Texas Rangers Draft Recap: Day 2 Full of College Players
By Kenneth Nash
The Texas Rangers have made their Day 2 selections in MLB and contrary to history, went very college-heavy with their picks.
Over the past couple of years, the Texas Rangers have developed a draft philosophy of taking younger, high school players, who have the raw upside. However, that usually comes with the tradeoff of more risk and longer development. In 2019 though, Texas has really flipped their strategy through the first 10 rounds of the draft. Of their first 11 selections, 9 of those players are coming from a 4-year university with just 2 high school draftees.
There are questions if this is a broad philosophical change for Texas or just an anomaly due to draft circumstances. I’m on the side of a broader change within the organization. I personally think the Rangers realize their competitive window is a couple of years away at least in terms of being legit contenders. And with that, a lot of that core of players is already at the Major League level meaning filling in the gaps is important. That could prompt a move towards more polished collegiate players who won’t require as many years in the minor league system before making the jump. Additionally, Texas has had some serious trouble with prospect injuries that past couple of seasons. Taking college players who are more physically developed and used to a bigger workload means they can make that transition to the pro game with theoretically fewer injuries and more ease.
All that aside, we now know the Rangers Day 2 picks in their entirety which means it’s recap time.
Round 3 Pick 86: RHP Justin Slaten, Univ. of New Mexico
With their 3rd round selection, Texas took their first pitcher on that afternoon selecting right-hander Justin Slaten out of the University of New Mexico. The 6’4″, 197 lb. pitcher bounced back in 2019 after a down Sophomore season that saw him get a bit of a rude awakening to a starting role. His 2019 numbers are nothing short of impressive making 13 starts for the Lobos and throwing 82.1 innings. He was able to rack up 98 strikeouts and held opponents to a batting average of just .215 signaling an improved ability to generate swings and misses.
More from Texas Rangers News
- Early 2023 MLB mock draft has Texas Rangers selecting an Ohtani-lite
- 3 Texas Rangers outfield trade targets not named Bryan Reynolds
- Did Jacob deGrom really mean what he said at his Texas Rangers press conference?
- Martin Perez accepting the qualifying offer looking like solid deal for the Rangers
- 4 outfielders the Texas Rangers can still pursue this winter
With his size, I’d imagine Texas feels they can add some muscle to his frame and with it more velocity and power. He currently sits in the low to mid 90’s with a solid slider that gives him a nice 2-pitch combo. For an in-game reference, the Lobos website mentions Slaten’s first start of the season was against powerhouse Oregon State and despite a no-decision, he went 5 innings, striking out 5 while allowing just 1 hit. He also faced No. 1 overall pick, Adley Rutschman, and held the star catcher to an 0-2 day with a pair of strikeouts.
Round 4 Pick 115: SS Cody Freeman, Etiwanda HS (CA)
The first prep player of the draft for the Rangers came in the 4th round on Tuesday. Texas took infielder Cody Freeman from Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Listed as a shortstop/third baseman by Perfect Game USA, Freeman is currently committed to Baylor but Texas will try to lure him away with an above-slot offer.
At 5’10”, 165 lbs., there’s room for Freeman to put on some muscle and add a bit of power to his swing. He’s considered a strong defensive player with quick feet and a good arm increasing hopes that he can stay on the left side of the infield long term. If not he’ll probably move to 2nd base which still gives him a shot to show off his quickness. He is also the brother of star Indians prospect Tyler Freeman for what you think that’s worth. He’ll be a long term project assuming he signs, but Texas likely felt there was good upside to be had with the California-based infielder.
Round 5 Pick 145: CF Kellen Strahm, San Jose State
Round 5 was probably the pick that brought the most stereotypical “Rangers” player as they took athletic center fielder Kellen Strahm from San Jose State. The 6’1″, Oregon native was an All-Mountain West First Team selection after a fantastic 2019 season. This year, Strahm hit a stunning .382 with a 1.033 OPS. A right-handed hitter, Strahm had more walks than strikeouts this season and really took a step forward at the plate.
Defensively, he had a .988 fielding percentage as a 3-year starter in center field for San Jose State. This points to a more polished player who has plenty of experience under his belt. He’s a name that was somewhat under the radar in the 5th round but seems to fit the mold Texas is looking for which is players who performed at a high level in college.
Round 6 Pick 175: LHP Cody Bradford, Baylor
The Rangers went back to the college pitching well in the 6th round taking left-hander Cody Bradford out of Baylor. Bradford was the lone Tuesday selection that was ranked in MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 draft prospects coming in at No. 165 showing perhaps some good value for Texas. The 6’3″ lefty is dealing with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome that has caused him to miss the majority of the 2019 season, but thoughts are that he’ll move past that and could’ve gone as early as the 3rd round.
An Aledo-native we look to an impressive 2018 season for Bradford to get a statistical look at the Baylor Bear. Bradford was the 2018 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and was phenomenal, as you’d expect, in his 14 starts. His 2.51 ERA is paired with a .240 opponent’s batting average as well as a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio. Obviously, Rangers fans will be wary of taking another pitcher with injury concerns but it seems Bradford is a strong candidate to impress in the organization.
Round 7 Pick 205: RHP Brandon Sproat, Pace HS (FL)
The Rangers 2nd high school selection came in the 7th round in the form of right-handed pitcher, Brandon Sproat. At 6’2″ and 175 lbs. Sproat definitely has a projectable frame as scouts like to call it meaning he’s got plenty of room to get stronger and develop his velocity. A Florida commit, this is likely where any slot value money saved by Texas is going to be used as they try to ink a solid prep pitcher.
His fastball currently sits in the low-90’s but as mentioned above, he probably can up that once he develops a bit more. If inked, he really could be a steal in the 7th round as some rankings had him as a Top 150 kid entering the draft. He’ll be the hardest to sign but I’d imagine the Rangers were planning for this along the way.
Round 8 Pick 235: RHP John Matthews, Kent State
In the 8th round, the Rangers took their 3rd straight pitcher going for Kent State righty John Matthews. Matthews isn’t your prototypical pitching build at 6’1″ and 190 lbs. but Texas seems to be high on college pitching this season. The 2019 season was his first to predominantly be a starter and he struggled with a 5.45 ERA in 11 starts. However, he has an impressive strikeout-to-walk rate of 3.61 and shows some decent control. I don’t know if he sticks as a starter but he could be a quality bullpen addition if the rotation isn’t for him.
Round 9 Pick 265: RHP Zak Kent, Virginia Military Institute
Texas went with, you guessed it, another college pitcher in the 9th round of the draft. Right-hander Zak Kent was the 265th pick of the draft and joins the Rangers from VMI. He really was relatively unknown at the time he was picked and isn’t on any pre-draft rankings. All that being said, Kent can get the swings and misses evidenced by his 132 strikeouts in 97 innings. He also only walked 30 hitters in 2019 and opponents only hit .229 against him. Like I mentioned, we don’t know that much about him but a 6’3″ starter with strikeout ability is always a plus. We’ll trust the stats on Kent for right now.
Round 10 Pick 295: RHP Joe Corbett, West Texas A&M
If we’re throwing labels on guys based on size, throw Joe Corbett into the “hoss” category. The 6’5″, 230 lb. right-hander was the final selection of the Day 2 portion of the draft for the Texas Rangers. If you thought Zak Kent had some impressive strikeout stats, Corbett set down 1136 in 92.1 innings while walking just 21 on his way to a 12-1 record and Lone Star Conference Player of the Year honors. Another guy we’re going to rely on the stats for until we can get a closer look.
All-in-all it was a different but successful day for Texas. They added some polished pitching while picking up a couple of talented high school players. They’ll look to fill out the depth of their minor league system tomorrow when Rounds 11-30 take place.