The SANDbox: MLB Draft Breakdown; Who Fills Joey Gallo's Shoes?

Jared Sandler
June 03, 2019 - 10:22 am
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Major League Baseball’s 40-round amateur draft begins tonight and goes through Wednesday. Texas picks 8th in the traditional first round and then also selects 41st overall, a Competitive Balance Round A pick they acquired from the Brewers in the Alex Claudio deal. With their second round pick (50th), the Rangers have three of the top 50 picks.

The MLB Draft is different in so many ways from the two drafts we most closely follow—the NFL and NBA Drafts—and, while it shares some similarities with the NHL Draft, it still has its share of differences. Let’s examine some of those differences and how it might help you interpret potential strategy as reflected by picks.

The biggest difference between the MLB draft and the more mainstream drafts is the immediacy—or, lack thereof—of the impact made by drafted players. While there are some exceptions, most guys take at least three years to either pop up in the bigs or contribute with a regular role. Guys drafted out of high school could take five years before making the bigs and by no means be considered a disappointment. This is the biggest reason why teams don’t draft for need in the slightest the same way they might in the NFL or NBA Draft.

Yes, I know that a team might preach that they draft best available, but often times it is “best available amongst positions of need.” For instance, a team with three really good receivers in need of linebackers will likely draft the linebacker they have rated three slots below the receiver if the receiver is the best player on their board in the 4th round. That doesn’t happen in baseball. If a team needs a third baseman, they aren’t going to draft a third baseman ahead of another position because who knows what they’ll need when that player is big league ready. Teams pretty consistently take the best player available, except for financial reasons which we’ll explain below.

Yes, the Rangers need pitching. Yes, they could use pitching this year. No, they will not draft a player just because he could possibly help the big league team this year ahead of a higher-rated player who is years away. So few players reach the big leagues the year they get drafted and there’s zero guarantee of any measure of success if they do. Teams don’t use the draft as an avenue for immediate contribution. They use it as the lifeblood of their organization and as a method to build towards the future.

Teams place added value on “up the middle” players. These are catchers, pitchers, shortstops, and center fielders. These players are considered the most important because of their ability to play higher-leverage positions and often times demonstrate athletic characteristics that are more projectable. Plenty of players who do not play those positions at the big league level were drafted at one of those positions.

Players can get drafted out of high school or college. Those drafted out of a four-year school are only draft eligible after their third year—junior or RS sophomore—with the rare exception that a player is draft-eligible as a true sophomore based on age. The reason there are lots of talented amateur baseball players who go the Junior College route is because they are draft eligible after their freshman and sophomore years.

There are franchise players and perennial All-Stars who come from college and from high school. Teams might have their preferences and tendencies, but there isn’t a “right way.” One advantage of the high school player is that the team can get them in their organization at a younger age, thus having more control over their development at a younger age. So, while a high school pitcher is likely four-to-five healthy years from being a big leaguer, teams are able to get control of that player and that player’s arm at a younger age. Some college coaches have a reputation for looking out for their team’s best interest and not the player’s long-term interest when it comes to their pitchers, thus producing accomplished pitchers who might be somewhat damaged, be it obviously or under-the-surface, by the time they’re drafted. That’s not to say that all college pitchers are like that and it’s not to say that all high school pitchers come without that potential wear-and-tear. There isn’t a definitive formula when drafting.

Now, the financial side presents some interesting strategic decisions. Remember, players differentiate themselves financially through their signing bonuses and not their annual salary. Their annual salary, which has been the subject of controversy because of how low it is, is determined by the CBA. Higher picks get rewarded with higher bonuses.

Teams are assigned an aggregate bonus pool based on the assigned slot values of their picks. For instance, the Rangers have a slot value for their 8th overall pick of $5,176,900. All that means is that figure is considered when totaling their entire draft budget. This “cap” is used for signing bonuses to try and sign picks through the 10th round.

The Orioles, with the first overall pick, will likely have a larger draft budget than the Rangers, who don’t pick until 8th. That doesn’t mean they have to sign that player for that exact value, nor does it mean they have to sign that player for a value no greater than that figure. If they want, they can sign a player for “above slot,” or “below slot,” or “at slot.” In order for a team to receive that slot money as a part of their cap, however, they must sign the player. It doesn’t matter if they sign him for $1, if the player goes unsigned, the team’s cap budget gets docked the amount of that slot position. The Rangers, for example, have $11,023,100 worth of bonus pool money. If they don’t sign their 8th overall pick then their bonus pool decreases by an amount commensurate with the slot value of that unsigned pick, which, as mentioned above, is $5,176,900.

Sometimes a team might draft someone they can sign “under slot” so as to have more pool money to sign a guy with a subsequent pick who might be a tougher sign with “above slot” money. While some guys enter the draft knowing that they have no interest in going to college or returning to college, players often use that possibility as leverage to try and maximize their signing bonus. In some cases, coveted players might be able to earn an “above slot” bonus, which a team is only able to give if they’re able to sign other picks at a “below slot” value.  This the scenario in which a team might not draft the absolute best player available. The only players who really have to sign are college seniors with no eligibility. They have no leverage. Other players can opt to go to college or return to college, so some players have a signing bonus for which they’ll sign that might not be commensurate with their slot value. Teams who are targeting players who might fall but won’t budge from their desired bonus could consider drafting players they’d be able to sign “under slot” to allow them more money to sign a subsequent pick. Typically players drafted in Rounds 6-10 get drafted because of a willingness to sign below slot.

The MLB Draft isn’t simple. I hope I explained it in a way that makes some sense. If you have further questions, please feel free to tweet me @jaredsandler. If you’re interested in some of the top prospects, here’s MLB.com’s Top 50 Draft Prospects with some profiles.

RANDOM DRAFT NOTE: In talking with the Sr. Director of Amateur Scouting for the Rangers, Kip Fagg, he acknowledged that the team is assessing potential draft picks on the mental side more than ever with the help of team mental skills coach, Josiah Igono. Fagg said that he felt like some of their misses in the draft over the years were not because players didn’t have the skills or physical abilities they anticipated, but that they didn’t have what it took mentally to grow and thrive.

AROUND THE TEAM

*Tuesday marks the beginning of a 20-day stretch without an off-day and, due to Saturday’s doubleheader, 21 games. These stretches are always tough for teams and, among other parts of the roster, will test the team’s bullpen depth.

*Joey Gallo exited Saturday’s game with tightness in his left oblique. The bad news is that he’s on the IL. The great news is that it’s his left oblique which is on the back side when he swings as a LHB. That, coupled with the fact it isn’t a bad tear, seems to suggest it won’t be an extended stay like Aaron Judge’s has been. Gallo actually talked to Judge Saturday night and compared injuries and they both agreed that Gallo’s, based on location and symptoms, isn’t as bad.

*Let me try to answer the inevitable question of Who will fill his shoes? No individual can fill his shoes, but the guy who needs to step up is Nomar Mazara. He’s had a good last couple of weeks but with Gallo possibly out of the lineup for a few weeks, Maz has a chance to be the “dude” and the Rangers need it. Elvis is obviously really good, but Gallo’s absence creates an absence of power and Maz has the potential to really step up in that regard. Many have believed he’s capable of more than the 20 HR he’s hit in each of his three big league years and now seems like as good of a time as any for him to trend well above that number.

*All-Star Game voting has begun and the Rangers have a great chance to have multiple representatives. As you probably know, each team is guaranteed one but, right now, it’d be tough to deny either Joey Gallo or Mike Minor. As crazy as it sounds, Hunter Pence—yes, Hunter Pence!—deserves some consideration as does Elvis Andrus. It’s unlikely all four will get in but it’s at least a worthwhile conversation. You can vote for the position players here.

*Starting pitching/primary pitching (after the “opener”) has actually been a strength for the Rangers for a few weeks. Numbers on their success since mid-May can be found in the ‘Stats’ section below. As Minor and Lynn have settled in, Adrian Sampson has really taken a big step forward. Sampson has utilized a strong mix of pitches with a nice changeup and slider that aided him in his outing on Sunday in which he set career-highs in innings (7.0) and strikeouts (11). The Rangers don’t need Sampson to be a star, but if he can remain solid in their rotation, that’d be a big boost for a team starving for pitching. One thing Sampson has going for him is he doesn’t walk anyone. He’s never walked more than two in an outing and has a career BB/9 rate of 1.88 BB/9. League average is typically between 3.2 - 3.4 BB/9.

*Chris Woodward and Jon Daniels each commented separately on Rougie this past week and made it very clear: it’s time to see some results. No one denies Rougie’s work ethic or desire, but at some point, the production needs to be there and I think the Rangers are feeling the urgency to get his ship turned around.

*David Carpenter is with the big league club. He’s a really interesting story. He was outstanding in 2013 with the Braves and was good—even though, not as good—in 2014, again with the Braves. After pitching in 2015, Carpenter dealt with injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since. His next outing will be his first with the Rangers and first at this level since that 2015 season. Carpenter is a Driveline product. After getting cut in March of 2018, he decided to dedicate the season at Driveline getting better rather than trying to sign with a club. This off-season, the Rangers signed him and here he is. Driveline helped him reclaim his mid-90s velocity and he’s added a splitter. The Rangers hope they’ve added a contributing member of a bullpen in need of some depth!

*Joey Gallo’s game has grown in so many ways this year. He’s chasing less, walking more, and he is a productive player even when he isn’t “white hot” at the plate. One area in which he still struggles is making contact on the pitches in the zone. As a matter of fact, he makes contact just 73.4% of the time when he swings at a pitch in the zone this year, the lowest rate in MLB. When I asked Chris Woodward about it, he said it is just an indication that Gallo can still grow. Woody cited that Gallo has made such tremendous strides in improving his chase rate that the next step is focusing on pitches in the zone and producing a better contact rate. Scary to think how much better he can get with a better contact rate on in-zone pitches.

*I think the fact that Woody has buy-in from Jesse Chavez, a respected veteran, on getting used as an opener after Jesse publicly questioned the strategy says a lot about Woody and his coaching staff. Just as Woody dealt with the mistake of not starting Choo on Opening Day so seamlessly to the point where Choo is now arguably his most loyal defender, it seems like conflict management is a strength of this staff’s and that’s an important quality.

*Speaking of Jesse Chavez, his turnaround has been paramount. After posting a 8.79 ERA through April 30, Chavez didn’t allow a run in May over 17.1 innings and with his scoreless inning Sunday he’s now gone 18.1 consecutive scoreless. He’s been used a variety of roles—as an opener, as a setup man, as a multiple-inning guy—and has helped fabricate depth in a Rangers bullpen that’s lacking in that department. The big change for Chavez has been utilizing his cutter less, which has made his cutter, and his other pitches, like his slider, even better.

*The Rangers announced that their new park, Globe Life Field, will feature extended protective netting for fans. This is a great move. More on this in the Around the League section below.

STRATEGY NOTE OF THE WEEK

Pinch-hitting is often a better idea than it is a reality. This year, pinch-hitters have posted a .228 BA. Over the course of an entire 2018 season, they posted a .213 BA. Pinch-hitting is tough. You’re often times asked to come off the bench and face a guy throwing 97+ mph these days.

For whatever reason, the Rangers have a lot of success with pinch-hitters this year and in some really big spots, too. Hunter Pence had a big pinch-hit grand slam in Pittsburgh. Danny Santana had a pinch-hit home run versus St. Louis. On Wednesday, Shin-Soo Choo delivered a game-tying two-run pinch-hit single against the Mariners.

Overall, the Rangers have 14 pinch-hit RBIs this year, already the most they’ve had in a season since 2007 when they had 18. Worth noting that they’ve done it in 25 ABs this year, whereas they reached 18 in 79 ABs in 2007.

The Rangers' 14 pinch-hit RBIs rank most in the AL and their 9 pinch hits rank tied for second in the AL with the Orioles.

MAILBAG

@luckyguy2017: In the short time that Calhoun has played in the Bigs, what are some realistic expectations for his future with Texas?

I think Willie, realistically, has a chance to be an impact bat in a high leverage spot in the lineup. It’s tough to know for sure to what degree he’ll hit, but he’s got outstanding hand-eye skills with a growing discipline at the plate. While I don’t expect him to hit 40 HRs, I do think he’ll be a 55+ XBH guy. The question is where he fits defensively, or if he fits defensively at all. Can his more trim frame give him the mobility he needs to play second base? Can he stay in the outfield? He likely won’t ever be an above-average player defensively, but you’d like for him develop somewhere defensively where he can be average and not a negative because at that point, he’s best just DHing.

@VRossGreen: When Calhoun is healthy, will he return to Arlington or Nashville?

Would be surprised if he didn’t return on the big league side.

@bailey_rentz: As of today, who is more likely to be a Ranger after the trade deadline: Mike Minor, Hunter Pence, both, or neither?

In order of likelihood, I’d guess Hunter Pence is more likely to remain than Mike Minor. But that could change. As we’ve mentioned, the benefit of keeping Mike Minor isn’t for a playoff run this year, but for next year and I’d guess the Rangers will think long and hard about that possibility.

@Reagan_DoubleU: Who would you like to see the Rangers take #8 overall in the MLB Draft?

I don’t know that I have a specific player I really favor over other realistic options, but since the top the draft is so position player-heavy, I think I’d like to see them draft a power bat. The Rangers have power at the big league level but they don’t have a ton of it in the system. Outside of guys like Sam Huff, Curtis Terry, and Chris Seise, I’m not sure they have more than two or three others who are middle-of-the-order-type bats.

MOMENT OF THE WEEK

Ariel Jurado’s parents made their first trip to America and saw him pitch for the first time as a Major Leaguer on Friday night. Jurado went 6 IP allowing just 2 R on 5 H with 6 K in a 6-2 Rangers win. The great Emily Jones with more…

ANECDOTE OF THE WEEK

The Rangers opened their three-game series versus the Mariners with an odd combination of blue jerseys and red hats. How did this happen? Since it was Memorial Day, teams wore special commemorative hats across the league and Major League Baseball sent Texas the wrong colored hats!

Texas Rangers
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

KT’S “HOLY WOW” PLAY OF THE WEEK

Joey Gallo’s first career grand slam broke a 2-2 tie in the 6th against the Royals.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I just need to see, and I think as an organization, we need to know there’s a deep understanding of how he’s going to get out of this. He needs to understand that. And I need to hear from him what it is he needs to fix at this point. Because what’s going on right now is not getting it done. It’s not working. I have not given up on him. Obviously, I keep playing him. I believe in him more than any player on our roster because I love who the kid is and what he represents. But at some point he has to dig in a little bit deeper.” -Chris Woodward on Rougned Odor

"This is make or break. We're either going for it or not. Everybody knows what June means. If we want the chance to stay together and do what we thought we could do since we got together in February, it's up to us. We have the tools here to be good." -Jesse Chavez on the current 11-game homestand.

“My understanding is that we're just trying to win a game, and it's working. I ask questions and they give me answers, and Woody has always been up front with me about everything, the same with [pitching coach> Julio [Rangel> and [bullpen coach> Oscar [Marin>. We have a lot of good communication and no one is ever caught off guard.” -Adrian Sampson on pitching after an opener.

“It’s exciting to be in the conversation...the last few years I definitely wasn’t.” -Joey Gallo on potentially earning his first All-Star berth

STATS OF THE WEEK

*Tony Gwynn has the all-time record for highest batting average when leading off an inning over an entire season with a .541 mark in 1994. Joey Gallo’s .487 mark is currently the 4th highest.

*Gallo’s .565 OBP when leading off an inning is currently the second highest ever over a single season, trailing Tony Gwynn’s 1994 mark of .600.

*Congrats to Joey Gallo, who collected his 100th career single on Tuesday versus Seattle. He was the first player in MLB history to reach 100 HR before 100 singles when he hit bombo numero 100 in Pittsburgh with just 93 career singles to his name.

*I identified above the importance of Maz stepping up in Joey’s absence. Good thing he’s been trending that way of late. Since May 12, Maz is slashing .355/.390/.526.

*Nomar Mazara is having success against lefties this year and his continued growth in that area is more than noteworthy.

*Nomar Mazara’s struggles vs. the fastball have been documented, but it seems like they might be in the past. Through May 14th, Maz was hitting .143 with a .247 SLG against fastballs. Since, he’s hit .379 with a .586 SLG.

*Hunter Pence was named the Rangers’ Player of the Month for May and for good reason.

*Over Sampson's career (19 games, 11 starts, 86.1 IP), he's issued just 1.88 BB/9 and has NEVER issued more than 2 walks in an outing.

Sampson had no walks and 11 strikeouts in his last start on Sunday. He became the first Ranger to fan at least 11 without issuing a free pass since Cole Hamels on 9/19/15 vs. Seattle. Sampson joined Lance Lynn and Mike Minor as pitchers with at least one 10+ K game this year. The last time the Rangers have had three different players rack up at least one 10+ K game in a season? 2015: Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo, and Derek Holland.

*The Rangers have been getting great production from their rotation over the last few weeks. 

*Jesse Chavez’s May included 17.1 scoreless innings over 13 games, including three starts. That is the most scoreless innings in a single month in Rangers history. With his scoreless inning on Sunday, he’s now up to 18.1 consecutive scoreless IP.

*Jon Daniels made three very under-the-radar acquisitions that have paid big dividends. Check out the combined production this year of Hunter Pence, Logan Forsythe, Danny Santana, and you:300/.366/.519 (.885), 18 HR, 76 RBI, 31 2B, 3 3B in 414 AB

*Hunter Pence has made significant improvements this year against off-speed pitches and breaking balls compared to the last two years.

COOL BASEBALL TWEET OF THE WEEK

AWESOME NON-BASEBALL TWEET OF THE WEEK

As you might know, I run a charity that supports kids with physical and intellectual disabilities with the hope of helping them overcome their challenges to thrive. Kodi Lee is blind and has autism but is a true star!

AROUND THE LEAGUE

*What a powerful scene at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday. Albert Almora Jr. fouled a ball off in the 4th inning and it struck a young girl. It was clear something bad had happened. Almora Jr. finished the at bat (struck out) but was in tears out of fear for the girl’s safety. I’ve talked to many players who have expressed a wish for the nets to be further extended. I agree. The argument that people should pay better attention is silly.  For one, are we really willing to say someone deserves pain because…what?…they were talking to their dad or checking a text? Secondly, the ball is in play such a small percentage of the time that the expectation for perfect attention is unrealistic. And, for the record, when a ball hit 100 mph is coming at you, you can pay perfect attention and still be in harm’s way. Extend the nets. Keep people safe.

*Happy for Dallas native Josh Bell. He was drafted in the second round out of Dallas Jesuit and at 26 years old has really emerged as a force in the Pirates lineup. Over the month of May, Bell slashed .390/.442/.797 (1.238) with 12 HR, 31 RBI and 12 2B. His BA ranked 2nd in MLB during May while his doubles, home runs, and RBIs ranked 1st. How about this tweet from Pirates broadcaster Joe Block: 

*I don’t know if it is ever “easy” watching a 67-win team, but the 2018 Rangers had to be way more enjoyable to watch than the 2019 Mariners. Seattle’s defensive ineptitudes are maddening…and they benefit the Rangers! It isn’t even defined simply by errors—of which the Mariners have committed 69, 22 more than the next biggest culprit—but by an inability to make makable plays and carry out fundamentals. Brutal.

*Carlos Correa will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks due to a cracked rib. I know he is an Astro but, not only do I not wish injury upon anyone, I love watching him play. He’s having a great year but will now have a third straight year not coming close to a full season.  This injury is mysterious—he claimed it was during a massage—and, without full speculation, doesn’t appear to be his fault, as much as anyone can get blamed for an injury. After 153 games in 2016, he played just 109 in 2017 and 110 in 2018. When healthy, he’s one of the three best short stops in MLB. Unfortunately, availability is an ability and he hasn’t demonstrated that very well. I’m very curious how the Astros handle Correa and his long-term situation. The 24-year old is free after the 2021 season and will likely command huge money on the open market. Will Houston give it to him? Could he be the Rangers’ shortstop of the future? Hmmm….

*Speaking of the Astros, I still think they have the best chance of winning the World Series. What the Yankees have done in the wake of all of their injuries has been incredibly impressive and the Twins are by no means a mirage, but the Astros pitching numbers should actually improve and they have more ammo to go out and get better at the deadline than any of their AL competitors. I wonder if this is the year they trade Kyle Tucker. A lot of folks are goo-goo over him but I haven’t seen it. Granted, I haven’t seen as much of him as others have, but I look at him and see a good player, but not a star…and certainly not someone worth blocking the acquisition of a proven, impact player for a team with a great World Series chance.

*Madison Bumgarner will be one of the names most talked about in advance of the trade deadline and then again this off-season as a free agent. There’s no doubt he can help a team, but at what cost? While his playoff experience and success is borderline legendary, that’s all in the past and the current version of MadBum is an interesting case study. He turns 30 in August, but will likely hit the off-season with 1800+ innings under his belt. His strikeouts are back up and his walks are back down, but he’s getting the hard hit rate he’s yielded of 44.6% is second highest in MLB. He seems like the type who can change his style for the back nine of his career and have success, but I think he’s a clear step below Gerrit Cole and no longer what I’d consider an ace. I’m curious about what the market will say about how teams value him.

*Max Scherzer is still really good, even if the Nationals aren’t. After Scherzer’s 8-inning gem over the Reds on Sunday with FIFTEEN strikeouts, he improved to just 3-5 and the Nationals are now 3-10 in his starts. Wow. And about those 15 strikeouts, Max Scherzer has struck out 15+ in a game SIX times. Only pitchers with more? Randy Johnson (29), Nolan Ryan (26), Pedro Martinez (10), Roger Clemens (10), Sandy Koufax (8).

MINOR LEAGUES

*Get to know Jonathan Ornelas in the A/V section below. Ornelas was last year’s 3rd round pick and recently turned 19 years old. He’s .284/.357/.438 in the South Atlantic League where he is about 2.5 years younger than the average age.

*The Rangers have plenty of talented relief prospects in their system and three of them received promotions last week. Peter Fairbanks got the bump to Triple-A Nashville and receiving promotions to Double-A Frisco are Demarcus Evans and Joe Barlow. All three are RHP having outstanding seasons. Fairbanks has a legitimate shot to be a big leaguer this year while the other two have outside chances this year, but strong chances next year. Early returns for Peter Fairbanks, Joe Barlow, and Demarcus Evans:

*Sherten Apostel is a guy in the system with middle-order-of-the-lineup potential. He’s raw and by no means on the fast track there, but he has some impressive hitting tools. The 20-year old, who is about two-and-a-half years younger than the average player in the South Atlantic League, got off to a rough start with Low-A Hickory slashing .181/.263/.278 in April. Since May 8 (25 games, 102 PA), Apostel is slashing .322/.382/.556 (.938) with 7 2B, 1 3B, and 4 HR, and 15 RBI to go along with 19 K and 8 BB.

*Julio Pablo Martinez was an international free agent acquisition last year who created a buzz. He didn’t hit that well with Hickory to start the year but Bubba Thompson’s injury got him a bump to Down East. The 23-year old, who is about the average age for a player in that league, is not hitting well overall with the Wood Ducks, slashing .170/.227/.340 (.568). He has, however, hit much better of late, slashing .250/.318/.575 (.893) over his last  11 games with 4 HR and 11 RBI

*Jonathan Hernandez with a great performance for Double-A Frisco on Friday versus a tough Corpus Christi (Astros) team. Hernandez’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. There are some questions about whether he’s best as a starter or a reliever but he certainly made a compelling case as a starter on Friday. It’ll be interesting to follow his continued progress.

*OF Scott Heineman has been removed from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville due to a sore left shoulder. He is recovering from left shoulder surgery in December. Heineman remains on the 60-day IL.

A/V DEPARTMENT

*Get to know Jonathan Ornelas. The infielder is in his first full pro season and has performed well for Hickory in the South Atlantic League. I had the chance to chat with him about his season, adjustments he’s made, moving around on defense, and more!

*Joey Gallo discussed his injury - Watch at the top of the post

*Chris Woodward joined the GBag Nation for his weekly appearance and discussed whether he’s surprised by Hunter Pence’s great season:

He also shared his thoughts on the possibility of Joey Gallo participating in the HR Derby:

*Hear from Rangers reliever Kyle Bird as he chats with Ben Rogers and Kevin Turner: