Deep thoughts: Draft talk part two

Samford's Phillip Ervin is a potential Rays target - Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

The conversation started yesterday continues

Scott Grauer: If the Astros do take Moran, the chain reaction would certainly be impressive. I hope teams choosing in the top 10 did their due diligence on players they weren't expecting to be available, because they may have to make some tough choices. It seems like the Twins at #4 stand to benefit the most. They need pitching badly in the organization, and having Appel or Gray fall into their laps would make for a happy war room in Minnesota. If the Cubs and Rockies end up with Appel and Gray in any order, then Kris Bryant is right there for them, and they can add another third baseman with big power to the organization to go along with Miguel Sano.

Last year, I agreed with Houston's approach in taking Correa for the reasons you mentioned. The money they saved allowed them to make some great choices later in the draft, and they still got a player in the top tier of prospects available. This year is different though. Moran is not on the same tier as Appel, Gray and Bryant, but even if you save money with that pick, what are you using it on? High school outfielder Ryan Boldt, who we covered in our previews leading up to the draft, could be a target in the second round. Is a scenario in which Kohl Stewart falls all the way to the second round back in play? That still seems unlikely to me. You don't draft for need, but after you look at the pitching depth in the Astros organization, it's just hard to imagine passing up an arm like Appel or Gray.

Michael Valancius: As more and more mock drafts come out, we get an idea of which players are linked to a team. I'm not sure how much of it is actually real and not just speculation, overblown interest, or even posturing on the part of the team. Regardless, it makes sense to keep an eye on these players. So far, the Rays have reportedly shown interest in Marco Gonzales (LHP), Cody Reed (LHP), Nick Ciuffo (C), Devin Williams (RHP), Phillip Ervin (COF), and Tim Anderson (SS).

My personal preference is for the Rays to target a player who slips in the draft with their 21st overall pick. If there is no clear candidate fitting that profile, I would not mind them targeting a high school pitcher. With the way that bats have fizzled out in the organization, it makes sense for them to draft to their developmental strengths and add another arm to the system. Ian Clarkin and Kyle Serrano are two of my favorites, though Serrano could probably be had with the 29th pick. On the positional player side, I find Billy McKinney's bat intriguing. Austin Wilson, a favorite of mine out of high school, and Aaron judge also offer star level ceilings with their physical builds.

One of the more interesting players of the draft, and one I would like to see the Rays target, is Cord Sandberg, an outfielder from Manatee High School in Florida. A popular question among draft followers is who will be the next Mike Trout. In other words, which toolsy, athletic, and overlooked high school player will really surprise everyone? McKinney is the player who seems to best fit that description in this draft. His tools have been equated to those of Austin Meadows, one of the best prospects in the draft. However, since he is a very good quarterback with a commitment to Mississippi State, he has not devoted his full attention to baseball. I would like to see the Rays pick him with either their 29th, 60th, or 90th pick.

SG: One more name I think I should throw out for the first round is Hunter Harvey. You covered him in our player previews, and he intrigues me in a couple ways. First, his lack of a college commitment gives teams a little more leverage in negotiations. His intention is clearly to sign quickly and begin his professional career, and as you said in your preview, that has to interest teams, and he wouldn't be a reach in the late first round either. He has some nice upside.

To go back to your point about mock drafts a little bit, if someone is reading all of them, they may think Ciuffo is already a member of the organization. It seems like every source has him going to the Rays at 21, and if the first 20 picks go the way people expect and no one unexpected falls, he would be a good pick. High school catching is one of a few strengths in this draft, and he has a good all-around skillset. Player comparisons made by people on the internet rarely make sense, and this is probably no exception, but his scouting report reads a bit like Travis d'Arnaud's to me. He doesn't do anything great, but he does everything pretty well.

When it comes down to it though, I think we should be looking at high school arms for the Rays. Pitcher development is their strength, and high school pitching is another strength in this draft. That's a nice combo. The Rays have always said that homegrown pitching is the key to sustained success in a small market, and since there's some depth in the high school pitching ranks this year, there's a nice chance for them to add to the organization and start a new wave of pitching prospects behind Guerrieri and Blake Snell.

MV: I agree with your thoughts on focusing on high school pitching. The way the Rays have been able to turn raw, young arms into talented prospects and players is one of the main reasons they are still competitive to this day.

I recall Friedman making a comment after last year's draft, explaining that he was frustrated that he was not able to draft more high school pitchers (I cannot find the quote, so you will have to take my word for it). Looking back at last year's draft, the Rays did not add much pitching talent to the organization; Nolan Gannon (fourth round) and Damion Carroll (sixth round) were the only two high school arms the Rays selected in the draft. While the Rays farm system is still home to many promising pitching prospects, the lower levels are relatively absent of high quality arms. The international signings of Jose Mujica and Jose Castillo help tremendously, but the lack of pitching prospects below Class-A Bowling Green is glaringly noticeable and mildly concerning.

If the Rays can add a few prep arms here and there in the first ten to fifteen rounds, it would help offset the deficiency. Obviously, the Rays can't just go out and pick high school pitchers with every pick. At the end of the day, you want them to select the best players available within their price range. But over the course of the draft, the Rays should be able to lean defer to pitchers when the gap between talents is practically nonexistent. If the Rays can come out of the draft with four to five high school arms in the first fifteen or so picks, I will be very pleased.

Tomorrow, the discussion wraps up with some predictions.
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