The Rays haven't drafted well. Would they be better off had they just taken the BPA, according to BaseballAmerica? To find out, I looked at each 1st and 2nd round pick the team has made since 2006, the first full year of the Andrew Friedman era.
A good start for the Rays, obviously, grabbing Longoria over the tall lefty from UNC who is now a situational reliever for the Red Sox. Josh Butler was traded for Gabe Gross and got a tiny cup of coffee in the majors. Brett Anderson has shown great promise, but also a great inability to stay healthy.
2007 Rays picks: David Price, Will Kline
2007 BA picks: David Price, Matt Harvey (but really Jack McGeary)
Ooh, that one got you excited, right? Harvey was rated as the #11 prospect in the draft, so it's pretty obvious he fell because of his Scott Boras/UNC attachment. Jack McGeary was the highest-rated player (#27) on the board who actually signed. He's been a disappointment for the Nationals, who drafted him in the 6th round, topping out at high--A with a 5.06 ERA to show for it. Will Kline meanwhile pitched 27 innings for low-A Columbus in 2007 before his arm figuratively but also actually maybe literally fell off. He spent the next few seasons in perpetual rehab, never to appear again in a professional box score.
This was the big chance for a breakaway, but alas, BaseballAmerica rated Pedro Alvarez and not Buster Posey as the top prospect (Brian Matusz was 2nd, followed by Tim Beckham and then Posey). Alvarez has hit for power as expected but is also a .235 career hitter. Tanner Scheppers was an inconsistent, oft-injured Fresno State starter who could hit 99, which seems to be the only thing ranking him so high. Even his scouting report at the time doesn't scream #10 prospect: "In the past, Scheppers had difficulty commanding his curveball, which has evolved into a power 74-78 mph offering. Generally solid mechanically and athletic, Scheppers will rush his delivery occasionally and fight his command, becoming wild high. With his workable mechanics and terrific stuff, Scheppers has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter, but it all now depends on his recovery from the stress fracture."). Then again, Shooter Hunt was the #11 prospect and he proceeded to walk 236 hitters in 193 minor-league innings.
Anyway, Scheppers didn't sign and came back out as a senior the following year. Lobstein and Melville were high-ceiling HS pitching prospects. Both have steadily climbed through the minors but neither is going to come close to fulfilling their seven-figure potential.
2009 Rays picks: LeVon Washington, Kenny Diekroeger
2009 BA picks: Tanner Scheppers, Max Stassi
YOU WILL ACCEPT TANNER SCHEPPERS AND YOU WILL LIKE IT. The Rays obviously didn't sign either of these picks, so in our fantasy world we're going to pretend Scheppers (a senior with no leverage) and Stassi (a high school catcher with plenty of leverage, and by the way he ranked one spot ahead of Wil Myers on the pre-draft list) don't sign with the Rays. Compensatory picks commence!
Woo, that's a lot of draft picks. Luckily they don't have 634 first- and second-rounders next year for me to figure out. (What's that? Oh.) Anyway. The Rays aren't stuck with Josh Sale here, but they do get Zack Cox, who also hasn't made the majors. He is hitting decently in the PCL for Miami this year, though. Instead of O'Conner they choose Allie, a two-way high schooler who couldn't throw strikes on the mound and is now trying to hack it as a hitter. So basically the opposite of O'Conner's eventual path, am I right? Allie has power but he's hitting .215 in double-A.
Moving on, the Rays end up with A.J. Cole, whom the Nats went overslot to sign in the 4th. He was rated the #53 prospect entering this season, and by my count all 52 prospects in front of him have gotten hurt or promoted. Congrats, you're #1, A.J.! The Rays get Jesse Hahn three rounds earlier in this fantasy world, which means we'd be three rounds more pissed off at Logan Forsythe right now. They also grab James Paxton instead of Derek Dietrich.
2011 Rays picks: (inhales) Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook, Jake Hager, Brandon Martin, Tyler Goeddel, Jeff Ames, Blake Snell, Kes Carter, Grayson Garvin, James Harris, Granden Goetzman, Lenny Linsky (exhales)
2011 BA picks: Taylor Guerrieri, Josh Bell, Daniel Norris, John Stilson, Austin Hedges, Andrew Susac, Dillon Howard, Matt Purke, Jorge Lopez, Josh Osich, Alex Dickerson, Kyle Winkler
Let's see... still get Guerrieri, Bell is a top-100 prospect (Mahtook is not), Norris is going to be (he was pre-2012 and is killing it at Dunedin this year. Hager is not), Stilson is a AAA reliever (Martin is not yet in full-season ball and may well have been released), Hedges is widely regarded as the top defensive catching prospect and was a consensus top-30 prospect (Goeddel is not, though he's having a nice year), Susac is another catcher, he has an OPS over .900 in the PCL this season (Jeff Ames having a meh season), Howard pitched 41 innings in the minors, got popped for amphetamines, and retired, so he's basically the model Tampa Bay draftee (Blake Snell gives the Rays their first clear egde here!), Purke has never gotten back what made him a top draft prospect (Kes Carter has a .661 OPS), Lopez is looking an org solider with a backend ceiling (Garvin might be more if he can ever get healthy), Osich is a reliever who looks like he's been figured out at AA (Harris has a .561 career OPS), Dickerson has posted OPSes over .800 as he's steadily climbed the ladder (Goetzman is finally doing that this year), and Winkler has been moved to relief, again, and is in the Cal League (Linsky, who cares).
Basically what this shows is that the Rays could've done a lot better for themselves if money were no object. Bell, Norris, Hedges, Purke, and at least one or two others I'm forgetting had huge bonus demands at the time, but it's hard to argue it wouldn't have been worth it. Any of Bell, Norris, Hedges, and Susac would probably be the best player of this draft for the Rays after Guerrieri (Bell and Hedges are better than TG but you know what I mean).
McCullers, from Jesuit HS in Tampa, was a popular name in mock drafts for the Rays, with the local connection, but the org opted for the college bat in Shaffer. The Clemson infielder is hitting for some power in AA, but still struggling to make consistent contact. McCullers, on the other hand, was a top-100 prospect entering the season. Anthony Alford has played 11 pro baseball games because he also plays college football, something the NCAA allows because (???????). He transferred to Ole Miss and is a DB there. Spencer Edwards has failed to impress in two pro (short-)seasons so far.
2013 Rays picks: Nick Ciuffo, Ryne Stanek, Riley Unroe
2013 BA picks: Ryne Stanek, Ian Clarkin, Phil Bickford (but really Jon Denney)
So the Rays still get Stanek, they get another pitcher in Clarkin, and a catcher in Denney (who out-OPSed Nick Ciuffo in the GCL by a .628 to .604 margin).
2014 Rays pick: Casey Gillaspie
2014 BA pick: Bradley Zimmer
Had the Rays gone with BaseballAmerica this year, they'd have... a different college hitter. So in the end this pointless exercise proved that the Rays aren't great at drafting, the BA list wasn't really great either, and Longoria over Miller probably erases every other mistake. If BA had Posey #1 instead of Alvarez in 2008, I think it might tip the scales. And the biggest thing it proved was that the Rays probably should've spent more money in 2011.