The Texas Rangers currently have five picks in the 2020 MLB Draft, and while it is possible they could trade for a competitive balance pick from another team, it appears most likely they will have just their regular selections in each round. Their first pick is at #14 overall, and then they pick at #50, #87, #117, and #147.
In the run up to the draft, we will be highlight some players who are potential Ranger draft picks. Last year no one aside from Josh Jung that we wrote about was actually picked by the Rangers, as we mostly looked at prep players for their later picks, and they went college-heavy early in the draft for the first time in years. This year, the uncertainty over whether they will emphasize college players again or go back to prep players would make it hard to narrow down the list of potential prospects even in a normal year — the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic having shut down amateur play creates even more uncertainty about potential picks.
On the plus side, the lack of games and actual new scouting going on means that there’s going to be a lot less updated information, so a write-up I do now will likely still be more or less valid a month from now.
In any case, in the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks. Today we take a look at University of Georgia righthanded pitcher Cole Wilcox.
Cole Wilcox is a 6’5”, 232 lb. righthanded pitcher out of the University of Georgia. A draft-eligible sophomore, Wilcox was the subject of a write-up on LSB back in 2018, when the Texas Rangers were picking at #15, and Wilcox was a well-regarded high school pitcher. The Rangers, of course, took a righthanded high school pitcher named Cole at #15 in 2018, but it was Cole Winn, not Cole Wilcox.
Wilcox checked boxes for the Rangers out of high school, being a big, hard-throwing, projectable righty who was attending high school in Georgia. He was generally ranked pre-draft in 2018 as a late first/early second round guy, and ended up not going until the 37th round (to the Washington Nationals) because of signability concerns. After not signing with the Nats, Wilcox had 6 starts and 13 relief appearances for the Bulldogs in 2019, and made 4 starts in 2020, with a 1.57 ERA in 23 IP, registering 32 Ks, 2 walks and 2 home runs before the season was scrapped.
Wilcox is big, strong, and throws hard, bringing it in the upper 90s when in the bullpen, and in the mid-90s as a starter. He was known as a strike-thrower in high school, but had control issues as a freshman, which was a red-flag, though, as you can see above, he wasn’t walking folks this year before the season was cut short.
Wilcox’s delivery was seen as potentially problematic in high school, leading to questions about his ability to stay in the rotation, and that contributed to him not going early enough in the draft for him to sign. There are still questions about his delivery, as well as his changeup, which needs to progress in order for him to be able to be a major league starting pitcher. He’s got a fairly common profile — big, hard-throwing, a quality fastball/slider combo that would play in the bullpen, and questions about whether the delivery, command and third pitch will allow him to be a starter.
Baseball America has Wilcox at #24 on their pre-draft top 500 currently, praising the upside while noting the concerns about his ability to stay in the rotation. MLB Pipeline slots Wilcox at #23 in their pre-draft rankings, saying he has “some of the best pure stuff” in this year’s draft. Fangraphs has Wilcox at #16 on their board, noting that his current pitch mix and command would make him a viable reliever in the majors. At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel has Wilcox at #29 on his board, and Keith Law has him at 28.
Keith Law last week had Wilcox going to the Washington Nationals at #22 in his mock draft, as does Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft that is out. Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft has the Nationals taking Wilcox at #22 as well. Wilcox goes to the Milwaukee Brewers at #20 in the Baseball America mock draft, with BA saying there’s “some chatter” Wilcox could go in the 10-15 area. Jim Callis also mocks Wilcox to the Brewers at #20.
Wilcox is a draft-eligible sophomore — he turns 21 in July — so while he doesn’t have the same amount of leverage as a high schooler, he does have two years of college eligibility remaining. Thus, he’s in a situation where he is better positioned than most college players to make an aggressive bonus demand, and if he doesn’t get it, return to school. There are reports that Wilcox will be looking for a bonus more in line with the 10-15 range BA mentions above than in the 20-30 range.
Like Crow-Armstrong, who we wrote up this morning, Wilcox is someone who either goes in the first round or doesn’t get drafted at all, given that we have a five round draft, and no team is going to want to burn one of their picks on someone unsignable. If a team sees Wilcox as a bullpen guy long-term, they won’t pick him. A team that thinks they have a good enough shot at developing the changeup and command to make a bet on the upside he offers will take a long, hard look at him.