The Major League Baseball Rule 4 draft is fast approaching so I figured it was time to cover some of the names that we might possibly see fall to the Tampa Bay Rays who have the 25th pick in the first round. For a few reasons I feel it is best to focus solely on college bats in this article. One reason is for sake of length of this post. I mean, who wants to read 2000 words from me? Second is that the best college arms will likely be gone when the Rays pick so I will stick with just the bats. A third reason is that you will likely get more articles focusing on other players in the draft here at DraysBay.
And the last reason I will focus on college bats, and most important on in my opinion, is because the Rays have the fourth lowest amount to spend in the first ten rounds of the draft this year with only $3.871M to spread amongst their first ten picks. College bats in this draft could be more likely to sign for slot or slightly below slot and allow the Rays go for more upside picks that may fall in later rounds and demand more than slot.
I also believe there will be a few suitable college bats available when the Rays select at the end of the first round. Of course, I could be completely wrong and the Rays could go in the exact opposite direction. But, to cover all the draft basics, I felt it was necessary to profile some of the best college bats that could fall to the Rays.
I listed them in order of the likelihood of them being available when the Rays pick and I did not include Mike Zunino because there is absolutely no way he falls to the Rays at pick number 25. Now that I have bored you, please take a look at the college bats that we could see taken by the Rays in the first round.
Stephen Piscotty (3B – Stanford): Over at the four-letter, Keith Law has the Rays taking Piscotty in his latest mock draft which came out this past Tuesday. Piscotty has hit .335/.425/.488 with a .407 wOBA for Stanford this season with 11 doubles, 3 triples, and 5 homeruns and his schedule and park adjusted line, according to College Splits, is .344/.435/.502. Stanford is known for tinkering with player's hitting mechanics which usually lead to less power so do not let Piscotty's five homeruns fool you; he has 15-20 homerun potential power to go along with his plus hit tool. If he were to add some loft to his swing he could hit more than 20 homeruns. Piscotty not only held his own in the Cape Cod League last fall (a wooden bat league) but he lead the league in hitting. Piscotty has an above-average arm that plays well at third base but his footwork is shaky although he could be an average to slightly above-average defender there. But Stanford moved him to the outfield, a place where some scouts feel he is best suited, and should have no problems profiling in a corner outfield spot. Scouts like his makeup and work ethic and he is simply one of the best, if not the best bat among college players.
Tyler Naquin (OF - Texas A&M): I spoke with a team scout who has been in Texas all spring and has seen a lot of Naquin and he said he might be the best hitter for average in the draft and has good gap power. Naquin has one of the best arms in the outfield and the same scout told me although he has not played much center field for Texas A&M he does have the speed and arm for the position and profiles there the best. Naquin hit .397 last year to lead the Big 12 and is hitting .373/.453/.539 with a wOBA of .439 and 15 doubles, 6 triples, and 3 homeruns this season to go with 17 stolen bases. He could add some muscle to his 6'1'' 175 pound frame to try and add muscle but I think his best role is to play center field so the added muscle may not be a good idea but a team who wants to profile him in a corner may ask him to do so.
Richie Shaffer (3B - Clemson): Shaffer is likely the best college bat in the draft and could be gone well before the Rays pick but if he were to fall here he would be a steal. Shaffer has the best bat speed of any player in the draft and the result is plus raw power and above-average in-game power. Shaffer has hit .344/.470/.590 with a wOBA of .459 and even better park/schedule adjusted wOBA of .487. Shaffer catches up to premium velocity thanks to the bat speed and his hit tool is also above-average. He comes armed with an above-average gun at third base and should be able to stay there in pro ball but has plenty of arm if he is moved to right field. His approach and discipline at the plate are incredible with 51 walks in 56 games. If he falls to the Rays I see little doubt they would take him. His bat is good enough to profile anywhere.
Deven Marrero (SS - Arizona State): The industry consensus points to the Pittsburgh Pirates as likely takers for Marrero at pick eight but if they do pass on him he very well could fall to the back half of the first round. Marrero is a no-doubt shortstop with plus defense at the skill position including a 70 grade arm from Keith Law and one scout I spoke to. He has soft hands and great instincts to go with well above-average speed when he is playing at his best. He has quick hands and makes a lot of contact with only 16 strikeouts in 51 games this year. He does come with some concerns. The first is his new swing that was implemented this year and the second is his perceived lack of hustle and nonchalant demeanor on the field. Neither of these were problems in 2011 when he looked like a no-doubt top 5 pick and potential first overall pick. Shortstop may not be a position of need for the Rays but If he falls to the Rays and they believe they can fix his swing then they will get an absolute steal and the Rays will likely take the best player available that they can sign in their slot.
Victor Roache (OF - Georgia Southern): Roache has only played in six games this spring thanks to a broken wrist suffered trying to make a diving catch in the outfield. Roache led the nation with 30 homeruns as a sophomore last season and many thought he was a surefire first round pick. Roache is also destined for left field with only average speed and an average arm so his wrist has to be healthy in order for him to bring value to a ball club. Roache was trying to make it back in time for conference play but could not and he may be a gamble if taken in the first round despite the huge power. Roache would be a reach here but one that could sign for below slot and pay huge dividends if his wrist heals properly.
*Stats are from CollegeSplits and may be for games played only through this past past weekend.