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MLB draft: Texas Rangers use top picks on college players who could end up with Spokane Indians

UPDATED: Tue., June 4, 2019, 10:14 p.m.

Texas Tech’s Josh Jung  cheers after Cameron Warren  hit a home run against Dallas Baptist during the NCAA regional tournament last Saturday  in Lubbock, Texas. Jung was selected in the first round by the Texas Rangers in the MLB draft on Monday. (Brad Tollefson / AP)
Texas Tech’s Josh Jung cheers after Cameron Warren hit a home run against Dallas Baptist during the NCAA regional tournament last Saturday in Lubbock, Texas. Jung was selected in the first round by the Texas Rangers in the MLB draft on Monday. (Brad Tollefson / AP)

For the past few seasons, the Spokane Indians’ parent club has spent its top picks in the MLB draft on high school players and stashed them at their extended spring facility in Arizona to get seasoning before assigning them to affiliated clubs the next season.

This year, it’s a different scenario.

The Texas Rangers used their first three selections in the 2019 MLB draft on college players who could very well find themselves in Spokane Indians uniforms before too long. It’s the first time since 2015 the Rangers took a college player with their first pick.

The Rangers and Indians haven’t released a roster for this year’s team – although fans should find out soon which players the organization will send to Spokane for the Northwest League season as players are scheduled to arrive in town on Saturday.

The players selected on Monday won’t be part of that wave but could make the trek soon.

In the first round, with the No. 8 overall pick, the Rangers picked Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-handed hitter. It’s the first time since 2008 the Rangers used their first overall pick on a college position player.

The Red Raiders have advanced to the Super Regional level of the NCAA Tournament, so Jung will be preoccupied with that for the foreseeable future. He should sign and be assigned quickly once the Texas Tech season is completed.

For comparison, last year the Rangers took infielder Jax Biggers in the eighth round out of Arkansas while the Razorbacks were in the playoffs. Biggers reported for duty in Spokane on July 12 and played 39 games with the Indians.

Through 57 games this season, Jung is hitting .340 (72 for 212) with 11 home runs, 53 RBIs, a .478 on-base percentage and a .608 slugging percentage. As a sophomore, he led the Red Raiders to a trip to the College World Series. He hit .392 over 65 games with 12 home runs, 80 RBIs, a .491 on-base percentage and .639 slugging percentage.

With their second pick – No. 41 overall during the Competitive Balance Round A – the Rangers took another third baseman, Davis Wendzel of Baylor. Wendzel and Jung shared Big 12 Player of the Year honors.

Wendzel played in 46 games for the Bears and hit .367 (65 for 177) with eight home runs, 42 RBIs, a .484 on-base percentage and .610 slugging percentage with 11 stolen bases.

The Rangers used their second-round pick (No. 50) to take right-handed pitcher Ryan Garcia from UCLA. He was the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.

Garcia pitched in 14 games, including 12 starts, for the Bruins and was 10-0 with a 1.39 ERA. He struck out 107 batters in 84 1/3 innings. He missed the first three weeks of the season with inflammation in his flexor tendon. Garcia features a plus fastball, a strong slider, a developing curveball and a good changeup with deception.

During the second day of the draft Tuesday, the Rangers picked up several more college players, including Justin Slaten, a right-handed pitcher from New Mexico, in the fourth round; right-handed hitting outfielder Kellen Strahm from San Jose State in the fifth; and Wendzel’s teammate at Baylor, left-hander Cody Bradford in the sixth.

Strahm is from Eugene and attended Sheldon High, the Oregon State 6A champs in 2013 and 2015.

Bradford was the 2018 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore and shared co-MVP honors at the league tournament. He made just three starts this season before undergoing surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome.

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