In a normal season, not one shortened by a global pandemic, the MLB Draft order is determined by record.
Given the fact that the 2020 season was 102 games short of normal, we can't automatically assume the draft order will remain the same. However, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported last week that the 2021 MLB Draft order is "highly likely" to be based on record, which is good news for the Texas Rangers since they owned the second-worst record in baseball this season. Ergo, the Rangers would also own the second overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Baseball America reported last month the 2021 MLB Draft would be pushed back to July 11-13 and held in Atlanta, Ga., coinciding with next year's MLB All Star Game. The movement of the draft clears any run in with the College World Series and would afford prep prospects a chance to showcase before the draft.
BA also reported that the 2021 MLB Draft will likely contain between 20-30 rounds. The March agreement between MLB and the Players Association requires the draft to have at least 20 rounds. The 2020 MLB Draft had only five rounds due to the financial strain on MLB clubs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB drafts have typically contained 40 rounds prior to 2020.
Moving the draft until later in the summer was not previously possible due to the short-season and Rookie-level leagues. However, MLB plans to scale back the minor leagues to 120 full-season clubs in 2021, which eliminates any concern over moving the draft date.
The Rangers have only had the second overall pick once in franchise history, when they selected RHP Tommy Boggs in 1974. The Rangers have also not had a top-five pick since 2015 when they selected RHP Dillon Tate fourth overall. They've also not had a top-three pick since 1985 when they drafted RHP Bobby Witt third overall.
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If Major League Baseball makes Passan's report official and the Rangers are granted the No. 2 pick, they may be in line to add another right-handed pitcher.
As of now, Vanderbilt University owns two right-handed pitching prospects that are likely to be near the top of the draft class. RHP Kumar Rocker is currently the top-ranked college prospect on Baseball America. Rocker possesses a mid-90's fastball supported by his 6-foot-4, 255-pound frame. According to BA, his power breaking ball and changeup have plus potential.
Right behind Kumar is Vanderbilt teammate RHP Jack Leiter, the son of former Major League southpaw Al Leiter. While Leiter lacks ideal size for a pitcher (6-feet, 190 pounds), he has a potential five-pitch mix of four- and two-seam fastballs, a curveball with a high spin rate, along with a slider and changeup.
The Rangers currently have some intriguing pitching prospects like RHP Cole Winn and RHP Hans Crouse who have yet to make the jump to the Major Leagues. To go along with them are guys like RHP Kyle Cody and LHP Wes Benjamin, who had some success in their first taste of big league action in 2020.
A lot can happen between now and next June. Who knows how Rocker and Leiter will fare in the spring or what other prospect may sky rocket up draft boards around Major League Baseball. Either way, the Rangers are in line to add some impact talent to their farm system.