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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Texas Rangers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Texas in 2016

21 – Alex Speas
86 – Cole Ragans
111 – Charles Leblanc
121 – Kyle Cody
218 – Kobie Taylor
287 – Kyle Roberts
433 – Sam Huff
443 – Kenny Mendoza
485 – Jonah McReynolds

Complete List of 2016 Texas Rangers Draftees

1.30 – LHP Cole Ragans

I didn’t pick up on it at the time but after talking with some friends in the game who know these sort of things, it became pretty clear to me that Cole Ragans (86) entered this past June as one of the most surprisingly divisive prospects in the 2016 MLB Draft. Discussion on Ragans basically split into three different camps. There were those who absolutely loved him as a mid-first round talent and long-term asset, those who liked his upside just fine but would rather another team try to get the best out of him, and those who took him off their board completely on the basis of his seemingly too strong to sign for a fair price commitment to Florida State. Those who love him rave about his athleticism, size, deception, and projection. Goes without saying that all of those are very good things for an 18-year-old pitcher to bring to the table. The belief of the pro-Ragans side is that his athleticism will help him eventually iron out his inconsistent mechanics, his size (6-4, 185) and deception will help all of his stuff play up and lead to lots of ground ball outs in the pros, and his physical projection will lead to far more low-90s fastballs (and eventually mid-90s peaks) than his current 86-92 MPH (93 peak) heat might have you believe. Those less keen on Ragans highlight his present command and control issues, up-and-down present velocity with no guarantee of long-term growth and staying power, and a lack of a clear future knockout offspeed pitch. The best case scenario outcome on the positive side seems to be a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher (or better) while those lower on Ragans seem him more as a pitcher who will top out as one of those quality arms that always seems to struggle with throwing enough strikes and winds up bouncing from team to team and from the rotation to the bullpen.

Because I’m boring and predictable it shouldn’t come as a big shock that I think he’ll likely fall somewhere in between those two potential ceilings. Ragans can be an athletic lefty with size and promising if untested offspeed stuff while also being a teenager with unanswered questions about his control and pitchability. I lean towards the pro-Ragans crowd (“always bet on athletes” is considered a truism around my household) coming out ahead over the long run, but both positions are reasonable. Either way, Ragans is a major talent that will have a fascinating developmental path from where he is to where he’ll wind up.

2.63 – RHP Alex Speas

I have a few friends in baseball that I can rely on for a decent quote every now and then, but even the prospect of anonymity has some of them unwilling to be quoted directly if I can help it. I don’t mind paraphrasing or aggregating multiple different views (see above), but there’s something about a direct quote, anonymous or not, that gets the blood pumping just a little faster. Thankfully when it came to the Rangers draft this year, I had more than one volunteer step up to give their quick view on what Texas did. My favorite: “Nobody thinks of them this way nationally, but of all the teams in the league that get this rep it’s really those guys who think they are smarter than everybody else. They invented baseball and know scouting better than everybody else, so going off the board is treated as a genius thing there rather than a red flag. It’s a nice place to work because being wrong is being right. They just want athletes and live arms and then put it all on the field staff to make it work.”

Lots to take away from there, right? I try to stay away from the HOT TAKES on this site when I can, but I think that one certainly qualifies. The overarching takeaway for me is that the Rangers simply do things different when it comes to the draft. Hey, if that means walking away with Cole Ragans and Alex Speas (21) with your first two picks, then maybe different is the way to go. Speas is great. Normally I’d like to think my takes are a little more nuanced than that, but I really, really like what I’ve seen out of the 6-4, 180 pound righthander. Explosive fastball (88-94, 96-98 peak), ultra-firm but effective change (mid-80s, up to 90 in some looks this past spring), average or better slider (83-86) that flashes plus, and a quality mid- to upper-70s curve that he’ll drop in as his “in case of emergency” pitch. Like Ragans, there’s a lot of dreaming that goes into Speas’s long-term projection with plenty of hoping that his athleticism will translate to a more consistent delivery (and then that will lead to more consistent command and control), but the upside is undeniably immense. There’s a huge gap between what Speas is and what he could be, but I think it’s fair to throw a future ace ceiling on him based on his raw stuff, athleticism, and amateur track record. This could look like a ridiculous second round steal sooner rather than later.

(Didn’t know where to shoehorn this in, but one contact said he thought Speas’s future is as a top five reliever in baseball. He likened him to former Rangers farmhand Carl Edwards. So there you go.)

3.99 – 3B Kole Enright

No getting around it, I completely whiffed on Kole Enright before the draft. I can’t offer much, but I did manage to get get a few names from smarter people that I can pass along to my adoring public. One contact said this pick reminded him of when the Rangers grabbed Josh Morgan earlier than many expected a few years ago. He may or may not have been the same guy who ranted about the Rangers thinking they are smarter than everybody else above. I told him he was just jealous that Texas trusts their area scouts to mine for lesser known gems and he just nodded sadly in agreement. Or at least that’s what I assume he did; tough to pick up on physical cues like that over email.

I’ve also heard a comparison between Enright and surprise 2014 first round pick of the Pirates Cole Tucker. I like that one a lot. Could be because that’s the comparison I thought of when reading up on and asking around about Enright’s skill set. I did run it by somebody who has seen both guys play (Tucker as a pro, Enright as an amateur) and he said it wasn’t crazy. Putting that one on my next (first) business card. Rob Ozga: Not Crazy!

4.129 – SS Charles Leblanc

I’ve probably said this too often that it doesn’t quite carry quite the same meaning as it would otherwise, but, man, Charles Leblanc (111) to Texas in the fourth round might be my favorite pick in the draft. This is in part because I saw Leblanc this past spring and was incredibly impressed in my short three game view, but I think my love of the big infielder from Pittsburgh goes beyond the small sample size eye test. Leblanc checks every box for me: ultra-productive draft year (.405/.494/.513 with 30 BB/29 K), great size and strength (6-4, 200 pounds), clear carrying tools (power and arm), no obvious weaknesses (solid athlete with decent wheels), young for his class (won’t be 21-years-old until next June)…the list goes on and on. His eventual defensive transition to third base will be one to watch closely as the college shortstop has the ability to man the hot corner but not yet the experience. If that goes off without a hitch, I think Leblanc could be the above-average regular at third that so many (myself included) thought Mike Olt could once be. I’m all-in on Leblanc.

(For the record, a quick check of published draft reviews so far for the terms “favorite pick” and “best pick” only turned up two names so far. Those are far from the most conclusive search terms I could use, but my hyperbole still wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. Jake Elliott and Jon Duplantier were the recipients of that praise, FWIW. I didn’t come right out and say it, but Alex Speas in the second round is another one of my favorite picks. Nice work by Texas here.)

5.159 – LHP Kyle Roberts

I won’t pretend to be the foremost expert on Kyle Roberts (287), the Rangers fifth round pick out of Henry Ford CC, but what little information I do have on the big lefthander skews positive. Roberts is a hard-thrower (up to the mid-90s) with a really promising upper-70s to low-80s slider (plus upside) and enough feel for some slower stuff (curve, change) that you can dream on the 6-6, 210 pounder as a potential starter if he keeps moving in the right direction. The fallback is pretty nice as well as I’ve heard that teams value lefties with size, velocity, and nasty sliders in the bullpen quite a bit these days. As an extremely raw prospect, it’s no big shock that one of Roberts’s biggest concerns at this stage is a lack of present control. His awesome K/9 at Henry Ford (14.28) was matched only by the (almost) equal yet opposite ugliness of his BB/9 (8.41). Considering I see the bullpen as Roberts most likely long-term home, getting his control up to an acceptable range is a far more pressing concern than developing a deeper starter’s arsenal of offspeed pitches. Get him firing fastballs and sliders with some clue where they are headed and reap the rewards.

6.189 – RHP Kyle Cody

Wondered about Kyle Cody (121) back in May 2016…

Kyle Cody’s stuff has always outstripped his results on the field. Is he destined to forever be a consistently inconsistent professional in the mold of fellow Wildcat Alex Meyer or is there something more in his game that can be unlocked with the right coaching?

Still wondering about that even after Cody’s really strong (10.08 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 in 47.1 IP) pro debut. The comparison to Meyer continues when you look at what the one-time Nationals first round pick did (9.70 K/9 and 3.14 BB/9) as a 22-year-old splitting his time between low-A and high-A in his first full pro season. Of course, Meyer’s pro struggles should not be held against Cody as a prospect; as it turns out, I actually like Cody quite a bit as a potential mid-rotation arm (if the changeup comes on) or late-inning relief weapon (a far more likely outcome in my view). He’s athletic for a big man with a potentially lethal power sinker/slider combination that should continue to get him plenty of ground ball outs as he climbs the ladder.

7.219 – C Sam Huff

It would be easy to write off the 6-4, 200 pound Sam Huff (433) as a prime candidate to move out from behind the plate sooner rather than later, but the big guy from Arizona is a far more advanced and natural defender than his size might otherwise suggest. He’s not a total slam dunk to remain a catcher over the long haul — few teenager catchers are, after all — but he’s got a better than 50/50 shot to remain a backstop going forward. If that’s the case, then the upside for a potentially above-average regular is very clearly here. Huff’s calling card is his average to above-average raw power, but he’s also shown impressive plate coverage and disciplined approach as a hitter. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten on Huff this past offseason has been of the “pump the breaks” variety (equal parts concern about his ability to make enough contact and his defense holding up long-term), but my instinctual lean here has me ignoring that and going all-in on Huff as a future big leaguer.

8.249 – RHP Tai Tiedemann

The lack of pre-draft notes on Tai Tiedemann quickly outs me as a recent member of his bandwagon, but better late than never, right? Tiedemann, completely off my radar this past spring, would have likely been a pre-draft FAVORITE if I had known he existed. His numbers at Long Beach CC don’t jump off the page (6.98 K/9 and 3.04 BB/9 in 80.0 IP), but everything else about his scouting profile looks good to me. Tiedemann is an exceptional athlete with great size (6-6, 200), a low-mileage arm, good velocity (90-94 and climbing), feel for offspeed, and a proclivity for getting outs on the ground. Despite being two seasons past his high school graduation, his relative inexperience on the diamond makes him closer to a prep prospect than an established college guy. As long as his development is viewed through that lens (i.e., it’s going to take some time), I think Tiedemann is a keeper. It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but there are some distinct similarities between the earlier pick of Kyle Roberts to the Tiedemann selection three rounds later.

9.279 – RHP Hever Bueno

For as much as I can appreciate a three-pitch college righthander like Hever Bueno, the lack of any semblance of a track record (16.0 IP in both 2014 and 2015) kept me from buying in heading into his draft year. I was hoping that would change during his junior season, but, alas, his final college season (as it turned out) was cut short after only 6.1 innings due to a bum UCL that necessitated Tommy John surgery. If you’re into Bueno, you see a potential back-end starter or late-inning reliever with far more stuff (90-94 FB, 97 peak; average to above-average 81-83 CB/SL; average to above-average 84-88 CU) than results to date. I like that optimistic prognostication; it’s not a stretch at all to see better days ahead for Bueno, assuming his rehabilitation goes as planned. I’m still not really buying a pitcher who, depending on that rehab timeline, may not get back on the mound for steady pro innings until he’s a 23-years-old with only 38.1 post-HS innings to his name. The 7.28 BB/9 in said innings doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, either. That’s closer to the résumé of a guy you sign out of indy ball than a ninth round pick you pay a six-figure bonus. Of course, if I was a fan of the Rangers (or a more informed firsthand observer who had seen Bueno at his best) then I’d be all over this pick as a high reward/minimal risk gamble worth taking. It’s easy to like a pick like this because everybody involved will look really smart if it hits. If Bueno never comes all the way back from Tommy John (or the healthy version of Bueno turns out to be the wild, underdeveloped pitcher his track record suggests), then it’s just another forgotten ninth round pick.

10.309 – OF Josh Merrigan

I like to bust out the old “well-traveled” chestnut every now and then (read: too often), but it really, really applies to Josh Merrigan. The lefthanded outfielder’s path to the draft included stops at Georgia State, Chipola JC, and North Carolina before finally finding a home playing for an absolutely dominant (57-6!) Georgia Gwinnett squad. Merrigan more than did his part by hitting .423/.468/.562 with 23 BB/25 K and 44 SB in 201 AB. Lauded for his speed, arm strength, and overall athleticism, Merrigan’s maturation as a hitter makes him one to watch very closely as he climbs the minor league ladder. If it all works out, there’s some fourth outfielder upside here.

11.339 – RHP Joe Barlow

With a sophomore season split fairly evenly between starting (7 starts) and relieving (6 relief appearances, including 2 saves), Joe Barlow gives the Rangers some flexibility in how he’ll be used in the low-minors. The bullpen seems like the more sensible long-term spot for the effectively wild (9.85 K/9 and 5.79 BB/9 as a sophomore) converted catcher with the expected arm strength (low-90s heat) and rawness that comes with a young man relatively new to pitching.

12.369 – C Alex Kowalczyk

Strong arm, powerful build, and plenty of pop. That’s the short version of Alex Kowalczyk’s game. Maybe not my preferred college catcher at this point, but I still like it all right.

13.399 – SS Jonah McReynolds

Jonah McReynolds (485) is a sensible bet on tools at this stage in the draft. Athletically, he checks every box. He’s graceful and coordinated around the bag with quick hands, a plus arm, and above-average foot speed. I’m bearish on him ever hitting enough to play regularly, but it’s hard to bet an athlete like this making some noise as a potential utility guy somewhere along the way.

14.429 – RHP Derek Heffel

Asking around about Derek Heffel after the draft elicited this response: “SEC quality arm.” High praise for the native Southerner after two seasons putting up solid numbers (including 8.05 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 as a sophomore) at decidedly “un-southern” Madison JC. Continued improvement on both his curve and chance will only help his low-90s sinker become more effective in the pros. The vibe I got around this pick from talking to those in the know was that the Rangers nabbed Heffel one year before he was going to blow out and become a top five round prospect at Middle Tennessee State. We’ll see if that’s how it really plays out, but you have to like the size and stuff in the meantime.

15.459 – OF Kobie Taylor

Easy center field range. Above-average to plus speed. Impressive (albeit not super long) track record of squaring up velocity, showing big bat speed, and making lots of hard contact. Strong arm. Solid athleticism. And the Vanderbilt seal of approval that you just love to see with any (signable) high school prospect. I like a lot about Kobie Taylor’s (218) game. Excited to see him back on the field next year after his busted thumb is all healed up. Major steal here.

16.489 – RHP Scott Engler

13.94 K/9 and 4.41 BB/9 in 51 innings as a freshman at Cowley County CC is enough for me to get on the Scott Engler bandwagon.

17.519 – RHP Reid Anderson

I commend the Rangers for taking a substantial leap of faith on their area guy with the selection of Reid Anderson here in round seventeen. Anderson, a low-mileage arm relatively new to pitching after converting from the outfield, put up career marks of 6.57 K/9 and 3.84 BB/9 at Millersville. That right there is not what you want to see out of a Division II draft prospect. Texas went a little deeper and dug what they saw with Anderson’s potential plus fastball (low-90s already with reason to believe that can trend upward with room to grow physically and mechanically) and plus slider (personally seen it flash now, though it’s still as inconsistent as one might expect for a guy with only around 80 college innings under his belt). The numbers guy in me remains dubious, but the wannabe scout keeps trying to look past the lackluster results. Odds are against him as a seventeenth round pick either way, but Anderson should be one of the more interesting mid- to late-round picks to track these next few years. It’s a fun low-stakes spin on the tired scouts vs stats narrative.

18.549 – OF Marcus Mack

Marcus Mack can really run. That’s one thing I know about him. I also know that his plus wheels help him more than hold his own defensively in center. Those are two very good things working in Mack’s favor. A third good thing will be the weight lifted off his shoulders after he records his first pro hit next season. The lefthanded hitting overslot ($175,000) speedster from Texas went an unfortunate 0-20 in his pro debut. An 0-20 stretch during the middle of the season feels bad, but ultimately gets lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day grind of pro ball. Going 0-20 to start a career and then having to put it on ice for six plus months…damn, that’s just no fun at all.

19.579 – RHP Alex Daniele

All I have on Alex Daniele: ideal size (6-5, 225), older for class (23 in April), and has shown strikeout ability (12.44 K/9 in small sample final year at Oklahoma) to go along with potential control red flags (8.05 BB/9 in same small sample). He’s done more of the same in stints at New Jersey Tech (9.90 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9) and in his brief pro debut (7.85 K/9 and 5.77 BB/9). Without any scouting notes on him it’s hard to say what his future may hold, but the patterns in his results across multiple spots can certainly give us a hint.

20.609 – 3B Stephen Lohr

Stephen Lohr had a monster junior season at Cal Baptist that included a.403/.496/.665 batting line with 36 BB/22 K in 206 AB. Good enough for me to start paying attention, I’d say.

21.639 – RHP Kaleb Fontenot

I like Kaleb Fontenot just about as much as any potential big league reliever drafted past the twentieth round. His age (24 in June of his first pro season) and size (6-1, 180) work against him, but his stuff is good enough (88-92 FB, pair of average or so offspeed pitches) to get good hitters out. Probably nothing more than last man out of the bullpen type ceiling — and I don’t mean last man in terms of the guy you use in the last inning, clearly — but at least that’s something to hang your hat on in the twenty-first round.

22.669 – C Clay Middleton

Two weeks before the draft on Clay Middleton…

Clay Middleton is a steady defender behind the plate and a useful contributor at it; in a class awash with college catching, I think he fits in the mid-rounds for a team willing to do a deep dive into the MEAC.

The Rangers wisely took the plunge with Middleton, a solid defensive player with a sound offensive approach. There’s backup catcher upside here if everything works out. Can’t hate that in the twenty-second round.

23.699 – RHP Dylan Bice

As I’ve said in a few other draft reviews, any high school prospect signed past the tenth round is automatically a good pick. Dylan Bice is a good pick for that reason. Athleticism, size, velocity (low-90s fastball, peaks a little higher than that), and feel for offspeed (change, slider) make him a really good pick.

24.729 – LHP Kenny Mendoza

Kenny Mendoza’s (443) velocity climbed as the weather warmed up this spring. Proof of that comes in my embarrassing pre-draft mix-up…

LHP Ken Mendoza (Clearview HS, New Jersey): 86-89 FB; 6-4, 215 pounds

LHP Kenneth Mendoza (Clearview Regional HS, New Jersey): 88-92 FB, 93 peak; 6-4, 215 pounds

So if you search for “Mendoza” on my site, these two gentleman will pop up. Ken is the late-summer/fall version of Mendoza while Kenneth (or Kenny) is the spring version the Rangers drafted in the twenty-fourth round. That’s a Jimbo. Mendoza is a lefthander with size, appealing velocity, and a strong aptitude for the art of pitching. By any name, it’s a really nice pick by Texas this late.

26.789 – RHP Tyree Thompson

Tyree Thompson, older for his class as a 19-year-old when drafted, is another win for Texas as we institute the “any high school prospect signed past the tenth round is a good pick” rule yet again. Tons of athleticism, physical projection (6-4, 165 feels like a frame that could put on some good weight), and present fastball velocity (88-92, 93 peak) make it a really good pick. Feels like we’ve done this before…

27.819 – LHP Lucas Jacobsen

Lucas Jacobsen shares many superficial similarities (height, whiffs, walks) to Alex Daniele. Jacobsen has a little bit of youth, a little more projection, and his lefthandeness on his side.

28.849 – RHP Marc Iseneker

A sidearming reliever from St. John Fisher College? Sure! That’s what the twenty-eighth round is all about. The rubber-armed Marc Iseneker had a nice run (8.49 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9) during his time as a Cardinal.

30.909 – LHP Christian Torres

Christian Torres (8.17 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9 at Faulker this past season) showed Texas enough to get a shot at Low-A after a few rookie ball innings. He took that opportunity and ran with it to the tune of a 8.80 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, and 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP. Pretty impressive way to start a pro career, especially if you look past that earned run per inning clip he was on while with Spokane. Have you picked up on my trick of talking about a guy’s debut when I don’t have any worthwhile scouting notes to share?

32.969 – OF Travis Bolin

Travis Bolin makes four 2016 MLB Draft picks out of Davenport University that I’ve now written about in these draft reviews. Bolin’s 2016 season there (.412/.472/.819 with 19 BB/30 K and 17/24 SB in 226 AB) makes him as deserving as any of the three Panthers pitchers to be drafted ahead of him. He was productive albeit prone to swings and misses in his debut. I’m into it as a super late round sleeper to store away. For what it’s worth, the next few Davenport teams should have some players up for draft consideration as well. I’ve already got 1B/OF Brian Sobieski (2017) and Central Michigan transfer LHP Grant Wolfram (2018) in my sights.

33.999 – RHP Mark Vasquez

This one leaves me conflicted. On one hand, teams drafting multiple players from NAIA schools — even great ones like Faulkner — remains a sore subject. Sure there’s a chance that the Rangers organically came to the conclusion that two of the top thirty-three players in their draft pool both happened to attend Faulkner, but it sure as heck doesn’t seem statistically likely to me. Convenience scouting is a thing and while I understand the pros that come with it (all of this has been talked to death in other draft reviews by now, BTW), it will always set me off just a little bit. If nothing else, I think examples like Texas going with Christian Torres and Mark Vasquez, both out of a NAIA school with around 3000 students enrolled, show that that big league teams have finite resources they can and will spend on amateur scouting. Don’t listen to those who constantly throw the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy at you when it comes to pro teams knowing so much more than we could ever possibly imagine as outsiders.

On the other hand (took a while but we got here), the actual player selected (Vasquez) looks pretty interesting. Definitely can’t hate a team getting a workhorse pitcher coming off a senior year with peripherals (11.26 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9) like his. He’s older for his class (25 in May) and highly unlikely to reach the big leagues (as anybody picked in the thirty-third round would be), but it’s far from a throwaway pick. I don’t know what to think about this one. All I know is that I’ve spent more time on pick 999 than about 99.9% of the population and I’m all right with that.

34.1029 – OF Preston Scott

From 2012…

3B Preston Scott (Hanford HS, California): really quick bat; big power upside; promising defender

Four years later, Preston Scott got himself drafted and signed to pro ball after a .339/.418/.579 (22 BB/20 K) season at Fresno Pacific. That line is made all the more impressive when viewed through the prism of his team’s .265/.350/.348 overall line. Scott’s power plays and his athleticism helps him both in the field defensively and on the base paths. I like this pick. The only downside is that it makes me thing of an old friend of mine named Scott Preston who I’ve lost touch with over the years. Haven’t seen him since middle school…that’s almost twenty years ago now. Wonder how he’s doing…

35.1059 – RHP Jean Casanova

Jean Casanova, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, is yet another high school pitcher signed by Texas late in the draft. Really nice work by their area guys in gauging signability this year. For his part, Casanova has a solid heater (88-92) and a full assortment of secondary offerings (none stand out just yet, maybe the change if you had to pick one). Worth a shot.

37.1119 – OF Austin O’Banion

Austin O’Banion hit .335/.429/.588 with 24 BB/40 K in 170 AB at Fullerton JC. This March 3, 2016 article offered a fine bit of foreshadowing…

Last week, Fuscardo said a good friend of his who scouts for the Texas Rangers recently left the field wowed by O’Banion’s fielding chops and raw power.

38.1149 – RHP Reilly Peltier

An easy to spot Texas 2016 MLB Draft trend that I probably should have mentioned sooner: pitchers with size. Just about every pitcher the Rangers drafted this past year is a physical monster. Coming in at 6-5, 215 pounds, Reilly Peltier, fresh off a fine season McHenry County JC (12.73 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9 in 68.2 IP), is no different.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Brent Burgess (Spartanburg Methodist), Tyler Walsh (Belmont), Herbie Good (Santa Barbara CC), Blair Calvo (Pittsburgh), Robert Harris (?), Tra’Mayne Holmes (Alabama State)