The Farm Report -- 6/15/2020

Not satisfied merely to participate in the weirdest draft in MLB history, the Rangers decided to pile on with several idiosyncratic picks. As you’d guess, expert opinions of Texas’s draft ranged from bemused to dismissive. The experts aren’t omniscient, of course, or they’d be eating caviar on their yachts instead of grading teenagers, but they do have a good handle on how most teams value incoming talent. So, when clubs like the Rangers deviate so wildly from consensus rankings, they’re not going to be graded favorably. Also, I’ve seen conflicting thoughts about money, with some wondering if the Rangers were in saving mode, while others thought the later picks would need above-slot money to be provided by lower bonuses for the top pick and startling second-round pick.

The upside case: You needn’t take Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg at his word; you can find favorable impressions of all of these players predating the draft, even the nearly unknown Evan Carter, who is committed to Duke. In particular, many of these players check valued analytical boxes. Who the Rangers picked in Rounds 3-5 are youngsters they expect would have risen in status and been picked in those rounds, perhaps by rivals, if the virus hadn’t shut down baseball. (I guess this also applies to Carter in Round 2, although it’s really hard to fathom.)

The downside case: The obvious downside is that the picks don’t pan out, but that’s true of any team's draft. No, in the case of the Rangers, the downside is that their post-Foscue picks never blossom into prospects befitting where they were picked, so they never even have much value in trade. They just fade from view, only to be employed as fodder for an angry opinion column in two or three years. The 2020 draft was not lacking for talent, so why be clever?

Think back to the top five picks in the 2011 draft and how they applied to Texas’s 2015-2016 run. By the 2015 trade deadline, three of those five (first-rounder Kevin Matthews, Kyle Castro, Desmond Henry) had already been released. Supplemental 1st-round outfielder Zach Cone was posting a sub-.300 OBP for AA Frisco at the age of 25, and 2nd-round lefty Will Lamb was a marginal relief prospect just promoted to AAA. Excepting Foscue, who has a much higher floor than any of those 2011 picks, the downside is the 2020 picks are either organizational players or out of baseball by the time the Rangers could use them in a deadline deal. (In fairness to the Rangers, four of their top six picks the following year had substantial trade value, and all but Gallo would factor in prominent trades.) 

1 / 15 – 2B Justin Foscue (Mississippi State, 6’0”, 205, 21 years / 3 months)
Draft Prospect Rankings: 32 by MLB.com, 36 by Baseball America, 26 by Fangraphs.com

Seven of the ten players I mentioned Wednesday remained on the board when Texas had its turn. Foscue, like a few others, wasn’t ranked in the teens as a draft prospect but did receive mention as someone the Rangers and other clubs in the same range might pick.

Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs.com says Foscue “projects as a steady everyday second baseman based on his terrific plate coverage and feel for contact, while the rest of his tools are in the 40/50 area.” He has superior bat control, drawing 15 walks versus only three strikeouts during his abbreviated 2020 campaign. He's fairly young for a college junior and has performed exceptionally well against the best college baseball has to offer.

Will Foscue stick at second base? Move to third? The corner outfield? In a sense, I don’t know if it matters that much. Not to say his ultimate position isn’t relevant or he’s a zero defensively, but my feeling is that Texas drafted what they expect will be an above-average bat that can carry any potential position.

2 / 50 – OF Evan Carter (Elizabethton, TN, 6’4”, 190, 17 / 9)
Not ranked (out of 200) by MLB.com, not ranked (out of 500) by Baseball America, not ranked (out of 248) by Fangraphs.com

Easily the oddest pick of the entire draft aside from Boston’s 1st-round selection of high school 2B Nick Yorke. When I saw the name, my first response was disappointment in my faulty memory after I’d spent extra time perusing draft boards. But then I looked him up and realized I’d never heard of him in my life. Nor had the draft experts required to provide real-time opinions of him on television.

From what I’ve gathered, he’s strong and has good speed but is probably destined for a corner. Despite being unranked, he’s not a non-prospect. He’s the type who usually gets drafted much later and might be bought out of his college commitment with an above-slot bonus, but certainly nothing approaching his actual slot of $1.47 million.

In a Saturday article, the Baseball America staff listed LHP Logan Allen, RHP Masyn Winn, RHP JT Ginn, and RHP Cole Henry among their favorite Day Two picks. All were selected between 52nd and 56th overall. Texas selected Carter 50th. It will be interesting to see how these safer picks fare versus Carter. I think most of the consternation over Texas’ draft comes down to Carter. Had the Rangers picked Ginn, even though he’ll be coming off TJ surgery, this draft wouldn’t have looked exceptionally weird. Nobody gets bent out of shape just because the Rangers don’t select a top-200 guy with the 145th-overall pick.

Incidentally, Carter strikes me as a one-step-at-a-time type who could really benefit from a year in short-season ball, which is probably going to disappear shortly. That's not a knock against Texas. Carter and players like him, irrespective of who drafted them, are going to have to jump straight from the rookie complex to low-A. The overall talent level in low-A might drop some to accommodate players who can no longer be assigned to the equivalent of Spokane, but still, it’s a large jump in competition that is going to chew up some prospects.

3 / 86 – RHP Tekoah “TK” Roby (Pine Forest, FL, 6’1”, 185, 18 / 8)
Rankings: 144 by MLB.com, 155 by Baseball America, not ranked by Fangraphs.com

Perhaps the most ordinary pick of the group. Roby’s fastball runs 89-94, and he features a high-spin curve in the mid to upper 70s. Reviews on the change vary; Baseball America calls it a quality pitch, Fangraphs.com said it flashed 55 on the 20-80 scale, and MLB.com stated it “needs work.” Fangraphs.com didn’t consider him a top-200 pick but gave him a 35+ overall grade, which would place him in the 42-52 range of Texas’s prospects.

4 / 115 – LHP Dylan MacLean (Portland, OR, 6’3”, 180, 17 / 11)
Rankings: 195 by MLB.com, 258 by Baseball America, not ranked by Fangraphs.com

MacLean was a high school teammate of Mitch Abel, the top high school arm in the country. His season didn’t even begin by the time athletic programs were shut down. Like Roby, MacLean deals a high-spin curve. He lacks Roby’s velocity at present but commands his fastball well and has a larger, more projectable frame.

5 / 145 – IF Thomas Saggese (Carlsbad, CA, 6’0”, 170, 18 / 2)
Rankings: not ranked by MLB.com, 280 by Baseball America, not ranked by Fangraphs.com

Saggese played shortstop in high school and has an intriguing mix of contact and power. Baseball America says he has a “chance to stick” at short. To be honest, whenever I see those three words, I just assume the player will move somewhere else, even as teams emphasize offense at the position. Even if the player ends up being adequate, the likelihood of him being chosen at short over a better defender becomes increasingly remote by the time he's reached the Majors. Fangraphs.com suggests he could hit enough to carry second base, and Baseball America is fond of his bat as well.

Here’s where the players I discussed Wednesday were selected:

1/8 (San Diego) OF Robert Hassell
1/11 (White Sox): LHP Garrett Crochet
1/13 (San Francisco): C Patrick Bailey 
1/14 (Texas): 2B Justin Foscue
1/19 (Mets): OF Pete Crow-Armstrong
1/20 (Milwaukee): OF Garrett Mitchell
1/22 (Washington): RHP Cade Cavalli 
1/24 (Tampa Bay) RHP Nick Bitsko 
1/26 (Oakland): C Tyler Soderstrom
1/27 (Minnesota): 1B Aaron Sabato 
1S/32 (Kansas City): SS Nick Loftin

Free Agent Signings

Clubs can sign any number of eligible undrafted players for up to $20,000 each. Here’s who the Rangers have signed:

RHP Connor Sechler – Sechler pitched exclusively in relief in his two seasons with the Missouri State Bears, notching 14 saves and compiling a 3.85 ERA and 121 strikeouts and 54 walks in 105 innings. Last December, MSU suspended him for undisclosed reasons, and he then transferred to Drury University in Missouri. His 2020 action consisted of a few innings for the amateur Show Me League. Per game reports and Sechler himself, his fastball runs 91-93 and touches 94.

C Fernando Amaro – out of PJ Education School in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

RHP Colton Snyder – Snyder started in four of five outings for Division II Concordia in Irvine, CA, striking out 11 with a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings.

So far, the Royals are winning the undrafted derby running away, having signed five additional top-500 draft prospects and one of the top-25 undrafted seniors. As of mid-afternoon, six clubs hadn’t announced any signings. With the strong possibility of minor league contraction looming, I’m looking forward to seeing how much new talent organizations bring in. Last year, the Rangers signed 25 draft picks and a large handful of undrafted free agents.

MLB / MLBPA Negotiations

They're not good.

Elsewhere

With room to grow because of cancellations of summer leagues across the country, plus no affiliated minor league ballgames, the Texas Collegiate League will expand to ten teams this summer and play games in the currently unused stadiums in Frisco, Round Rock, San Antonio, Amarillo and Tulsa. The season begins July 4th weekend.

The independent American Association announced it would play a 60-game schedule beginning July 3 involving six teams in three cities: Fargo, Milwaukee and Sioux Falls. 

Two weeks after opening athletic facilities for voluntary workouts, the University of Houston closed them because six students tested positive for COVID and because of the increase in cases in the Houston area. In Texas, 11 of the 14 highest daily case counts have occurred in June. In Arizona, where the Rangers and other clubs may hold an expanded fall instruction camp, 45% of all confirmed cases have occurred in the June.

MLB has allowed clubs to resume scouting amateur events, up to three scouts per club per event.

The international signing period has been delayed from July 2, 2020, to January 15, 2021.

Nashville’s WKRN interviewed righty Tim Dillard at length. (For me, the video didn’t load unless I used incognito mode, so apologies if the link fails you.)


 
title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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