The Rangers released seven minor league players today, among them left-handed pitcher Kasey Kiker. The 24-year-old never did pitch above the Double-A level after he was taken No. 12 overall in the 2006 MLB Draft.
Kiker pitched this past season for Class A Myrtle Beach and was 3-4 with a 7.05 ERA in 44 2/3 innings. Opponents hit .260 against him. In his minor league career, which included two seasons at Double-A Frisco, Kiker was 23-31 with a 4.53 ERA. He had 490 strikeouts, but 277 walks. His final two seasons included ERAs over 7.00. Perhaps the best pitcher taken after Kiker in the first round was Ian Kennedy, selected 21st by the Yankees (and then traded as part of the Curtis Granderson deal).
Interestingly, by the time the Rangers picked at 12, a slew of good pitchers were already off the board. Luke Hochevar (spent time with the Fort Worth Cats before being drafted) was the top pick that season to Kansas City. Andrew Miller went sixth (Detroit), Clayton Kershaw seventh (Dodgers), Tim Lincecum 1oth (Giants) and Max Scherzer 11th (Arizona).
With Kiker now released, the only top picks (the first player the Rangers picked) still in the club's system besides 1999 top pick Colby Lewis (who returned to Texas via Japan), are the most recent ones: LHP Jake Skole (2010) and LHP Kevin Matthews (2011). The club traded first-round picks Justin Smoak (2008) and Blake Beavan (2007) in the Cliff Lee deal in 2010.
The Rangers also released: RHP Andrew Doyle, LHP Juan Grullon, INF/OF Mitch Hilligoss (batted .264 for 52 games in Frisco last year and was traded in exchange for Greg Golson in 2010), LHP Paul Strong, INF Jimmy Swift, C Carson Vitale.