Texas Rangers Round 1 Draft Pick: A Breakdown of Options

This year’s draft being reduced from 40 rounds to just 5 has been focused on a lot. This was sought after by owners, to  cut costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will save organizations $29M in slot value just by reducing the draft from 10 rounds to 5. Whilst this makes sense for many, some GMs and player-development personnel do not agree.

Teams have relied on the lower rounds in the past for different reasons. Some use it to fill out their rosters, whilst others use it to find a hidden gem. The most famous example is Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who was picked in the 62nd Round back in 1988.

With this huge cull of picks for 2020, it’s difficult to be precise with whom will pick who. This uncertainty led me to write this article.

Scouring the internet for mock drafts, one thing was for sure, no-one quite knows who will be picked and when. Just looking at the Rangers first-round pick, I found 8 different alternatives.

It’s near-enough impossible to predict who exactly will be picked for Texas in the first-round. I wanted to break down each option and how they would benefit the organization moving forward. They have been listed from least likely to most likely.

Least Likely

Garrett Mitchell (OF), 21-years-old

Ranked as Number 6 in the MLB Top 200 for the 2020 Draft. A potential to be the first picked after the consensus top 5, the 21-year-old outfielder from UCLA is regarded as one of the best complete players in the Draft. With all 5 tools being graded 50 or above on the MLB website, it’s clear to see why he is being highly touted for an early pick.

These highlights from UCLA show his hitting ability and his power. His clean swing and open stance has been integral to his .327 average in 3 years. Although slightly unconventional, it opens up his body and allows him to see the ball better and make greater contact. This has been key to having just 84 strikeouts in 477 ABs, including a strikeout once every 20.7 PA in 2020.

He generates great power because of his swing and this is shown by 6 HRs, 45 XBH and 81 RBIs over 3 years. His 12 triples in 2019 was a single season record for UCLA and he is second all-time at UCLA with 15 career three-baggers.

Not only is he dangerous at the plate, he is extremely quick between the bases. His 70 grade running is by far his best tool. This is largely in part down to 28 SB in 3 years, as well as his ability to cover great areas when fielding.

Great throwing power from the outfield, and his .987 fielding percentage in 3 years, shows how good he can be defensively. He had no errors in 124 attempts in 2019, which led to being a Gold Glove Finalist.

One of the very first players to be linked with the Rangers, he is more than likely get drafted much earlier than the Rangers’ 14th pick.

Heston Kjerstad (OF), 21-years-old

Ranked number 10 in the MLB Top 200. The power-hitting outfielder from Arkansas University is not as well-rounded but his ability to hit big certainly makes up for it. His power grade of 60 is one of the best in the Draft.

His power game is easy to see, and is hugely impressive. The way the ball explodes off the bat makes him the most powerful left handed hitter in the college class. His quick bat speed and his strength is key to this, allowing his potential power to be touted as an 80 grade.

He slugged 35 HRs, 68 XBH and 124 RBIs in 3 years at Arkansas. Although his average was .345, he was struck out 125 times in 574 ABs. This is largely in part down to his complicated swing. He manages to get under the ball well, which leads to his HRs, but his swing doesn’t look clean. There will need to be some work on his swing to reduce the amount of strikeouts, but not too much as it has served him well at college class. His ability to hit big will be relied upon due to his below average running. He is slow to get started and is not someone that will pick up stolen bases.

This also means he isn’t the quickest on his feet in the outfield. However, his strong arm and catching ability makes him the perfect outfielder. His fielding has also significantly improved, starting with 7 errors and just .945 in his first year at Arkansas. He had just 2 errors in the next 2 years, improving his percentage to average .967 overall.

A powerful hitting RF that has the potential to be DH down the line, he again will be snapped up earlier than the Rangers’ 14th pick.

Cade Cavalli (RHP), 21-years-old

The right handed pitcher from Oklahoma University is ranked 22nd on the MLB’s list. He has been projected as high as 10th in mock drafts but, due to his lack of playing time in 2020, he seems to have slipped a little.

He started as a two-way player in his freshman year, despite missing his senior year in high school through injury. Batting .202 with 6 HRs, he made 11 appearances on the mound, pitching 17.1 innings with a 3-2 record.

He reduced his plate appearances in 2019 to focus on his pitching, making 12 starts and pitching 60.1 innings. His record of 5-3 and an ERA of 3.28 showed his extreme potential on the mound, but still managed to back this up with a .319 BA.

Despite a shortened season in 2020, he made 4 starts, pitching 23.1 inns for an ERA of 4.18.

The video shows his clean mechanics and strong frame that has him touted as a future rotation starter. His mean fastball that touches 92-96 mph with little effort is extremely impressive, whilst his low 80s curveball has batters swinging and missing regularly. His slider has been graded 55 by MLB, and that is improving to be just as good as his curveball.

Despite his batting talents, teams will take him as a pitcher due to his quality on the mound and trying to maintain his body. He is built solidly and has great arm movement when pitching.

His one downside that could have the Rangers passing on him is his injury history. Starting just 18 times in 3 years gives a good indication of where he is at, but doesn’t show how his body would deal with more innings and games.

Garrett Crochet (LHP), 20-years-old

Ranked number 18 in the MLB Top 200, he is an interesting pick that would definitely suit the Rangers. He is known for his pace and the way he manipulates spin with his fastball and sliders.

Standing at 6 foot 6, he uses his height to his advantage and his smooth arm action works well in his favour. He has an exceptional arsenal of fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball ranged between 96-100 mph in the fall with high spin rates. His 82-85 mph slider has above average spin that moves into difficult angles and his changeup touches 90 mph with deceptive arm speeds.

Initially drafted in Round 34 in 2017 by the Brewers, he committed to University of Tennessee to continue his development.

He started his first season with a 5-6 record and an ERA of 5.51, after starting 6 times in 17 appearances. The following year was more productive, finishing 5-3 with an ERA of 4.02, picking up 81 strikeouts in 65 innings.

The real concern was making just one appearance in the 2020 season, he spent 3 weeks sidelined and didn’t have the ability to showcase his improved repertoire further. Although he struck out 6 in just 3.1 innings, there wasn’t enough game time to prove his quality.

He is an intriguing possibility for the Rangers. They have just 2 LHPs in their Top 30 Prospect List, so he would be a welcome addition. His short track record with an improved arsenal could make him miss out on the 14th spot, as well as missing the majority of the 2020 season. One to keep an eye on as the Draft draws closer.

Robert Hassell III (OF), 18-years-old

Another interesting proposition. He has been tipped as high as the Top 10 but is ranked number 16 in the MLB Top 200. He is dubbed the best prep hitter in the draft, which shows his talents but lack of game time in 2020 could add some question marks.

The above video shows his easy swing that generates great power. His hitting is graded 60 and this is backed up by his .423 average in 2019 that led to him being named Tennessee Player of the Year.

He also had 14 HRs, 8 doubles and 36 RBIs. His power is something that can be worked on and he has an extreme physical projection. His consistent ability to hit the ball cleanly will certainly aid this, alongside his athletic build.

These figures from 2019 were further enhanced by his ability to run between bases. He picked up 22 stolen bases, which shows his speed and the quickness of his feet.

Other than being an incredible hitter of the ball, he has the ability to pitch as well. He was signed by Vanderbilt as a two-way player after picking up 113 strikeouts in 59 innings, with a 5-2 record and an ERA of 1.07.

This led to him being named Independence High School Baseball POY. His solid fastball and slider that has plenty of bite are his two main tools. He touches 93 mph with his fastball, which shows his arm strength, but his lack of control is something that will need to be worked on as he moves forward.

An exciting two-way player is something the Rangers could not turn down. A Top 10 prospect based on his 2019 season, no game time in 2020 could knock him down the list slightly.

Ed Howard (SS), 18-years-old

A player that has already featured on this site with an insightful piece by James Weisser.

Ranked number 15 on the MLB Top 200, he is extremely close to the Rangers pick position. His fielding (60) is his best strength based on the MLB grades, but all 5 tools being above 50 shows his all-round ability.

The video shows his clean swing and great bat speed. His calm batting approach led to an average of .417 in 2019, and his athletic build accompanies this well.

His quick feet and impressive movement defensively shows why his fielding is ranked so highly. He has big range, fast hands and solid arm strength. The knowledge of his position is impressive and the video shows how effortless he makes it look.

Tipped to be the 1st High School infielder to be drafted, it speaks volumes for what scouts think of his abilities.

Although SS is an area the Rangers are well stocked in, his defensive abilities and solid batting approach could make him a valuable asset moving forward.

Nick Bitsko (RHP), 17-years-old

Despite being one of the youngest in the Draft, he is ranked 14th on the MLB Top 200. Tipped to be one of the top picks in 2021, he graduated early to ensure he made the 2020 Draft.

The video shows his impressive pitching repertoire. His 60 graded fastball is one of his strongest tools, and he uses his height effectively to consistently hit mid-90s. His curveball is also graded 60, and the motion of extending big allows him to get on top of the ball to create a hard, downing movement. The final tool of his arsenal isn’t as impressive, but a low-80s slider that is consistent and picks up strikes is something that can be worked on.

For someone so young, he doesn’t focus on just power which is why his control is graded 55. He consistently pitches for strikes with all 3 pitches, which allows his chances of future plus command.

He has great potential and is an interesting proposition. The lack of 2020 season certainly pushes him down the order slightly but this could allow for the Rangers to pick up one of the best young players in the Draft. He is on the two-name shortlist for my final choice for the Rangers’ pick.

Most Likely

Jared Kelley (RHP), 18-years-old

Dubbed as the one of the best High School pitching prospects in the Draft, he is ranked number 11 in the MLB Top 200. However, he is the one name that seems to be continuously linked to the Rangers in most mock drafts.

Based in Texas already (Refugio High School), he seems to be a great fit for both parties.

The 6 foot 3 right hander has one of the best graded fastballs in the Draft (65). His ability to reach 93-96 mph with very little effort is impressive, but is able to bump up to 98 mph with some running action.

He has an advanced changeup with a sinking action. Although his slurve isn’t the most consistent it can be a useful 3rd pitch. He pounds the strike zone regularly and this is shown by his 144 strikeouts in 65 innings in Junior year. He also had 34 strikeouts in just 12 innings this Spring. His overall record of 11-0 and an ERA of 0.22 in Junior year is extremely impressive.

One of the best prep pitchers, he is most likely to be drafted by the Rangers. He is strong and physical, as well as having a balanced delivery. If the Rangers pick him up, they definitely won’t be disappointed.

Overall thoughts

  1. Jared Kelley – RHP
  2. Nick Bitsko – RHP
  3. Ed Howard – SS
  4. Robert Hassell III – OF
  5. Garrett Crochet – LHP
  6. Cade Cavalli – RHP
  7. Heston Kjerstad – OF
  8. Garrett Mitchell – OF

At the time of writing this is the order I believe are most likely for the Rangers. There are some talks that Garrett Mitchell could rise slightly as he is being projected in more mock drafts to be the number 14 pick.

Regardless of who is picked up, there is an abundance of talent that would slot nicely into the Rangers’ farm system. One thing is for sure, it may be the smallest draft but it is the most intriguing.

Let me know what you guys think on Twitter at @MLBUKAnalysis1

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