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Rays draft 2015: Corner position bat targets

Power is at a premium, and it is usually found at these positions

D.J. Stewart has been extremely productive for Florida State
D.J. Stewart has been extremely productive for Florida State
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays have used recent first round picks -- Casey Gillaspie and Richie Shaffer -- to add power at corner positions. I can't say if they would do that again, but someone like Ian Happ being the best player available in the first round could be the case.

3B/OF Bryce Denton, Tennessee H.S. (17 Y.O. 6'1 195, R/R- committed to Vanderbilt)

Best tool: Denton has the power potential teams want from a corner bat.

Analysis: Evaluators seem split on Denton's ultimate defensive home, particularly due to mixed reports on his arm strength. Whether he is at the hot corner or in the corner outfield, his bat is going to have to carry him. With his bat speed and strength, he has raw power to all fields, but he has not been tapping into it much this season. Whether or not he ever does depends on if he can master his timing at the plate and maximize his hit tool

Stock: Vanderbilt commits are typically hard to sway, but in the third round or so, Denton should be signable.

OF/2B Ian Happ, Cincinnati (20 Y.O. 6'0 205, S/R)

Best tool: Happ's hit tool is among the best in the class.

Analysis: Whether Happ should be in this post or not is certainly debatable, as many expect him to play second base professionally. Because he had hernia surgery right before the season started, his numbers at Cincy may not tell the whole story. Despite his five home runs, he is thought of to have average power potential, and his track record in the Cape Cod League is in his favor. If he is unable to stick at second base, he will play corner outfield, where his bat and approach will still play.

Stock: Happ is a first rounder, and the only question is if a team in front of the Rays really likes him.

1B Josh Naylor, Ontario H.S. (17 Y.O. 6'1 225, L/L- committed to Texas Tech)

Best tool: Naylor's power rates as plus or better.

Analysis: Naylor's power is among the best in the class, but how much else he brings is questionable. Sometimes he sells out for too much power, and he will need to tone it down and cut down some of his swing-and-miss tendencies. His approach needs refinement too. He has a strong arm, but it will likely be wasted as a first baseman as he is not expected to be able to play a good right field.

Stock: I don't expect the Rays to invest another high pick in a first baseman so soon, but Naylor should be around in the second round.

3B Tyler Nevin, California H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'3 200, R/R- committed to UCLA)

Best tool: Nevin has a good feel for hitting.

Analysis: Nevin has the ability to get his bat on the ball and make good contact, and he has an advanced approach at the plate. Despite already possessing good size, he has not shown much power yet, but it is believed that it will come. Where he will play defensively is a question. Tommy John surgery two years ago sapped some of his arm strengths, and he is not a great athlete. He could stick at third base, or he could be playing a corner outfield spot or even first.

Stock: Nevin should be taken between the third and fifth rounds, 23 years after his dad Phil was selected first overall.

OF Nick Plummer, Michigan H.S. (18 Y.O. 5'11 190, R/R- committed to Kentucky)

Best tool: Plummer can get his bat on the ball.

Analysis: Plummer is one of the tougher players in the class to evaluate, not only because he lives in a cold-weather state, but because his league starts batters with a 1-and-1 count. When evaluators get past those hurdles, they see a player with one of the best hit tools in the class. He has a great swing and knows the strike zone well. He also has the strength for above-average or plus power. It's not out of the question that he sticks in center field, but left field with a below-average arm seems more likely.

Stock: Sure, not every bat-first player from a cold-weather state taken in the first round pans out, but Plummer could be worth it.

3B Cornelius Randolph, Georgia H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'1 190, L/R- committed to Clemson)

Best tool: Randolph has the arm to play anywhere on the field his athleticism will allow him.

Analysis: Randolph doesn't just go to any Georgia high school -- that's Griffin High School, Tim Beckham's alma mater. Other than having similar size, there is not much in common between the two. Randolph plays shortstop now, but that is very unlikely as a professional. He has a good swing, impressive pitch recognition and the bat speed and strength for power to all fields. Even when he moves to the hot corner or the corner outfield, his bat should still play.

Stock: Randolph is a first rounder. I recall seeing somewhere that his bonus expectation might take him off the Rays' board, but I am unable to locate it again, if it does indeed exist.

1B/OF Chris Shaw, Boston College (21 Y.O. 6'3 248, L/R)

Best tool: Shaw's power is potentially plus-plus.

Analysis: Shaw has not had an easy spring for BC. In addition to the usual challenges players from the northeast face, he broke his hamate bone and was not the same hitter after that. When that's healed up, his power should return. He is not a one-trick pony, though. He has the ability to just make contact when the count demands it despite a pretty aggressive approach. He plays right field with a decent arm for the Eagles, but that could be a bit of a stretch in his professional career.

Stock: If the Rays like Shaw's power and just want to figure out where to put him later, he could be available in the second round.

OF D.J. Stewart, Florida State (21 Y.O. 6'0 230, L/R)

Best tool: Stewart can get his bat on the ball.

Analysis: In addition to making good contact, Stewart is an on-base machine. He leads the nation with 69 walks this season, and just a decent finish to the season would ensure his OBP for the season is .500-plus. Previously dinged for his lack of power, his ISO has increased from .196 as a freshman to .259 in 2015 with a career-high 13 home runs. His arm probably lands him in left field, but his instincts make up for his athleticism out in the field.

Stock: Stewart strikes me as a player that can fall into scouts' blind spots and outperform his draft position, but if he's a second rounder, I'm not sure that is the case.

3B David Thompson, Miami (21 Y.O. 6'2 220, R/R)

Best tool: Thompson's 19 home runs lead the nation.

Analysis: Thompson's powerful bat is a key cog's in the country's best offense. After injuries sidetracked his first two seasons (as well as a football career), he is healthy and producing. He has power to all fields, and with 43 walks to just 26 strikeouts this season, he clearly knows how to wait for his pitch. There are questions about his hit tool, though, despite a nice summer in the Cape Cod League last year. His repeated shoulder injuries limit his arm strength, and he could be limited to left field or first base.

Stock: College bats with Thompson's power are not terribly common, and he could be a third- to fifth-round pick.

3B Brandon Wagner, Howard J.C. (19 Y.O. 6'0 205, L/R)

Best tool: Wagner has a bit of power potential.

Analysis: Wagner may not even be a Day 2 selection, but the Rays have gone to the Howard well numerous times, recently for Hunter Wood and Nick Sawyer. His 22 home runs were second in the NJCAA, and his .571 on-base percentage and absurd .891 slugging percentage were outstanding. He has some athleticism but is apparently likely to be a third baseman or left fielder. He has two years of college experience under his belt, and he is still just 19.

Stock: Baseball America ranks Wagner 438th in the draft. If he was only a Day 3 pick, I would not be surprised if he continued his career at a four-year college, although I could not find a commitment to one if it exists.