The second day of the MLB draft is in the books, with the completion of rounds 3-10 yesterday afternoon. The Rangers started off strong on day one with the selections of Dillon Tate and Eric Jenkins. Let’s take a look at yesterday’s selections and how they could affect the future of the Rangers.
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Round 3, Pick 78: Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke University
Baseball America Rank: 23
MLB.com Rank: 28
"Marcus Stroman became the first-ever first-round pick from Duke when the Blue Jays made him the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 Draft. Three years later, Matuella entered the spring expected to go even earlier and as a strong candidate for the No. 1 overall selection. But injuries slowed him at the outset of the season and he ultimately required Tommy John surgery in April.Undrafted as a high schooler in 2012, Matuella emerged as a serious prospect while at Duke. When healthy, he can overpower hitters with his 93-97 mph fastball and make them look bad with his curveball and slider. If that’s not enough, he also demonstrates feel for his changeup and throwing strikes. His 6-foot-7 frame creates difficult plane and angle for his pitches, making him that much tougher.Even before his Tommy John surgery, Matuella had been plagued by injuries during his college career. He battled lat discomfort as a sophomore and was then diagnosed with spondylolysis, a manageable defect of the vertebra in the lower back. He has thrown just 141 innings during his three years at Duke.-MLB.com"
How does he fit in with the Rangers?
I want to start by saying I love this pick for the Rangers. Yes, there are risks involved with taking Matuella. Most notably, Matuella has a vast injury history highlighted by a recent Tommy John surgery in April combined with past back issues. Another risk is whether he will accept an offer from the Rangers or whether he will go back to Duke for his senior season. With the surgery to keep him out for over a year, he will not be able to pitch for Duke next year which decreases his leverage.
While there is a lot of risk with this pick, the upside far outweighs it. Matuella had the potential to be the top pick in this year’s draft had he not suffered the injury leading to the surgery. Assuming he signs, he will still spend this year and the 2016 season in rehab but will benefit from being with the team’s doctors and get to know those in the organization. While Matuella will need time in the minors, his advanced pitching he showed with Duke should allow him to quickly climb he system. If he doesn’t suffer any more setbacks, he could make an appearance with the big league club by the end of 2018 and become a contributing member of the rotation by 2019.
At the end of the most recent mock draft analysis post, I had mentioned that the Rangers “could end up with one of the injured pitchers like Matuella” with their second round pick. I had no idea that he would last until pick 78 and think the Rangers could have one of the steals of the draft if he can remain healthy. If he can’t, the team did not waste one of their first two round picks .
Round 4, Pick 108: Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston University
Baseball America Rank: 246
MLB.com Rank: 126
"Houston hasn’t produced a first-rounder since the Pirates made Brad Lincoln the fourth overall choice in 2006. Lemoine entered 2015 with a chance to end that drought because he had the stuff and physicality to become one of the first college pitchers taken, but he went down in mid-March with a shoulder impingement and never returned to the mound.Scouts liked the way Lemoine pitched off his 89-94 mph sinker with the U.S. collegiate national team last summer. At times he’ll hit 97 mph with his heater and back it up with a plus slider and solid changeup, though not on a consistent basis. His stuff was down this year before he was sidelined.A 21st-round pick by the Rangers as a Texas high schooler in 2012, Lemoine has a classic starter’s build at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. He throws strikes but needs better command in order to miss as many bats as his stuff indicates he should.-MLB.com"
How does he fit in with the Rangers?
Lemoine fits the same mold of the Matuella pick. Lemoine had first round potential but fell in the draft as a result of injuries. Lemoine was last picked by the Rangers out of high school in the 21st round, a clear sign that there is something about this pitcher that the Rangers really like. Like Matuella, Lemoine can get his fastballs to the upper 90s and has a big frame at 6’5″, 220 lbs. That size, while an advantage, can also make it difficult for pitchers to reproduce their delivery time and time again.
Lemoine has not had surgery so will not miss 2016 like Matuella, but with his injury was shut down by Houston and the Texas Rangers may follow along and keep him out the rest of 2015. He pitched in just five games for Houston this season, ending with a 4.50 ERA in 24 innings. He walked just four batters but lacked dominant strikeout stuff as he managed just 15 strikeouts. As a junior in 2014, he had a 2.87 ERA in 17 starts with 106.2 innings pitched. He walked 29 batters and struck out 87 batters.
Choosing a pitcher with a history of injury is always a risk, but if the Rangers get a pitcher like Lemoine was in 2014 they will receive great value from the 108th overall pick. While too many risky picks can be dangerous, the first day picks of Dillon Tate and Eric Jenkins were solid selections that allowed the Rangers to try to get the best value possible on day 2. Overall, these two pitchers have a high chance of joining the rotation in the upcoming years but also have a chance to be held back by injuries that will require a move to the bullpen or be too much to overcome.
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One player I want to highlight from this list as being interesting to watch is Tyler Ferguson from Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt has been known to produce solid pitchers with two from the team going in the first round and another in the third round of this year’s draft. Ferguson did not have the year that was expected of him and saw less playing time as a result. Whatever the coaches for the Commodores are doing has been working and it could just take a comment or slight change from a Rangers’ coach that could turn everything around for Ferguson.