Rangers Add Matthews To Stable Of Shorter Lefties

ARLINGTON, Texas—Lefthander Kevin Matthews has spent much of his life as the kid who some thought was too small to pitch. He always was looking up at fellow prospects at camps and workouts for top prep players.

But Richmond Hill (Ga.) High product is also the sub-6-footer who can perform a 360 dunk. He also has thrown a baseball 95 mph with his left arm and was the top pitching prospect in the state of Georgia when the Rangers selected him with the 33rd (and final) pick of the 2011 draft's first round.

Matthews measures himself not in inches but in work ethic, and he's motivated by anyone who has doubted his ability because he stands 5-foot-11.

"I use that to prove people wrong," said Matthews, 18. "I don't think size matters. As long as you get the job done and you do what you're supposed to do and work hard, the shortest guy is just as good as the tallest guy."

The Rangers have shown that they aren't gun-shy when it comes to drafting shorter pitchers, as long as they happen to throw lefthanded. Matthews joins a group of recent picks who fit the description.

Kasey Kiker (first round, 2006), Robbie Ross (second round, 2008) and Robbie Erlin (third round, 2009) all have a variety of pitches, a feel for pitching and are tough competitors.

Matthews fits that mold, but the Rangers say there are differences among them.

"All those guys are separate entities as far as players," scouting director Kip Fagg said. "Kevin's got a chance to be a special one, too. It's the athleticism, the makeup, the feel to pitch, the three-pitch mix, the competitiveness. There are a lot of things you can say about this kid."

The Rangers used the 37th pick on outfielder Zach Cone, an athletic junior at Georgia who saw his numbers and draft stock dip this year. The Rangers like his upside and believe he can take off with a few adjustments in his swing.

Both players were expected to sign quickly after the draft.

"We would not have taken these guys if they weren't ready to go out and play quickly," general manager Jon Daniels said.