It is all over but the arguing.
High school seasons are over. The MLB scouting combine is over. By Monday, the final game of the college season will be done. All that will be left to do in the three weeks leading up to the draft is to analyze – and perhaps overanalyze – who will select who at the top of the first round.
For the second straight year, the Rangers have a stake at the top of the first round. They will pick third overall, a year after drafting Jack Leiter with the No. 2 pick. It’s the first time the club has had consecutive seasons with a top five pick since 1985-86, when they loaded up on college pitching, taking Bobby Witt third (1985) and Kevin Brown fourth (1986).
About all that’s certain this year is that the Rangers won’t go with a Daily Double and follow Vanderbilt’s Leiter with another college pitcher. There is a dearth of college pitching at the top of the draft, but a wealth of second-generation talent to sort through. Here’s a look at five guys the Rangers are considering at No. 3:
SS Jackson Holliday, Stillwater, Okla. HS: The son of (get used to that phrase in this preview) seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday raised his stock considerably over the course of the season, going from Baseball America’s No. 21-ranked prospect heading into the school year to No. 3.
A left-handed hitting athletic middle infielder with strong baseball bloodlines and instincts put him on the map. A surge in strength that led to a .685 average with 17 homers and a 2.141 OPS during the high school season put him at the center of the conversation. Perhaps no player has made as strong an impression on the Rangers this spring as Holliday. But the same could be said about the Orioles and Diamondbacks, the two teams that draft ahead of Texas. Both teams selected middle of the field high schoolers last year, too.
OF Druw Jones, Wesleyan School (Norcross, Ga).: The progeny (tricked ya) of five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones, is a chip off the old block. He’s a premium defender who draws comps to his old man. The argument that fuels draft room debates is who projects better: Holliday or Jones?
Andruw Jones had big-time power to go with his defensive skills, but was a career .254 hitter in the majors. Likewise, there has been some question about just how “hitterish” Druw is. He hit .570 with 13 homers and a 1.702 OPS this past season, so there is plenty to work with. The debate between Jones and Holliday may come down to what a team would like more: A future All-Star shortstop or All-Star outfielder. It’s a good problem to have for Baltimore and Arizona. The Rangers would love to have this problem.
OF Elijah Green, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla).: The son of former Pro-Bowl tight end Eric Green, he has already left his mark in Arlington. During a visit for a tournament in 2021, Green homered to the back of the visiting bullpen. He does legendary stuff like that. And that’s just his power tool; according to Baseball America, he’s got top-of-the-charts speed, too.
There is more than enough there to spark consideration that he is a franchise-altering player as a long-term center fielder. He hit .462 with a 1.592 OPS. Gaudy numbers for sure. But there is also some concern over swing-and-miss tendencies. According to MaxPreps, he had 21 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances over the 25-game IMG schedule. Many scouting departments put significant emphasis on swing-and-miss rates, suggesting they translate in a negative way to professional baseball. A year ago at this time, it was considered foolish to think Green might be available at No. 3. Now, he may well be, and the Rangers would have to at least have a conversation about risks to go with potential bountiful rewards.
2B Termarr Johnson, Mays HS (Atlanta): Though he doesn’t come from famous bloodlines, Johnson drew a comp from Baseball America to Joe Mauer, which is pretty nice company. The magazine suggested he’s the most advanced high school hitter in the draft since Mauer, a three-time batting champ and former MVP, in 2001
Now come the questions. Legitimate or not, the industry supposition is that Johnson will have to move from shortstop in high school to second base and that he doesn’t really have anywhere to go from there. He’s “only” 5-8 and BA suggests he’s “physically maxed out.” He also played in what was considered a weaker high school district. But regardless of supposed limitations, if you get the best offensive player in a draft, you’ve hit a home run.
C Kevin Parada, Georgia Tech: While the Rangers have gone with a college player with their top pick in each of the last three years, the top of the college crop this year, which features Parada, Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee, Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and LSU third baseman Jacob Berry seems to fall just a tick below the top of the top of the high school class.
Given the dearth of catching in the big leagues, the value for a front-line catcher might be higher than that of a corner infielder. And with the possibility of automatic strike zones coming into play in the not-to-distant future, an offensive-first catcher becomes even more valuable. Parada comes from a program that has a history of producing big league catchers from Jason Varitek to Matt Wieters to, most recently 2018 No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart. At age 20, as a draft eligible sophomore, he batted .361 with 26 homers and a 1.162 OPS in 2022. He also reduced his strikeout rate significantly from 2021 to 2022.
There are choices. There will be plenty of time for the Rangers to discuss them over the next three weeks.
On Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism