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2018 Rangers MLB Draft preview: Jackson Kowar scouting report

Taking a look at potential Texas Rangers draft pick Jackson Kowar

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2018 MLB Draft preview: Jackson Kowar scouting report

With the 2018 MLB Draft just four weeks away — the first round kicks off on June 4, 2018 — its time to start offering capsule looks at players the Texas Rangers could select with their top picks. The Rangers’ first round pick is at #15 and their second round pick is at #55 — they have no compensatory picks this year.

Leading up to draft day, we will be doing writeups of some of the players who could end up getting selected by the Rangers with one of their first two picks. Today, we are looking at University of Florida pitcher Jackson Kowar.

Jackson Kowar is a 21 year old righthanded pitcher who is listed at anywhere from 6’4” to 6’6”, and is in the 180-185 lb. range. A junior at the University of Florida, Kowar has an impressive two pitch mix, with a mid-90s fastball and a changeup that Keith Law, who has Kowar ranked #17 in his most recent rankings, calls “one of the best” in this draft class.

Kowar was in BA’s top 100 draft prospects as a high school senior in 2015, but dropped due to signability concerns, ultimately going in the 40th (and final) round to the Detroit Tigers, who didn’t sign him. He gets good marks for his height and athleticism, and if he had even an average curveball or slider, it sounds like he’d be a potential top five pick. That lack of a decent breaking ball, however, means that he’s more of a middle of the first round pick, and his success or failure as a professional likely depends on whether and to what degree he develops a pitch that bends.

Like Law, Baseball America has Kowar ranked at #17 in their top 500 rankings, while MLB Pipeline has Kowar at #13 on their currently draft rankings. In the most recent mock draft, MLB Pipeline has the Cardinals taking Kowar at #19, four picks after the Rangers, and Kowar feels like a Cardinal-y type of pick. KLaw has Kowar dropping to the Twins, at #20, while BA’s first 15 mock draft doesn’t have Kowar as one of their selections.

Texas hasn’t tended to go with college pitchers in the first round in the Jon Daniels era — they’ve taken three college pitchers in the first or supplement first rounds, in Dillon Tate, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Tommy Hunter, plus Tanner Scheppers, who had attended college but was pitching in the Independent League when he was drafted by Texas. The Rangers do like projectable, athletic pitchers, and Kowar could be a fit for them if they feel the player development folks can bring his breaking ball along.

The risk with Kowar is that, if you only have a fastball and one other pitch, a fastball/breaking ball pitcher profiles as a potential bullpen piece moreso than a fastball/changeup pitcher, particularly a righthanded pitcher. There are righthanders who have had success in the major leagues throwing almost exclusively fastballs and changeups -- Marco Estrada and Kyle Hendricks come to mind as examples — but those types of pitchers are fairly rare. Still, that solid two pitch mix from an advanced college pitcher is potentially an attractive option at #15.