The 2023 MLB Draft is this Sunday night in Seattle. Players that are hoping to hear their name called will be gathering on-site in Seattle and across the country surrounded by friends and family. The Rangers will once again be picking near the top of the draft for the third consecutive season. It will hopefully be the last time for a while that they are picking this high. They have to make sure not to waste this important pick. If you are not familiar with the draft process and how to watch then let me answer your questions for you.
How did the Rangers get the number four pick?
The Rangers last season finished 68-94, which was good for the seventh-worst record in the major leagues. Prior to the 2022 season starting the players and owners came together on the Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA). One aspect of the CBA that both sides agreed to was the creation of the draft lottery system. 2022 was the first season in which teams' win-loss record would determine who had the best odds to get the number one pick. The MLB lottery determines the first six picks of the draft.
The Texas Rangers were one of the big winners at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last December. The inaugural draft lottery moved up their pick from seven to pick four. It was a huge win for Chris Young and the front office. They picked two in 2021, three in 2022, and now will pick four in 2023.
Who are the Rangers looking at drafting?
Keith Law of The Athletic says this year's draft is "the best draft class he has seen since 2011" That was the class that had Gerrit Cole, Francisco Lindor, George Springer, and several others that have went on to have great major league careers and win World Series. The biggest reason for this is that the draft in 2020 was shortened from 50 rounds down to five rounds. That caused several would-be draft picks to choose to attend college. It is three years later and many of those class of 2020 high-schoolers are now draft-eligible college players.
If you did not know baseball has a few different rules when it comes to draft-eligible players. Players can be drafted upon graduating from high school. They can be drafted out of junior colleges after every season. If they choose to go to a 4-year university they have to fulfill one of these two requirements. A player has to be 21 years old or have completed their junior season.
Experts have been putting together mock drafts and top 200 and 300 lists of players now since the winter. The consensus of all of these experts is that the top tier of the draft is five players deep. It is pitcher Paul Skenes from LSU, outfielder Dylan Crews from LSU, outfielder Wyatt Langford from the University of Florida, high-school outfielder Walker Jenkins from North Carolina, and high-school outfielder Max Clark from Indiana. The Rangers at four will have their choice of at least two of these players.
Most mock drafts have a combination of Skenes and Crews going 1-2 to the Pirates and Nationals. At three most experts believe the Tigers will take Langford. That would leave Texas to pick from Jenkins and Clark. Both are prodigious hitters who would immediately become one of the Rangers' top prospects.
The Sweet Stroke of Walker Jenkins
Jenkins is a 6'3 outfielder that played center field this past season, but projects as more of a corner outfielder after his body fills out as he grows up. He is very athletic and has a graceful left-handed swing. Baseball America reported that North Carolina area scouts have not seen a player as skilled as Jenkins, since 2010 AL MVP and former Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton back in 1999.
Jenkins in this system would not fly through. The Rangers would likely take their time with him. He would have a shot to take over right field from Adolis Garcia as soon as 2026. That would coincide with Garcia's last season before he becomes a free agent. The one area that might cause the Rangers to take Jenkins over Clark is the projectability of someone that size with that much power. It is easy to see Jenkins become a yearly 30-home run and 100-RBI player that plays great defense. Jenkins also will not turn 19 till next February. He would have a chance to make his debut at or around his 21st birthday.
The Legend of Max Clark
Max Clark is the other high-school outfielder that Texas could take. He is great in his own right. Clark does not have the size that Jenkins has, but will likely have the ability to stay in center field. Clark is a character, who is able to back up the talk.
Clark was named as Baseball America's High School Baseball player of the season. There is talk that Clark could be drafted first by the Pirates. Clark is 6'1 and he had a legendary senior season. He had a .646 batting average, with 33 RBIs, and six home runs. Teams for the most part avoided Clark as he drew 52 walks in 120 plate appearances. One thing Clark will have to get used to in the minors is facing pitchers that are not intimidated by the legend that is Max Clark.
In the highlights above it is clear that he has a quick, left-handed swing that allows him to take the ball from gap to gap. There is plenty of exit velocity when he makes contact. It is reasonable to believe that with some minor adjustments that he can take some of these line drives and turn them into home runs. The one thing the Rangers would have to deal with is the off-field persona that Clark has built.
Clark has made himself into a brand. He has hundreds of thousands of people who follow him on various social media sites. This is something that works for Clark and has not distracted him from producing on the field. If the Rangers draft him they draft all of Clark. He will likely take his social media following with him on the journey from the draft to his MLB debut.
I do not think the Rangers can lose by picking either Clark or Jenkins. The Rangers have been unpredictable through the years. In 2021 the thought was that they might pick Marcelo Mayer or Jordan Lawler instead of Leiter. In 2022 they were rumored to be in on Elijah Green. The consensus in 2023 seems to be Jenkins or Clark. The Rangers are in the same situation as last season when they lost their second and third-round picks due to free-agent signings. They could do something similar to 2022 when they reached for Rocker and then drafted Brock Porter in the fourth round. That would be a major shock if they did that and I am not sure who the player is that they would reach for to save money on a later-round pick.
Where to watch the draft?
The MLB draft will once again this year be carried live by both ESPN and MLB Network. It will get started at 6pm with the Pittsburgh Pirates on the clock. ESPN is committed to showing the first round and MLB Network will cover the entire first night of picks. The rest of the draft can be streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 3-10 will be on Monday starting at 1pm central time. Rounds 11-20 will be Tuesday afternoon starting at 1pm central time.
If you want to see who the Rangers end up picking be tuned in right at 6pm as the Rangers pick will likely be announced in the first hour of the draft.