Austin for the NCAA
Super Regionals tomorrow through Sunday. 
Anyone have local TV details?

 

On Monday, the Washington Nationals drafted Bryce
Harper.  On Tuesday, they got the
greatest debut in the history of mankind from Stephen Strasburg.  On Wednesday, they signed Jason Botts to a minor
league contract.   The 29-year-old, who was hitting .342/.444/.530
in 149 at-bats for the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League,
joins AAA Syracuse, where his teammates will include Kevin Mench and where his hitting
coach will be Jerry Browne.

 

Florida designated Mike Lamb for assignment to make room for
outfield phenom Mike Stanton.

 

No MLB.com column this week. 
I’m still recovering from the draft.

 

Our next Fox Sports Southwest in-game chat will probably be
June 30, when Texas visits the Angels.

 

You’re 18 years old.  In
one day:

 

1.     
You get an authentic Rangers jersey with your name on it, number
1 or number 21.

 

2.     
You and your family get to hang out in a room with Nolan
Ryan.

 

3.     
You get to meet a bunch of Rangers players and then watch
them – from a suite behind home plate – explode offensively, pitch well, and
play great defense.  You dream of one day
playing on that field, in a game like that.

 

4.     
You get interviewed by Jim Knox.

 

5.     
Your parting gift: Someone agrees to pay you seven figures.

 

Good day, eh?

 

Skole_Deglan_me.jpg

Photo/Max Faulkner/FWST

 

 

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Of Elvis Andrus, Mark Teixeira, and the draft.

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Coasting to a win like that has been nearly as rare this season
for Texas as Draft Day – the Rangers have only five wins of at least five runs,
including their last two victories – and while Texas 7, King Felix 1 probably
won’t even get as much local play as The Strasburg Debut, it showcased several
really positive things:

 

1.      Two
of the finest free agents signings anywhere in the league this winter: Colby
Lewis and Vladimir Guerrero.

2.      The
continuing coming into focus of Justin Smoak, at the plate and around the bag.

3.      A
game in which the manager was comfortably able to give Ian Kinsler and Michael
Young some late rest.

4.      The
best shortstop in the American League.

 

Elvis Andrus, whose defense I’d take over any other
shortstop in the league, whose offense I’d take over any other shortstop in the
league, and whose future I’d take over almost any other player in the league,
is not only younger than two of the five Rangers prospects who were named Low A
South Atlantic League All-Stars this week (outfielder Miguel Velazquez and
reliever Trevor Hurley, who were selected along with starters Robbie Ross,
Robbie Erlin, and Matt Thompson), but also younger than five of the players the
Rangers drafted yesterday.

 

Think about that.

 

He’s also two years younger than Frisco left-handed reliever
Beau Jones, who in 13.1 RoughRider innings has scattered six hits and one walk
while striking out 19, and coaxing more groundouts than flyouts. 

 

The Mark Teixeira Trade would have been just fine if it
produced Andrus alone.  Getting Neftali Feliz as well makes it a landmark
deal.  Toss in Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Atlanta’s top
pitching prospect and top position player prospect at the time, neither of whom
we really know about yet, and it’s closing in on Herschel Walker Trade
status. 

 

If Jones – reportedly added to the deal at the last minute
at Jon Daniels’s insistence, given a bout of Harrison shoulder soreness
following his AA start six days earlier – makes it to Arlington, giving Texas
five big leaguers out of five, including Andrus and Feliz, the trade becomes
even more extraordinary.

 

Maybe not 7-4-2-2-0-14 extraordinary, but any general
manager would have drafted Stephen Strasburg if they had the number one pick
last year.  I’m not sure how many front offices would have been able to
pull the Teixeira Trade off.

 

If the drafting on Monday of Jake Skole (first round) and on
Tuesday of high school outfielder Jordan Akins (third round), both two-sport
college commits, allows Texas to create even more of a budget surplus by
amortizing their signing bonuses out over five years, and if some of that
surplus can be used at trade deadline time, whether this team is out of
bankruptcy by that time or not, the chances are obviously better that this
season will extend beyond 162 games that count.

 

It’s going to take playoff baseball – winning playoff
baseball – for the Mark Teixeira Trade to share ground with the Herschel Walker
Trade.

 

But that’s about all that separates them right now.

 

Last night’s excellent Rangers win included contributions
from several former first-round picks (Lewis, Smoak, Josh Hamilton, David
Murphy, and Julio Borbon), but there was also a former 17th-rounder
(Ian Kinsler) hitting third and an undrafted free agent (Darren O’Day) getting
the final three outs.

 

Whether Texas found another Kinsler in yesterday’s second through
30th rounds, or keeps another O’Day from sliding through the draft
altogether in today’s 31st through 50th, we won’t know
for a while. 

 

And though we’ve said it before, as much as I dig the
baseball draft, give me a year like this every time, when the draft is
incidental to what’s going on in Arlington.  I’m excited about Skole and
Kellin Deglan and Luke Jackson and Cody Buckel and Akins and Justin Grimm and
Zack Osborne, not to mention Garrett Buechele (18th round) and the
fascinating but likely unsignable Brian Ragira (30th round), who is
expected to matriculate from Arlington Martin to Stanford, but my mind is now
refocused on C.J. Wilson against Ian Snell, and Tommy Hunter against Ryan
Rowland-Smith. 

 

Big thanks to Scott Lucas for his outstanding, instant news
flashes on each of the Rangers’ first eight draft picks Monday and Tuesday, and
to Eleanor Czajka for once again putting together a one-stop information store
for the entire Texas draft class on her
Minor Details blog
, where you can find player profiles, scouting video, and
industry evaluations on each of the Rangers’ 2010 picks.

 

The draft concludes today, after which work on getting the
majority of the club’s 53 picks signed and ready for short-season game action
gets underway. 

 

But in the meantime, there are two more at home against
Seattle, with the Angels and A’s each within a game of the division lead and
facing each other for two more themselves, after which Texas moves into a 15-game
stretch against the National League (Milwaukee, Florida, Houston, Pittsburgh,
Houston again), a real chance to fatten up against nothing but under-.500 clubs
while the Angels get the Dodgers and Rockies and the A’s get the Cardinals and
Reds over the same two and a half weeks.

 

I’ll be at the Ballpark these next two nights, watching a
former fifth-rounder and former supplemental first-rounder take the mound to
try and help nail down a series win over the Mariners, with an undrafted kid
from Venezuela doing his thing, as he does most nights, at shortstop and atop
the order, to make the Rangers’ future, tonight and next year and four years
from now, something worth investing in.

 

 

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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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Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

 

The Draft is set to begin.

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If you were the
Diamondbacks and had the first pick in each round of the 2005 draft, you could
have taken these players, limited in hindsight solely to the players who eventually
went in each of the first 20 rounds:

 

1.      Ryan Braun

2.      Yunel Escobar

3.      Brett Gardner

4.      Brian Matusz

5.      Michael Kirkman

6.      Doug Fister

7.      Michael Brantley

8.      Austin Jackson

9.      Mark Wagner

10.  Josh Outman

11.  John Lannan

12.  Matt Joyce

13.  Josh Thole

14.  Pedro Alvarez

15.  Alex Hinshaw

16.  Andrew Bailey

17.  James Russell

18.  Desmond Jennings

19.  Ike Davis

20.  Andrew Cashner

 

For good measure, you could have taken Tommy Hanson in the
22nd round, Tyler Flowers in the 33rd, Chris Davis in the
35th, a skinny college sophomore-eligible pitcher named Tim Lincecum
in the 42nd, and a high school righthander (whom you might have
envisioned as a catcher) named Buster Posey in the 50th and final
round.   

 

We’re half an hour from go time, and among the experts there’s
almost as little certainty as to what Texas will do at 15 and 22 as there is in
Round 42, when five years ago Cleveland chose Lincecum but didn’t sign him, or Round
50, when the Angels used the draft’s 1,496th pick on Posey but didn’t
lure him from his commitment to Florida State.

 

OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  But even in the latest mock drafts posted by
seven different respectable outlets, some of which have been published in the last
hour or two, I count 12 different players who have been pegged as going to
Texas at 15 or 22.  I can’t remember a
crazier, more unpredictable first round, at least outside the war rooms.

 

Stay tuned for instant news flashes from Scott Lucas tonight,
once the Rangers announce their selections at picks 15, 22, 45, and 49.

 

 

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Big Game, Hunter.

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Not long ago, out of
a discussion I had with a couple friends, one of whom is not irrationally dependent
on sports the way I am, came this question: “Would you rather watch an intense,
memorable 5-4 Rangers loss that ended in a way you’ll never forget, or miss a
mundane 6-2 Rangers win and hear about it on the news?” 

 

The answer was easy
for me – unquestionably the latter – yet tough for him to comprehend.

 

Today was a perfect example. 

 

Max’s Little League game started at the same time as
Texas-Tampa Bay, and as a result we only caught the last two innings on
TV.  So I didn’t see much of Tommy Hunter’s
9-5-1-1-0-4, and only a fraction of his 117 pitches (76 strikes).  And I’m totally fine with that. 

 

Before landing in Texas, Tampa Bay was 21-6 on the road this
season.  The Rays had played nine road series,
and lost only one (when they dropped two of three to Oakland a month ago, in a
series that included Dallas Braden’s perfect game).  They’re going to lose this one, too, needing
to take tomorrow’s series finale in order to stave off what would be just their
second sweep of the season (having dropped three at home to Boston a week and a
half ago).

 

Wins like today’s – even if you didn’t see it – are adrenaline
boosts, games where the offense stepped up and so did the pitching, and where the
starting pitcher saved the bullpen, not an insignificant fact in a day game
after a night game, not to mention in heat that apparently registered at more
than 110 degrees on the playing surface. 
Only Chris Ray (in the 7th or 8th and again in the
9th) and Neftali Feliz (in the 9th) even got out of their
seats to get loose (which doesn’t count Feliz’s grab of Josh Hamilton’s 11th
home run, which despite three ensuing hitless at-bats lifted his slug to .537,
which is higher than the .530 he put together in his memorable 2008 season).  Hunter shot down any thought of having anyone
come take the ball from him, needing just 10 pitches in the 7th, 10
more in the 8th, and 11 in the 9th (despite an error that
extended the game by one extra hitter) to shut things down.

 

Tommy Hunter was big today.  As was Max Ramirez, whose work behind the plate this
afternoon – if not these five weeks – shouldn’t be neglected.  Can we start asking whether Ramirez (who is
hitting .262/.360/.429) should be considered any more of a placeholder than
Hunter, whose 2010 big league debut was just tremendous?  I understand that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is
probably back soon, and I’m in no mood to let Matt Treanor go, but at this
point it sure seems that Ramirez’s right-handed bat would do the bench a lot
more good than having Joaquin Arias around. 
It’s not as if Arias can do anything defensively that Andres Blanco and
Ramirez can’t do better.

 

That was a masterpiece today.  Anytime a pitcher and catcher can execute
like that and give the bullpen a day to kick back and watch, I’m happy – even if
I didn’t get the chance to do the same.

 

 

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Stuff.

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In spite of a really
frustrating sixth and seventh last night on the mound, the line score shows
only a one for Tampa Bay in each of those two innings, and another night of big
production out of the maligned bottom third (seven hits, including a home run, 2
for 2 with runners in scoring position, one walk, one strikeout, and Max
Ramirez with the club’s highest pitches per at-bat number for the night) helped
push Texas to a solid win against a very good team, getting this series and
homestand off to a good start.

 

I’ve seen most of
Josh Hamilton’s at-bats this year, and I can’t believe this is true:

 

His slash line of
.300/.348/.529 is remarkably close to his line of .304/.371/.530 in his
storybook 2008 season, a year in which he finished seventh in the MVP vote.

 

And not terribly inferior
to Vladimir Guerrero’s .333/.364/.557.

 

It sure doesn’t seem
like it.

 

Somehow, even though Texas piled up 13 hits and two walks
and two hit batsmen, Tampa Bay needed only 116 pitches to complete eight
innings.  (The Rangers threw 178 pitches
over nine.) 

 

Ian Kinsler saw nine pitches in four plate appearances.

 

Someone asked me during Wednesday night’s in-game chat
session who my favorite Rangers player was growing up.  If I were a kid right now, there’s no
question who it would be, and even as a 41-year-old, I think I might be accepting
that Elvis Andrus is, over all these years, my favorite Rangers player
ever.  And he’s going to get better.

 

The Rangers will likely option reliever Pedro Strop to
Oklahoma City before today’s game, clearing a roster spot for righthander Tommy
Hunter to make today’s start.

 

Texas activated righthander Warner Madrigal from the 60-day
disabled list and optioned him to Oklahoma City.  The club’s 40-man roster is once again full.

 

The Rangers also activated righthander Brandon McCarthy from
the disabled list (stress fracture, shoulder) and will work him out of the
RedHawks bullpen as well. 

 

The Rangers traded AAA reliever Jailen Peguero to Houston
for future considerations to thin the RedHawks bullpen herd.

 

Frisco lefthander Martin Perez was placed on the disabled
list with a cracked fingernail.

 

Cleveland designated righthander Jamey Wright for assignment,
and the Mets did the same with Gary Matthews Jr., whose departure from Texas three
and a half years ago for the five-year, $50 million Angels contract he’s still
living off of awarded the Rangers two compensatory draft picks that they turned
into Blake Beavan and Julio Borbon.

 

As far as this year’s draft is concerned, here’s a couple more
updated projections on what Texas will do Monday night with its picks at number
15 and number 22:

 

Jim
Callis, Baseball America (June 4)
:
Asher Wojchiechowski (RHP, The Citadel) and Bryce Brentz (OF, Middle Tennessee
State) (
previous
mocks: June 3 [fellow BA experts John Manuel and Conor Glassey]: Stetson Allie
(RHP, St. Edward [Oh.] HS) and Nick Castellanos (3B, Archbishop McCarthy [Fla.]
HS); May 28: Brentz and Justin O’Conner (C, Cowan [In.] HS); May 14: Brentz and
Ball State second baseman Kolbrin Vitek
)

 

Keith
Law, ESPN (June 4)
: Delino DeShields Jr. (CF, Woodward Academy [Ga.] HS)
and Brandon Workman (RHP, University of Texas) (
previous mocks: May 31: Kellin
Deglan (C, Langley (British Columbia) HS) and Kaleb Cowart (3B/RHP, Cook County
[Ga.] HS); May 24: Workman and Deglan
)

 

Here’s the thing.  Several
super-respectable writers who do their homework have, in the last two or three weeks,
pegged (alphabetically) Allie, Brentz, Castellanos, Cowart, Deglan, DeShields, University
of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, O’Conner, Vitek, Florida high school
righthander Karsten Whitson, Wojchiechowski, and Workman as their projected
picks in the Rangers’ two first-round slots.  

 

The reason the projections are all over the place is twofold:
(1) the Rangers are historically discreet about their draft intentions; and (2)
the first half of the first round seems to be unusually hard to peg this year,
throwing mocks into disarray.  The
Rangers certainly have the 12 players mentioned above whiteboarded in order in their
1000 Ballpark Way war room, but when everything past the top overall pick is still
unclear days before the draft, it’s fairly crazy to expect writers to have a
good bead on what will happen at 15 and 22.

 

Not all of those 12 players will be around when Texas picks
at number 15, but some will, and the Rangers will be prepared to take whichever
one is highest on their board.  Four
years ago, they knew Clayton Kershaw wouldn’t be around when their pick at
number 12 came up, but there were several other pitchers they knew would still be
on the board.

 

I wrote this hours before that 2006 draft:

 

Baseball America‘s Jim Callis predicts this morning that
[Tim] Lincecum, the small fireballer who many project as a dominating closer
but who some insist will be able to start in the big leagues, will be the Texas
pick.  MLB’s Jonathan Mayo speculates
that it will be [Kyle] Drabek, who is the most talented pitcher in the draft by
most accounts — and yet every story about him this spring hasn’t gotten to
paragraph two without mention of his makeup issues.  CNN/SI’s Bryan Smith thinks the Rangers will
end up with [Max] Scherzer, whose stock has dropped, possibly because of
shoulder concerns.

 

Lincecum went 10th.  Scherzer went 11th.  Drabek was still on the board (and would be until
the 18th pick) when Texas chose Kasey Kiker at 12.

 

You can bet that Texas would be thrilled to end up with any
number of the names that include Allie, Brentz, Castellanos, Cowart, Deglan, DeShields,
Grandal (who now appears to be locked in at number four to Kansas City), O’Conner,
Vitek, Whitson, Wojchiechowski, and Workman, and that the club probably has
other names ranked higher who will be available at 12.  The baseball draft is more difficult to
project than the NFL or NBA versions, both because of a much larger pool and because
drafted players don’t go straight to the big leagues and thus are typically drafted
less on perceived need than in football or basketball, and so it’s not unusual for
mock drafts from expert observers to differ greatly from one another, and for
any one writer’s projections to change routinely leading up to Draft Day.

 

Jim Callis’s legendary
2005 mock draft
was dead on for the first 18 picks before Texas chose John
Mayberry Jr. (rather than Callis’s pick, ASU outfielder Travis Buck) at number 19.  Callis didn’t have Mayberry going in his
first 48 picks (covering the first round and supplemental first).  Callis is very good.

 

When you see a guy like Callis changing his Rangers
projection the way he has the past few weeks – Brentz and Vitek on May 14,
Brentz and O’Conner on May 28, and Wojchiechowski and Brentz yesterday – you know
there are lots of moving targets in this draft, at least outside the war rooms,
that probably aren’t done shifting around. 

 

But in the meantime, there’s Hunter-James Shields today and Rich
Harden-Matt Garza tomorrow, two afternoon games pitting teams trying to protect
one- and two-game division leads against each other.  That’s the bigger story, and the draft, as it
should be, will just have to wait.

 

 

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

 

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Help in sight?

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Lefties killing us

And then Vlad gets some shut-eye

(Glad Rays light from left)

 

When you send your 4-5-6 hitters up against a bad team’s number
two reliever, down one run, it shouldn’t feel hopeless.  But with White Sox southpaw Matt Thornton on
the mound and injuries to Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz resulting in Texas having
Josh Hamilton (now .234/.300/.344 against lefthanders), David Murphy
(.238/.256/.310), and Justin Smoak (.056/.146/.139) in those slots, and the
bench without a legitimate right-handed-hitting threat, what followed
(four-pitch strikeout, five-pitch strikeout, four-pitch groundout) seemed almost
inevitable.

 

(Texas is reportedly among the teams that have contacted
Boston recently about Mike Lowell, who has asked to be traded – and who was nearly
sent to the Rangers for Max Ramirez in December.)

 

Tampa Bay is set to send righthanders Wade Davis, James
Shields, and Matt Garza to the hill for this weekend’s series in Arlington, and
the Rays go with only one lefty in the pen (the mediocre Randy Choate).  That’s good. 
But this lineup, just league-average even with Guerrero’s and Cruz’s
production, is a lot easier to gameplan without those two.  Guerrero is supposed to be good to go
sometime this series.  Hope he’s seeing
the ball well.

 

After these three with Tampa Bay, Seattle comes to town,
sending southpaw Cliff Lee to the mound Monday night.  Sometime in the first inning, as Lee faces the
top of the Rangers’ order, or minutes thereafter, Texas will be on the clock
for the first of its four first- and supplemental first-round picks in this
year’s amateur draft.  On Monday we
ran down a bunch of mock drafts projecting what the Rangers will do with the 15th
and 22nd picks, and since then there have been a few updated guesses:

 

Kevin
Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus (June 3)
: Asher Wojchiechowski (RHP, The
Citadel) and Justin O’Conner (C, Cowan [In.] HS)

 

Baseball
America (June 3: not really a mock but instead the musings of various BA draft
experts as to what they would do if in charge of the picks)
: Stetson Allie
(RHP, St. Edward [Oh.] HS) (pick made by editor John Manuel) and Nick
Castellanos (3B, Archbishop McCarthy [Fla.] HS) (pick made by assistant editor Conor
Glassey) (
previous
mocks: May 28/executive editor Jim Callis: Bryce Brentz (OF, Middle Tennessee
State) and O’Conner; May 14/Callis: Brentz and Ball State second baseman
Kolbrin Vitek
)

 

Keith
Law, ESPN (May 31)
: Kellin Deglan (C, Langley (British Columbia) HS) and Kaleb
Cowart (3B/RHP, Cook County [Ga.] HS) (
previous mock, May 24: Brandon Workman
(RHP, University of Texas) and Deglan
)

 

Jonathan
Mayo, MLB.com (June 2)
: Workman and O’Conner (
previous mock, May
26: Cowart (mock stopped at number 20)
)

 

Jon
Heyman, Sports Illustrated (June 2)
: Yasmani Grandal (C, University of
Miami) and Vitek

 

Jon Daniels said yesterday that most of the players Texas
likes at the unprotected number 15 pick, based strictly on talent, are not
signability risks.  He also said that the
Rangers are not limited to slot by MLB while the bankruptcy proceedings are
pending.  The club is bound instead by
its draft budget, which contains flexibility to go over slot.

 

For Scott Lucas’s sake, I hope Texas doesn’t pop Wojchiechowski
and Illinois high school righthander Mike Foltynewicz Monday night.

 

According to initial reports, Derek Holland doesn’t have
thoracic outlet syndrome.

 

The Rangers’ 9-5 win in Chicago on Wednesday was the club’s
first road win without a save all year.  Only
twice have they won a road game by as much as a four-run margin.  Crazy. 

 

Updating an incredible stat that T.R. Sullivan ran out there
earlier this week: number nine hitters are hitting .312 off Rangers pitching
this season.  No other spot in the lineup
is hitting over .289 against Texas.

 

According to MLB
Fangraphs
, the best slider in baseball right now (in terms of “pitch value”)
belongs not to Carlos Marmol or Francisco Liriano or Clayton Kershaw, but to
Rangers righthander Colby Lewis.

 

There were rumors that the Rays considered designating
catcher Dioner Navarro for assignment once Kelly Shoppach was activated
yesterday, but instead the club placed shortstop Jason Bartlett on the disabled
list. 

 

ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that once Arizona catcher
Miguel Montero returns to action, the Diamondbacks could shop Chris Snyder,
with Texas a possible match (a sentiment shared by Baseball Prospectus’s John
Perrotto).

 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggests Cleveland’s Russell
Branyan would be a better trade fit for Texas than Chicago’s Paul Konerko,
should the club seek a stopgap first baseman. 
Maybe, but I’d prefer a right-handed hitter.

 

Oakland designated righthander Edwar Ramirez for
assignment.  The San Angelo Colts of the independent
United League signed righthander Ezequiel Astacio.  The Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden
Baseball League signed lefthander Matt Perisho. 
The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League traded infielder
Enrique Cruz to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic
League. 

 

R.A. Dickey has a 2.84 ERA in three Mets starts.  Kameron Loe has two scoreless appearances out
of the Milwaukee bullpen.  Casey Daigle
has two scoreless appearances out of the Houston bullpen.

 

And Joaquin Benoit is up to 12 scoreless appearances out of
the Rays pen.  Eleven dominant innings:
two hits, two walks, 15 strikeouts. 

 

We’ll probably see Benoit in a critical eighth-inning spot at
some point this weekend.

 

I hope it’s with Vladimir Guerrero at the plate.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail
deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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