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MLB Draft 2017: Rays corner infield depth and draft options

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Who’s available if the Rays want a first or third baseman?

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The MLB draft is less than a month away.

So while anxious highschoolers, college athletes, MLB fans, and management departments look ahead towards June 12th, here is where the Rays stand right now in the corner infield, and who in the draft they might add to the system.

As far as the Rays’ third base organizational depth chart goes, it can be summed up this way.

Rays' Third-Base Depth Chart

Name Level
Name Level
Evan Longoria MLB
Patrick Leonard AAA
Grant Kay AA
Kevin Padlo A+
Adrian Rondon A

And the first basemen:

Rays' First-Base Depth Chart

Name Level
Name Level
Logan Morrison MLB
Casey Gillaspie AAA
Joe McCarthy AA
Dalton Kelly A+
Nathaniel Lowe A

Clearly, there’s more nuance to these lists than just who plays the most where. Michael Brosseau has seen plenty of time at third base for the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Jake Bauers has played both outfield and first for the Bulls. Rickie Weeks sees time at first for the major league team. But in general, these ten players gobble up most of the innings at the corner infield throughout the Rays’ organization.

This group features some good baseball players. Evan Longoria (career .270/.343/.487 hitter and 47.8 fWAR) has been a steady star in the middle of the Rays’ lineup ever since they dropped “Devil” from their name. Patrick Leonard has torn up International League pitching all year, and Casey Gillaspie has shown power and patience potential as well. Even Logan Morrison carried a 125 wRC+ from May on last season (and owns a 132 wRC+ to start this season). But there’s always room to add talent through the draft.

Many believe Pavin Smith is the best bat in this year’s draft. Per John Sickels,

He maintained the power in the Cape Cod League (always a good sign) and has taken it a step further this year, all the while improving his strike zone judgment from sharp to “can’t get the ball past him.

Increased power production combined with a reduction in strikeouts is hard to find. His swing is mechanically sound and he should continue hitting for average and power as he moves up.

Pavin has done an exceptional job of turning considerable raw power into game power since arriving at Virginia. While Pavin is a great hitter, his below-average athleticism in the field limits him to a first base role, and talk of him going top-10 in the draft makes it hard to find a place where the Rays could take him. If they do love the bat, they could take him at four, but that’s very unlikely.

Pavin aside, the trend for this year’s entire first base draft class has been less-than-ideal power and a surplus of athleticism, especially behind Smith. Evan White, Nick Pratto and Brendan McKay all are thought of as hit-over-power first basemen (although Pratto still might mature as he grows).

From his MLB Pipeline draft profile:

White has an unusual profile. He bats right-handed and throws left-handed, he’s as athletic as it comes among first baseman and — unheard at his position — his power might be the weakest among his all of his tools.

Evan White is the option of these three that specifically stands out. I wouldn’t count on the Rays scooping up any of these players, though.

Two players the Rays could very well draft are Jake Burger (3B Missouri State) and Brent Rooker (1B Mississippi State). Unlike their fellow projected corner infielders, they have plus raw power but could stand to make a little more contact so that their power plays in live games. Rooker’s profile is built more upon his production track record (1.392 OPS in the SEC this season), but with the lack of college bats, he could see himself rise into the area where the Rays’ 31st and 40th picks are.

Burger may be a stretch to pick, as he should get top-20 looks from teams desperate for college hitting.

Conclusion

Overall, it doesn’t seem likely that the Rays will add a corner infielder with one of their high draft picks this year. The top options are a stretch to take with the Rays’ first pick at number four, but will likely be gone by the time the Rays are taking their second and third picks at #31 and #40. And of the players more likely to be available in that second pick range, none appears to be a great fit.

The Rays—as is often their wont—are more likely to take either a pitcher or a more-athletic player further up the defensive spectrum.