Rangers' plan is best player available in Draft
Club covets pitchers, but No. 30 pick may not yield choice from top arms
ARLINGTON -- The approach stays the same.
Yes, the Rangers lead the league in injuries with 12 players on the disabled list -- four more than the Red Sox, who are next in line. Yes, the club is limited in how much it can spend on international amateur signings due to set rules and the amount that Texas spent in 2013. And yes, with their first pick not coming until No. 30, the Rangers will likely be too late to land some of the more dominant pitchers in a Draft class that boasts some of the best.
But the approach stays the same when the club prepares to make its picks in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, which begins on today.
"We've tried to make sure we don't change our evaluation in any way," assistant general manager A.J. Preller said on Monday. "We want to be true to our evaluation process, and obviously you're always looking to … figure out a way to get the most bang for your buck and get the most players from the amount of money that you have. As far as from a scouting evaluation process standpoint, there's really no change."
The 2014 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on today at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
The Rangers have been vocal in emphasizing that they'll select the best player on the board, regardless of position. But though there are several strong position players available, director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg maintained that as a whole, the pitchers bring the most to the table.
"Kind of looking forward and moving forward with the Draft ... it looks like as far as numbers-wise, pitching is going to be the strength of this Draft," he said. "There's some players that are very attractive, but as far as depth-wise, pitching's where it's at."
A handful of those dominant pitchers hail from the state of Texas. High school senior Tyler Kolek has a fastball that routinely crosses the plate at 100 mph, while Michael Kopech and Garret Fulenchek could forego their college careers to try their hands in the Majors.
Preller said it's important that the Rangers are aware of the talent on their own turf, but their main focus lies in selecting the best available player at that moment.
"If there are players from your hometown in your backyard, you want to make sure you give those guys attention, and I think we've done that here throughout this spring," Preller said. "I think at the end of the day, we're going to take the best guy available, really regardless of where they're from [or] anything like that."
Preller added that with so many injuries, it could be tempting to select a player that could scale up the ranks quickly and enter the Major Leagues faster, but that the injuries have not fully changed the approach. Athletic trainer Jamie Reed has also helped with the scouting process.
"It seems like more and more, the medical issue and the health of these players is becoming a bigger part of things," Preller said. "I think as far as Jamie's role, he's been a help in the past. I think this year, he's definitely taken on an even more increasing role ... and hopefully will be a difference-maker for us here as we go forward on the scouting side."
The Rangers' No. 30 pick comes in compensation from the Orioles, who signed free agent Nelson Cruz. Texas forfeited its first-round pick when the club signed free agent Shin-Soo Choo.
Though Preller said that the more notable draftees towards the top of the board tend to be on the receiving end of the most attention, it's important to remember that the Rangers very well could acquire a strong athlete from a later round.
"At the end of the day, you continue to make good choices, and if your scouts are doing their job and really digging deep into their areas, you have a chance to get a good player, whether it be the fourth round, fifth round, eighth round, 12th round, 25th round," Preller said. "We're not looking at the end of the 50th pick [saying], 'Hey, this is over and now we're just trying to fill out rosters.' There are good players in big leagues all the way throughout, and it's our job to try and find those guys, and make them Texas Rangers."
Fagg is confident that will happen.
"We've [done] extensive scouting of a lot of kids across the country, and I'm real excited with what our scouts have done -- the makeup part, the evaluation part," Fagg said. "I think we're going to be put in a good position to make a very good selection here in a couple days."
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.