The MLB Draft is back, an event that was critical to the Rays turning their franchise around but also happens to be a house of horrors for them the last few years. Right now, though, all the optimism is back.
With their first pick, 21st overall, the Rays went with high school catcher Nick CIuffo. We know how catching prospects have worked out in the Rays system lately–not well, at all–but Ciuffo is a little different as someone who has great present defense and work to do offensively but at least a solid hit tool. Maybe he's the player who gives the Rays their first franchise catcher since....ever. Scouting Director R.J. Harrison described him like this.
"We like his tools and [his] chance to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues," scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "He's a high school kid that's going to start his journey and work his way through the Minor Leagues. He's got a plus arm, [he's an] average defender, and we like his bat and power. And he's a tough kid. We like the kid."
At 29th overall, the Rays selected right-hander Ryne Stanek out of Arkansas. The Rays don't usual select college pitchers (except David Price), but Stanek has considerable upside with a mid-90's fastball, sharp slider, and even a curveball and changeup that have their moments, and if the Rays can refine his mechanics and get him on track, this could go down as an absolute steal of a pick. Stanek wished he was selected earlier–he was once thought of as a top five pick–but he was thrilled to end up with the Rays organization.
"I would have liked to have gone a little earlier, but I'm not too disappointed, because I got taken in the first round," Stanek said. "And Tampa's a great place and a good place for right-handed pitchers and pitchers in general to go and develop. It's really a good fit for me."
And then in the second round, at the 60th overall pick, the Rays drafted high school Riley Unroe, a player who may not stick at shortstop but is known for his bat speed, foot speed, solid power, and ability to play either second base or left field. It may take an above-slot bonus to sign him away from USC, but if the Rays are drafting him you have to think they're more than ready to pay it.
Now back to the major leagues with your links for today:
-Within the same piece, Leyland called Evan Longoria "a terrific player" but was excited that his third baseman (Miguel Cabrera) was starting the All-Star game. Any chance Cabrera can move to first base with Longoria at third?