Rangers Draft pick may need surgery
Right-hander Scheppers has on-going issue with shoulder
Whichever team took right-handed pitcher Tanner Scheppers in the recently completed First-Year Player Draft knew they were going to be taking a little bit of a risk because of questions surrounding his right shoulder. Then again, when isn't the Draft a roll of the dice?
The Texas Rangers decided to take the chance when Scheppers was still on the board at No. 44 in the supplemental first round. The pure stuff -- namely, the upper-90s fastball and the power curve -- was just too tantalizing to pass up at that point in the Draft, even while knowing there was the possibility of an on-going issue with the shoulder. They had glowing reports on Scheppers' performances while pitching for the independent league St. Paul Saints this spring and had him checked out before the Draft by their medical staff.
Not every team saw it the same way, and two teams that passed on Scheppers believe that he has a 50-percent tear of his labrum based on updated medical reports. Those two team doctors believe his shoulder will eventually require surgery. The Rangers, aware of a possible problem, don't feel the injury is quite that severe, though general manager Jon Daniels declined to go too far in talking in detail about the big right-hander.
"I'd prefer not to discuss specifics of Tanner's medical situation for two reasons: One, he's not our player until he's signed; and two, I'm uncomfortable doing so in general," Daniels said. "The best I can put it is this: He was examined by [team physician] Dr. [Keith] Meister before the Draft. He was cleared to be selected, with the understanding that there may be a heightened level of risk vs. other pitchers of a similar age and experience level. We took him with eyes wide open and hope to sign him this summer."
The Rangers took Scheppers with the pick they received as compensation for losing free agent Milton Bradley during the offseason, but like every team, they've known all about the talented right-hander since last year's Draft. Questions about Scheppers' shoulder began then, when he was a junior at Fresno State. After a dominant season that moved him high up on draft boards, he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right shoulder, effectively ending his college career and moving him out of the first round.
The Pirates took a chance and selected him in the second round of the 2008 Draft, No. 48 overall. The two sides could not come to terms, though, and the Pirates received a compensation pick while Scheppers opted to go the indy route to prepare to re-enter the Draft in 2009.
Right from the outset, scouts reported a better body, a better delivery and even better stuff than what intrigued scouts a year ago. He was throwing in the upper-90s with a power curve and a free-and-easy delivery. His name once again was moving up draft boards and was figuring into most conversations about the Top 10 picks.
Questions about the shoulder remained, perhaps because he never had surgery to correct the problem last year. His agents, the Legacy Group, had him examined by Angels team surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum, who reportedly sent a letter to teams saying Scheppers was healthy. That didn't completely alleviate concerns, so Scheppers agreed to meet with some teams, including the Rangers, to be examined by their own doctors. Calls to Scheppers' agent, Greg Genske, were not returned.
Dr. Yocum's evaluation of Scheppers, which contained information about a tear, was made available to all 30 teams, with most receiving it. Several teams followed up with a call to Yocum to discuss his findings. It was then up to each team to interpret the evaluation, with each team likely seeing the potential risk differently. The Rangers clearly felt comfortable enough to select Scheppers. Others concluded the injury was too severe and decided to pass.
The Rangers have until Aug. 17 to work out a deal for Scheppers, their second selection in this year's Draft. They took Texas high school lefty Matt Purke with their first pick, No. 14 overall.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.