Welcome to draft day! This 2016 class is exciting in an unusual way. There isn't a clear slam-dunk, Bryce Harper-type prospect anywhere on the board. But what this class lacks in star power, it makes up for in depth; there are a fair amount of players who project to be good big leaguers. No one has any idea who is going to be picked first, much less who the Rays are going to choose with the 13th pick. Here are some possibilities if the Rays elect to go after a corner bat.
One point of disclosure - in spite of all the uncertainty surrounding this draft, one thing that seems certain is that neither Kyle Lewis nor Corey Ray will be available when the Rays first pick comes up. If they are, Matt Silverman and Co. will jump on them, but the names listed below are more likely to be available to the Rays.
If you want to follow the draft, MLB Network will carry the first couple rounds starting at 7 pm, and an MLB.com live stream is probably available too. The Rays will pick three times Thursday. Starting Friday, rounds three through 10 will start at 1 pm, and the remaining 30 will take place Saturday.
Several outlets have the Rays taking Lowe with their first selection. A high school standout from Georgia, Lowe has steadily risen up draft boards over the past year. Teams place a premium on left-handed hitting third basemen, and Lowe is athletic enough to play in the outfield as well.
This time last year, it looked like Lowe would be drafted as a pitcher. He's been clocked in the mid-90s from the rubber, and his 6-foot-4 frame suggests he could transition to the mound if his bat doesn't develop. But Lowe wants to be a position player, and he's going to be given that opportunity.
Despite his size, he moves well, and could develop into a plus defender. Scouts are also excited about his power potential. While his approach need some refining, he's already shown plus raw power that could develop into plus-plus game power as he fills out. The Rays like athletes, and they undoubtedly love being able to hedge their bets with Josh Lowe the pitcher if Josh Lowe the hitter doesn't pan out. Lowe is a good bet to become a Ray.
Jones, a high school shortstop from Pennsylvania, profiles better as a third baseman in the pros. There are no shortage of similarities between Lowe and Jones. Jones also hits from the left side, is also 6'4, and also projected as a pitcher this time last year. Lowe's approach might be more refined than Jones's at this point in their development, and Jones hasn't flashed the same type of power, though given his size, there is no reason to think it won't develop. Regardless of where Jones and Lowe end up, it will be interesting to compare their developments. Mock drafts seem to prefer the Rays taking Lowe at this point, but don't rule out the Rays drafting Jones instead.
Craig, the Wake Forest standout, hits from the right side. His athleticism is just average, and it's unclear what position he'll play. Listed as a third baseman, many scouts believe he will ultimately end up at first base or as a designated hitter. Craig has already maxed out his 6-foot-3 frame at 235 pounds, and scouts are undecided on exactly how his raw power grades out. Regardless, he's shown plenty of game power, hitting 37 home runs over his three seasons at Wake Forest in what essentially amounts to an MLB length season.
Craig won't be the Rays first pick, but given his positional concerns, he might still be on the board when the Rays come to draft at 53. He's at least worth some consideration at that point.
Much has been written about Kyle Lewis hailing from a non-power college, and Fisher, too, comes from a school you may never have heard of - Southeastern Louisiana. But he proved himself in 2014 in the Cape Cod league and his draft stock sky rocketed. Fisher, a rare redshirt junior, missed all of last season after tearing his labrum in his throwing shoulder. And it's unclear what position he will play in pro ball.
The Cubs liked Fisher enough to select him in the 24th round in 2012. His hit tool is his best tool - he squares up balls as consistently as any college hitter in this class. And while there were once serious questions about his power, he's hit eleven home runs this season, and he still has some room to fill out.
He'll fall out of the first couple of rounds because of the injury and positional red flags. But if his power continues to develop, he could turn into an above-average first baseman or corner outfielder.
Kirillof, another left-handed hitting Pennsylvanian, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. He can play center field but his athleticism makes him a better fit for a corner outfield spot. The son of a hitting coach, Kirillof has some unusual swing mechanics that have raised questions about how his bat will play at the professional level.
Kirillof cemented his place in the first-round discussion after defeating Blake Rutherford in the Perfect Game home run derby last season, blasting 34 home runs out of the notoriously hitter unfriendly PETCO park. He possesses a good arm and likely won't be difficult to pry away from his commitment to Liberty University.
The Rays probably won't pick him with their 13th pick, and while he's projected as a possible first-rounder, there are enough concerns that he could fall to the Rays at 53. He's a risk, but his upside might be worth it.
Benson, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound left-handed hitter, already has a mature frame despite still being 17. He played his high school baseball in the hotbed of Georgia and has drawn inevitable comparisons to Jason Heyward. But if all develops to its potential, he might have even more power than Heyward.
Scouts rave about his bat speed and overall athleticism. He's an excellent student, and, if he goes to college, will attempt to walk onto Duke's basketball team. But his swing has holes, and it's unclear how much contact he will ever make. If he can cut out some of the swing-and-miss nature of his game, he might become a perennial all-star. If he doesn't, he might not make it out of A ball.
The Rays like athletes and the Rays like smart players. If Benson is still there in the second round, he's the type of player worth rolling the dice on.
Quinn, a right-handed hitting corner outfielder from Samford, is another player the Rays could take with their second- or third-round pick. Quinn has flown somewhat under the radar in this year's class, despite clubbing 44 home runs and slashing .334/.424/.599 in his career at Samford. While Quinn didn't play in a power conference, he proved himself in the Cape Cod league last season finishing with an .870 OPS.
A 12th-round selection back in 2013, the Alabaman was a three-sport standout in high school, and was a year behind David Dahl at Oak Mountain High. The knock on Quinn is that he swings and misses too often, but if he can refine his approach, he has plenty of MLB upside. He reminds me of Trayce Thompson - perhaps never an all-star, but a major contributor on a solid team.