Rays 2014 draft review: Position players

Ideally, Casey Gillaspie puts this jersey on again soon - Brian Blanco

19 of the 41 Rays picks were hitters

The draft is obviously wrapped up, so it's time for a couple of posts to sum up things.  First, it'll be the hitters, led by first rounder Casey Gillaspie.

I don't think there were many surprises here, starting at the top of the draft.  Just about every mock draft had them connected with a college bat, and that's the direction they went in.

One surprise is the lack of high school hitters.  They've established a pattern of targeting them, but that did not happen this year.  None of their top 300 picks were high school bats, and they only took three total, starting in the 21st round.  It's entirely possible they don't sign any of them.

Catcher

6. Mac James, Oklahoma, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'1 195, 21 Y.O.

For the most part, I thought the Rays would ignore this position, and I was partially correct.  Oklahoma's staff was not very good, and James only caught 25 of their 58 games this year.  He played first base, third base and left field too, and that versatility will serve him well as a professional.  He threw out over 50% of attempted base stealers this year, but to my (untrained) eye, his throws on video didn't have much zip, and his pop times were below average.

James had a strong year at the plate though, leading the Sooners in average (.330) and finishing second in OPS (.875).  He walked more than he struck out and hit five home runs.  He appears to excel hitting to the opposite field, and he wears out the right field line in the following video.

James has already signed and will likely be suiting up for Hudson Valley very, very soon.

Oklahoma highlight video

39. Blake Grant-Parks, Cal State Monterey Bay, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'2 195, 20.88 Y.O.

Grant-Parks was first drafted by the Rays in 2011, but he did not sign after undergoing labrum surgery.  After two years at Sierra College, he transferred to Cal State Monterey Bay where he did not hit very well, posting a .651 OPS in 142 at-bats.  He played sparingly at catcher, but he has already signed and is expected to catch for Princeton in 2014.

First base

1. Casey Gillaspie, Wichita State, Bats Switch, Throws Left, 6'4 240, 21.34 Y.O.

The Rays' first pick seems to be one of the more divisive players in the entire draft.  That division comes on his power potential, with evaluations ranging from above average (20-22 home runs annually) to plus (25-30).  At first base, that's the difference between being a nondescript player and Lance Berkman, one of the rosy comps for Gillaspie.

What can't be argued though is how productive Gillaspie was as an amateur.  His 15 home runs were tied for fifth most in the country, his 58 walks led the country, and he was second in on-base percentage.  Last summer, he led the Cape Cod League with eight home runs, so he has shown previous success with a wood bat.  He's better batting from the left side, but he should be successful from both sides.

Gillaspie has already signed, so he's going to get plenty of professional experience this year.  He's an okay first baseman, and his bat will have to carry him.  For that to happen, he has to prove he can generate the bat speed to hit for power.

MLB.com video

24. Nic Wilson, Georgia State, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'6 240, 21.86 Y.O.

One of the few power hitters better than Gillaspie in 2014 was Wilson, who hit 18 home runs and slugged .684, ranking him fourth in the country in both categories.  Before his two years at Georgia State, he spent a season at Hofstra and Eastern Arizona.  I haven't seen any confirmation that he has signed yet, but as a college senior, if he wants to play professionally, he really doesn't have a choice.

YouTube highlight compilation

Second base

13. Jace Conrad, Louisiana-Lafayette, Bats Left, Throws Right, 5'11 195, 21.46 Y.O.

Conrad's best tool is his beard-growing ability.

He was also extremely productive for a strong Lafayette team in 2013, and he was rewarded by being named the Sun Belt Player of the Year.  Despite his size, he showed a little pop with nine home runs and 32 extra base hits, and he uses his plus speed well, stealing 22 bases in 26 attempts.  He's described as a good defender at second base.

Conrad hasn't signed yet, but every college player drafted in the 13th round last year signed, so I'd expect that to happen.

27. Grant Kay, Louisville, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'0 185, 21.01 Y.O.

In his first season at Louisville, Kay made an immediate impact as a transfer from Iowa Western.  He earned the coveted grinder label by being a singles hitter, getting on base at a .400 clip and being an effective and efficient base stealer, getting 23 of them in 26 attempts.

Kay played a lot of first base for the Cardinals, but that's more due to the configuration of their team than because he's not capable of playing anywhere else.  I'd expect him to sign when Louisville's season is over.

Shortstop

5. Michael Russell, North Carolina, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'2 200, 21.33 Y.O.

As the MLB.com scouting report says, Russell is the quintessential college shortstop.  He's not athletic enough to be a regular there, but he can probably play it in the pinch, giving him versatility he could use to reach the majors.  For an everyday position, second base is the best fit.  He's smart and plays the game hard.

Russell's offense improve tremendously in his junior season.  He set career highs in all three slash stats, doubles and home runs, and his OPS was 150 points higher than it was as a sophomore.  Despite pretty decent size, his power is limited to the gaps.  He does run well though, and he stole 45 bases in 55 attempts for the Tar Heels.

There's no reason to assume signing him will be difficult.

MLB.com video

18. Alec Sole, Saint Louis, Bats Left, Throws Right, 6'2 200, 21.00 Y.O.

If Sole can do one thing, it's put his bat on the ball.  He's a career .316 hitter with a strikeout rate just below 8.0%.  He walks a little bit and hits for no power and isn't terribly athletic, so it'll be interesting to see how this offensive game translates to the professional ranks.

It seems like he played shortstop his entire career, but I'm not sure if that's going to continue as a professional.  Obviously fielding percentage isn't an end-all metric for defense, but his career high of .946 came this year.  At the very least, he seems to be a bit clumsy.

This tweet looks like someone that plans on signing, no?

36. Isias Alcantar, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'0 215, 22.69 Y.O.

Alcantar was a productive hitter for UAPB, and he was the SWAC Player of the Year in 2013.  He hit six home runs in back to back seasons, and the rest of the team only hit seven combined in 2014.  He also led the team in the slash stats.  He's not a very good defender, and he doesn't have the athleticism to continue playing shortstop.

Third base

8. Daniel Miles, Tennessee Tech, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'2 190, 22.81 Y.O.

Tennessee Tech had the highest scoring offense in college baseball in 2014, scoring a comically high 8.3 runs per game, and Miles was a key cog in the lineup.  In college baseball's new era of little offense, his video game like statistics stand out: .380 average, .481 on-base percentage, .599 slugging, 39 strikeouts to just 21 walks.  His 11 home runs actually only tied him for third on the team.

There's not any scouting info out there on Miles, so these stats are all we have to go on.  The Rays took a player who is clearly one of the more productive hitters in college baseball over the last two years, and since he's a senior that already signed, we'll see how he can do against professionals very soon.

Nice looking catch on YouTube

28. Carter Burgess, Sam Houston State, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'1 200, 21.15 Y.O.

Burgess was a mediocre performer for a Sam Houston State team that made the postseason (fifth in average, seventh in OBP, and fifth in SLG), but he did transfer from Rice, which means he comes with a bit of a pedigree.

Last summer in the Northwoods League, a competitive collegiate wood bat summer league, he was impressive though, hitting five home runs with a .985 OPS after hitting just one home run with Sam Houston State in his two seasons there.  At the very least, he has shown the ability to hit with wood.

Outfield

12. Braxton Lee, Ole Miss, Bats Left, Throws Right, 5'10 185, 20.77 Y.O.

Lee's offensive game seems to be similar to Sole's.  He has absolutely no power with a .044 ISO, but he makes good contact and got on base at a decent .385 clip.  His 30 steals in 35 attempts led the SEC, and he's been described as a terror on the bases.

The Rays list him as a center fielder, but he played left for the Rebels because of the presence of a very good outfield defender, San Diego fifth rounder Auston Bousfield.

I expect he'll sign after their season is over.

21. Jaime Ayende, Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico), Bats Switch, Throws Right, 6'1 170, 18.01 Y.O. (committed to North Central Texas College)

Ayende looks like he could be a nice project.  He has maybe average athleticism and projects best in a corner outfield spot depending on his arm develops.  He hits line drives from both sides of the plate and could develop a little power.

According to the Rays, he's the fifth player ever drafted from Beltran's academy.  10 out of 15 drafted Puerto Ricans last year signed, and I can't imagine it's going to take a huge bonus to get him away from North Central Texas College.

23. Zacrey Law, Robinson H.S. (Texas), Bats Right, Throws Right, 5'8 180, 17.90 Y.O. (committed to Dallas Baptist)

Law is another player that is not particularly big, instead relying on his above average athleticism to get on the professional radar.  He stole 25 bases, and he can field his position with a good arm.  At his size, I'd have to imagine any power he develops will be limited to the gaps.

I would expect Law to honor his commitment to DBU, but the Rays should have some wiggle room under the cap to at least make a tempting offer.

26. Cade Gotta, San Diego Christian College, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'4 205, 22.83 Y.O.

Perfect Game identified Gotta as a top 100 college senior in this draft, so kudos to the Rays for getting him this late when seniors are often in demand under this CBA.  He was cut from his high school team as a junior, so maybe he's the next Michael Jordan or something.  If that ever actually happened to MJ.

In 29 games in his second season at SDCC, he picked up 13 extra base hits.

32. Joshua Davis, Union H.S. (Oklahoma), Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'1 175, 18.13 Y.O. (committed to Pepperdine)

Davis is a U.S.A Baseball alum, and his athleticism is an asset on the field.  Perfect Game has timed him with 70 speed in the past, so he could probably stick in center field and steal some bases.  The same PG report notes his line drive swing and power potential when he gets stronger.

Like Law, Davis is probably an unlikely player to sign, but I'm sure they'll try.

33. Patrick Grady, Lander University, Bats Right, Throws Left, 6'0 225, 22.44 Y.O.

Grady was the first of three college senior outfielders the Rays took as the draft wound down.  He was a top player at the D-II level, finishing second in doubles, fourth in walks and fifth in total bases.  He posted an on-base percentage over .500 and hit nine home runs.  It was his third straight year with an OBP over .500.

Grady has already signed.

34. Chris Knott, East Stroudsburg, Bats Right, Throws Right, 6'0 215, 21.86 Y.O.

Knott competed against Mike Trout in high school, so there's a feather in his cap.  Somehow, his .399 average and .484 OBP were only second on East Stroudsburg this year.  His .667 slugging did lead though, and he's a pretty effective base stealer too.

Knott has already signed.

38. Chris DeMorais, New Haven, Bats Left, Throws Right, 6'0 195, 21.95 Y.O.

DeMorais is not a great athlete which is probably why he moved to the outfield after graduating high school.  He batted .336 but slugged just .443, meaning he's going to be hitting a lot of singles.

I'm assuming this means he's starting his pro career:

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