Depending on what General Manager Jon Daniels does at the trade deadline in July, this week could be the biggest of the Rangers' season. With meaningful baseball almost certainly done in 2018 and the Rangers unlikely to contend in 2019, the kids the team has picked in the Major League Baseball draft over the last couple of days are the biggest reasons for hope available to fans this year.
Thanks to baseball's lengthy player development cycle and the fact that most players selected this year by the Rangers are teenagers, it's unlikely that any of the team's new draftees will see the big field before the Rangers move into their new, air-conditioned palace for the 2020 season. That doesn't mean that the draft isn't important right now.
After what appears to be two good drafts in a row, including this year's, Daniels and the rest of the Rangers front office have rebuilt a farm system depleted by years of midseason trades intended to bolster playoff-bound rosters.
Let's take a look at the Rangers' first five selections.
Right-handed pitcher Cole Winn (15th overall selection)
Despite being listed as a top-10 selection in many draft previews, Winn, a hard-throwing right-hander, fell to the Rangers in the middle of the first round. A product of Lutheran High School in Orange, California, Winn boasts a mid-90s fastball, a plus-curveball and a developing slider. ESPN's Keith Law praised Winn's mechanics before the draft, calling his delivery "simple and repeatable." Uncomplicated pitching motions lead to fewer injuries for young pitchers, which could allow Winn to make it to the big leagues sooner rather than later.
Right-handed pitcher Owen White (55th overall selection)
The Rangers went with another high school righty in the second round, selecting Owen White from Jesse Carson High School in China Grove, North Carolina. White is what scouts call "projectable," meaning he's farther from a finished article than someone like Winn but that it's easy to see what he could become. He throws four pitches that flash above average and has room to increase the velocity on his low-90s fastball if he cleans up his delivery.
White is committed to play college baseball at South Carolina, however, so signing him to a pro contract could be difficult for the Rangers.
Shortstop Jonathan Ornelas (91st overall selection)
Despite a small frame — he's 6 feet tall and 165 pounds — Ornelas, a high school shortstop from Glendale, Arizona, has great power for a middle infielder and profiles as a future 20-home-run hitter, according to scouts. He likely lacks the defensive range to hang on at shortstop but could easily end up as a big league second or third baseman if he can shorten his swing to make more consistent contact while retaining his power.
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Right-handed pitcher Mason Englert (119th overall selection)
The Rangers drafted yet another right-handed high school pitcher in the fourth round, going with Forney's Mason Englert. According to Baseball America, Englert could be a first-round pick after three years of college baseball at Texas A&M. Now, he faces a decision: jump right into pro ball with his hometown Rangers or fulfill his commitment to the Aggies.
Outfielder Jayce Easley (149th overall selection)
The Rangers completed their quintet of high school draftees Tuesday afternoon with the selection of Phoenix, Arizona, middle infielder Jayce Easley. Easley, the son of longtime major leaguer Damion Easley, is a fast, line-drive-spraying switch hitter who lacks the strength of elite high school prospects, according to scouting reports. If he develops, he could be a decent utility player for the Rangers.