Will 2020 MLB Draft changes impact the Texas Rangers draft strategy?

Texas Rangers prospect Sam Huff makes a play during 2020 Spring Training (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Texas Rangers prospect Sam Huff makes a play during 2020 Spring Training (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

The draft strategy of the Texas Rangers in years past has been well documented but will the changes to the 2020 MLB draft force a shift in plans?

Long debated has been the topic of the Texas Rangers draft strategy and how it has impacted their minor league and major league talent in recent years. Oft known as a team that opts for potential over proven ability, the club has drafted and produced prospects with some of the best individual tools seen around the league. Joey Gallo, Sam Huff and more represent the elite power Texas loves. Dillon Tate and Hans Crouse show that the Rangers like to take the risk on the ace potential if it’s available to them. While this strategy has paid off in players like the aforementioned Gallo, it also has landed Texas some duds, to be expected from a high-risk, high-reward method of drafting talent. However in last year’s draft, we saw Texas shift it’s methodology slightly and with the changes to the 2020 draft’s format, could we see a full commitment to a change in talent evaluation?

The 2019 MLB Draft was a our first peek at perhaps a shifting philosophy within the Texas Rangers organization on how best to stock their system with young talent. Instead of pushing for the high-risk, high-reward draft prospects early, Texas used their 8th overall pick on an established college senior in Josh Jung, a player valued more for his high-talent floor than elite ceiling potential. Texas continued to double-down on that method bringing in Davis Wendzel who joined Jung as Co-Big 12 Player of the Year that season. The Rangers also drafted UCLA pitcher Ryan Garcia who, while not flashing an outrageous fastball or wipeout breaking balls, has a refined aspect to his pitching that gives him a strong shot at being a big league pitcher in the future.

These first three draft picks confirmed the idea that Texas was looking to add more Major League contributors to its system rather than stock it full of potential stars with a long road to the majors ahead of them. This shift has been evidenced over the course of a couple of years with Texas adding players like Willie Calhoun and more recently Nick Solak. In perhaps a microcosm of the effects of this shift, Texas sent former top prospect Nomar Mazara to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for prospect Steele Walker in an a small admittance that the elite talent of Mazara was not being realized as originally hoped.

Now, with the 2020 MLB Draft likely to be shortened dramatically, to as few as five rounds, Texas, among other clubs, could lean heavy into the idea that a high-floor is the better investment than high-risk talent. Generally, clubs are expecting forty rounds in which they can select talented players to add to their organization. That bulk influx of prospects means teams can try and create a balance of high-ceiling and high-floor players that gives the organization potential top end talent while ensuring that their talent pool won’t bottom out if a few flyer players come up short of hopes. With just five rounds though, the picks team’s are afforded become more important than ever with teams needing to make strong selections.

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It seems a logical conclusion that as a whole, we will see a bigger value placed on developed college talent rather than raw high school draft prospects this year. Whereas teams, like the Rangers in past years, could go for a couple of raw, home run prep players and support the depth with older college players, that safety net is far harder to predict. Now, any undrafted player can sign with any team for a bonus of no more than $20,000, a significant cut from what many of these players would’ve received if they had been taken as just a later round pick. With that bonus on the table, many college-eligible players could opt to forego signing and hold off until 2021 or later.

As a whole, there will be far less young talent entering the pro baseball sphere this summer than we’re accustomed to seeing. The Rangers very well could push to lean heavy on what is viewed as developed talent similar to their early picks from the 2019 draft. We could see prep pitchers devalued, especially those not considered among the elite prospects, and players with injury history of any significance could also see their value slide. Conversely, teams who already have strong prospect pools, such as the Padres or Rays, could be incentivized to swing for the fences on prep players that other teams might pass on. The 2021 draft could be affected as well with the potential to be reduced to as few as 20 rounds, however, the impact on 2020 is likely to be one we have not seen before.

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