Continuing with our preview of prospects in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft that the Rangers have been linked to, or mentioned as having interest in, with their #33 and #37 picks...
Our latest profile is of New Mexico high school catcher Blake Swihart.
Scout.com did an interview with Swihart you can read here.
Jim Callis, in his most recent mock draft, has the Rangers taking Swihart. Several other prognosticators have mentioned Swihart in connection with the Rangers, and Brett Perryman recently wrote that Jon Daniels has said he "looks to add catching in every draft, every trade and every international class."
Swihart is ranked #17 on the Baseball America top 200 draft prospect list. Only six feet tall, Swihart is a strong offensive catcher, a switch-hitter who impressed with Team USA last summer. BA mentions that Swihart's athleticism may prompt a team to move Swihart from behind the plate, and he's also played some third base this spring, with his arm being strong enough that the hot corner could be an option for him down the road.
So why would Swihart possibly be around when Texas picks at #33? Its all about the Benjamins, baby. While I have not seen any specific figures regarding what Swihart wants, he definitely is going to demand above-slot, and I think it isn't unreasonable to believe his price will be at least as high as the $3 million Brandon Nimmo is asking for.
In a recent chat session, Keith Law says that he thinks Swihart can stick at catcher, but needs more time behind the plate. Law also mentions that Swihart is telling teams he has no interest in signing this year. Swihart currently has a commitment to the University of Texas, although, as with Josh Bell, it is an open question about whether he's really dead-set on being a Longhorn, or if this is just a ploy to extract well-above-slot money come bonus time.
The Rangers did take Canadian high school catcher Kellin Deglan with their second first round pick last season, and have #TheLegend, Jorge Alfaro, turning heads and popping eyes with his power displays, so drafting Swihart would mean giving the Rangers three highly-regarded teenage catchers in the system. While this might seem to make it less likely Texas would grab Swihart, Alfaro is still very raw, while Deglan is more of a defense-oriented catch-and-throw prospect, while Swihart profiles more as an offensive catcher who could end up at another position, as other offense-first catching prospects like Jayson Werth, Daric Barton, and Mike Sweeney have done. Thus, if the Rangers like Swihart and think he's signable, I don't see them passing just because of they have other catchers in the organization.
Kevin Goldstein mentions the BoSox being in on Swihart, and with Boston having two picks before Texas goes at #33, Swihart could be off the board before Texas has an opportunity to grab him. Of course, Boston is also reportedly interest in Bell and Brandon Nimmo, two other prep bats that the Rangers are interested in. The Red Sox and Rangers, for whatever reason, seem to have a lot of overlap in targets, both in the amateur draft and in international free agency.