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2018 MLB draft: Tampa Bay Rays select LHP Matthew Liberatore with the No. 16 pick

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A highly touted player fell in the draft, and the Rays were able to take advantage.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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?

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.

Neil Solondz interviewed Rays director of amateur scouting, Rob Metzler, about the pick: