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 Turlock, California, high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom.
Tyler Soderstrom is a 6’2”, 200 lb. lefthanded hitting catcher out of Turlock High School in California. A UCLA commit, Soderstrom is the son of Steve Soderstrom, a pitcher who went 6th overall to the San Francisco Giants in the 1993 draft out of Fresno State, and who made the majors, albeit briefly (he made three starts for the Giants in 1996).
Soderstrom is a bat-first catcher, whose hit tool and perceived power potential excite scouts. He gets good marks for his athleticism, but his defense is extremely raw — he apparently has been the backup catcher in high school, because the regular catcher is much better defensively, which means he has been limited in his reps behind the plate.
There appear to be significant questions about whether Soderstrom can stay behind the plate long-term, or whether he will have to change positions. There are major questions about his receiving skills, although if one believes that robot umps are coming sooner rather than later, that will be much less of a factor going forward. He also is viewed as having lots of work to do with pretty much every aspect of the defensive part of catching in order to stick.
On the plus side, Soderstrom is athletic enough that if he has to move from behind the plate, he could potentially play any of the corner spots, and the bat is good enough that a move from out behind the plate wouldn’t be a death knell for him as a prospect.
Baseball America has Soderstrom at #18 on their pre-draft top 500 currently. MLB Pipeline slots Soderstrom at #19 in their pre-draft rankings, while Fangraphs has Soderstromg at #20 on their board. At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel has Soderstrom at #9 on his board, and expresses confidence that he will stay at catcher, which I’m guessing is part of why he has him higher than the consensus. Keith Law is the low guy on Soderstrom, putting him at #29 on his list.
Keith Law has Soderstrom going at #13 to the San Francisco Giants in his mock draft. Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft has the New York Mets taking Soderstrom at #19. Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft has Soderstrom dropping to the Tampa Bay Rays at #24. The Baseball America mock draft, meanwhile, has Soderstrom going to the Cleveland Indians at #23. Jim Callis mocks Soderstrom to the Chicago Cubs at #16, though he mentions the Giants at #13 as a possibility.
High school catchers have, historically, been poor bets in the first round of the MLB Draft, going all the way back to early on — Steve Chilcott, a California high school catcher, went first overall to the New York Mets in the second ever MLB Draft, leaving Arizona State outfielder Reggie Jackson to the Kansas City A’s at #2, while Danny Goodwin went #1 overall as a high school catcher in 1971 to the Chicago White Sox, didn’t sign, went #1 overall again in 1975 out of Southern University to the California Angels, and had a career -1.7 bWAR in 252 career major league games.
The bad track record for high school catchers and the questions about Soderstrom’s glove are legitimate red flags, but the bat having the potential to play at another position if he can’t stick behind the plate mitigates that somewhat. And the Rangers have had some success developing defensive catchers — Jose Trevino was described by Baseball America as having an “undefined position” after a junior season where he played primarily third base, as well as shortstop and catcher, with BA saying that his “long track record of hitting” was what could get Trevino taken early. Sam Huff, meanwhile, has gone from being a seventh round pick out of high school with questions about whether he could catch to one of the better catching prospects in the game.
Unlike Trevino and Huff, the Rangers would need to use a premium pick to take Soderstrom, and unlike Huff, Soderstrom doesn’t have a loud power tool, though there is optimism he will develop power. Soderstrom does offer a unique package of a lefthanded hitter with a quality hit tool who seems to have a decent chance of staying behind the plate, however, making him a tempting choice at #14.