Yesterday, the Rangers had a press conference to announce the signings of the three players pictured above -- Alex Gonzalez, Travis Demeritte, and Akeem Bostick, their top three selections in the 2013 draft.
What flew a little under the radar yesterday, however, with the news of these signings was that the Rangers also signed three of their later round picks: 11th round Ryan Cordell, 18th rounder David Gates, and 29th rounder Justin Sprenger.
Cordell is a very Ranger pick, a toolsy college outfielder who is athletic and who has swing issues. Baseball America's blurb on him includes the phrases "five tool ability," "upside," "tools" and "[i]f he can make adjustments at the plate," so he sounds like another one of these guys who is athletic, and who the Rangers are hoping they can teach to hit. BA said he could go in the 5th or 6th round, and they had him at #196 on their rankings, so he's a nice pickup in the 11th round.
More intriguing to me, however, is the news that Texas had signed Howard Junior College pitcher David Gates. Gates is listed at 6'5", 215 lbs, and supposedly was throwing as hard as 98 mph with a fastball BA describes as having "heavy sink." BA ranked him at #161 in their top 500 rankings, but he has the type of stuff that is pretty exciting.
That being said, he was taken at #550 overall. Guys who go at #550 overall don't make it. The most successful player ever taken at #550 overall is Jack Del Rio, who was a successful football player, not a baseball player, after foregoing a pro baseball career to play football at USC and then in the NFL.
If we are talking just baseball players, the most successful #550 overall pick is Adam LaRoche. However, that comes with an asterisk, because LaRoche didn't sign when he was the 550th overall pick in 1998. Instead, he signed with the Braves in 2000, when he was the #880 overall pick. And he was taken one pick after Ian Kinsler, who went #879 overall in that draft.
In any case, if we're talking about just players who were picked #550 and signed with the team that picked them #550, the only player to make the majors is pitcher Tim Young, who the Expos took in 1996 at #550 overall. Young pitched 13 innings and recorded a -0.1 bWAR. No one other than LaRoche and Young taken in that spot have made the majors.
So that's a pretty huge hurdle to overcome. Now, you could argue that #550 doesn't adequately reflect Gates' talent, that BA ranked him at #161 so we should look at the #161 spot. And while I don't really agree with that reasoning, if we look at the #161 spot, things look a little better. Rays pitcher Chris Archer was taken at #161 overall by the Cleveland Indians in 2006. The Indians then traded him for Mark DeRosa, which didn't really work out for them.
The Mariners, remarkably, have the two most successful picks at #161 of the last 40 years. The M's drafted Joe Mays at #161 in 1994, and then sent him as a PTBNL to the Minnesota Twins as part of a deal for Roberto Kelly in 1997. Mays went on to put up a 9.4 bWAR on the strength of a couple of good seasons as a starting pitcher.
The Mariners also took Mike Hampton at #161 in the 1990 draft. Hampton was traded (along with Mike Felder) by the M's to the Astros for Eric Anthony, and Hampton went on to log a career bWAR of 29.0, mostly with the Astros and Mets. Hampton also went on to sign a $100M plus contract with the Rockies where he was terrible for two years before being traded to the Braves, where he was mediocre for a while.
In any case, it is interesting that the two big success stories from that particular spot in the draft (other than Joe Ferguson, who was drafted before I was born by the Dodgers) were pitchers who were selected by the M's and then basically given away.
Regardless, the point of all that is that the odds are against Gates every doing anything of note as a pro. If he makes the majors, it will be a huge success for the Rangers. Chances are, this pick won't end up mattering.
All those caveats out of the way, Gates is someone worth keeping an eye on. He reportedly had off-the-field issues in high school, at Texas Tech, and at Howard College, and whatever those issues might be, that would help explain why he would have dropped. It also sounds like the Rangers have a lot of work to do to try to clean up his delivery and make it more repeatable. His ceiling, though, sounds like it would be a late inning reliever, and guys who can throw in the mid-90s don't grow on trees.
So this is someone whose career I'll be keeping an eye on.