Four 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old, averaging 6’4”, 200. Their size jumped out at the press conference, and will on the back fields.
But that’s not why the Rangers refer to Lewis Brinson, Joey Gallo, Collin Wiles, Jamie Jarmon, and Nick Williams as the “Fab Five.”
It’s not because they were all headed to major collegiate programs – Florida, LSU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Texas A&M – each that even a couple weeks ago surely promised a better chance to play in the College World Series at some point than Rangers third-rounder Pat Cantwell, the Stony Book catcher who now sits as the only pick among the club’s first 16 who has yet to sign.
(And he will, in due time. First, Cantwell’s Seawolves open the proceedings in Omaha against UCLA on Friday afternoon.)
The reason Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg called the club’s three first-round and two second-round picks the “Fab Five” has more to do with the crazy upside, and maybe even the expectations, that brought this particular fivesome together in Arlington this week and on an 8:40 flight this morning from DFW to Phoenix.
Surprise, Arizona is very far away from Gainesville, from Baton Rouge, from Nashville, from Columbia, from College Station, geographically and in just about any other sense you can imagine, but it will be where Brinson, Gallo, Wiles, Jarmon, and Williams will start to play professional baseball, as scouting gives way to player development and the latest wave of Texas Rangers prospects gains pipeline entry and begins its push forward.
The Arizona League kicks its season off one week from today. The Rangers squad, sixth on the system depth chart, could run a lineup out there that includes Brinson, Jarmon, Williams, and Nomar Mazara in the outfield and DH, Ronald Guzman at first base, Alberto Triunfel at second, Luis Marte at shortstop, Gallo at third, Cantwell at catcher, and Wiles or Yohander Mendez on the mound.
Scribble down a lineup of Rangers prospects that includes only teenagers: Jorge Alfaro at catcher, Guzman at first, Rougned Odor at second, Jurickson Profar at short, Gallo at third, the Brinson-Jarmon-Williams-Mazara quartet in the outfield and DH, and a rotation of Cody Buckel, Victor Payano, David Perez, Wiles, Kevin Matthews, and Mendez.
And maybe Jairo Beras lands on both lists, offering the kind of power that, outside of Mike Olt, doesn’t exist in the Rangers system right now – until Gallo takes his reps for the first time today or tomorrow.
Brinson and Jarmon reportedly signed for slot, Wiles a tick above and Williams a tick below, and the Rangers were able to get Gallo signed for what’s been reported to be $2.25 million, which is about $925,000 over his slot – enabled presumably by the Texas strategy to take college seniors in Rounds 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9.
According to Baseball America, the amount Gallo received above his league-set pick value is the highest paid by any team to a player from this draft so far.
Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose went on to have tremendous NBA careers, but the two Fab Fivers who hailed from Texas, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, didn’t pan out as pros. Not every one of the five players the Rangers introduced yesterday, taken 29th and 39th and 53rd and 83rd and 93rd last week, will live up to expectations. That’s the reality.
Colby Lewis, taken 38th overall in 1999, when Brinson, Gallo, Wiles, Jarmon, and Williams were still playing T-ball, certainly didn’t live up to his, before his career took a strange turn and he absolutely did. Development in baseball is hard to predict, hard to count on.
Senior Director of Player Personnel A.J. Preller said yesterday that the organization considered this opportunity – having five picks in the top 100 – a very important one, and part of the plan was to target players who wanted to play. That may not sound like a big deal, but it’s part of why all five of the Rangers’ first- and second-round picks chose pro ball over big college programs, and why all five signed quickly, and why they’re all on that flight that is lifting off just as I hit “send” on this report, and why they should all be ready to go when the AZL opens its season a week from today.
The Rangers extended their division lead over the Angels by a game last night, but they also extended another gap over Los Angeles in the last week, and aren’t done trying to find every possible way to keep doing that.
“Everything we are facing is a competition,” Jon Daniels once told every employee in the Rangers organization. “How are you going to help us win today?”
The baseball axiom reminds us that speed never goes into a slump. The same can be said, over the last however-many years, about the Rangers’ talent accumulation mission, a tangible reminder of which was in large, energizing view Tuesday afternoon.