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Quick Draft Review, Part One: 1997-2001

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GM
1997-2001 Doug Melvin

Scouting Director
1997-2000 Chuck McMichael
2001 Tim Hallgren

1997 Draft

Major Leaguers
1.39 Jason Romano
2.75 Jason Grabowski
4 David Elder
7 Mike Lamb
19 Travis Hughes

Other High Picks
2.77 Chris Tynan
3 Brandon Warriax
5 Trey Poland

McMichael's first official draft as scouting director was not really a huge success, as five players did reach the major leagues, but only Mike Lamb has played the equivalent of a full season. And while Lamb is a career .282/.338/.425 hitter, he hasn't had 400 at-bats in a season since his rookie year. Romano was viewed for years as the 2B of the future for the Rangers and did make a Baseball America Top 100 list in 2000 (#68). Lamb made it as well that year, just three spots behind Romano at 71.

1998 Draft

Major Leaguers
1.10 Carlos Pena
9 Andy Pratt

Other High Picks
2.53 Cody Nowlin
3.83 Barry Zito (unsigned)
4 Antwon Rollins
5 Ryan Dittfurth

The Rangers had the high pick as a result of the one season in four to end the 90's where they didn't make the playoffs. They used the top ten pick on Pena and while he hasn't become the all-star first baseman that Doug Melvin and Peter Gammons envisioned, they did get a useful catcher, Gerald Laird (who went 45th in that draft), out of him while he was still extremely highly regarded, and Pena is having a bit of a renaissance in Tampa. And unlike a certain future 10th pick, there weren't better options littering the following picks. The most significant players picked in the next ten were Adam Everett (12), Jeff Weaver (14), Kip Wells (16), Brad Lidge (17), and CC Sabathia (20). Pena did make several BA Top 100's, placing at 93 and 11 with Texas, then 5 shortly after joining the A's. After Pena the draft is a bit of a sad story. Nowlin was not a good pick, though probably the most significant player taken after him in his round was Brandon Inge (though Adam Dunn did go three picks earlier). We all know the Zito saga, but some newer Rangers fans may not be aware of the promise that once was attached to Dittfurth before an injured shoulder ruined his career. He only made one BA Top 100 list, but along with Jovanny Cedeno, who suffered the same fate, was one of the most promising Rangers arms in the last 20 years. Pratt, of course, was traded for Ben Kozlowski before reaching the majors and only logged three innings with the Braves.

1999 Draft

Major Leaguers
1.38 Colby Lewis
2.72 Nick Regilio
3 Hank Blalock
4 Kevin Mench
6 Aaron Harang
13 Jason Jones
46 Jason Botts

Other High Picks
1.47 David Mead
4 Chris Jaile
5 Andy Cavazos
5 Victor Hillaert
(19 Noah Lowry)

This was clearly McMichael's and Melvin's best draft, as it supplied two solid position players and a quality starter, as well as Botts, who still has a chance to become a player, and Lewis, who was a quality prospect before shoulder problems. If Blalock and Mench had maintained their early career play, Lewis could have stayed healthy, and Harang hadn't been sluffed off for Randy Velarde, this would be an all-time draft. As is, it will produce 3-4 legitimate major leaguers (Mench is a career .271/.326/.464 hitter, Blalock .272 .335.457, and Harang has a 4.32 ERA in 135 starts). Several of the players were highly regarded in their approach to the majors, as Lewis placed 82 and 32, Blalock cameoed at three, and Mench appeared at 56. Cavazos has had more success after leaving the organization and still has a chance to make it, currently with the Cards' AAA club. The Rangers had a pretty significant unsigned pick in this draft as well, as Noah Lowry turned them down in the 19th round to go to Pepperdine.

2000 Draft

Major Leaguers
4 Laynce Nix
8 Nick Masset
9 Edwin Encarnacion
19 AJ Murray

Other High Picks
1.25 Scott Heard
1.35 Tyrell Godwin - unsigned
1.39 Chad Hawkins
2.56 Jason Bourgeois
2.64 Randy Truselo
3.94 Chris Russ
5 Greg Runser

This draft was a disaster in some ways, as the Rangers had a similar haul to what they're looking at this season, with five of the first 64 picks (this year it's five of the first 54), and not one panned out. They did find major leaguers in Nix and Masset, and tragically in the best player in their draft that they once again traded while he was still in Low A. Nix did make a Top 100 at 85 and would have been higher the next season had he not been rushed by Hart and Buck Showalter. Encarnacion appeared once at 56 and has put up a .255/.335/.435 major league line in a little over a season. Masset appears to have some kind of major league career ahead of him, as might Murray, after both have battled through serious arm injuries.

2001 Draft

Major Leaguers
1.5 Mark Teixeira
5 CJ Wilson

Other High Picks
4 Josh Baker - unsigned

Talk about all or nothing. When you boil it right down, this is one of the better drafts, when you take Teixeira's quality into account. But I mean there was nothing else after Tex and Wilson. The most prominent player after them was Jason Windsor, who went unsigned as a 43rd rounder and reached the majors with Oakland last year.

Next up, the Fuson/Hopkins drafts.