Rangers sign their top two draft picks

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The Rangers officially inked their top two draft picks on Friday, signing Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone to contracts with bonuses just under $1 million.

Texas sacrificed its first-round pick, the 19th overall selection, to sign Adrian Beltre, but gained the 33rd and 37th overall selections as compensation for losing Cliff Lee.

Unfortunately, after splurging to sign Cuban defector Leonys Martin in May, they declined to be aggressive with either pick, instead targeting players who would sign for slot money.

The 33rd pick, which originally belonged to the Phillies, was used on Matthews, a left-hander out of a Georgia high school.  He had a 1.68 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 42 innings in his senior year for Richmond Hill.

Cone, sadly, is most famous for being involved in the outfield collision that left University of Georgia teammate and now fellow Ranger draftee Johnathan Taylor paralyzed.  He was drafted 37th overall after hitting .275/.331/.385 with four homers and 35 RBI in 247 at-bats for the Bulldogs this year. He is a legitimate center fielder, but his bat is a big question mark.

According to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com, Matthews got a $960,000 bonus, while Cone’s was $873,000.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.