ARLINGTON, Texas — The NFL Draft kicking off on Thursday night has the draft juices flowing. Naturally, I began to think about the Texas Rangers and the wonderful opportunity they have to add some impact talent to their organization this summer.
There a few names being thrown around from which the Rangers will be able to choose. Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt's 1-2 punch on the mound, have both seen their names atop prospect rankings on the internet. There are also two prep shortstops that could be very attractive options in the field: Marcelo Mayer (Eastlake HS, Chula Vista, Calif.) and DFW's own Jordan Lawlar (Dallas Jesuit HS).
In their latest mock draft, Baseball America has the Rangers selecting the hometown shortstop Jordan Lawlar with the second overall pick. The commentary by Baseball America reads:
"A few sources in the industry are starting to think that Lawlar doesn’t get past Texas, but that could simply be the rumor mill based on a talent fit and geography more than a decision the Rangers have locked in with more than two months still between now and the draft. Lawlar’s talent absolutely fits at the top of the draft and unless you are going to nit-pick swing-and-miss concerns, there’s not much of a hole to speak of in the Vanderbilt commit’s game. There was another Texas prep shortstop with some swing-and-miss concerns drafted No. 2 recently and he seems to be working out in pro ball so far."
That shortstop referenced is Kansas City's Bobby Witt Jr., who is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
While people I have spoken with in the Rangers organization have yet to tip their hand on who they might be eyeing with the No. 2 overall pick, the Rangers don't believe they can have too many quality shortstops. If Lawlar continues on his current trajectory, if drafted by Texas, he would automatically shoot to the top of the club's Top 30 prospect rankings, and undoubtedly become one of the Top 100 prospects in baseball.
However, you don't have to go very far on social media to see that the general consensus among Rangers fans is this draft will be considered a failure if they don't land either Leiter or Rocker. The Rangers have several shortstops on the farm with notable upside, and have had well-documented issues when it comes to developing pitching.
Before the college season began, Rocker was thought to be the clear-cut No. 1 prospect and taking Leiter at No. 2 might be a reach. Now, it's flipped. Leiter has dominated the SEC and has been the best pitcher in college this season. On the other hand, Rocker has dealt with a velocity dip and fell to No. 4 in Baseball America's mock draft.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates take Leiter with the first overall pick, the Rangers have a tough decision to make. (If they somehow pass on Leiter, you grab him as quickly as you can and say "thank you" later). If everything checks out with Rocker and the velocity dip wasn't anything to be worried about in the long-term, then the Rangers could add a potential ace to their organization.
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On the contrary, whether things check out with Rocker or not, the Rangers may be lured by the potential of adding a legitimate five-tool shortstop. There is always more risk with pitchers rather than position players. The latter also impact teams on a daily basis.
The most important part to remember about picking second overall is drafting out of need is absolutely the wrong move. Now, Rocker could be sitting there at No. 2 and the Rangers believe he projects to be a more impactful big leaguer than Lawlar. If that's the case, Kumar Rocker will become a Texas Ranger.
However, if the Rangers see Lawlar as the next five-tool superstar they can build a contender around, it makes it very difficult to take Rocker over him, especially if there are long-term concerns around the Vanderbilt junior.
In addition, maybe the Rangers are getting better at finding position player talent at the prep level. Remember when the baseball world blasted Texas for selecting Evan Carter in the second round last year? He was virtually an unknown and way off everyone's radar. Now, Carter still has to develop, and he'll get a shot starting in Low-A Down East this season. But a lot of draft publications are beginning to walk back their criticism after seeing him impress at instructs last fall and minor league spring training this year.
Another thing to remember: When the draft comes this summer, it isn't won or lost with the first round pick. Nor will we see the results of how each prospect pans out for at least another few years. The Rangers are excited about adding impact talent throughout the draft, not only at No. 2 overall.
If the Rangers add a five-tool shortstop at No. 2 this summer, you can rest your head easy that night. The Rangers will not have "screwed it up." At least, not yet.