Newberg Report: Best picks, Rounds 1-10
Ranking the top Rangers selections by round over 20 years
My first Top 10 List from the Rangers' farm system this year was a fairly traditional one, ranking the top 10 right-handed Minor League starting pitchers in the organization. This week's will be a little more unconventional.
Texas has had a good run of amateur drafts recently, helping establish the franchise's farm system as one of the game's best. But even before the last several years the club came up big at some point on Day One of the draft most years, finding a player who proved he should have been drafted higher or turned out to be an example of tremendous player development once Texas got him into the system.
What follows are the best picks made by Texas in the last 20 years in each of the first 10 rounds of the draft.
ROUND 1: MARK TEIXEIRA, 2001
Say what you will about Tom Hicks and his tenure as Rangers owner, but he never shied away from paying well above slot when it came to the amateur draft, enabling Texas to stick with the "best player available" philosophy, or from dealing with Scott Boras. In Teixeira, the Georgia Tech All-American, the Rangers knew they'd have to do both when his expected bonus demands caused him to drop to the fifth slot in 2001's first round. It took a four-year, $9.5 million contract to land the switch-hitter, but that's one deal Texas never regretted stepping up to make.
ROUND 2: ROBBIE ROSS, 2008
For whatever reason, Texas has historically had extraordinary trouble in the second round. It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest the club hasn't produced a solid major leaguer in the round since Roger Pavlik in 1986, and even that year the better pick came a round later, when Dean Palmer was the choice. Three of the club's last four second-rounders have been third basemen (Johnny Whittleman [who now plays first base], Matt West, and Tommy Mendonca), and it's too soon to write them off as prospects, but none has scouts as excited as the other player: the 20-year-old Hickory lefthander Ross, who in two seasons is striking out more than a batter per inning against older competition, walking just one-fourth that total, and generating three times as many groundouts as flyouts.
ROUND 3: HANK BLALOCK, 1999
Blalock stands out as the best Rangers third-rounder since 1990 as it is, but for a while it looked like he could have been one of the great non-first-round picks in baseball in many years. In 2002, he was the consensus top hitting prospect in baseball, ahead of Teixeira and Josh Hamilton and everyone else. Thought then to be on his way to a career as a perennial batting title contender who would run into his share of home runs from the left side -- a Joe Mauer-type hitter -- he's instead a 29-year-old Triple-A player who's had trouble staying healthy and productive.
ROUND 4: KEVIN MENCH, 1999
Watch out for Hickory right-hander Joe Wieland in this slot, but for now the best Rangers fourth-rounder in 20 years is Mench, who followed Blalock in the club's 1999 draft crop and who arrived in Arlington just a week later than Blalock did. Mench hit almost half of his 89 career home runs in his first three seasons with the Rangers, and in his fifth he was traded -- with Francisco Cordero and another promising Rangers fourth-rounder, Laynce Nix -- to Milwaukee for two outfielders whose careers Mench would have liked to have had: Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz.
ROUND 5: C.J. WILSON, 2001
It's hard to call a draft class headed by Teixeira a disappointing one, but Texas had no picks in the second or third rounds in 2001, forfeited for the signing of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Petkovsek, and failed to sign fourth-rounder Josh Baker, a Houston right-hander who opted to pitch for the University of Alabama. Wilson, coming off a 2-10, 6.87 season for Loyola Marymount when Texas used a fifth to take him, is the only player from that draft class other than Teixeira to sign with Texas and reach the big leagues, but he's unquestionably one of the great scouting and development successes of the last 10 years in this system.
ROUND 6: AARON HARANG, 1999
It didn't command the same level of attention that the 2010 Frisco rotation does, for example, but the 1999 Pulaski Rangers rotation, featuring Colby Lewis, Harang, Ryan Dittfurth, and Nick Regilio, had a lot of us pretty fired up, at least as fired up as you could be about a short-season pitching staff. Harang went 9-2, 2.30 for that club, then 13-5, 3.32 for High A Charlotte in 2000, and was traded that winter with Class A lefthander Ryan Cullen for infielder Randy Velarde, setting off a string of veteran acquisitions (Andres Galarraga, Ken Caminiti, Petkovsek) Texas made to surround Alex Rodriguez. Not Doug Melvin's finest month of work.
ROUND 7: MIKE LAMB, 1997
A solid left-handed bat who had a knack for hitting good pitching, Lamb is now in his 10th big league season, one heck of an accomplishment no matter what round a player was drafted in. None of the 29 other players taken in the seventh round in 1997 had one-tenth the career Lamb has had.
ROUND 8: NICK MASSET, 2000
The big right-hander had first-round projections before Tommy John surgery wiped out his high school senior season. Texas used an eighth-rounder on Masset anyway, and retained draft-and-follow rights when he broke ties with LSU and instead enrolled at St. Petersburg Junior College. After developing in the Rangers system and reaching the big leagues in 2006, he's been part of two big trades (accompanying John Danks in the five-player deal in December 2006 that sent Brandon McCarthy to Texas and moving from the White Sox to Cincinnati in a 2008 trade deadline deal for Ken Griffey Jr.) and established himself in 2009 as a dependable middle reliever, though his 2010 has gotten off to a shaky start.
ROUND 9: EDWIN ENCARNACION, 2000
Taken a round after Masset, Encarnacion was traded three days after he'd hit his Incaviglia Rule date, packaged to the Reds as a tack-on in the deal that sent outfielder Ruben Mateo to Cincinnati for right-hander Rob Bell. Encarnacion, as it turns out, has had the best career of the three. Interestingly, the Reds picked immediately before Texas in the 2000 draft, and in the ninth round could have taken Encarnacion themselves, opting instead for a right-hander out of Mount Pleasant named Bryan Edwards, who was Encarnacion's teammate with Low A Dayton in 2001 and has bounced between the minor leagues and indie ball since.
ROUND 10: RUSTY GREER, 1990
Maybe the best draft on this list. Thurman Clyde Greer came out of the diminutive University of Montevallo, which has never produced another big leaguer, and he just got better, hitting .282 in Double-A, .297 in Triple-A, and .305 in a nine-year Texas career. Greer was an indispensable part of the three late-'90s Rangers clubs that were still standing after 162 games, a leader by example and a winner. The 279th player chosen in the 1990 draft may very well be a top 10 player in Rangers history.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.