29) Texas Rangers (John): I can see the Rangers picking up a power arm from the high school ranks, and there are few better than Nick Travieso, a Florida high schooler who works in the mid-to-upper 90s and is generating considerable buzz. He was seen as a second round type until his velocity blossomed this spring. Nick Travieso, RHP, Florida HS. (previous: Hunter Virant)
29th Overall: Texas Rangers
After losing two consecutive World Series, the Rangers have to be frustrated. But with a topflight major league team and one of baseballís best farm systemís the Rangers will remain a legitimate contender for at least the next several years. Even after their recent success, the Rangers should stick with their usual draft strategy with the 29th overall pick and go for upside. One player who could fulfill that is 6í2″, 205 shortstop Tanner Rahier out of Palm Desert High School in California.
Rahier is an interesting prospect in that that season heís forgoing his senior year of high school baseball to play in a wood-bat league where heíll get to play junior colleges. Rahier shows excellent bat speed with some power, mostly to the gaps, and he could be a .300 hitter with 35 doubles and 10 homers. Like most shortstops, Rahier has above-average speed and is a 20 stolen base threat. Defensively, Rahier isnít fluid in his motions but hasnít had a problem making plays, partially because of his plus arm. Rahier is an enthusiastic player whose intangibles get the most out of his tools. The Rangers may be loaded at shortstop with Elvis Andrus in the major leagues and Jurickson Profar coming on strong, but Rahier could fit at multiple positions and heís the kind of player who will play anywhere to get on the field.
The PIck: Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Deset High School, CA
39th Overall: Texas Rangers (Compensation for C.J. Wilson)
The Rangers almost exclusively draft for upside early in the draft, and theyíre not afraid to load up at one position. Itís an added bonus though when the upside pick theyíre looking for is also at a position of need. With the future of Josh Hamilton very cloudy at this point, outfield is an important position for the Rangers to address right now. The Rangers have to be looking for another potential superstar to take Hamiltonís outfield spot if necessary someday. Picking a player like that assumes significant risk. Good thing that Jordan Akins and Nomar Mazaro already qualify in that regard. The Rangers will likely decide to load up in the outfield because most of the high-upside the players they draft wonít pan out, and a player that fits well is Petal High School outfielder Anthony Alford.
Alford is a very interesting prospect, and not just in baseball. Alford, who comes out at 6í2″, 210 is a top talent both on the baseball field and the gridiron. Letís have some fun with this and evaluate Alford on both the football field and baseball field. Weíll save the best for last and start with football.
Alford, who is committed to Southern Mississippi for both baseball and football, is an explosive athlete who projects as a run-first quarterback in the spread but could wind up as a wide receiver long-term. Alford is an dynamic runner with 4.35 speed. He has a lightning-quick first step and accelerates speedily into top gear. That acceleration helps him at the beginning of runs, but it also helps him stop and change directions very quickly. Alford is even more dangerous as a runner thanks to great vision and a great feel for how plays are developing. When facing a hit from a defender, Alford isnít overly physical and canít really break tackles, but heís very elusive and doesnít make it easy for even multiple defenders when heís out in the open field. Alford is much less polished as a passer. His arm strength is below average with an unorthodox throwing motion. He does have nice accuracy in the short and intermediate passing game, but his throws tend to sail when he throws deeper than that. Alford will make explosive plays if he ends up in the Southern Miss system, but the majority of them will come with his legs.
Some of the things that make Alford such a great running quarterback make him a high-upside centerfielder. His outstanding speed makes him a possible 40-stolen base threat, and his instincts reading developing plays will help him read pitchers. Same story for reading flyballs off the bat as Alford has outstanding range in centerfield, although his arm strength is a tick below-average even for a centerfieler. The two complete wild card tools for Alford are hitting and power. Alford has shown some outstanding bat speed and an ability to slam line drives to the gaps with significant raw power. But he has a lot of work to do in the batterís box to make that happen consistently. Alford has the ability to be a centerfielder with three or four plus-plus tools and he does have the superstar potential the Rangers want. He will be a project, but he could be completely worth it in the end. A worthwhile question to ask though, is his signability. It tells you something that Alford committed to not exactly a topflight college football program at Southern Miss and that he will continue to play baseball in college. Alford should command an above-slot bonus, but heís signable and exactly the type of upside player the Rangers like to go after.
The Pick: Anthony Alford, OF, Petal High School, MS
53rd Overall: Texas Rangers (Compensation for Darren Oliver)
The Rangers will go for upside just about every pick in the first round and supplemental first round of the draft. This pick will be no exception, although I can see them going for a high school player with a little more polish in Camarillo High School left-hander Hunter Virant.
Virantís combination of projection and polish makes him an intriguing prospect. Standing at 6í3″ and weighing 175 pounds, Virant was an outfielder as a freshman and sophomore in high school before moving to the mound as a junior. That was undoubtedly the right move. Virantís fastball ranges from the high-80′s to low-90′s but should be able to register consistently in the 90′s once he fills out. The pitch has nice horizontal movement towards a right-handed batter and late sink. Because of his lack of present velocity on his fastball, Virant took the rare step for a high school pitcher of developing a two-seamer that hits 86-87 MPH which drops off the table with outstanding cut, although Virant has had a lot of trouble controlling it. Virant has been working on three offspeed pitches: a slider and changeup, both in the high-70′s, and a curveball that comes in with low-70′s velocity. Virant has been able to get nice horizontal movement and some drop on his slider, but he controls it even worse than his two-seamer, basically meaning heís lucky when itís a strike. His changeup is straight and itís been the easiest of his pitches to hit on the rare occasions that heís thrown it. But his curveball has flashes plus potential with 1-to-7 break, although it sometimes gets loopy. Virant might have ace upside somewhere in him if a lot of things go right (gets his fastball into the mid-90′s, controls his two-seamer and slider, curveball consistently plus), but he most likely profiles as a number two or number three starter. Virant is a player to watch both as a senior in high school and once he transitions to pro ball, and it will be very interesting to see what ends up happening with his arsenal.
The Pick: Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo High School, CA
122nd Overall: Texas Rangers
The Pick: Ryan Burr, Highlands Ranch High School, CO
According to Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, the Rangers may be selecting a pitching prospect in the first round. Crawford sees left-handed pitcher Hunter Virant as a good fit for the team. Virant is a 6'3 pitcher from Camarillo High School in California. ESPN pegs Virant as a pitcher to watch in the upcoming draft.
Virant is a five-star prospect who has signed a letter of commitment to pitch for the UCLA Bruins, but perhaps the Rangers could convince him to go pro out of high school. He's rated at a 92 by ESPNU and is the 6th-best pitching prospect in the class of 2012.
29. Texas Rangers: Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy HS (Fla.)
Almora is virtually all projection right now, though he has shown good power in his swing already.