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Baseball America Online - College

Rangers' Debate Ends With Danks

June 4, 2003
By Gerry Fraley

DALLAS--The Rangers went through several weeks of serious internal debate before settling on Round Rock (Texas) High School lefthander John Danks as their top pick.

The organization also strongly considered Florida high school outfielder Lastings Milledge. As much as the Rangers need pitching, they also need a quality center fielder for The Ballpark in Arlington. When the Rangers have recently won in the majors, they have won with a top-flight, defense-oriented center fielder.

The organizational belief that Danks has elite-level talent swung the decision his way. The Rangers believe they have pitching prospects, but none can match Danks' upside.

"We look at this as not a very strong pitching draft as far as high-echelon talent," said Grady Fuson, assistant general manager for scouting and player development. "We have a system that has some legitimate pitching prospects, but I think we have enough mediocrity, in a way. Some of that mediocrity is going to shake itself out in the big leagues some day. This was a chance to step up and do what's right for the organization."

Danks' profile rose in the last year when he added a few ticks to his fastball, which stays in the low-90 mph range. His top pitch is a curveball. He has a smooth delivery that shows no signs of stress.

Danks comes from an athletic family and is considered extremely competitive. He has signed with the University of Texas, where his father played basketball.

Fuson acknowledged that a high school pitcher is the riskiest of picks because of their high rate of attrition.

The Rangers had not taken a high school pitcher in the first round since lefthander Brian Bohanon in 1987. This marked only the second time in nine drafts with the Athletics and the Rangers that Fuson has picked a high school pitcher in the first round. The previous choice, righthander Jeremy Bonderman, is in the majors with Detroit at age 21 after being drafted by the A's in 2001.

"There's no doubt that there's more risk involved," said Fuson, who saw Danks pitch twice before the draft. "We've done our homework and believe this player fits the parameters that we're looking for. I've never been afraid to take what we consider the elite from that group."

What Fuson called a lack of pitching depth showed in the remainder of the Rangers' early round picks. They took only six pitchers during the first 13 rounds. The next pitcher after Danks was Stanford righthander John Hudgins, in the third round.

Hudgins, Stanford's No. 1 starter this season and the Pac-10 pitcher of the year, is a more typical Fuson pick. Hudgins led the Pacific-10 Conference in innings and strikeouts during the regular season and has a history of success against high-caliber competition.

The Rangers also nabbed a first-round talent in the second round (47th overall) in Rice first baseman Vince Sinisi, whom the Rangers envision as a corner outfielder similar to another former Rice star Lance Berkman.

Sinisi slipped a bit in the draft because of three main reasons: his scholarship to a top-flight university, his sophomore-eligible status and his advisor, Scott Boras.

The Rangers, particularly owner Tom Hicks, have a strong relationship with Boras and regularly sign his clients. The Rangers have paid more than slot money to two middle-round draft picks in recent years: outfielder Patrick Boyd and righthander Kiki Bengochea.