With the No. 16 pick in the draft, the Rays selected left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore from Mountain Ridge High School in Arizona.
Liberatore was ranked No. 2 in the draft class by Baseball America, No. 3 by Keith Law at ESPN, No. 6 by FanGraphs, and No. 4 by MLB.com.
How were the Rays able to land him?
16. Rays. Matthew Liberatore, LHP. I won't call this a steal. I'd call this a team with draft money flexing their money. He's going to get PAID at this spot. They worked him down to this spot.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 5, 2018
Earlier Monday, we wrote about how the Rays’ bonus pool presented them opportunities this draft.
Liberatore rose up draft boards over the past year. He reportedly went from projectable to a pitcher with better present stuff. With improved velocity to go along with his ability to throw strikes, he became a projected top-10 pick.
According to MLB.com, he “has the potential to eventually develop three pitches that could garner a 60 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale,” with his fastball, curveball, and changeup. His fastball generally sits 89-94 mph and touches 97. BA concurred that he has three potential plus pitches.
While many high school pitchers impress with radar-gun readings, Liberatore is known for actually pitching well. He shows a feel for his secondary pitches and throws strikes more than most high schoolers. That means he has a higher floor and may not take as long to reach the majors as many of his peers.
That’s not to say he’s a finished product, though. At 6’5 and 200 pounds, he can still get stronger, which would allow him to maintain his velocity later into games.
Matthew Liberatore just struck out three batters in the third -- all on 75 mph curves. He's getting better as the game goes on. Talented arm pic.twitter.com/3N83hgKQXP— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) March 28, 2018
Neil Solondz interviewed Rays director of amateur scouting, Rob Metzler, about the pick: