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Kip Fagg: Scouting and Signing Texas Rangers

As a rule, scouting directors are among the humblest people you’ll find in professional baseball. Almost to a fault, they’ll deflect credit away from themselves while lauding the efforts of others. Kip Fagg of the Texas Rangers is no exception, but you could hardly blame him if he wanted to take a bow. Under his leadership, the Rangers have signed as many potentially elite players as any team in baseball in recent years.

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Fagg, on 2011 first-round pick Kevin Matthews not being ranked among the top 20 prospects in the system: “I believe it shows the strength of our system and what our scouts have done. We have a good group of guys involved in our scouting and we all see each other’s players. I see a ton of international guys. Under the direction of [Senior Director of Player Personnel] A.J. Preller, [Senior Advisor to the GM, Scouting] Don Welke, [Director of Pro Scouting] Josh Boyd, and [Director of International Scouting] Mike Daly, the whole group has done a tremendous job identifying interesting players that are high-end with upside. It‘s a group effort.”

“In regard to where Kevin, or any of our players, are ranked, it doesn’t alarm me too much or excite me too much. Rankings are subjective and opinions vary on where certain players show up on various lists. I’ve also been doing this for a long time and understand that this is a process. Young kids with Kevin’s upside will take some time to mature and develop. Scouting, and baseball in general, are very humbling experiences, so I try not to get caught up in rankings, especially when the player is only one or two years into the pro game. So much can change in four or five years.”

INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS

On the team’s success in the international market: “Like I said, it’s a group effort and I think our guys have done a helluva job over there. Last year, when we signed Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman, I saw those guys and compared them to what we had on the amateur side, in the States, and we planned accordingly. We have a plan, and regardless of which arena they come from, they are all Texas Rangers.

“It’s all about scouting. We also ask our guys down there to be around the players and get to know them very well. It’s not just tools. Obviously, they’re talented and have tools, but there’s more to it than that. Everyone on the evaluation side with the Texas Rangers is held to a high standard, and we expect our guys to know their players, which goes much deeper than the on-field evaluation. Jon Daniels, our GM, sets the tone and we all know what’s expected of us at the end of the day.”

On building a support system for young Latin players: “We bring a lot of American guys down there. We’ve had American managers in the Dominican Summer League. Four years ago we had Jayce Tingler, then it was Kenny Holmberg for two years, and now Ryley Westman is managing in the DSL. We try to get Americans over there in front of the kids, so that when they get to the States it’s not such a big jump. Bill McLaughlin, who works with us in Arizona and helps us out scouting in Mexico, speaks fluent Spanish and works a lot with the Latin guys. We try to have them acculturated before they get over here.

“Like a lot of teams, we have a program that includes language classes. We want them to know the importance of that. We bring some of our big leaguers down in the off-season. Elvis Andrus comes in there, Nelson Cruz comes in there, Neftali Feliz comes in there. They hammer on these kids the importance of learning and speaking English.”

On Leonys Martin and the Cuban market: “I haven’t really done a lot with the Cuban market, but I have seen guys in the Dominican that are Cuban defectors. It’s like anything else. You scout them. Know them, scout them, and decide if they’re worth what they’re asking. I don’t think we do anything different with the Cuban players than we do with the Venezuelans, Dominicans or guys from Curacao or Mexico.

“As far as Leonys, Don Welke and A.J. were kind of at the forefront of that one with Mike Daly. We have some other scouts who are on the ground floor, at the area level, who were involved as well. I didn’t actually see Leonys at all before we signed him.”

AMATEUR DRAFT

On area scout Ryan Coe signing four highly-regarded players out of Georgia in the past two seasons: “Ryan has done a heck of a job. He played in the minor leagues for a bit and then was a college coach for 10-12 years at Kennesaw State, in the Atlanta area. Along with being one of our better area scouts, he’s had the benefit of working a very good area the last couple of years and has done a tremendous job of identifying, and putting us in position to select, some very talented players.”

On scouting Kevin Matthews: “We saw a kid who was very athletic, very hardworking and determined, who obviously had good stuff. We scouted him a lot. We probably saw seven or eight of his starts, including his last five. He has a good arm and there’s a breaking ball and changeup in there. He’s competitive and intelligent. He’s 18 years old and just in the infancy of his pro career, but has a very bright future and we are expecting big things.”

On 2010 first-round pick [15th overall] Jake Skole: “He’s another kid from Georgia who’s very athletic. He was a high school football player who could have gone to Georgia Tech on a football scholarship. He hurt his ankle early in the spring season of baseball and didn’t really show what he could do. We had seen him in the past. Ryan [Coe] had seen him a lot; he had a long history with him. He had him in a camp at Kennesaw State.

“He’s a middle-of-the-diamond centerfielder, a left-handed hitter, and a very good kid who comes from a baseball family. His brother signed last year with the Nationals. We really like Jake. He had a solid first full season, at Hickory, and we expect big things from him.”

On 2010 first-round pick [22nd overall] Kellin Deglan: “We saw Kellin play a lot. He didn’t have a high school season, but he played a lot of baseball at a high level. He played in the Canadian World Cup. He took great at bats against Gerrit Cole before Cole’s sophomore season at UCLA when I saw him pitch in Cary [North Carolina] against the Junior Canadian Team.

“When we drafted Kellin, I though he was one of the lower-risk guys we looked at. He was in very good shape, he’s intelligent, he could receive and throw, and he’s a left-handed bat. He struggled a little bit with his batting average last year, but we’re very happy with him in respect to the big picture. He’s a promising kid. I think we have a lot of promising kids in the system.”