MLB's draft is coming up in a couple weeks, and it's time to start previewing some players. In terms of position players, the Rays tend to pick athletes, and that means most of these players could be of no interest to them. However, a number of early mock drafts indicate the Rays could be going in this direction. To the fans that have been clamoring for them to draft a first base prospect, this could be the year.
OF Brian Anderson, Arkansas (21 Y.O. 6'3, 185 R/R)
Best tool: Despite playing second base, Anderson has a pretty strong arm.
Analysis: Is one BA in the organization enough? Anderson plays second base for Arkansas, but with his size and tools, he could fit better at third base or the outfield, where he played his freshman season. He has the potential to add some more power, and that would make sure his bat profiles at a corner position. With his athleticism and arm, he could be a very versatile player.
Stock: Baseball America has compared him to JaCoby Jones, another athletic player from the SEC whose performance didn't always match the tools. Jones was a third round pick.
3B Michael Chavis, Georgia H.S. (18 Y.O. 5'11, 180 R/R- committed to Clemson)
Best tool: Chavis' short, quick swing generates a lot of hard contact.
Analysis: His hit tool is his best, but otherwise, Chavis' tools don't really stand out. With that quick swing, he can generate above average power, enough to profile at third base or a corner outfield position. His defensive landing spot is in question because of fringe average athleticism, but his arm should allow him to play at any of those options. He brings a lot of energy to the field, and the Rays haven't shied away from players like that early in the draft in the past.
Stock: Chavis hasn't been appearing in mock drafts lately, but it might be a stretch for him to still be around in the second round.
1B/OF Braxton Davidson, North Carolina H.S. (17 Y.O. 6'3, 220 L/L- committed to North Carolina)
Best tool: Davidson is strong player who has the power potential to bat in the middle of a lineup.
Analysis: In addition to his power, Davidson's not a bad hitter either, and he can hit to all fields. He has a patient, almost passive, approach at the plate too. Adjustments may need to be made to his swing to tap into his power more consistently, but that shouldn't be a hard issue to overcome. Whichever team drafts him will probably run him out there as an outfielder at first, but in the end, there's a near-consensus that he'll end up at first base.
Stock: Davidson is a first rounder, and he probably wouldn't even be available if not for the down spring.
LF Derek Fisher, Virginia (20 Y.O. 6'3, 205 L/R)
Best tool: Fisher has good bat speed and has shown bat to ball ability.
Analysis: Fisher was thought of pretty highly in the 2011 draft, and it's rumored that he passed up a seven figure bonus offer to play for the Cavaliers. He should have no problem procuring that again, but he's not the slam dunk pick some thought he would be after three years in the ACC. He hasn't really broken out yet, and a broken hamate bone limited him this year. His raw power hasn't translated to in-game production yet, and since he's not going to get any value out of his other three tools, he better figure that out.
Stock: Even without consistent production and the injury, Fisher is a first round pick because of his potential.
1B Casey Gillaspie, Wichita State (21 Y.O. 6'4, 230 S/L)
Best tool: Gillaspie is a switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate.
Analysis: I will start this with the obligatory mention that he is the White Sox's Cole Gillaspie's younger brother, and he also went to Wichita State. He's a good all-around hitter, and he can get it done from both sides of the plate. While he's limited to first base, he's a good defender there. If it was a tool, his plate approach would be his best one. He has an almost comical 52 walks to just 24 strikeouts on the season. He's the rare switch hitter that throws left handed.
Stock: Gillaspie is at a minimum a top 50 pick in this draft, so if the Rays want him, it'll have to be at #20.
For more on the 2014 draft
For more on the 2014 draft
LF Matt Railey, Florida H.S. (19 Y.O. 5'11, 195 L/L- committed to Florida State)
Best tool: Railey has a quick swing and can drive the ball to all fields.
Analysis: Railey is another player with mostly average tools across the board, and he's probably a bit of a tweener. It's unlikely that he can stick in center field with average athleticism, but he may not have the power to really profile on a corner position. He can hit though, and that tool can really carry a player. He's going to be a draft eligible sophomore in two years, so if he doesn't like the offer he gets, he can try again in two years.
Stock: Railey is not a first round pick, and he could be available with the Rays' second pick.
1B A.J. Reed, Kentucky (21 Y.O. 6'4, 245 L/L)
Best tool: Reed has broken out in 2014 as the best power hitter in college baseball.
Analysis: Reed leads the NCAA in home runs, and he's doing it in the toughest conference. He's performed well as Kentucky's ace too, but his future is with his bat and its huge power to all fields. His hit tool and approach aren't as good as Gillaspie's, but he's not a hacker either. Since he'll almost certainly be focusing on hitting from this point forward, maybe he can refine his offensive game even more. While he has the arm for pitching, he's stuck at first base.
Stock: Reed is another player who's not getting out of the first round.
C/1B Kyle Schwarber, Indiana (21 Y.O. 6'0, 235 L/R)
Best tool: Schwarber has what could be the best power in the class, college or prep player.
Analysis: Schwarber is one of the best hitters in college right now, not only among catchers, but any position. His 18 home runs in 2013 put him near the top of the leaderboard in the NCAA last year, and while he's not close to matching that total this year, he's still a big-time bat for Indiana, one of the best teams in the country. He may strike out a bit, but he's not an all-or-nothing type hitter. With poor agility and a mediocre arm, he probably shouldn't be catching at the next level, but that's never stopped a team from trying.
Stock: If a team thinks Schwarber can catch, he might not even be around at the 20th pick.
OF Mike Suchy, Florida Gulf Coast (21 Y.O. 6'4, 235 R/R)
Best tool: Suchy is a big, strong player, and he has the power to match.
Analysis: Born in Bradenton, as far as I can tell, Suchy is the best kind of local corner position bat in the draft. He's shown power both in NCAA and off-season play. He's a bit of an aggressive swinger, but he has a surprisingly good feel for contact and can hit to all fields. Despite his size, he's a decent athlete, but that's still not going to rescue him from a corner outfield spot. He has the arm for right field.
Stock: Suchy is far from an early round player, but I felt like including him since he could be the top local player at one of these positions.
1B Sam Travis, Indiana (20 Y.O. 6'0 195, R/R)
Best tool: Travis makes hard contact to all fields.
Analysis: Travis used to play the hot corner, but he's probably not capable of doing that anymore. Even if he doesn't have the typical first baseman's build, his bat could still carry him to the majors. He hits for power, but he's more of a hitter with power. He hits line drives all over the diamond, and his approach is solid with more walks than strikeouts in each of his last two seasons. His defense at first will be adequate.
Stock: It's not a certainty, but unlike a lot of the first base options here, Travis could be around in the second round.
Paul Kirsch is the Rays' area scout for the Pacific Northwest. They tend to take a number of players from that region, indicating a high level of trust in his evaluations. Some of the players they've drafted and signed from there include Jason Hammel, Zac Rosscup, Ryan Brett, Drew Vettleson, Blake Snell, Jeff Ames, and Josh Sale. Jacoby Ellsbury leads a list of players they've drafted from there but did not sign. Here are some players from the northwest in this year's draft that could be on their radar.
LF Michael Conforto, Oregon State (21 Y.O. 6'1, 190 L/R): Unless he gets hurt tomorrow, it's extremely unlikely the Rays are even within five picks of being able to land Conforto. I'm sure they did their due diligence though and would be happy to land his very good bat, even if he's limited to left field.
OF Dylan Davis, Oregon State (20 Y.O. 6'0, 210 R/R): Davis was also a high school teammate of Conforto, but he may not be as good of a pro prospect. He should still be a second round pick though, and with power and a strong arm, he fits the right field profile.
1B Trevor Mitsui, Washington (21 Y.O. 6'5, 225 R/R): Mitsui is a former Rays pick they were unable to sign. He's been pretty productive in two off-season stints in the Cape Cod League, and he's been much better with Washington than his first two years.
OF Ben Roberts, Washington State (21 Y.O. 6'4, 210 L/L): Roberts has not been nearly as productive for the Cougars as his teammate on this list, but he's bigger and more athletic. He's a former seventh round pick.
OF Yale Rosen, Washington State (21 Y.O. 6'2, 205 L/L): For the second straight year, Rosen led Washington State in home runs, although four this year is a pretty modest total.
OF Ryan Sells, Lewis-Clark State (22 Y.O. 6'3, 200 R/R): LCSC is an NAIA powerhouse, and Sells is one of their biggest power threats, finishing second on the team in home runs and first in extra base hits.
C/OF Jake Shirley, Lewis-Clark State (22 Y.O. 6'1, 195 R/R): Sells' teammate moved behind the plate in 2014. He batted over .400 with a team leading 17 doubles and was an NAIA Player of the Year.