In the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft, the Texas Rangers have selected Aaron Zavala out of the University of Oregon.
I did not do a pre-draft write-up on Zavala, but I did talk about him in this morning’s list of potential day two selections. Zavala is 6’0”, 195-200 lbs., a lefthanded hitter who “shot up draft boards,” per BA, due to “an above-average hit tool.” MLB Pipeline noted his skill set would “tick off boxes in analytic departments,” and those are the sorts of players the Rangers have tended to zero in on of late.
Zavala was #124 on the BA pre-draft rankings, #76 on the MLB Pipeline rankings, at #33 on the Fangraphs board, #83 on the ESPN board, and #45 on the Baseball Prospectus board. He didn’t crack Keith Law’s list.
There was obviously a big spread in the rankings, as one can see above. Fangraphs said they thought he could move up to the end of the first round due to how well he would measure out on the analytic-based draft models. Kiley McDaniel mentioned Zavala as a potential second round pick. Zavala appeared to be someone who would be graded out much higher by the analytic-oriented teams than the scouting-oriented teams, and the Rangers have shifted into the first category of late.
Zavala is relatively young for a college draftee, having turned 21 last month, and slashed .392/.525/.628 in 255 plate appearances for the Ducks this year, with 50 walks against 31 Ks. Fangraphs notes that lefty bats who hit, hit for power and perform in big conferences are rare, which is why they have Zavala so high.
So with Zavala the Rangers get a lefty bat with a strong approach, a good eye, a terrific hit tool and who hit well in the Pac 12. Why did he last until the 2nd round then, and why did some of the boards have him not one of the top 100 guys? Mainly because of questions about his power and his future position. He has played third base in the past, has played right field this season, and there’s some thought he could potentially play second base as well as the corners, but he doesn’t have a definitive defensive home. In addition, there’s questions about whether he’s going to have anything more than gap power.
This is a pick that fits very neatly in what we have come to expect from the Rangers over the last few years — a productive college hitter with a solid approach, some defensive versatility, a quality hit tool, and questions about whether the power will come or not. If the power comes and you have a 60/60 4C-2B bat, well, that’s a really valuable player. If the power doesn’t come and he’s limited to a COF spot, well, that’s not as good.
And we will get a chance to see over the next few years which direction he goes.