Unlike the last couple of seasons, Monday's Major League Baseball draft hit with the Texas Rangers still playing meaningful games. Headed into their Tuesday night series opener with the league-worst Baltimore Orioles, your hometown heroes are 30-27 and would make the playoffs as the American League's second wild-card qualifier if the season ended today.
The season's not ending today. FanGraphs' playoff odds calculator still gives the Rangers only about a 2% chance of making the postseason, and the team remains far more likely to be a seller, rather than a buyer, at July's trade deadline.
Barring a miracle run to the playoffs — if any team's fan base deserves such a run, it's the Rangers' — there's every chance that the first two days of the draft, along with deadline day on July 31, will be the three most important days of the Rangers' last season at Globe Life Park.
Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at the Rangers' first five picks in the 2019 draft.
Third baseman Josh Jung (Round 1, 8th overall selection) — The Rangers bucked their recent draft trends by taking Jung with their first-round selection. During his time at Texas Tech, Jung has made above-average contact, played an average defensive third base and shown flashes of power. For Jung to be a cornerstone for the Rangers as they settle into their indoor oasis in 2020 and beyond, he'll have to either develop his power swing or stick defensively at third base.
Third baseman Davis Wendzel (41st overall) — In the Jon Daniels era, the Rangers have valued tools above all else during the draft, frequently selecting projectable high school players over their more accomplished college counterparts. Like Jung, Wendzel, a Baylor product, is evidence that the team has moved in a different direction, at least for this year. Wendzel put up lofty stats for the Bears — he got on base nearly 40% of the time and slugged over .600 his junior season — but lacks a single elite tool in the eyes of many prospect evaluators.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Garcia (Rd. 2, 50th overall) — Garcia delivers four pitches — fastball, change-up, curveball and slider — from an easy motion, a plus for a Rangers organization that's been beset by young pitchers needing Tommy John surgery. At only 6-foot, 180 pounds, his size is a concern, as is his lack of a true out pitch. Garcia's not exciting. He looks like a back-of-the-rotation guy, at best, according to scouts. But teams need as many guys like the UCLA star in their farm system as possible.
Right-handed pitcher Justin Slaten (Rd. 3, 86th overall) — With their fourth pick of the draft, the Rangers took another college pitcher with underwhelming stuff but decent numbers. Slaten had almost a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio at New Mexico to go along with a 2.79 ERA in 13 starts. He's almost a local prospect, having grown up in Longview, if that sort of thing helps you root for him.
Infielder Cody Freeman (Rd. 4, 115th overall) — Finally, the Rangers indulged their long-standing impulses and took a toolsy high school kid with their fifth pick. According to scouting reports, Freeman is capable of playing anywhere in the infield and has plus-speed. While the power isn't there yet, the 18-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga, California, makes contact consistently and has decent bat speed.
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