I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Joey Gallo’s third homer in four AA games than to highly recommend this outstanding article on Gallo by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh, to tell you that if we do have a Newberg Report Night at Globe Life Park this year (not a certainty), it will be on Sunday, July 27, and to rank the best picks the Rangers have ever made in every one of the first 40 rounds of the June draft.
When I’m without Fox Sports Southwest and MLB Network for nearly a week, and without a cell phone indefinitely, things can get a little insane.
So here goes.
Note: These don’t count players taken in the long-defunct secondary phase of the June draft (such as Tom Henke (4th round, 1980)), January draft (Roy Smalley (1st round, 1974), Dave Righetti (1st round, 1977), Jody Reed (3rd round, 1982)), or secondary phase of the January draft (Jim Sundberg (1st round, 1973)).
But it does count unsigned players in the standard June draft, sometimes necessarily.
Round 1. The Rangers have had one of the first 10 picks in the draft 16 times, but only twice came away with a player who finished in the top four in an MVP or Cy Young vote: Kevin Brown (4th overall pick, 1986) and Mark Teixeira (5th overall pick, 2001). Of the two Georgia Tech products, you’d probably have to give the nod at this point to Brown.
Round 1—Supplemental. Belongs to Colby Lewis (1999), although for the first 11 years of his pro career it looked like Mark Petkovsek (1987) would lead an otherwise undistinguished class with his fairly ordinary big league career. If you’re going strictly off Baseball Prospectus’s WAR rankings, Tommy Hunter (2007) and Tanner Scheppers (2009) have already surpassed Petkovsek, and Neil Ramirez (2007) probably will in a few days. 2010 supplemental firsts Mike Olt and Luke Jackson have their hands raised as well, and Joey Gallo (2012) is staring you down.
Round 2. Matt West (2007) and Nick Williams (2012) are salivating at the chance to claim this round, which has been shockingly unproductive over the Rangers’ four-plus decades – both in quantity (only 15 Rangers second-rounders have reached the big leagues; next three rounds: 20, 19, and 19) and in quality. The franchise’s 17th-round picks would run-rule the second-rounders, who would be led by Roger Pavlik (1986) and Robbie Ross (2008), though Kevin “the Catcher” Brown (1994) deserves a brief mention since Texas was able to flip him to Toronto for Tim Crabtree. Ti’Quan Forbes (2014) plans to ask West and Williams to scoot over a bit and make room.
Round 3. Oh, Hank Blalock (1999). You were supposed to erase memory of the previous year’s third-round dance with Barry Zito (1998). As it stands, Darren Oliver (1988) probably gets the nod over Ryan Dempster (1995), according to both WAR and recent memory.
Round 4. Jim Clancy (1974) had a better career than you think, and it’s going to take a lot for either Joe Wieland (2008) or Alec Asher (2012) to change the conversation.
Round 5. With apologies to Steve Buechele (1982), it’s probably C.J. Wilson (2001) at this point, though Chris Davis (2006) is gaining on both of them.
Round 6. Aaron Harang (1999) (114-120, 4.24 over 13 seasons) – this generation’s Jim Clancy (140-167, 4.23 over 15 seasons)?
Round 7. Mike Lamb (1997), though one day I’m afraid this round will belong to unsigned 2011 pick Max Pentecost, a catcher who had reportedly agreed to terms with the Rangers before some sort of red flag showed up on his physical and killed the deal. Pentecost was taken 11th overall a week ago by Toronto.
Round 8. Jim Sundberg, the 172nd player taken in 1972, the Rangers’ inaugural draft. There were 27 catchers drafted before Sundberg that year – including Ron Pruitt, chosen by the Rangers in the second round. Both Pruitt (Michigan State) and Sundberg (University of Iowa) were Big Ten catchers. To be fair, Sundberg opted not to sign that summer, and the following year the Rangers used the second overall pick in the secondary phase of the January draft to take – and sign – the future Rangers legend.
Round 9. Edwin Encarnacion (2000), the throw-in that Texas gave Cincinnati one year later in the Ruben Mateo-for-Rob Bell trade.
Round 10. Sorry, Craig Gentry (2006) fans. While he probably caught Billy Sample (1976 — whom they had also drafted in 1973 — see Round 28 below), this one still belongs to Rusty Greer (1990), who held Doug “the Pitcher” Davis (1996) off.
Round 11. Not a lot to show for this round. Travis Metcalf (2004) is probably the guy for now, but unsigned Boston prospect Anthony Ranaudo (2007) is bearing down and Rangers righthander Connor Sadzeck (2011), out this year due to Tommy John surgery, could have a real shot.
Round 12. Spot reliever Tony Fossas (1979), who in 12 big league seasons racked up measurably fewer innings (415.2) than games pitched (567), or unsigned lefthander Drew Pomeranz (2007), who’s now in Oakland’s rotation, but Keone Kela (2012) is thundering this way.
Round 13. Fifteen-year big leaguer Rey Sanchez (1986).
Round 14. Nick Tepesch (2010) has a long road ahead to unseat unsigned Tulsa high schooler Charlie O’Brien (1978), the prototype backup catcher in the big leagues in the 1990s.
Round 15. Jameis Winston (2012) was the better football player, but Pete O’Brien (1979) was the more dedicated baseball player.
Round 16. The highly underrated Mike Stanley (1985), whose last name isn’t O’Brien.
Round 17. I would have liked to shoehorn Dallas Hillcrest High School product Omar Brewer (1987) in here, but he didn’t have the minor league numbers of Ryan Rua (2011), who hasn’t had the big league opportunity of Mitch Moreland (2007), who hasn’t had nearly the impact in the game that Ian Kinsler (2003) has had. Texas also took Reid Ryan in the 17th round, back in 1994.
Round 18. Fordham University second baseman Nick Martinez (2011), who will take the mound against Seattle Sunday.
Round 19. Unsigned lefthander Noah Lowry (1999), who two years later a San Francisco first-round pick.
Round 20. Kameron Loe (2002), who would also prevail in a James Hetfield Lookalike ranking.
Round 21. Righthander Erik Davis declined to sign with the Angels as their 47th-round pick in 2004. He declined to sign with the Rangers as their 21st-rounder in 2007. He signed with the Padres the following summer, was traded three years after that to the Nationals for onetime Rangers utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez, and put up a 3.12 ERA in 10 relief appearances for Washington last year. I learned something new today.
Round 22. Ed Lynch (1977) over unsigned lefthander Cory Luebke (2006) for now, but perhaps submariner Ben Rowen (2010), the newest Ranger in this season of Semi-Weekly Newest Rangers, can make this round his own.
Round 23. LOOGY Zach Phillips (2004). Or Davidson College infielder Jay Heafner (2006), who five years later would be the area scout who saw a pitcher in Fordham University second baseman Nick Martinez.
Round 24. Rich Aurilia (1992), whose name comes up every time I write about Texas having two legitimate prospects at the same position and a big decision to make.
Round 25. Another group that crushes Round 2. Mike Hargrove (1972) was so solid for the Rangers teams that were emerging from expansion in the mid-’70s. Derek Holland (2006) was the final Rangers “draft-and-follow” selection to pay off big before MLB eliminated the rule. I’d appreciate it if Tanner Roark (2008) never enters this conversation.
Round 26. While I’d like to honor Spike Lundberg (1997) – one of the people I’ll forever credit for helping to push the Newberg Report several levels further than I ever envisioned – and while Mark Brandenburg (1992) would get lots of local support, righthander Dave Schmidt (1979) was pretty solid over five years of Rangers relief before keying a deal with the White Sox to get Scott Fletcher and the sadly forgotten Edwin Correa, who was going to be freakin’ special if he hadn’t injured his shoulder at age 21.
Round 27. Texas was the third team to draft big righthander Aaron Barrett, whom they took out of the University of Mississippi in 2009, but it was the Nationals – who signed him as a discounted college senior – who got the benefit, as he’s been an absolute find in the Washington bullpen this season. While he’s basically the opposite of the power-arsenaled Barrett, Rangers Class A lefthander Alex Claudio (2010) has a chance to impact the bullpen in a similarly big way in a year or two.
Round 28. It’s sort of unbelievable and very sad that a Google search of “Billy Sample” “Gerry Oher” comes up completely empty. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, never mind. (But if you do, Fan of 1981 Channel 8 Sportscasts, I just put a smile on your face.)
Round 29. Mike Venafro’s (1995) best season in the big leagues was his first, and it came in the Rangers’ 1999 playoff campaign, when he and fellow rookie Jeff Zimmerman each contributed in a big way to a 95-win club.
Round 30. Texas failed to sign lefthander Al Holland (1974), who went on to have an outstanding 10-year career in relief that included not only one All-Star appearance but also, shockingly, a top 10 MVP finish. Credit also goes to Gene Nelson (1978), who a year after Texas drafted and signed him was traded in a large package for the great Mickey Rivers. Among other Rangers 30th-rounders, at this point I’d probably put Scott Feldman (2003) ahead of Jeff Frye (1988), but man, I was a big Frye fan.
Round 31. Travis Hafner (1996) was a sensational draft pick at a time when Cowley County Community College seemed like the Rangers’ seventh stateside farm club. Hafner was also traded really, really badly.
Round 32. But not as badly as Robb Nen (1987).
Round 33. Or Walt Terrell (1980).
Round 34. Ray Fontenot (1979) was also part of that Rivers trade, enough for him to stand out among Rangers’ 34th-rounders. Maybe this year’s pick in that round, righthander Storm Rynard (2014), can restore the Texas/Cowley County magic and make more of an ultimate impact than Fontenot did. Rynard was scouted by Dustin Smith, a former Rangers draftee out of CCCC himself.
Round 35. The biggest big league headline that TCU righthander Sam Demel made as Oakland’s third-round pick in 2007 was that he was flipped three years later for mid-season pickup Conor Jackson, making the Rangers’ inability to sign Demel as their 35th-rounder in 2004 less painful. As long as we’re focusing on unsigned picks, Texas used its 35th-round pick in 1997 on Mansfield HS catcher Kelley Gulledge, who didn’t sign, went to the Twins three years later in the 10th round, landed in the Rangers system after all in 2003, and went on to put up video game numbers from 2009 through 2011 for the Fort Worth Cats, but the part that will stand out most for you is that he’s the son of Rangers PA Man Chuck Morgan.
Round 36. I’m going to cheat a bit here since you’re probably nearly alone among those who have read this far, but the 36th round is pretty thin, so here goes: Washington Senators 36th-rounder Bobby Jones (1967) is the pick here, as the dude is now in his 44th season with the Senators/Rangers franchise as a player or coach, 38 of those coming since the Senators moved to Arlington. I’m going to go ahead and count the 1970 season among those 44, even though that entire year was part of the 14 months Jones spent serving our country in Vietnam.
Round 37. Texas was the first of two teams to unsuccessfully draft infielder Brian Dallimore (1992) before Houston landed him in the 9th round in 1996. He’d finally get his cup of coffee with the Giants in 2004 and a refill in 2005.
Round 38. The aforementioned Dustin Smith (2000), after a six-year career as a catcher in the Rangers system, has been responsible as a scout for the drafting of Brett Nicholas and Collin Wiles, among others, including three of the club’s first eight choices in this year’s draft. Smith’s brother Dan “the Righthander” Smith was a former Rangers pitcher as well.
Round 39. Unsigned Dallas Baptist righthander Les Lancaster (1983) had some good years in the big leagues. Unsigned Florida high school shortstop Brad Miller (2008) will have more. Then there’s Tim Hulett, unsigned in 1978, a year and a half after which he was the third overall pick (White Sox) in the January secondary phase, embarking on a 16-year pro career that ended with a couple months with AAA Oklahoma City in the Texas system. He’s about to kick off his eighth season as manager of the Rangers’ Short Season A affiliate in Spokane. But none of them approach perhaps the greatest draft success in Rangers franchise history, lefthander Kenny Rogers, a winner of 219 big league games who wasn’t even a pitcher when Texas used the 816th pick in the 1982 draft on him – but instead was an outfielder playing his first year of organized baseball as a high school senior.
Round 40. Dave Martinez was a January third-rounder of the Cubs seven months after he declined to sign with the Rangers (1982). He later had a swim through Texas toward the end of a lengthy, productive career, and now serves as Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa. The weird thing about the Rangers’ 1982 draft is only three of the club’s 40 picks made it to the big leagues: fifth-rounder Steve Buechele . . . and Rogers and Martinez, taken in the 39th and 40th.
The Rangers have historically participated in as many as 63 rounds, but since the draft now ends after 40 rounds, and because I’ve got a lot to do today, I’m going to stop here, though I will offer tips of the cap to a few more names: Mike Cather (41st round, 1993); Jesse Chavez (42, 2002); Jermaine Dye (43, 1992); Danny Ray Herrera (45, 2006) & Brandon Finnegan (45, 2011); Jason Botts (46, 1999); Danny Patterson (47, 1989); C.J. Edwards (48, 2011); Todd Walker (51, 1991); Raul Ibanez (54, 1991); and Pat Flury (63, 1991), who I suppose qualifies as the Rangers’ “Mr. Irrelevant,” though he did carve out a 13-year pro career, including one season with Nippon Ham in 2002, when among his teammates was Yoshinori Tateyama, who would eventually be teammates with Yu Darvish on two different continents.
And that’s this morning’s edition of Today in Pretty Much Irrelevant Stuff.