Patience a virtue when evaluating draft classes, but Texas Rangers have had misses

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The MLB draft is not made for those short on patience.

No player is coming straight to the major leagues, unlike in the NBA and NFL drafts.

Players as young as 17 might be selected. No player has competed with the best players in the world, or is thought to be capable of playing with them.

The quality of the draft might not be known for three years, four years or more.

At some point, though, a team knows if it hit or missed on a particular draft.

The Texas Rangers, like the other 29 MLB clubs, are still waiting to fully judge their past three draft classes. They can start making some calls on the classes before that, and also learn from their mistakes and curse their injury misfortunes.

But there have been too many misses.

“You’ve got to be willing to look back and be realistic and be objective,” president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said. “This series of picks worked out well, or this series of picks didn’t work. We’re constantly trying to like get better, not repeat mistakes.”

That’s of the utmost importance this year. The Rangers hold the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, scheduled for July 11-13, and will pick second in the subsequent 19 rounds.

This is big, arguably the biggest moment of the season even though the success of the draft won’t be known for a few years.

Daniels said that Kip Fagg, the amateur scouting director, and the scouts under him are proactive in reviewing past drafts. The Rangers still aren’t afraid to take high school players with high picks, but they have also tried to minimize risk.

The Rangers have taken college hitters in their past two first-round picks, third baseman Josh Jung and second baseman Justin Foscue, after selecting prep players first in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

High school players come with more risk, but often with higher reward.

The Rangers are still waiting on their first-rounders from those years, but they are progressing through the organization.

The Rangers selected left-hander Cole Ragans in 2016 with the 30th overall pick, and he has undergone Tommy John surgery twice. Bubba Thompson was the first of two first-rounders in 2017 at 26th overall, and he is playing well at Double A Frisco after an injury-plagued 2019.

Shortstop Chris Seise, selected three picks behind Thompson, has yet to play a full minor-league season and is hurt again this year.

Cole Winn went 15th overall in 2018, and the right-hander has been terrific at Frisco so far in 2021.

“When you take high school players, you know what you’re signing up for in terms of some of the ups and downs and the longer path to get there,” Daniels said.

“That’s all part of it. The killer there, what really is challenging both professionally as far as waiting on it but also personally, you feel for these kids with the injuries. That’s the toughest part when guys have to miss significant time.”

As the Rangers waited on the healthy returns of Ragans, Seise and Thompson — as well as 2016 second-rounder Alex Speas, 2018 second-rounder Owen White and fourth-rounder Mason Englert, who all had Tommy John surgery — the system suffered with talent voids.

At the very least, Ragans and Speas should be in the majors or on the cusp of their MLB debuts.

“Let’s just take it one day at a time,” Ragans said. “And hopefully it’s one day closer to being in the big leagues one day.”

The MLB draft, though, runs 40 rounds deep in most years. That’s 40 chances to hit or miss.

(The 2020 draft was shortened to five rounds to help teams save money during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this year’s draft is only 20 rounds for the same economic considerations.)

The 2016 and 2017 classes stick out as not producing many big-leaguers.

Only two from the 2016 draft, right-hander Kyle Cody (sixth round) and catcher Sam Huff (seventh), have reached the majors. The only player from the 2017 draft to play in the majors is left-hander John King, selected 10th overall.

The 2015 draft has been fruitful with eight big-leaguers, but right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick, and seventh-rounder Dylan Moore debuted elsewhere. Ninth-rounder Pete Fairbanks was traded to Tampa Bay in 2019 for second baseman Nick Solak, and 30th-rounder Jeffrey Springs is pitching out of the Tampa Bay bullpen.

The jury is still out on the past three classes. Jung made his 2021 debut Tuesday night at Frisco after recovering from surgery on his left foot in late March. Foscue could return next week after dealing with a rib injury at High A Hickory.

“It sucks because like you want instant gratification, and sometimes you get a quick return,” Daniels said. “It’s been encouraging with guys like Winn and Bubba Thompson, two guys that we’re poised last year to take a step and didn’t get to play. I think that left a question mark over them a little bit.”

Patience is a virtue, even when a team is rebuilding, needs talent in the major, and has the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

That also applies to casting judgment on a particular draft class.

“It just takes time,” Daniels said.

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