According to my calculations, there will be 1225 players selected in this year's First Year Player Draft taking place between Monday and Wednesday next week. The Rays will have 6 picks in the first 98 (17, 31*, 42, 66, 79*, and 98) and 53 overall. Obviously they won't sign all 53 guys selected, but they will have a real opportunity to add a ton to an already strong farm system (particularly with all the early picks).
With all the players selected and all the other issues projecting the baseball draft (HS/College, position player/pitcher, signability, etc.), it makes writing about what a team might do an almost futile effort. I could read everything on the internet, and I'd still likely miss on most of those first 6 picks. Hell, I might still miss on all of them. Since this is the case, I think it's a bit more illustrative to take a look at these first 6 picks and come up with game plans. Who might make sense? Is there a certain "set" of player that makes sense?
*These picks are unprotected due to not signing the guys drafted there last year.
To start, I think the best place to look is at the Rays drafting philosophy. In the past, can we put a certain "type" or "set" of player that the Rays have targeted under R.J. Harrison? I'll let ESPN's draft blog take over here:
I have heard this spring that the Rays are an "upside play" kind of club in the draft, suggesting they prefer the high-ceiling prep talent, but David Price and Evan Longoria, both college draftees, say hello. R.J. Harrison and the Rays' front office have shown they are willing to simply draft the best player on the board, regardless of position or level of amateur experience. Perhaps that's why they have one of the best young collections of talent among any organization in baseball.
Well that isn't much help. Looking at last year's draft there seems to be one pattern that pops up: players that fall due to injury. LeVon Washington and Luke Bailey both fit the bill. That's not much of a sample size to really target, though, so we'll assume the Rays go best player available and seemingly target higher upside over lower floor.
Looking at the number 17 pick, I think the Rays could make a really nice play for a high upside guy here. Personally, I'd target one of the very toolsy HS players, a college catcher, or a high upside arm (whether it be college or HS). Looking at the last 3 years, there have been some really talented players taken in the 15-20 range:
- 2009: Alex White (15), UNC, RHP and Shelby Miller (19), HS, RHP
- 2008: Ethan Martin (15), HS, RHP; Brett Lawrie (16), HS, IF; Ike Davis (18), ASU, 1B; and Andrew Cashner (19), TCU, RHP
- 2007: Chris Withrow (20), HS, RHP
As you can see, these guys were from both the college and HS ranks as well as being pitchers and position players.
Where the pundits think we go:
Bryce Brentz, OF, Middle Tennessee State- Brentz's stock seems to have slipped a little, but I still expect him to go in the middle of the round. I do expect the Rays to go pretty heavy on prep athletes at some point in the draft, but it may not come until the second round.
Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet HS (WA) - Though the Rays are typically big on athletes, they are also good at taking what the draft gives them. This year, they might get a good bat that slides, and Sale is looking more like a backup option at a number of slots rather than a primary target. The Rays, however, probably wouldn't let him continue to slide, as he's a signable power bat
Josh Sale - There will be a number of suitors for Sale, including the Astros, Angels and Blue Jays. The Rays have been scouting him as heavily as anyone and would love a chance at his powerful, high-upside bat. It's a toss-up whether he gets down this far, and this could be as far as he gets depending on who else is available for the Rays. Grandal is in play here if he's still around.
Brentz is a guy who has seemingly fallen, at least in some part, due to an injury sustained this year. He's a CF now, but he'll likely play RF and offer a plus arm there. He seemingly does everything well, but doesn't really have one tool that really sticks out. Seemingly, Brentz would be less of an upside pick unless the Rays feel his injury really hurt his game this year.
Sale is power hitter. Plain and simple. His body is a big knock, but it's part of what makes him a good hitter. He's thick, strong, and somewhat compact. Law has him going at 9 to the Astros, and if he slides he could be a good upside pick that could offer a ton of power in a corner OF spot down the road.
Others I like:
- Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard Westlake HS, CA Toolsy HS OF with a great makeup and Stanford commit.
- Matt Harvey, RHP, UNC Stud out of HS that never put it together until this year. Great velo average offspeed offerings.
- Yasmani Grandal, C, Miami High floor college catcher. Great defense and bat has developed.
Come back for Part II where we take a look at some of the other picks, and some draft odds and ends.