The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking are looking at a Texas high school shortstop, but not the one from Dallas Jesuit who has dominated Ranger draft conversation the past few months — instead, we are going down I-45 from the Metroplex and taking a look at Friendswood shortstop Izaac Pacheco.
Izaac is a big, lefthanded hitting shortstop out of Friendswood, Texas. The Friendswood team is a powerhouse that was ranked #8 in the Baseball America national high school rankings earlier this month (there may be a more recent ranking by BA, but this appears to be the most recent one).
I said he’s big — Pacheco is listed at either 6’3” or 6’4”, depending on the source, and anywhere from 200 to 225 lbs. Regardless, he’s a big kid who is projected to fill out more, and that means he’s almost certainly moving off shortstop at some point in the future. The reports indicate that he can handle the position now, but as he gets bigger and loses some quickness, he’s expected to move to third base, where his arm will play without a problem.
Pacheco’s bat is his calling card, and in particular, his power potential. Pacheco is seen as having some of the best raw power from the left side in this draft, although he struggled in the summer with swing-and-miss issues and actualizing his raw power in game situations. Nonetheless, the swing itself garners praise, with Fangraphs comparing his swing to Nolan Gorman, while BA calls the swing “picturesque.”
Pacheco is on the older side for a high school draftee — he is 18, and turns 19 in November — but he isn’t so much older that it is a particularly notable issue. The scouting reports bring to mind another older Texas high school player, Brett Baty, who went #12 overall in 2019 to the New York Mets. Like Pacheco, Baty was a big lefthanded hitter who was expected to be a third baseman as a pro, and who had big time power potential. Baty had more actualized in-game power than Pacheco, I believe, and Baty was actually 19 when he was drafted, turning 20 in his draft year, making him a full year older than Pacheco is, so there are differences, but I figured it was worth making note of, particularly given the Rangers reportedly had interest in Baty in 2019.
Baseball America has Pacheco at #29 on their pre-draft top 400, with praise for the power and arm but expressing concerns about the swing and miss issues this summer. MLB Pipeline puts Pacheco at #35 on their board, while Kiley McDaniel has Pacheco at #55 on his current board. Keith Law has Pacheco at #22 on his list. Fangraphs has Pacheco at #60.
Pacheco is a Texas A&M commit, though I haven’t seen anything that would indicate that he is expected to be a particularly tough sign. If he’s on the board at #38, he’s someone that could be a fit for the Rangers, particularly if they believe that the summer performance that raised some concerns is an aberration.
Big time lefty power is something that teams always covet, and so at first blush it wouldn’t seem real surprising to see a team look to grab Pacheco in the latter part of the first round or with a compensatory or supplemental pick after the first round. If that’s the case, the Rangers may have to strike a deal to go above slot for him and pay him late first round money if they want him at #38 and think he’s worth the pick and the extra bonus money.