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 Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin.
Nick Loftin is a 6’1”, 185 lb. righthanded hitting shortstop at Baylor University. Undrafted and not in the Baseball America top 500 draft prospects in 2017 when he came out of W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, Loftin has been Baylor’s starting shortstop since his freshman season.
After slashing .302/.366/.437 as a freshman, Loftin slashed .323/.380/.502 as a sophomore, and got off to a .298/.339/.544 start this year before the season was cancelled. Loftin’s power numbers improved from 2018 to 2019, and he was off to an impressive start power-wise this year (though with an 11-4 K-BB ratio in 62 plate appearances, after walking as much as he struck out his first two years), which leads some to think that maybe there’s more power there.
Loftin is a high floor, low ceiling guy — his tools are fine across the board, except for his power, but he doesn’t have any standout tools. He’s expected to be able to stick at shortstop defensively and be fine, but doesn’t profile as a Gold Glove contender at the position. He’s expecting to hit okay for a shortstop, but without much power. He has average speed, so he isn’t going to kill you on the basepaths, but is not going to bring much value there, either.
He’s a guy who profiles as a decent major league player, someone who is a pretty safe bet to make it to the big leagues, but whose ceiling would seem to be as a league-average major league shortstop.
Baseball America has Loftin at #29 on their pre-draft top 500, noting that teams like solid all-around college shortstops. MLB Pipeline puts Loftin at #36 on their board, saying he is competent defensively at shortstop and has an efficient swing. Fangraphs slots Loftin at #33 on their board. At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel has Loftin at #32 on his updated board, saying statistical models love him because of the contact rate. Keith Law doesn’t have Loftin listed in his top 30 players.
Keith Law has Loftin not going in the first round in his latest mock draft. Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft has the New York Yankees taking Nick Loftin at #28. Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft has Loftin going to the Oakland A’s at #26, though he also mentions Loftin in connection with the Tampa Bay Rays, who pick at #24. Loftin is projected to to the St. Louis Cardinals at #21 in the most recent Baseball America mock draft, while the latest version of the Jim Callis mock draft has Loftin going to the Minnesota Twins at #27.
Loftin was mocked to the Rangers at #14 in Keith Law’s second mock draft. He doesn’t have them going with Loftin in his latest version, but the fact that Keith said he’d heard them connected to Loftin made me feel he was worth writing up.
Loftin would be, I suspect, an unpopular pick with the LSB draft denizens — not much upside, not much to be excited about, an “eat your peas” type pick. The Rangers took Loftin’s teammate, Davis Wendzel, with their supplemental first round pick last year, and presumably have also gotten good looks at Loftin as well.
Loftin would be a below-slot pick at #14, which means that if the Rangers grab him there, it would allow them to go above slot for someone later on, allowing them to nab someone they’d otherwise miss on. And if he does have more power potential that can be tapped into, his ceiling goes up some. That said, he’s a guy I’d be mildly surprised to see Texas take at #14, and he will almost certainly be off the board at #50.