The Texas Rangers landed a potential high-impact arm last Friday by signing right-hander Barret Loux for a $312,000 bonus.
Loux initially went to the Arizona Diamondbacks as the sixth overall pick in this year's MLB Draft. He was set to sign for a slightly below-slot $2 million bonus, but D-Backs doctors didn't like what they saw in the physical.
Coming into the draft, teams had some concerns over the health of Loux's elbow, which was operated on in 2009 when doctors removed bone spurs. His physical with Arizona reportedly revealed potential shoulder troubles.
In the end, the Diamondbacks didn't offer Loux a contract. By failing to sign him, Arizona gets an extra first-round pick––a compensation selection––in the 2011 MLB Draft.
Because of Loux's in-depth contact with the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball, an extra predicament was created in that the NCAA likely would have ruled him ineligible to return to college for his senior season. So MLB compromised with an unprecedented decision––granting the pitcher free agency.
Loux finally signed with the Rangers after a three-month free agency process. As the hurler explains below, he worked out for a number of teams, took a handful of visits, and eventually chose a team from his home state.
While the Houston native is currently healthy and ready to pitch when the 2011 season begins, both his shoulder and elbow could present future injury problems. The Rangers went through a similar situation by drafting and signing hard-throwing righty Tanner Scheppers in 2009.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound prospect turned down a reported $800,000 bonus out of high school and instead chose to attend Texas A&M. Loux pitched three seasons with the Aggies and broke out during his junior campaign, becoming one of college baseball's premiere Friday night starters.
This past season, Loux posted an 11-2 record with a 2.83 earned-run average. He logged 105 innings and yielded 78 hits while walking 34 and striking out 136.
The 21-year-old shows above-average command of his fastball, which sits in the low-90s and touches 94-95 mph on occasion. He also features a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. Though Loux's secondary stuff isn't as advanced as his fastball, he took strides in developing and going to the offspeed more often this past season.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Loux to discuss his unique free agency process in addition to his game on the mound.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on finally getting a deal done and signing with the Rangers?
Barret Loux: It doesn't even really seem real yet. I've just been waiting a long time. To sign with such a great organization is something that I'm really excited about.
Cole: You grew up in the Houston area and went to school in College Station. Did you ever follow the Rangers growing up or were you more of an Astros guy?
Loux: When I was younger, I was more of an Astros guy. But over the past year and a half or so, I've kind of converted into a Rangers fan, actually. A few of my roommates are some of the biggest fans, so I've kind of been converted a little bit.
Cole: What went into your decision to eventually sign with the Texas organization?
Loux: Staying in Texas was a huge perk, obviously. I've never heard a negative thing about their minor league system––just how it's all homegrown and that they support their guys. You get moved through the organization and have good coaching. That's something that is really important to me.
Cole: I've seen you mention that the Rangers' handling of Tanner Scheppers' arm and his unique situation had an impact on you signing with the club. Did you talk about Scheppers with the Rangers?
Loux: Not so much, but when I met with Dr. Meister over the summer, he was telling me about that situation. He was talking about how they've taken care of him, how they took a chance on him, and that he has kind of flourished in the organization.
Cole: Your area scout both in high school and college was Randy Taylor. How much contact have you had with him throughout your career? And did you have contact with him during this free agency period?
Loux: Not really, to be honest. I didn't talk to the Rangers that much. I didn't ever talk to anybody, really. It was more (agent) Tom Little. But I went up there on Monday and met with (Rangers scouting director) Kip Fagg. I just talked to him and he talked to me to get a feel for how my baseball knowledge is and my personality––stuff like that.
Cole: Did you make any other visits outside of Arlington?
Loux: Yeah. I went to Baltimore, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee.
Cole: Did you also throw for all of those teams as well?
Loux: I threw for Baltimore and I did a motion analysis thing for Milwaukee.
Cole: You were going on visits and had the freedom to sign with a number of teams. Did this feel sort of like a second college recruiting process?
Loux: Yeah, it was just kind of a weird feeling. I was in class, and then I'd go from class to the airport. I was getting to fly around to different places and see doctors. It was a different experience.
Cole: And I assume you saw doctors with each of the teams you went to visit.
Loux: Yeah, I did. I didn't see the Rangers doctor when I went up there on Monday because I had seen Dr. Meister earlier in the summer when I just really wanted to talk to somebody about my situation instead of just being told, ‘Here, you have a problem.'
Cole: I want to go back to your situation because it was unprecedented and could change the way the draft works going forward. Did you ever hear a specific reason from Major League Baseball on why they chose to make you a free agent?
Loux: No, they never said why or gave me a reason. I just feel like it was the right thing to do. I didn't do anything––I didn't deserve it. It just kind of made everybody happy. That's all you can ask for. That's all I ask for––just a chance to play baseball. When that came out, I was happy.
Cole: As you mentioned, you got a second opinion with the Rangers medical staff fairly early in the process. How different were their findings versus the Diamondbacks?
Loux: It wasn't so much that it was different––I just had more time to talk to them, ask questions, and get a real feel for it. Not being a doctor, you don't know everything they're talking about, what it means, and what it's from. Just that type of stuff.
Cole: You had a bone spur removed in your elbow in 2009. But is there anything the Rangers have found that needs to be surgically repaired at this time?
Cole: So you'll be going into Spring Training next year completely ready to pitch and join a team out of camp?
Cole: Tell me a little about you as a pitcher. What do you have in your arsenal on the mound?
Loux: I'm a four-pitch guy––fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup.
Cole: Out of the three secondary pitches, which do you feel is your go-to or most advanced?
Loux: It's hard to answer that, because on any given day one can be really good and there are other days where I don't throw it a lot. Really, during the season, every game was different. There were some games where I threw 15 to 20 curveballs and some games it wasn't really a factor. Some games I threw 20 changeups and then some games I threw three. It was just different every time. If I had to say, I'd probably say changeup right now. But every game was different. There were some games where every pitch was my best pitch.
Cole: Were you a guy that featured a changeup in high school, or was that something you developed in college?
Loux: No, I threw it in high school––probably more so in select ball or just against the better hitters in high school. Because if you're throwing guys changeups in high school, you're just doing a lot of them a favor. So I probably threw it primarily in select ball, when you're playing guys that were going off to play Division I, Division II, or JUCO baseball.
Cole: How did you feel you performed in your junior season at A&M?
Loux: I feel pretty good about it. I went out every time and gave the team a chance to win. That's all you can really ask for.
Cole: Your freshman and sophomore years were strong, but you really took off as the leader of the pitching staff and Friday night guy in your junior season. What led to that breakout?
Loux: The two biggest things were just not really ever having to worry about recovering time or worrying if I was maybe going to miss a start or something like that. Once I had the surgery and that bone spur was removed, it felt like my elbow was brand new again. It was the best it has ever felt.
The other thing was definitely pitching with breaking balls consistently and consistently throwing them for strikes. I wasn't just being in a fastball-type rhythm. Later on in the game, I could show hitters something new that they hadn't seen before instead of just trying to get the fastball by them after they've seen it a few times.
Cole: You've been a starting pitcher throughout your career, and I would have to assume the Rangers will develop you as one. But have you had a specific talk with them about it?
Loux: Yeah, they said they see me as a starter.
Cole: What will you be doing in the remainder of the offseason as you prepare for your first Spring Training?
Loux: The same stuff I've been doing for my entire life––and for the past five months. I'm finishing up school and doing arm care stuff with our trainer here at A&M. I've been lifting, throwing, running, and doing all the stuff you need to be ready.
Loux relieved to end process
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