If you were watching the 2020 MLB Draft on MLB Network, there's a word you might have heard several times regarding the Texas Rangers 2020 draft class.
At least, that's the word former Colorado Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd used multiple times on MLB Network. However, the Rangers seemed to be very clear on what their intentions were with this year's crop of players.
"We feel like we got a good group of kids that would have popped as the spring played on—a normal spring," said Rangers Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg. "We identified them early and did a lot of work on these guys. Every one of these guys we had targeted. We're quite excited we got all of these dudes."
Last year, the Rangers leaned predominantly toward the college level early in the draft, with nine of the 11 picks in the first 10 rounds being collegiate players. Even in a unique draft shortened by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Rangers were confident to go back in a direction focused on prep players.
"Obviously, a baseball draft is a little different than any other sports draft," Fagg said. "If these guys haven't seen them play, and a lot of other teams didn't scout these guys. We feel good about the work that was put in. We have a great player development set up where we can let these people grow as human beings and as players. We feel like we beat a lot of teams to these guys. Time will tell."
Even with four of the five draft picks coming out of high school, the Rangers are not concerned with any inability to get pen to paper on this year's class.
Round 1, 14th overall: Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6'0" Weight: 201 lbs
Bonus Slot Value: $4,036,800
Day one of the draft didn't leave many people "puzzled" when the Rangers selected Justin Foscue with the 14th overall pick. Although Foscue was ranked No. 36 by Baseball America, this is still a solid pick for the Rangers and it's one they are excited about.
"We truly believe in this kid's bat. He's been a big performer in a big conference," Fagg said. "He's some kind of competitor, some kind of kid. We're very excited to welcome Justin into the Texas Rangers organization."
While the Rangers believe in his bat, they also love his intangibles, his baseball IQ, and the drive with which he plays the game.
"I've never been the top-ranked kind of player. In high school, I never was highly touted or heavily recruited. But I always felt like I belonged in the SEC, to see that level of play," Foscue said on Wednesday night. "So, I had a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong. I believed in myself. I just went to work and I put my head down. I didn't listen to the outside noise with ranking and such. Having that ability to not worry about the noise and distractions and always believing in myself. I think that's how I got myself to this point."
In his sophomore season, Foscue hit 14 home runs with a .331/.395/.564 slash line. He also finished fifth in the SEC in hits and third in total bases.
Round 2, 50th overall: Evan Carter, OF, Elizabethton HS (TN)
Bats: L Throws: R
Height: 6'4" Weight: 190 lbs
Bonus Slot Value: $1,469,900
This might have been the pick that turned the most heads and had television hosts scrambling for information during live coverage of the draft. Evan Carter, the 50th overall pick in the draft, was not ranked in MLB.com's Top 200 nor Baseball America's Top 500 prospect lists.
“I know I have always flown under the radar,” Carter said in a Zoom call on Thursday night. “I never went to the Perfect Game camps or anything like that. I know wherever I show up, I’m there to compete and I’m there to be the best. I definitely let my actions speak for themselves on the field.”
Of the four picks the Rangers made on day two of the draft, selecting Carter in the second round was easily the one they were most excited about. Fagg could hardly contain his enthusiasm about drafting Carter.
"He's an unbelievable kid," Fagg said. "We saw him last summer. We saw him in the fall. Actually, the last game I saw this spring before the pandemic, I was in Elizabethton, Tennessee. I was in front of the family a couple of times. Unbelievable family. Unbelievable kid. He was the valedictorian of his high school. It's incredible. He's a five-tool player. We feel like we beat a lot of teams."
Carter confirmed in his Zoom call with reporters that he intends to sign with the Rangers, calling the decision a "no-brainer."
As a junior in 2019, Carter was named Super 22 Player of the Year, conference Pitcher of the Year, and earned first team All-State honors. Carter hit .324 with four home runs and 27 RBIs as a junior while going 10-2 with a 1.34 ERA and six complete games.
Citing his passion for hitting, Carter confirmed he will play the outfield in his professional career.
Round 3, 86th overall: Tekoah Roby, RHP, Pine Forest HS (FL)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 lbs
Bonus Slot Value: $699,700
In the same boat as many prep players in 2020, Tekoah "TK" Roby didn't get an opportunity to showcase much before the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down.
Roby, 18, stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 180 pounds. The Troy commit has a good three-pitch mix that includes a 89-93 mph fastball (peaking at 94 mph), a 76-78 mph curveball, and an 80-81 mph changeup. The spin rate on his fastball is in the 2,300-2,500 rpm range.
“It’s a loose body,” Fagg said. “Very athletic kid, very good arm action. He can spin the ball, he’s got touch and feel with the fastball up to 93-94. He wasn’t seen by a ton of guys when they got shut down, so we felt like we beat a lot of people on this kid.”
In his junior season, Roby went 7-3 with a 1.19 ERA and recorded 109 strikeouts against just 10 walks.
Round 4, 115th overall: Dylan MacLean, LHP, Central Catholic HS (OR)
Bats: R Throws: L
Height: 6'2" Weight: 185 lbs
Bonus Slot Value: $502,300
Committed: University of Washington
Dylan MacLean could be an over-slot candidate in the fourth round. He was on Baseball America's 10 Sleepers Who Could Pop Up This Spring before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the baseball world.
This pick was a great example of anticipating guys who might have been talked about more often this week if they had the chance to pop this spring.
“He is a guy we saw last summer. He was in the Area Code Games,” Fagg said. “He was an 84-87 mph guy. He threw a ton of strikes with a three-pitch mix. I liked the body, it was a little underdeveloped when we saw him last summer."
Fagg said he got a chance to see MacLean when he traveled to watch Mick Abel throw a bullpen session. Abel and MacLean worked out together.
“I got to see Dylan and I didn’t know who he was," Fagg said. "He had gained 20 pounds. The velocity had crept up. Kept the good delivery. Loose body. He is going to throw a ton of strikes. We're excited about this kid.”
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound hurler led all Oregon 6-A pitchers in wins, ERA, and strikeouts last season, leading his high school to the 6-A baseball championship game.
Round 5, 145th overall: Thomas Saggese, SS, Carlsbad HS (CA)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6'0" Weight: 170 lbs
Bonus Slot Value: $375,200
Committed: Pepperdine University
Thomas Saggese was not showcased last summer as his mother tragically passed away from breast cancer. Players in Southern California are usually under the spotlight, but the lack of exposure likely kept Saggese off most prospect rankings.
However, he began to creep up in recent weeks, making him another over-slot candidate. Saggese was described as a "late-riser" by Baseball America's Carlos Collazo and ESPN's Kiley McDaniel said he could go as high as the third round given the talk in recent days. The thought around Saggese, a Pepperdine commit, was he would go to school. He did say this week that he's keeping his options open.
“There have been some discussions with teams, and I’d consider pro ball if I’m taken,” Saggese told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “But everything is up in the air. I’ve been able to work out at home and Skype with my trainer. I have access to weights, and I’ve been able to run and hit off a machine. So I’m stronger now than when the season ended.
“The talk is flattering. Teams have been talking to my father and my representatives.”
Saggese fits the profile of what the Rangers seem to be looking for in their position players: highly-touted bat-to-ball skills.
“He’s one of those kids that has a knack of barreling up baseballs,” Fagg said. “We’ve got a middle-of-the-diamond player with good bat-to-ball skills with power. Love the makeup and the drive. Love the kid.”
On paper, he fits the bill of a potential steal. Saggese was named Most Valuable Player of San Diego’s Avocado West League in his junior season, batting .422 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 102 at-bats.
Saggese was also having a fantastic spring before everything was shut down. He was batting .440 with three home runs and nine RBIs in seven games.
The Rangers definitely took a lot of people by surprise on the second night of the draft. Say what you want about their selections, but they are very confident about the players they selected, no matter what criticism may follow.
Criticism isn't unwarranted, though. The Rangers have not had a lot of success in recent years developing prep players. Many thought that dynamic may be shifting this year, given their focus on college players in 2019 and selecting Foscue in the first round of this year's draft.
However, the Rangers seem to feel like they took advantage of the lack of exposure on a number of players throughout the country, potentially gaining an edge on potential competition throughout the league.
Maybe they will. Maybe they won't. As Kip Fagg said, time will tell.