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 Doylestown, Pennsylvania, righthanded high school pitcher Nick Bitsko.
Nick Bitsko is a 6’4”, 220 lb. righthanded pitcher attending Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Bitsko is big, throws hard, has a high-spin curveball that profiles as potentially plus, and has the build and delivery that provides confidence that he can be a starting pitcher long-term.
Bitsko, who turns 18 just a few days after the 2020 MLB Draft, was originally slated to be part of the 2021 draft class — however, he reclassified as a 2020 draftee this past fall. Bitsko was considered to be one of the top high school prospects who was 2021 draft-eligible, so teams had been following him, but hadn’t been scouting him with the intensity that they would have if he was going to be drafted in 2020.
So Bitsko is someone that teams were going to be playing catch-up on in the spring of 2020, particularly given that he’s in a cold weather state where the high school leagues start later in the year than in the south, meaning there are fewer games and fewer opportunities to watch him. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shutting down Bitsko’s season before it ever started.
The upshot of all this is that Bitsko is a high-ceiling, premium talent who teams have much less information on than most other players who are going to be looked at in the first round. That lack of information likely results in him dropping from where he would normally go, if he had had a healthy and successful 2020 campaign.
Baseball America has Bitsko at #19 on their pre-draft top 500 currently. MLB Pipeline slots Bitsko at #14 in their pre-draft rankings, praising the combination of projection and current stuff. Fangraphs has Bitsko at #12 on their board, but cautions that his “stock [is] pretty volatile” due to the lack of scouting and the overall retreat from high school pitching around the league. At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel has Bitsko at #17 on his board, noting his pitch data profile fits with what “progressive teams love.” Keith Law has him at 15 on his board.
Keith Law last week had Bitsko falling out of the first round in his mock draft. Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft has Bitsko going to Texas at #14. Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft has Bitsko going to the Arizona Diamondbacks at #33, with their competitive balance round pick. Bitsko falls out of the first round in the Baseball America mock draft, though they don’t do the supplemental picks between rounds one and two. Jim Callis also mocks Bitsko falling out of the first round in his mock draft.
Bitsko is the type of player that, even a year ago, I would have been pointing to as someone who would be a top candidate to be drafted by the Rangers at #14. High school pitcher, big, projectable, high spin rate curve, lots of risk but as much upside as almost any pitcher in the draft...it screams Rangers.
However, after 2019, one has to wonder if the “new” Rangers would pull the trigger. As noted above, high school pitchers, who fell out of favor for a while, then became popular again in the draft, are viewed as being high risk again, and teams are more and more reluctant to use premium picks on them. Texas’s 2019 draft was a dramatic departure from prior years, and if they stick with what they did in 2019, I can’t see Bitsko being the pick.
Bitsko is a University of Virginia commit, and the consensus from reading up on him seems to be that if he doesn’t get mid-first-round money, he will go to college. Part of the argument McDaniel makes for the D-Backs taking Bitsko is that, with their extra pick, they are in better position to manage their pool to go overslot for him there. If not the D-Backs, then some team, potentially, may use a supplemental or early second round pick to nab him and go overslot to sign him.