In the 2016 draft, the Rays will pick No. 13 overall and with it hopefully lock down a future first-division regular or high-end starter. While there are no guarantees on what the team will end up with, we all hope the Rays ends up with a player more like Mikie Mahtook than Ryne Stanek.
That being said, let's dive into the prospects in the 2016 draft. For the purpose of this article, I will use MLB Pipeline's Top 50, even though they aren't my favorite when it comes to rankings. However, they still provide in-depth reports and are the most updated ones out there currently. Since the Rays pick at No. 13, I will go five spots up and five spots down, covering No. 8 to 18 on Pipeline's list.
8. OF Kyle Lewis (R/R, 6'4 195, 7/13/95, Mercer University)
Pipeline gives Lewis the comp of Jason Heyward with more power but less defense. Lewis has a swing that is a fair bit loud, but he does have good bat speed with plus raw power. Lewis has a lean frame that could build some muscle, hopefully only compounding his power. He offers a good approach as well, with a solid average hit tool likely. While Lewis has fringey speed initially coming out of the box, it gets up to about average as Lewis gets going. There is a chance Lewis can stay in center, but in all likelihood he would work best in right with a decent glove and arm.
While outfield is a fairly deep position at the major-league level for the Rays, when it comes to strong bats who play outfield, you can never be too deep. This draft is heavy on outfield talent, so while the team isn't forced to pick Lewis if they want an outfielder, they would be passing up a powerful bat.
9. OF Bryan Reynolds (S/R, 6'2 210, 1/27/95, Vanderbilt)
Reynolds has been a standout at Vanderbilt, leading the team in batting average (.338) and slugging (.480) in the 2015 season. While there is no elite tool in Reynold's arsenal, he still maintains a solid hit tool from both sides of the plate with a smooth swing. Reynolds's hitting style isn't about brute power; he shoots liners into the gaps and draws an above average amount of walks. Reynolds also has solid speed that plays up on the basepaths, allowing him to steal bases well. His speed mixes with a good jump and strong instincts to make a solid defensive center fielder. However, Reynolds has a weak arm that hampers his overall defensive profile and would limit him to left field he were to move from center.
Another college bat, Reynolds is a safer bet at the plate. However, his lack of power might make teams that need power bats (like the Rays) look elsewhere. On the other hand, Reynolds already has three major-league solid tools that could hasten his rise to the MLB.
10. SS Delvin Perez (R/R, 6'3 165, 11/24/98, International Baseball Academy [Puerto Rico])
Perez is the best shortstop by default in this draft class as the only shortstop in the Top 50, but don't let that debase him. With a plus arm, quick reflexes, and good instincts, Perez has excellent defensive range and may be one of the best defenders in the draft class. The only gripe with his defensive game is the fact that he'll often get too fancy and do too much. Although Perez has great defensive skills, his hit tool has room to improve. Pipeline says "his [Perez's] approach at the plate and pitch recognition need to be refined." In addition, Perez lacks average power, but he may develop into it as he matures.
If the Rays feel the need for more shortstop depth (which they probably won't), Perez is the obvious choice if he remains on the board. However, Perez may still move up the rankings even more with a strong spring, most likely putting him out of reach of the Rays.
11. RHP Connor Jones (R/R, 6'3 200, 10/10/94, Virgina)
Jones is the best pitcher in range of the Rays in the draft, and has enough to intrigue the team should he fall to them. Jones's best pitch is his fastball, which he can get up to 96 but usually sits in the low-90s. He mixes in two breaking pitches, a fringey curve early in the count and an above-average slider that is his go-to for striking out batters. Jones also employs a solid changeup that has pretty good movement. In addition, Jones has solid command that shouldn't need too much refinement.
Jones may not have as high of a ceiling as other top arms like Jason Groome or Riley Pint, but his floor is solidly high and he should have a quick path to the majors, emulating Aaron Nola of the Phillies. However, Pipeline does note that many Virginia starters often struggle when they reach the next level.
12. RHP Jordan Sheffield (R/R, 6'0 185, 6/1/95, Vanderbilt)
Sheffield, as Pipeline puts it, has the chance to develop three plus pitches in his career with a powerful fastball that sits in the mid-90s but gets up to 98 and it maintains its velocity late in start. In addition, Sheffield has a strong, three-quarters breaking ball which will most likely develop into a slider and a circle change that can also be used to get hitters out. However, his control is not up to par with his pitches and is graded by Pipeline as a 45. While Sheffield's stuff and stature draws comparisons to Tom Gordon, there are concerns of Sheffield's durability as a starter since Sheffield had Tommy John surgery in 2013. Also, Sheffield can overthrow his pitches at times, only exacerbating any concerns with his durability.
I always like the idea of the Rays developing a toolsy if raw pitcher, and Sheffield fills that role perfectly. However, the durability concerns may scare many teams away, including the Rays.
13. OF Mickey Moniak (L/R, 6'2 190, 5/13/98, La Costa Canyon (Calif.) HS)
Moniak showed an impressive hit tool in the summer circuit against the top competition. He hits line drives into the gaps consistently. However, that's all he has the power for, but Moniak has time to build strength on his lean frame. In addition, Moniak has above-average to plus speed which he employs both on the base paths and in the field. Scouts also give praise to his instincts and effort.
Moniak is the second-best high school outfielder in the draft class and has more projectability to go along with that. The Rays may be interested in Moniak's hit tool, and there is enough defense to work with.
14. 3B Nick Senzel (R/R, 6'1 205, 6/29/95, Tennessee)
The main reason Senzel is ranked so high is his performance last summer's Cape Cod League; he led the league in runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, XBHs, total bases, slugging percentage, and OPS. He was given the Top Prospect Award from scouts. Senzel combines good bat speed with a patient approach to make him a dangerous hitter from the right side. He also has good enough instinct to steal a few bases even though he only has average speed. The main drawback to Senzel's stock is the uncertainty with his defensive position. He was a DH and second baseman before spending the 2015 season as a third baseman. Senzel has a strong arm, but some question his glove and whether or not it's good enough to stay in the infield. There is the chance whoever drafts Senzel will move him to the outfield.
Senzel has a lot to like at the plate, meaning he might not even be there when the Rays are on the clock. However, the Rays would be wise to consider Senzel if he's available and reap the results from his hit tool.
15. 3B Bobby Dalbec (R/R, 6'4 219, 6/29/95, Arizona)
The majority of Dalbec's draft stock lies in his power; he can crush fastballs. Power college bats are in short supply, and Dalbec is one of the few available. In addition, Dalbec has a strong arm from the left side of the infield. That's where a lot of the good ends for Dalbec. While in the Cape Cod League in the summer, Dalbec hit 14 home runs but struck out 64 times in 138 at-bats (46.4%). He clearly has major contact issues that have to be solved before he looks major-league capable. Also, Dalbec has below-average speed that limits his defensive ability and could force a move to first base.
Dalbec's power provides a very high ceiling, but but the high strike-out rate makes him a riskier pick coupled with limited speed and defense make him a risk pick.
16. OF Nick Banks (L/L, 6'0 200, 11/18/94, Texas A&M)
Banks played in the same outfield as top outfield draft prospects Corey Ray and Buddy Reed for the U.S. collegiate national team, and Pipeline calls Banks the best pure hitter of the three. Banks hits line drives in the gaps consistently with a clean swing. There is also solid to above-average raw power Banks is trying to tap into, but he loses his solid contact when he tries to turn on pitches too often. Reports vary on Banks's speed anywhere from fringey to plus, and there is a chance Banks can stay in center field. Banks does profile better in right and that looks like his likely final destination.
Banks's ceiling looks like a middle ground between line drives and lots of home runs with strikeouts, and that is what teams will be drafting him for. If the Rays feel like taking up Banks as a project, they could find that middle ground with enough work. If they had to take one or the other, I would prefer the Banks who hits lots of line drives over the power with the strikeouts.
17. 3B/RHP Josh Lowe (L/R, 6'4 190, 2/2/98, Pope (Ga.) HS)
Lowe may be the most intriguing draft prospect if for nothing else but the fact that he has a legitimate shot at the pros both as a pitcher and third baseman. At the plate, Lowe offers a clean lefty swing with some solid raw power to go with it. Lowe also has a plus arm, he's a good enough fielder to stay at third and his plus speed should only help him in that regard. As a pitcher, Lowe is more projection than anything else but his upside could be fairly high. His fastball is in the low to mid-90s and has good run and sink. In addition, Lowe's delivery from his long frame is clean and efficient, generating a good downward plane. Lowe has a decent breaking ball that could end up being an above-average slider and a change-up that needs some polish.
Lowe is hard to project thanks to his duality. To me, he would be a safer bet as a hitter, but some teams could be lured by all the projection on Lowe. I think the Rays would keep Lowe as a third baseman if they draft him since they have a wealth of pitching talent and they will recognize his higher floor as a hitter.
18. OF William Benson (L/L, 6'6 220, 6/16/98, The Westminster (Ga.) Schools)
Benson is given a Heyward comp by Pipeline as both of them are very athletic for their size and come from the same area. Benson has a quick, short swing that generates above-average to plus raw power; however, he found himself over-swinging at times in the showcase circuit. It is imperative that Henson focuses on keeping his swing compact in order to keep his stock as high as it is. Benson profiles well in right field with solid-average speed and an above-average arm.
Benson has the foundation to be a power-hitting right fielder, and there isn't too much projection necessary to see him become a major-league regular. Benson could be a sleeper pick that the Rays may select if they feel like reaching for him.