In the weeks leading up to last year's draft, we shared mock drafts from Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein, Baseball America's Jim Callis, ESPN's Keith Law, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, and Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, which in various versions projected these players to be the Rangers' first-round picks at 15 and 22: Stetson Allie, Bryce Brentz, Nick Castellanos, Kaleb Cowart, Kellin Deglan, Delino DeShields Jr., Yasmani Grandal, Justin O'Conner, Kolbrin Vitek, Karsten Whitson, Asher Wojchiechowski, and Brandon Workman.
The only expert to tie Deglan to Texas was Law, who had the Canadian catcher at number 22 two weeks before the draft, and at number 15 one week before Draft Day. But in his final mock, three days out, Law had DeShields and Workman going to the Rangers.
And nobody mocked Jake Skole to Texas.
This year's mocks have tied Texas (alphabetically) to Miami-Dade JC outfielder Brian Goodwin, California high school third baseman Travis Harrison, Wyoming high school center fielder Brandon Nimmo, Oregon State lefthander Josh Osich, and Cleveland high school catcher Blake Swihart - but not Dallas Jesuit outfielder Josh Bell (who says he'll go to UT in spite of teams rumored to be willing to spend $6 million to sign him) or TCU lefthander Matt Purke (who's had physical issues this year and could return to school for his junior year if teams aren't willing to meet his price) - and that's with pick number 33 alone (with some discussion that Osich and Harrison could be around when the Rangers pick at 37 as well).
Local reports have also identified University of South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley, Utah first baseman C.J. Cron, Vanderbilt third baseman Jason Esposito, LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook, Coastal Carolina righthander Anthony Meo, USC first baseman Ricky Oropesa, Florida high school lefthander Henry Owens, Stanford lefthander Chris Reed, Connecticut outfielder George Springer, and California high school righthander Robert Stephenson as possible Ranger targets, though some will certainly be gone well before Texas is on the clock.
Nobody that I've seen has specifically tied Massachusetts high school righthander Tyler Beede to Texas yet, but he's starting to creep late into the conversation for several experts, just as Skole did last year.
I haven't spent much time talking about those players because what's been going on at the big league level has had me preoccupied, plus pegging 33 and 37 is more difficult than 15 and 22 (for writers, not to mention for teams), and then there's this, from former big league general manager and current media analyst Jim Bowden, via Twitter:
Information on what clubs are going to draft are basically 1/3 the truth from clubs; 1/3 deception from clubs & 1/3 not from the clubs at all.
The mock drafts are fascinating, and Draft Day is one of my favorite baseball days of the year, but I'll admit that I've seen no more than two or three of the projected first-rounders play. So I'm not going to take the time to run those names down and give you a biography on each - especially with Bowden's observation in mind. (Though I will suggest paying a little extra attention to Boston at 19 and 26 [the latter slot of which was conveyed from Texas for the signing of Adrian Beltre], as several experts speculate that the Red Sox could be in on a couple players with slot-busting demands who might otherwise figure in for Texas, including Swihart and Nimmo and conceivably Bell.)
There are plenty of solid places you can go to read up on those players, and I'd encourage it. The draft experts I rely on are out there killing it just like the area scouts who help build the draft boards that teams have been working up in preparation for their picks tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday. But they'll admit that even now, there's all kinds of uncertainty in Round One, because of financial demands and threats by high school players to honor college commitments and the misdirection Bowden referred to.
Rangers Senior Special Assistant to the General Manager (Scouting) Don Welke said on a radio show Saturday morning that he challenges the Rangers' area scouts to go find the guy with the special fastball, the special breaking ball, the special power, the special speed. There are future Hall of Famers playing high school and college baseball right now, says Welke, and while it's easier to spot a kid who seems like a solid bet to get to the big leagues, finding the special talent is what builds champions.
Scott Lucas will hit your mailboxes tonight immediately after Texas makes its selections at 33 and 37, both picks that were awarded as compensation for the loss of Cliff Lee to the Phillies, and I'll follow up tomorrow morning with a write-up as well.
In the meantime, baseball's best June 2010 team is also baseball's best June 2011 team, and Detroit comes in tonight for the first of three as Texas looks to win its fifth straight series. On the mound for Texas will be Colby Lewis, who was the Rangers' first pick, number 38 overall, in the 1999 draft (which, by the way, took place two months after Texas last swept a four-game series on the road before this weekend's rout in Cleveland).
That 1999 draft featured high schoolers Josh Hamilton (Tampa Bay) and Josh Beckett (Florida) at the top, but the inconsequential Eric Munson, Corey Myers, B.J. Garbe, Josh Girdley, Kyle Snyder, and Bobby Bradley at 3-4-5-6-7-8. Lewis looked for a long time like he was going to fit in that latter group of first-round picks that didn't pan out, but mock drafts and instant draft grades can't foresee a junior college pitcher charting a path that goes from major league disappointment to rotator cuff casualty to Hiroshima Carp to post-season hero.
The first few picks in any draft are more likely to hit big than picks in the 30s, but it doesn't always happen that way. St. Louis and San Diego had terrible first rounds in that 1999 draft despite multiple picks - the Cardinals took Chris Duncan, Nick Stocks, and Chance Caple, while the Padres chose Nick Trzesniak, Mike Bynum, Casey Burns, Gerik Baxter, Omar Ortiz, and Vince Faison - but did pretty well in the 13th and 15th rounds, taking Albert Pujols and Jake Peavy more than 400 selections after Hamilton went first.
If just one of the players Texas takes at 33 and 37 tonight ends up making an impact 11 and 12 years down the road like Lewis, it will have been at least a marginally successful draft. Maybe the Rangers will make more 17th-round magic like they did in 2003 (Ian Kinsler) and 2007 (Mitch Moreland), or have more success in Rounds 5, 10, 25, and 45 (Chris Davis, Craig Gentry, Derek Holland, and Danny Ray Herrera) than in Round One (Kasey Kiker), as they did in 2006, when the two players selected before they chose Kiker were college pitchers Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer, both of whom were reportedly on the Rangers' board and both of whom pitch tonight, Scherzer as Lewis's opposition here in Arlington.
Eight teams won't play games tonight and another 11 will lose, but you can count on all 30 organizations believing they won tonight in Secaucus (well, all but the Yankees, Phillies, Tigers, and White Sox, who won't be on the clock until Tuesday). That's the nature of the draft: instant optimism, followed by years of the wait, though as we talk about here all the time, drafting well makes for better trades, too (see Texas, 2007).
While for every Lewis, there are three Trzesniak's and a pair of Caple's, we're all going to feel like we just might have landed the next Holland or next Moreland by the end of the night tonight. That's part of it, and it's OK. There's nothing wrong with feeling the buzz that every scouting director and general manager will feel coming out of the first round and planning for Tuesday's festivities, which will begin with Round Two. The more important events of the night will take place in Arlington, on the playing field, but we all know the two are inextricably tied, if not on the time continuum then certainly in the larger scheme.