ESPN’s Keith Law predicts the Texas Rangers will select third baseman Travis Harrison from Tustin High School in California. Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus believes LHP Josh Osich from Oregon State will be the Rangers' top selection. Jim Callis from Baseball America thinks the Rangers will pick catcher Blake Swihart from Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins tonight at 6 p.m. with the first and compensation rounds.
“It’s kind of hard to predict,” said Kip Fagg, the Rangers' director of amateur scouting, who was a recent guest on Rangers Magazine on 103.3 FM ESPN. “There’s probably 1,100 names total on our board on magnets, and basically we put one 100 to one 150 on a main board and kind of work off that. Hopefully, you get maybe four rounds out of the 100 to one 150 names.”
The first selection for the Rangers is the 33rd overall pick. They also have the 37th overall pick, which is in the compensation round. Both picks are a result of Cliff Lee signing with the Philadelphia Phillies as a Type-A free agent. The Rangers had the 26th overall selection, but they lost that to Boston when the Rangers signed free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. From the second through the 50th rounds, the Rangers will have the 23rd selection in each round.
Fagg says the pitching in this draft is strong. Furthermore, he says the state of Texas has a deep talent pool. However, the evaluation of amateur players goes beyond the stat sheet.
“When I was young and scouting, I used to think that 70 percent of the total puzzle picture was ability and 30 percent was make-up and character,” said Don Welke, the Rangers' senior special assistant to the general manager and scouting and another recent guest on Rangers Magazine. “Now I think it’s 51 percent ability and 49 percent make-up and character. So I look hard with every single player that we scout to his insides, to his heart, to his competitiveness, to his desire…those kinds of things. I do believe that ability can translate a heck of a lot better with a guy that has those intangibles.”
Welke says he has traveled to see maybe 50 amateur players that will be in this draft. He has nearly 50 years of baseball scouting experience, and he has the unique ability to scout at all levels: high school, college and pro, as well in the international market. Welke is the elder statesman of those who will be in the Rangers' draft room that will consist of GM Jon Daniels, assistant GM Thad Levine, several other high ranking scouting executives, as well as the scout crosscheckers.
“I trust him immensely going out and seeing players and giving me his opinion,” said Fagg of Welke.
Fagg says the Rangers “have probably 20 area scouts across the United States and Puerto Rico” looking for the players with the right combination of ability and make-up/character for this draft.
“Let’s look for that guy who’s special. Let’s look for that guy who can be more than a vanilla every day type guy,” said Welke of is advice for their scouts. “Let’s look for the special make-up, the special breaking ball, the special change-up, the special fastball, the special speed…something special. Somebody that can be an impact guy as opposed to just a guy, and they are hard to find.”
So who will the Rangers select with their first two picks through the 50th round? It’s the special talent that is strong in ability and make-up. There's always a chance you can see one in Arlington later this year, but more likely sometime in the next five years. Scouting is the backbone of the game, and it’s continuous throughout the year.
Rangers Magazine is heard every Saturday on 103.3 FM ESPN.