1) What would you say the Rangers main strategy appeared to be this draft? Were there any trends you noticed (maybe some the casual eye wouldn't have)?
Well in the early rounds, they obviously went upside all the way, putting down bets on high school players with loud tools. They switched to affordable college players in round three and picked up some interesting ones (Preston Beck looks like a particular bargain in the fifth round to me). I think this was a valid strategy since they needed to make the money work out, knowing they would likely have to exceed slot bonuses with some of the early picks. The Blue Jays adopted a similar strategy.
2) Everyone seems to be pretty excited about the Rangers' top five picks this draft. What's your take? Do you think they're worth the hype? Why or why not?
Keep in mind that it takes at least five years before you can judge whether a draft is truly successful or not. If you study the history of the draft, more often than not a team with extra picks in the early rounds ends up taking gambles on raw players and losing those gambles. This can make or break a farm system quite quickly.
Now, the Rangers have a good track record with making their player development work and the system is in strong condition, so in theory they have some slack and can afford to be patient with these guys. I'm particularly interested in seeing how Nick Williams develops. He could be the best of the lot.
I would avoid hype, though. This isn't a group that will pay quick dividends.
3) Rangers fans have recently become very impatient regarding the team's performance (expecting win after win). In an effort to keep that impatience at bay, what do you see as a realistic time frame for some of these high draft picks to reach the show?
You guys are going to have to be patient with the top group. It is easy to follow peer pressure and drool over the tools here, but you have to use some logic, too, and see the possible downsides. Brinson has superb tools but has holes in his swing. Gallo has tremendous power but some scouts think he'll struggle to make contact at higher levels and will need adjustment time. Jarmon is a fine athlete but raw with the bat. Williams may have the best tool set of the entire group but also had the most disappointing spring. Wiles is very projectable but is raw enough that some teams didn't even have him on their draft board.
Every one of the early choices could easily be a five-year development project. You will probably see some of the middle round picks reach the majors more quickly. This is a great group of athletes, but being a great athlete doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a great baseball player. Athleticism may be a necessary condition for baseball success, but it is not a sufficient one.
4) Three of the first five picks are outfielders. Do you think the Rangers targeted them because they anticipate Hamilton and Cruz being gone 3-4 years from now, or just because they were the best on the board when it came time to pick?
There is a good chance that none of the top three outfielders will be ready in three years, so I doubt that factored into it. I think they went with the top guys on their board...you never know what your roster will really look like in three or four years. Too many things can change. If it did factor it, it may have a little in the middle rounds, where guys like Beck or Royce Bollinger might be ready in a couple of years. Their upside isn't as great as the early picks, but they will take less time, not that anyone would expect those guys to step into Josh Hamilton's shoes.
5) Where would you rank the Rangers draft class compared to the rest of baseball?
It is easy to sit here and have an opinion, but I don't like trying to "rank" drafts because it depends on what standards you use and nobody has the same criteria. It is a bold draft, I'll say that much. If it pans out, you have your future lineup core right here.
The upside with the top picks is extremely strong, but so is the risk. If you want tools and athletes and are willing to accept a large amount of risk, this is a tremendous draft at the top. If you want upside hitters, it's great. If you want early round polish and safety, it isn't. If you are trying to build your pitching depth, this isn't a great draft.
If it works, people will look back on this draft and say that it helped build a dynasty. If it doesn't work, people will look back on this draft, as well as some questionable decisions in 2011 and 2010, and say that the gambles emptied the farm system at exactly the wrong time.
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