One of the ongoing debates that we have had on Lone Star Ball since...well, probably since its inception is about drafting. Specifically, the Texas Rangers draft success (or lack thereof), and whether they would be better off simply drafting based on the general publicly available consensus of who the top player on the board.
You frequently see the suggestion that the Rangers are trying to “get cute” by passing on whoever is perceived to be the top player on the board for someone else, though the reality is that that’s based on how the Rangers rank the available players. MLB teams have boards that diverge and differ dramatically, particularly after the top 20-25 players, and so a guy who one team might have a third round grade on, for example, another team may not have on their board at all.
In any case, I thought it would be a useful exercise to go through some recent drafts and compare who the Rangers picked in the first couple of rounds to who the top player on the Baseball America board was. I decided to start with 2012 because that is when the draft bonus pool system started. I decided to use BA because, well, I had to pick someone’s board, and theirs is the biggest and is generally used as the primary reference point in these sorts of exercises.
Today we are doing 2013.
Here are the Rangers’ draft picks in the first two rounds of 2013, along with their slot values and what they signed for:
23 — Chi Chi Gonzalez — $1,920,600. Signed for $2,215,000
30 — Travis Demeritte— $1,731,200. Signed for $1,900,000
62 — Akeem Bostick — $899,400. Signed for $520,600
The top two picks each signed for a little above slot, and the Rangers then went well below slot for Bostick. Most of the slot savings from the top 10 rounds were applied to 10th rounder Cole Wiper, who signed for $700,000, and 21st round Luke Lanphere, who signed for $400,000.
The Rangers’ top pick, Chi Chi Gonzalez was the #19 ranked player on the BA top 500 prospect list. There were four players ranked more highly than Gonzalez on the board when the Rangers picked.
The top ranked player on the BA board when the Rangers picked was University of Arkansas righthanded pitcher Ryne Stanek, at #13. Stanek was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays at #29, and signed for $1,755,800. He was in the middle area of the Rays’ top 30 prospect rankings on BA for a few years before making it to the majors as a reliever in 2017. He’s been a reliever (though he has a bunch of games started on his line because he’s been used frequently as an opener) in the majors since. The Rays dealt him to Miami last July, but he has missed most of the season after being part of the COVID-19 outbreak the Marlins suffered. He has a career 3.87 ERA and 4.26 FIP in 167.1 IP.
The second most highly ranked player on the board was Eric Jagielo, at #16. A college third baseman out of Notre Dame, Jagielo went to the New York Yankees at #26. He was sent to the Cincinnati Reds as part of the package for Aroldis Chapman after the 2015 season, then was acquired by the Miami Marlins for cash in March, 2018. The Marlins released him in March, 2019, and he has been out of baseball since. He was fifth on the BA top 30 list for the Yankees after he was drafted, but was in the teens for the next two seasons, largely based on his first round pedigree, then fell off the lists.
The next most highly ranked player on the board was Ian Clarkin, at #17. A lefty high school pitcher out of San Diego, he was taken by the Yankees at #33, and signed for $1,650,100. Clarkin was in the top ten for the Yankees after his first professional season, then dropped into the back half of the BA top 30 prospects for the Yankees after missing all of 2015 due to injury. He was dealt in July, 2017, to the Chicago White Sox in a deal that also sent Tyler Clippard and Blake Rutherford to the ChiSox for Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. He was DFA’d by the ChiSox after 2018, claimed by the Cubs, DFA’d by the Cubs, claimed by the ChiSox, then DFA’d by the ChiSox again, and claimed by the Cubs again, all between mid-November 2018 and mid-January 2019. He was released by the Cubs in 2019, signed by the Padres this past spring, released by the Padres in May, and has been pitching in an Indy League this year.
The final player ranked above Gonzalez in the BA rankings, who was on the board when Texas picked, was Indiana State lefthanded pitcher Sean Manaea. Originally thought to be a potential top 10 pick, Manaea dropped because of signability issues and an injury that cost him much of his junior year, and he was selected at #34 by the Kansas City Royals, who signed him to a $3,550,000 bonus. Manaea was traded in July, 2015, with Aaron Brooks to the Oakland A’s for Ben Zobrist, and has established himself as a solid major league starting pitcher. However, given that he signed for the fifth highest bonus of anyone picked in 2013, and almost twice what slot at #23 was, I don’t think he’s an apt comparison for this exercise.
Gonzalez cracked the top 100 prospect lists prior to 2015, and was a well-regarded and sought after prospect in trade talks — the Rangers reportedly opted to keep him over Jake Thompson in the Cole Hamels trade in 2015. He’s been with the Colorado Rockies the past two years, and has a career 5.11 ERA and 5.43 FIP, though because of his home parks, that’s still been good for a 1.0 bWAR. Stanek has been a better major league, though Gonzalez’s peak trade value was higher than Stanek’s. Gonzalez clearly was a better pick there than Jagielo or Clarkin would have been.
Travis Demeritte was one of the toolsy Georgia high schoolers that the Rangers tended to gravitate to in the period we are talking about. He was ranked #56 on the BA top 500 draft list, and signed for a little bit above slot. He ended up getting traded for Dario Alvarez and Lucas Harrell in the summer of 2016, then was dealt to the Tigers last summer. Demeritte, who was a second baseman with the Rangers, moved to the outfield, and has a .222/.290/.330 slash line in 215 plate appearances, mostly as a right fielder, with the Tigers.
Clarkin and Manaea, mentioned above, were the top two players still on the board when the Rangers picked at #30.
Next was Jon Denney, a high school catcher out of Oklahoma who was ranked #25 on the BA board, and who went at #81 to the Boston Red Sox. Denney signed for $875,000, which was late second round money. His first spring training, Denney was arrested after driving with a suspended license (which had been suspended because of a DUI) and then becoming “belligerent with police.” He was on the restricted list for 2014 and 2015, was released, was signed by the Kansas City Royals, was released by them, and then played Indy Ball in 2016. He hasn’t played affiliated ball since 2013.
Next was Austin Wilson, a Stanford outfielder who was ranked #29 on the BA list. He was taken by the Seattle Mariners at #49, and signed for $1.7 million — right around slot for where the Rangers were picking at #30, and well above slot for where he was actually taken. Wilson was a toolsy college outfielder with big strikeout numbers, and after being ranked #5 after the 2014 season in the M’s system by BA, he put up back-to-back seasons with an OPS in the 710s in Bakersfield, was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft after 2016, put up a 401 OPS in high-A for the Cardinals in 2017, and was released. He hasn’t been in organized ball since.
Next was Aaron Judge, ranked #30 on the BA list. You’ve probably heard of him. He went to the Yankees at #32, two slots behind Demeritte, and signed for $1.8 million. An outfielder out of Fresno State, he had huge raw power, but also major contact issues, as well as questions about whether his power would translate into game action. Obviously, it has. Judge was a top 100 prospect in the pre-2015, pre-2016 and pre-2017 rankings for BA, MLB Pipeline and BP, ranging from as high as #18 on BP’s pre-2016 list to as low as #90 in BA’s pre-2017 list.
Next on the list was Hunter Greene, ranked #31 (not to be confused with Hunter Greene, the #2 pick of the draft in 2017). A lefthanded high school pitcher out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Greene went to the Angels at #59. He signed for $942,000, and pitched 8 games in the AZL for the Angels in 2013. That’s the entirety of his professional work. He struggled with injuries and retired in 2016.
Next on the list was Alex Balog, ranked #32. He was selected 70th overall by the Colorado Rockies, and signed for $795,200. A right handed pitcher out of the University of San Francisco, he never appeared on the Rockies’ top 30 prospect lists, and hasn’t pitched professionally since one appearance in 2017 for Albuquerque.
Other noteables who were still on the board at #30 and ranked higher than Demeritte include:
Oscar Mercado, a high school outfielder ranked #38, taken #57 by the St. Louis Cardinals, and currently with the Cleveland Indians, for whom he has put up a 362 OPS in 2020 after finishing 8th in the AL in the ROY voting in 2019.
Aaron Blair, a righthanded pitcher out of Marshall who was ranked #36, and was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks at #41, signing for $1,435,000. Blair was a top 100 prospect for a couple of years, went to Atlanta as part of the much-derided deal that brought Shelby Miller to Arizona and sent Blair, Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte to the Braves, had a disappointing run with Atlanta, was released in 2018, signed with the Diamondbacks this spring, was released by Arizona, and is now pitching in Indy Ball.
Corey Knebel, University of Texas closer who was ranked #48 by BA, was taken by the Detroit Tigers at #39 and signed for $1,433,400, was traded to Texas in the Joakim Soria trade, then was traded by Milwaukee in the Yovani Gallardo deal. Knebel was great for the Brewers in 2017 and has been up and down since then.
Michael Lorenzen, Cal State Fullerton righthanded pitcher who was ranked #52 by BA and was taken #38 by the Cincinnati Reds, signing for $1.5 million. He was a well-regarded (though not top 100) prospect who got a shot at starting in the majors for the Reds in 2015, then moved to the bullpen, where he’s been pretty good for them.
Akeem Bostick was a high school pitcher out of South Carolina who signed for a fair amount below slot at #62. He was ranked #147 on the BA list, but signed for exactly the slot value of the Rangers’ #99 selection, which they used on David Ledbetter (who signed below slot). He was traded in January, 2015, to the Houston Astros for Carlos Corporan, was released in 2019, and has pitched Indy Ball in 2019 and 2020.
The highest ranked player still on the board was Denney, who signed for about $350,000 more than Bostick did. After him was Balog, Virginia high school pitcher Connor Jones at #34 (who dropped because of signability issues and went to college), and Kyle Serrano at #35 (ditto).
The next highest ranked player on the board was University of Missisippi righthanded pitcher Bobby Wahl, who was #36 on the board, and who signed with the Oakland A’s for $500,000 as a fifth round pick — about the same amount as Bostick signed for. Wahl was on the back half of the A’s top 30 prospect list for a few years, was sent to the Mets as part of a deal for Jeurys Familia in July, 2018, was then dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of a deal for Keon Broxton in January, 2019, and is still in the Brewers organization. He has a 7.63 ERA and 6.23 FIP in 15.1 IP over 17 relief outings in the majors.
The next highest ranked player on the board was Cord Sandberg at #40, a high school outfielder from Florida who went #89 to the Philadelphia Phillies and signed for $775,000. He appeared at the end of the BA top 30 lists for the Phillies for a couple of years, never hit, and hasn’t played since 2018.
The next highest ranked player on the board was Trey Masek at #49, a righthanded pitcher from Texas Tech who was selected 138th overall by the Chicago Cubs and signed for $357,400. He never appeared on their prospect lists, was released in 2015, pitched Indy Ball in 2016 and appears to be out of baseball.
The next highest ranked player on the board was Andrew Mitchell at #50, a righthanded pitcher out of TCU taken by the Chicago White Sox at #123 overall and signed for $413,000. He didn’t appear on any rankings and hasn’t played since 2014.
Other noteables still on the board include Chad Pinder (ranked #54, signed for $750,000), Rowdy Tellez (ranked #59, drafted in the 30th round by the Blue Jays, signed for $850,000), and Tyler O’Neill (ranked #63, drafted #85 by the Mariners, signed for $650,000).
So if the Rangers had gone chalk, based on the BA rankings, they would have taken:
#23 — Ryne Stanek
#30 — Ian Clarkin
#62 — Jon Denney
I will do 2014 next.