Texas Rangers: Travis Demeritte
And the high school infielder out of Winder Barrow (Ga.) High said Thursday night that he will sign with the Rangers and forgo going to the University of South Carolina, though no deal is official yet.
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Demerritte, 18, will be one to watch because he was selected with the pick the Rangers received for compensation for losing Josh Hamilton to free agency.
Demerritte gives the Rangers a power-hitting infield prospect who can three infield positions -- third base, second base and shortstop. Kipp Fagg, the Rangers director of amateur scouting, said Thursday that Demeritte will begin his pro career -- when he signs -- at shortstop.
The Rangers were attracted to him for his potential to hit for power at an infield position, something they lack in the system. And for his bat speed.
Demerritte set a school record with 32 career home runs. He batted .404 as a senior with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs.
"He's got a chance to be a pure hitter and a power hitter," Fagg said. "He's got electric bat speed. From scouting, he was one of the fastest bats I've seen in a while."
Demerritte played second base as a sophomore and shortstop the last two seasons. He's also played third base.
"I have played all of them (3B, 2B and SS)," Demerritte said. "The past two years in high school I played shortstop. I've played shortstop my whole life, so I think I can play that position."
It comes as no surprise that the Rangers plucked a top prospect out of Georgia. They selected high school outfielder Jake Skole in the first round in 2012. They picked high school left-hander Kevin Matthews and University of Georgia outfielder Zach Cone with the 33rd and 37th picks in 2011.
The Rangers also took pitcher Justin Grimm, who leads all American League rookies with five wins, in the fifth round in 2010 out of the University of Georgia.
Demerritte said he has developed a very close relationship with Rangers area scout Derrick Tucker. His signing should be a slam dunk.
"They've been interested for a very, very long time," Demerritte said. "They've always been interested. For a second, I was worried that somebody else may have stepped in."
In the process, they took advantage of a deep draft with pitching and also grabbed a shortstop they've been known to covet for months.
The Rangers went away from the recent trend of taking high school pitchers in the first round, selecting Oral Roberts right-hander Alex Gonzalez with the 23rd pick in the draft. They used the 30th pick, one that received as compensation for losing Josh Hamilton to free agency, on Winder Barrow (Ga.) High shortstop Travis Demeritte.
They finished the first night of the three-day draft by selecting 6-foot-6 right-hander Akeem Bostick from West Florence (S.C.) with their second-round pick.
"We feel very excited about the guys we took," Rangers scouting director Kipp Fagg said. "We got a college pitcher with a special arm, we're really excited about Travis Demeritte, a young middle infielder from Georgia with electric tools -- a bat that we really like -- and Akeem Bostick is a big projectable right-handed pitcher."
Gonzalez is a pitcher the Rangers hope can advance through the system at a good pace. He was a part of talented pitching staff at Oral Roberts, going 9-5 with a 1.83 ERA. He has good fastball movement and throws a hard cutter.
"We view him as a starting pitcher," Rangers director of personnel A.J. Preller said. "You look at his delivery, his arm action and his demeanor on the mound, he's a starter. We feel we took a guy who could find his way into the rotation in Arlington sometime in the future."
Demerrette is a power infielder all the way, one the Rangers have coveted for months out of one of their favorite states to draft, Georgia. He plays three infield positions, but will begin his pro career as a shortstop.
"He's a good enough athlete and a good enough bat to give us versatility," Fagg said.
Bostick, taken in the second round at No. 62, brings intrigue. He's signed to play football and baseball at Georgia Southern. He was 10-0 with a 0.60 ERA as a senior for West Florence.
"He's a 6-foot-6 kid, right-handed pitcher with a very loose arm and very good downhill plane," Fagg said. "He has the makings of a breaking ball. It's a little inconsistent, but he has a chance of having a secondary pitch that could be a weapon."
Demeritte hit .404 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 126 plate appearances (89 at-bats). He scored 42 runs and played in 29 games. Various scouting services say he could play third, shortstop or second. He also pitched for his team this past season, going 8-1 with a 0.69 ERA in 50 2/3 innings.
ESPN.com's Keith Law in his final mock draft had the Rangers taking Demeritte with the 23rd pick. Instead, they get him seven picks later. Here's what the ESPN.com's scouting service says about him:
If you like projectable, raw, high school infielders, Demeritte might be the guy for you. He's an athletic kid with loose, quick actions, but is crude as a hitter and won't remain at shortstop in pro ball.
His bat speed is a huge asset, so while he loads his hands way too deep and far out from his body, he can still recover and drive the ball against high school pitching, showing impressive power for his age. He has the arm for the left side of the infield but not the feet or the instincts, and will at least have to move to third base in time.
He could go as high as the end of the first round, although I think that's too rich for a position player from Georgia who's still this raw, seeing him as more of a second-round talent.
One scout texted me that Gonzalez has an excellent slider/cutter and projects as a starter with four pitches. And another scout said he was not concerned with the perception that Gonzalez might have issues because he faced weaker competition than some other top pitchers. ESPN.com's Keith Law says Gonzalez has the "best cutter in the draft." Here's what ESPN.com's write-up on him says:
He'll sit 91-94 mph with his fastball, stronger than he was in the fall, with solid command and good rhythm to his delivery, using it to set up all of his off-speed weapons, led by a slider-cutter that varies from a true slider at 84-86 to one closer to a hard cutter up to 89-90. He'll flash a changeup as well, but rarely uses it, succeeding more with the fastball/slider/cutter combo.
His delivery is very simple, pushing off his back leg well for power, pronating his elbow very early as part of a short (but not too short) arm stroke. He might not have a huge ceiling due to his moderate build and lack of a huge fastball but could easily develop into a good No. 3 starter or even a No. 2 thanks to his feel for pitching and variety of offerings.
ESPN.com's Jason Churchill adds his thoughts:
The Rangers get a college right-hander that could help them within a year and a half. ... His stuff projects to play well in their ballpark, thanks to a hard cutter, good fastball movement and future plus command.
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