Rangers Draft Report
Rangers go for top lefty Kiker
DALLAS--For the Rangers, left is always right.
That's why the club opted for Alabama high school lefty Kasey Kiker
in the first round of the draft rather than Texas prep righty Kyle Drabek
. After Washington's Tim Lincecum was snatched up two spots before the Rangers picked at No. 12, the team's decision came down to a diminutive lefty (Kiker) or a smallish righthander (Drabek).
"I wouldn't say it's a tiebreaker, but it is a factor," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels
said. "If you are going to draft a smaller pitcher, I think the chances of success are better with smaller lefties than with smaller righthanders. We just thought Kasey brought us a little more."
Just because he's small, doesn't mean Kiker is a finesse pitcher. Ranked as BA's No. 28 prospect heading into the draft, Kiker showed an 89-93 mph fastball for powerful Russell County (Ala.) High while going 7-4, 0.91. The Rangers believe they will eventually get a touch more velocity out of him, which would make him above-average for a lefty.
But Kiker's secondary pitches are very advanced for a high-school pitcher. His changeup/curveball combo and his body type remind the Rangers of Mike Hampton
. The Rangers expected to sign Kiker quickly, perhaps before the end of the week, and put him on the fast-track even though he's only 18.
He will go to short-season Spokane and work as a starter there. Normally, the Rangers send college-age kids to Spokane, but Kiker's background of playing for Team USA in the World Youth Championships and the caliber of his competition in high school convinced the club he's up to such a challenge.
The Rangers also investigated reports of off-the-field issues with Kiker and came away satisfied that he'd not be a risky pick based on behavior.
"We went to great length to check those things out," Daniels said. "And we found out that rumors were just that. We're confident Kasey is the kind of person we want representing this team."RANGERS ROUNDUP
• Just because the Rangers didn't go for major league genes in the first round didn't mean they weren't enamored with kids of former ballplayers. Texas' third-round pick was Pepperdine catcher Chad Tracy
(son of Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy
) and the fourth-round pick was Florida prep shortstop Marcus Lemon
(son of former Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon
• The Rangers signed draft-and-follow catcher Kevin Gossage
(33rd-round pick in 2005) and C Thomas Berkery (46th round in 2005) on the eve of the draft. Gossage is the nephew of former reliever Rich
• Though they went for a pitcher early, the Rangers spent much of the first day of the draft concentrating on stocking the farm system with position players. Six of the first nine picks (through the first 10 rounds) were position players.