Via press release: The Tampa Bay Rays have signed four of their first 10 selections in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft: catcher Mac James (sixth round), right-handed pitcher Mike Franco (seventh round), third baseman Daniel Miles (eighth round) and right-handed pitcher Chris Pike (ninth round).
James, 21, was the first catcher selected by the Rays in the 2014 June Draft. The University of Oklahoma product led the Sooners with a .330 batting average, which ranked eighth in the Big XII Conference, during his recently completed junior season. He finished sixth in the conference with a .477 slugging percentage, and his 72 hits included 15 doubles, one triple and five home runs. He played two seasons at Oklahoma after transferring from Brookhaven College in Texas.
Franco, 22, ranked second in NCAA Division I with a 1.09 ERA (99-IP, 12-ER) and 12th with 112 strikeouts during the 2014 season at Florida International University. He set a Conference USA single-season ERA record, passing the previous mark of 1.21 set by Louisville's Carlos Fernandez in 2003. Franco went 9-3 in 15 starts, and nearly cut his walk rate in half from the 2013 season, when he was 5-4 with a 5.23 ERA over 14 starts. He spent two seasons at Howard Junior College in Texas before he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Miles, 22, hit .380 (90-for-237) with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 58 games as a senior at Tennessee Tech University. The first-team Louisville Slugger All-American third baseman ranked second nationally in runs scored (67) and tied for 10th in hits (90) and was a first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection for the second straight season. Miles began his collegiate career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Pike, 21, went 10-3 with a 1.89 ERA (90.2-IP, 19-ER) and 125 strikeouts during his senior season at Oklahoma City University. He was a first-team All-Sooner Athletic Conference selection and honorable mention NAIA All-American, ranking seventh nationally in strikeouts and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings. On March 7, Pike delivered the 24th perfect game in NAIA history, and then followed with a no-hitter in his next start on March 14. He started his collegiate career at Fordham and pitched three seasons there, ranking eighth in school history with 198 strikeouts and seventh with 253.2 innings pitched.
The Rays took a deliberate strategy with their later picks in the first ten rounds of the draft, signing players late in -- or at the conclusion of -- their college careers. After their first round pick at 20th overall, the Rays took high school pitchers in the second, fourth, and fifth rounds, then waited until the eleventh to do so again.
Ostensibly, High School players require more money from the draft pool in order to woo them away from a college commitment. The Rays chose three such players in the beginning four rounds, so opting for college players throughout the rest of the pool is quite reasonable.