The Texas Rangers, who used their first five picks in last year’s first-year draft on high school players, changed things around Thursday night by selecting a college pitcher with their first pick.
Alex Gonzalez, a junior right-hander from Oral Roberts, was the team’s choice with the No. 23 pick. Texas, which also had the No. 30 pick because of the Josh Hamilton signing, used that selection to nab Georgia high schooler Travis Demeritte.
Gonzalez, who was drafted by Baltimore in the 11th round out of high school, went 9-5 as a junior for Oral Roberts with a 1.83 ERA. He averaged more than a strikeout per inning, whiffing 126 in 113 1/3 innings pitched.
“At the end of the day we try to be pretty consistent as far as the best player available,” said A.J. Preller, the club’s senior director for player personnel. “I think everybody was excited when he (Gonzalez) was there. Alex Gonzalez was a pretty easy natural choice for us right there.”
The 6-3 Gonzalez was the conference pitcher of the year as a freshman and was projected to be a top 20 pick in several mock drafts. The Rangers see him as a starter as a pro.
Demeritte was a versatile player in high school at Winder-Barrow High School in Winder, Ga. He played shortstop, third base, second base and also pitched. Texas scouting director Kip Fagg said when Demeritte begins his pro career, he’ll do so as a shortstop but he could move later.
Demeritte, who had 12 home runs and 37 RBI as a senior, committed to South Carolina but said Thursday he planned to sign with the Rangers.
“They’ve always been interested,” Demeritte said. “For a second I was kind of worried that someone else might have stepped in. It’s everything I’ve worked for. It’s a humbling experience.”
Texas closed its first night of the draft by picking high school pitcher Akeem Bostick in the second round. Bostick, who committed to Georgia Southern, went 10-0 with a 0.62 ERA for West Florence High School in South Carolina.
Fagg said the Rangers liked Bostick for his size (6-6) and his loose arm.