SECAUCUS, N.J.—The Rangers may have just one winning season this decade, but their future is unquestionably brighter than their past.
Texas entered the season with Baseball America's top-rated farm system, built through shrewd drafts, trades and international signings. Once the Rangers got all their young talent to the majors over the next couple of years, you figured they'd have the makings of a perennial contender.
They've accelerated that timetable, storming to first place in a winnable American League West with a 33-25 record through June 9. Though the Blue Jays outscored them 9-0 on the diamond that evening, the day as a whole still was a win for the franchise.
Picking 14th, Texas grabbed high school lefthander Matt Purke in the first round. The last time the Lone Star State produced a prep lefty with that kind of arm, the Rangers passed on Scott Kazmir for Drew Meyer. They didn't make the same mistake twice.
Getting a southpaw with a projectable body, a 92-95 mph fastball, a hard slider and a tenacious approach at No. 14 is pure larceny. Texas came away with an even bigger steal in the sandwich round with St. Paul Saints righthander Tanner Scheppers.
Scheppers would have been a top-10 pick last year if he hadn't hurt his shoulder, and he projected as a possible top-10 choice this time around. But he fell because clubs were still wary about his shoulder despite a clean bill of health from Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum. Nevertheless, Scheppers threw in the high 90s in an American Association game two days the draft, and he has shown outstanding velocity and a hard curveball in workouts and games all spring.
Getting Purke signed and keeping Scheppers healthy are far from sure things. But if the Rangers can accomplish both those missions, Purke and Scheppers could team with Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz to form a stout rotation. Given the way things are going in Texas these days, that may happen sooner than anticipated.