“DFW teams could all use more edge. Kins has some of it. I miss Tyson Chandler and Steve Ott.”
It was a throwaway tweet, issued Sunday afternoon in a decidedly unedgy moment, as I vegetated in the pool thinking about what was missing from the Rangers, missing from a team decimated by injury and offensive malaise and uncharacteristic baserunning and fielding slack that, in spite of all of it, still found itself in first place.
Sure, it’s probably just nitpicking, but based on the emails and tweets, I think a good number of you knew what I meant.
It’s the guy you might not want to be around after a loss.
It’s Michael Irvin. It’s Will Clark.
It’s absolutely not Dennis Rodman or Vicente Padilla or Sean Avery or Milton Bradley.
It’s Pedro Martinez. Roger Clemens. Paul O’Neill.
Jered Weaver. Grant Balfour.
In his own way, Cliff Lee.
As we saw Sunday, Jose Bautista, and then last night, Zack Greinke.
There’s no questioning Adrian Beltre’s makeup or toughness, but he doesn’t appear to have that screw-loose edginess that I’m talking about. Elvis Andrus, my favorite Rangers player ever next to Beltre, doesn’t. Neither does Yu Darvish, though I can imagine him becoming a Lee-type assassin down the road.
A.J. Pierzynksi has some of it, obviously, but Pierzynski at age 36 on a new team isn’t the same as 36-year-old Torii Hunter was last year, his fifth with the Angels.
You don’t draft for need or for position, and you certainly don’t draft for edge, but you can bet that when an organization has a frontline talent in development, if he has that extra thing, too, it matters.
It might be part of Rougned Odor’s profile, or Lewis Brinson’s. On the mound, Luke Jackson might have it, and it’s pretty clear Keone Kela does.
When Jason Parks saw Georgia high school infielder Travis Demeritte play back in October, he wrote some things that popped about the kid outside of the bat speed and plus arm. Just as recognizable to Parks were the “very high baseball IQ” and “remarkable field awareness,” part of what made the teenager “a likely candidate to over-perform projection.” Over several days, Demeritte, for Parks, was a “[w]ow player [who] plays the game with purpose and passion,” a “total gamer” with “well above-average feel for the game” who “will be around game forever.”
I read those things Thursday night after Texas used its second first-round pick, awarded for the loss of Josh Hamilton to the Angels, on the 18-year-old Demeritte.
Those things were never said about Joaquin Arias.
Now, those comments from Parks (who also tweeted on Draft Night that Demeritte was his favorite player at that October event, a “baseball rat” with “plus-plus makeup” who “knows his assignments and yours,” which paints another cool picture) don’t necessarily translate to edge – you’re not going to make that sort of impression on scouts in a five-day glimpse at a Perfect Game USA showcase tournament – but talk to some of the folks involved in deciding it would be worth investing nearly $2 million in that player rather than all the others the club could have singled out, and you hear some of it.
Don’t get me wrong: The most exciting part of the Demeritte picture that’s being painted right now, eight days before the Arizona League kicks its summer season off, is the electric bat speed (Rangers Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg: “one of the faster bats I’ve scouted in a while”) and raw power potential that the Rangers believe will play at third base if he doesn’t end up sticking at shortstop or sliding over to second.
But in every conversation you have about Demeritte you’re going to hear about his contagious energy and those things that, one way or another, fit under the hard-to-define category of edge.
As far as talent rankings go, Demeritte was considered by Baseball America to be the number 56 draft-eligible high school or college player going into last week. MLB.com had him at 50. Baseball Prospectus/Perfect Game had him at 52. ESPN was the most bullish with its number 41 ranking.
But they all projected him to go ahead of his talent projection in the draft: MLB.com and ESPN projected him to go 23rd overall, while Baseball America had him going 30th.
Of course, those were educated guesses, as 23 and 30 were the Rangers’ two slots Thursday night. It was no secret that Texas was heavily in on the kid.
Then again, ESPN’s Keith Law heard Philadelphia was considering Demeritte at number 16.
And Baseball America noted, in reviewing Round One last week, that “[w]hile [Demeritte] ranked No. 56 on the BA 500, this isn’t an overdraft.”
It’s the intangibles that led analysts to uniformly suggest in advance that the player’s draft projection was higher than his talent rank.
All of which may have you wondering why Texas didn’t pop Demeritte at 23 instead of taking the chance he wouldn’t be there at 30. Club officials will tell you a big reason is that they didn’t expect Oral Roberts righthander Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez (rumored by some to be on the board for some teams drafting late in the top 10 or 12) to fall to 23, and they believed things could shake out after that to allow them to take both Gonzalez and Demeritte.
They did shake out that way, and the Rangers couldn’t be more fired up.
Gonzalez, like Demeritte, was slotted higher in every one of those publications’ mock drafts than he was in their talent rankings, and you can draw your own conclusions there. Gonzalez was one of those helium guys in the weeks leading up to the draft, maybe because his stuff played up more and more as the college season wore on. Maybe because he’s thought to be a potential fast-tracker. Maybe it’s that he’s relatively polished (a “high floor,” Parks suggests) or maybe it’s the unique cutting action he gets on his fastball or his swing-and-miss slider.
All four publications had Gonzalez going between 15 and 20. The Rangers weren’t going to let him get past 23, and were cautiously optimistic Demeritte would be there at 30.
Peter Gammons said on MLB Network that if the Rangers didn’t take Gonzalez, Oakland would have popped him with the very next pick. (Not that I’m sitting here thrilled that the A’s won Game 162 to set things up that way.)
And Jim Bowden said on XM Radio that if Texas didn’t call Demeritte’s name at 30, Atlanta was set to do it at 31.
At one point yesterday, the Rangers had signed 18 of their 41 draft picks – while the other 29 teams had signed 15 picks combined. Among those were Gonzalez, whose $2.215 million bonus is 15 percent above slot, and Demeritte, whose $1.9 million bonus exceeds his slot by almost 10 percent.
Second-rounder Akeem Bostick, a raw, projectable South Carolina high school righthander whose cousin Brandon is a Green Bay Packers tight end, signed for $520,600 in an $899,400 slot. Essentially, Texas gave Bostick, projected in publications to be perhaps a fifth- or sixth-round talent, the equivalent of third-round money in a second-round slot (helping the club to go over slot elsewhere, and not only for the two first-rounders – keep an eye on a couple high school arms that the Rangers took late on Day Three).
Bostick will join Demeritte on the AZL squad, whose season opens on June 20. Gonzalez heads to Spokane, whose Northwest League schedule kicks off this Friday. Whether the 21-year-old gets the ball Opening Night or not, expect the Rangers to manage his innings this summer before cutting him loose in April.
Scott’s daily recaps are about to go from four a day to six, and I’m fired up to see what Gonzalez and Yohander Mendez and Kyle Castro do on the Spokane mound and how Demeritte and Isiah Kiner-Falefa and – as of July 1 – Jairo Beras jump out of the gate in Surprise.
Jurickson Profar was in the midst of putting up relatively ordinary numbers for Spokane in the summer of 2010 (weeks after Baltimore took but failed to sign Gonzalez in the 11th round, three rounds before Texas chose tonight’s starter, Nick Tepesch), but we soon began to understand how special a player he was on his way to becoming, and not just because he was holding his own against college-groomed competition at age 17. He had that extra thing, too.
Read Jason Parks’s comments about Travis Demeritte above, and they’ll look familiar.
I’m not saying Texas has another Profar on its hands in Demeritte. That would be silly.
But if he’s another Rangers prospect who not only has the objective pluses but also wields those added intangibles, the ones Arias didn’t have but Brinson and Jackson do, the ones that separate Felix and Clayton, Yoenis and Bryce, Yadier and Zack and Cliff, then I may go ahead and pre-order my Myrtle Beach Demeritte jersey, even if it’s a couple years before he’ll get to put one on himself.