Rangers Draft Report
By Gerry Fraley
DALLAS--Rangers assistant general manager Grady Fuson refused to be swayed on Tuesday. While the public clamored for pitching, he went for a college position player with the 10th pick of the draft.
Fuson bypassed two prominent college pitchers advised by agent Scott Boras, a frequent business partner of owner Tom Hicks, and selected South Carolina shortstop Drew Meyer.
Fuson did that knowing all-star shortstop Alex Rodriguez could be with the Rangers through 2010. The Rangers expect to move Meyer, a leadoff hitter, to center field or second base.
The Dodgers considered Meyer a center fielder when it drafted him with the 84th pick overall in 1999. Meyer turned down a $400,000 signing bonus. The Rangers hope to keep his bonus in the $2.25-million range.
"He's the complete package," Fuson said. "He has a big total game. He could play anywhere on the field we want him to play. That's what brings unique value to this kid: the possibility of his versatility."
An American League East club's scouting report on Meyer described him as having "major league talents. Very aggressive baserunner. Can really run and throw. Must learn to be leadoff hitter instead of trying to pull everything."
The Rangers took pitchers with six of their next 10 choices. That group included East Carolina lefthander Sam Narron, whose cousin Jerry Narron manages the Rangers; and University of Miami righthander Kiki Bengochea, projected as a first- or second-round pick when the season began.
According to Fuson, the Rangers considered four pitchers for the 10th pick.
Ball State righthander Bryan Bullington and Houston Cypress Falls High School righthander Clint Everts were taken in the first five picks. Fuson determined the risks associated with Rutgers righthander Bobby Brownlie and Stanford righthander Jeremy Guthrie outweighed their talent.
Boras has indicated each player wants a $5 million signing bonus. The Twins gave high-school catcher Joe Mauer, the first overall choice last year, a record $5.15 million bonus.
Health questions also figured in the decision.
Brownlie's velocity dropped during a poor season, raising concerns he is injured. Test results showed "there's something going on in his shoulder," Fuson said, adding it is not career-threatening.
Guthrie has been pushed hard. He has 134 innings for the season. That includes a 13-inning, 144-pitch performance against Cal State-Fullerton in regional play last weekend, a workload that stunned the Rangers.
"I've heard about pitching since I came here," Fuson said. "But this kid is a special player."
Meyer presents a blend of tools and skills.
According to several scouting directors, Meyer has the best speed and arm strength of the draft. He also understands how to play the game. He has been the centerpiece of a powerful South Carolina team since his freshman season.
"They're getting a very gifted athlete," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "He can run and hit and throw, but he also has great intangibles. He does it the right way."
Tanner admitted hearing questions about Meyer's hitting. Tanner said he has no doubts after watching Meyer hit .379, with a school-record 77 singles, this season. He did say, though, that Meyer's choppy swing will have to be "overhauled" to accommodate the wood bat. He struggled with wood during two seasons in the Cape Cod League, hitting .214 and .192.
"I want to be the guy with the dirty uniform," Meyer said. "All I want to do is play."
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