Rays scouting director and draft point man R.J. Harrison spoke with multiple reporters over the last week to discuss the Rays draft, which has been graded pretty well by outside sources. It's an interesting year, as the MLB draft on the whole was full of quality players and many who were injured.
The Rays relied on injuries to take high-ceiling guys at picks 2, 3, and 5, which is a roll of the dice on what's already a gamble, but may pay dividends for Tampa Bay.
We heard a bit from Harrison during the broadcast late last week, but rounding up the many resources out there, here's his general take on the key players taken in 2015.
"The first two kids... got us off to a really good start, and then... it was different, because it was all college guys, but a bunch of college guys who we think can go out and hit the ground running. We got some bats we like, and some good bullpen arms."
When asked, Harrison said the run of college picks from 3 down through 21 were "not really" a philosophical decision, but rather, "the dynamics of the draft now, the way that it is. You can't just take a bunch of high school guys like we would in years past, and really, there weren't those kind of high school guys that we had [marked] as better prospects at those particular picks.
"And honestly, when you start looking at high school guys versus college guys, after the first four/five rounds, typically that college guy's a better bet because he's been out, he's played against better competition, and the high school guy you're probably dreaming a little bit more.
"Just the way the pool of players was this year, we were commenting on it, there wasn't as many of those [players that inspire dreaming]. There was some upper-tier high school pitching, but there wasn't as much of that next level, the guys that are a little more project-able that you'd like to take... and see about getting them signed, and the ones that were there, the price tag was scary."
Harrison is long winded in his responses, sometimes rambling his points.
Upon mentioning relievers drafted he said, "And we may even... take a look at a couple of those guys and see if theyr're the kind of guys we might think about stretching them out a bit, and make them starters. We'll let Mitch... and those guys [in player development] make those decisions."
On Specific Players
1. CF Garrett Whitley (13th overall)
2. C Chris Betts (52)
On being able to pick Whitley and Betts, Harrison said he didn't think it was possible heading into the draft, but here the Rays are with both. His reactions are captured in the video at the top of the page, but it's great to hear Harrison talk about how the Rays had built a strong relationship with the Whitley family. Harrison was also complimentary on reports from home town friends on Betts's mentality and reputation.
3. 2B Brandon Lowe (87)
Brandon slipped to the third round on a broken leg, but personally I found the pick to be a round early. Harrison said his team thinks the injury is "straight forward" and dismissively said, "It's a broken bone!" The director isn't worried.
4. RHRP Brandon Koch (118)
"We don't try to run guys up through the minors quickly, but... there's not a lot of projection there... it's how quickly we want to move him."
5. OF Joe McCarthy (148)
On the "kid from Virginia" and his back surgery, the key reason why McCarthy fell from the higher range of the first three rounds to a fifth round choice, Harrison reminded reporters of the medical process, and said that the Rays staff had cleared him. "Most recently seen... early on, when he came back, it was a little tentative... but [he] seems to be back to full speed now."
7. 2B/RHP Jake Cronenworth (208)
Despite having what mlb.com called "the best splitter in the draft," Harrison confirmed that Jake will be a second baseman in the Rays system, as was surprisingly reported on the mlb.com draft page at selection time. "We might even toy with the idea of giving him time... on the left side of the infield."
"I feel good, there's more things that go on as you get farther away from the top. We got clipped a couple times, but we were prepared." This confirms the Rays had their eyes on some players they didn't get to early enough in the first ten rounds, but that will happen any year.
"We were very happy to get Gibaut... and Olmedo-Barrera [the 11th and 12th round picks], who our scout there has been on the whole year and really likes."
On the lack of southpaws drafted, "They just weren't there for us this year. That was the one area where ideally you'd like to add more."
All quotes via Rays Radio.