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 Mississippi State righthanded pitcher J.T. Ginn.
J.T. Ginn is a 6’2” righthanded pitcher described as either 192 lbs. or 200 lbs. A draft-eligible sophomore out of Mississippi State, Ginn was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers at #30 overall in the 2018 draft out of high school, but didn’t sign with the Dodgers. Ginn’s fastball is in the low- to mid-90s and reportedly plays up due to its movement, with a slider that is considered his best pitch and which BA says is viewed as a potential plus-plus pitch. He has a changeup that is fairly far along, as well — he’s not one of these “if he can develop a third pitch” guys that we so often talk about.
Ginn was ranked #39 on the Baseball America top 500 board heading into 2018 — he had something of a Hans Crouse-type profile, with electric stuff but questions about his command and the belief by many that he profiled as a reliever due to his lack of durability. Those appear to have been alleviated to a large extent by his performance as a freshman for Mississippi State, and a follow up campaign in 2020 where he took another step forward could have catapulted him into the top handful of picks in the draft.
However, even before the Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis canceled the baseball season, Ginn’s season came to a premature end. He made just one start before undergoing what has generally been described vaguely as “elbow surgery,” but which a couple of places, including MLB Pipeline, have specified as “Tommy John surgery.” Having undergone the surgery in March, Ginn would be expected to be out until May, 2021.
Baseball America has Ginn at #23 on their pre-draft top 500 currently, noting that he was a top half of the draft guy until the injury. MLB Pipeline slots Ginn at #44 in their pre-draft rankings. Fangraphs has Ginn at #26 on their board. Former Fangraphs prospect guru turned ESPN guy Kiley McDaniel has Kjerstad at #31 on his board, while former ESPN guy turned Athletic guy Keith Law has doesn’t list Ginn in his top 30.
Ginn is hard to peg — he could go high in the first round, or he could not be drafted at all. He already walked away from a 7 figure signing bonus as a high school senior, so he’s clearly willing to bet on himself, and as a draft-eligible sophomore, he has more leverage than most college draftees do. And given that he is injured, Ginn could theoretically red-shirt in 2021, and enter the draft in 2021 as a redshirt sophomore with two years of college eligibility remaining.
That being said, Ginn is also 21 years old already. He just had Tommy John surgery, and while that is something that has a high success rate, there are no guarantees he will come back and be the same pitcher, or come back at all. At 22 at the time of the June, 2021, draft, he’d be older than most college players who are considered legitimate prospects, and there’s no telling what the landscape for draft bonuses will look like next year.
Callis, in his mock draft, alludes to Ginn being a Scott Boras guy, so I am sure that folks will just assume he’s unsignable. But while Boras wants to maximize what his client gets, he’s also not stupid. He knows what is going on with MLB right now, and I’m sure he’s talking with Ginn and Ginn’s family about the pros and cons of returning to school. There’s a dollar amount that Ginn will sign for, and Boras will, I’m sure, make sure teams know that if they are willing to meet that dollar figure, Ginn will sign. Given how the draft has been neutered this year, 2020 isn’t a time for playing signing games.
As far as taking Ginn at #14 goes, it would be a gamble — I kind of think the Rangers would be more likely to go underslot at #14 with someone they like a lot so that they could grab Ginn, or someone else who will want mid- to late-first-round money, with their second pick, rather than take Ginn at #14. Ginn is a risky pick, but he also has a ton of upside, and if he were healthy he likely would be off the board when the Rangers pick.
I have no doubt there will be people screaming that the Rangers shouldn’t be using their top pick on an injured pitcher, and that’s understandable. That being said, five years ago, the Rangers really liked a college righthander who had top of the rotation stuff, but who also had red flags on his elbow. That pitcher, also a Scott Boras client, was expected to go in the upper half of the draft, but ended up dropping all the way to #24 before the Los Angeles Dodgers grabbed him.
That pitcher ended up needing Tommy John surgery before he ever threw a pitch as a professional. And when we learned that, there was a collective sigh...thank goodness, we all thought, the Rangers didn’t waste the #4 pick on Walker Buehler, and took Dillon Tate instead.
We all know how that turned out.
Which isn’t to say that J.T. Ginn is, or will be, Walker Buehler. But its something to keep in mind. I’m sure the Rangers will.