Whenever the MLB amateur draft eventually comes to fruition, the Tampa Bay Rays will be drafting for at least the following positions:
- No. 24 - Round 1
- No. 37 - Competitive Balance Round A (via Cardinals)
- No. 57 - Round 2
- No. 96 - Round 3
- No. 126 - Round 4
- No. 156 - Round 5
For each selection, I will list my mock draft choice and then include a wild card who — if still available at that draft slot — should tempt the Rays when their opportunity comes up. It’s possible the draft will go to 10 rounds, but nothing has been determined yet.
Before I get into the mock, we need to talk about my favorite prospect in this draft...
Dream Choice: C Patrick Bailey — NC State
Before we get into the players who should be in the Rays range of early draft picks, you absolutely should not miss out on the next Matthew Liberatore situation; in other words, who might tumble down the draft due to a lack of research or preparation by other teams, who are likely focused elsewhere.
Selecting at 24 might be too far down the draft board to luck out this hard, but I’d be remiss to not mention the top catching prospect in a draft loaded with pitchers that will be causing chaos throughout the 2020 shortened draft.
Batting near a .300 average with a 12.4% walk rate as a switch hitter, he’s advanced to the point of calling his own games prior to becoming a pro. Baseball America has him pegged as the 14th best prospect in this draft, but so help me God if he falls to 24th the team has to jump on it, hoping he’s a quick mover to the major league level.
THREE grand slams in 11 days for Patrick Bailey pic.twitter.com/HfxlxLewIV— College Baseball Hub (@CollegeBsbHub) March 4, 2020
If you could trade up in the MLB draft, I’d do it for this kid.
Ok, now on to the more reasonable mock selections!
Round 1 Target: RHP Cade Cavalli — Oklahoma
Here’s another player that may not last to pick 24, as FanGraphs ranked Cavalli 14th on their list, on par with Bailey, but Baseball America sees a drop to the lower half of the first round, so I’ll make him the target here.
BA has his fastball up to 98 with a 7-grade, and raves on the quality of both his build and his slider, which gets out against both hands. He has spent time on the infield as well and earned First Team All-Big 12 honors as a utility player. Cavalli was a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team where he didn’t pitch with his best stuff when the most eyes were watching, which may be how he lands in Tampa Bay’s lap.
In the recent update he finally jumped to No. 22 on Baseball America’s board, where they write:
“While Cavalli has first-round pure stuff, big upside and one of the better bodies in the 2020 class, he could fall into the second round because of concerns about how that stuff plays, the quality of his strikes and questions about durability.”
In other words, Cavalli is a riskier version of Georgia sophomore Cole Wilcox, and therefore a more affordable one as well.
Wildcard: Mississippi State RHP JT Ginn, who declined a first round draft choice by the Dodgers in 2018 and looked like a top-15 draft choice before blowing out his elbow early in 2020. He’s got the look of a starter, and 2020 is a decent year to take a top talent in recovery.
Comp. Balance A Target: RHP Slade Cecconi - Miami
If you’re looking for the next Shane McClanahan, the Rays might be wise to use their competitive balance pick on draft eligible sophomore Slade Cecconi, who was considered on par with Vanderbilt star Kumar Rocker out of high school in 2018. He’s had some injury concerns and therefore opted for the college route, which paid off when he was Baseball America’s #12 freshman in the country.
The reason Cecconi seems like a likely candidate to slip into the balance round is due to some inconsistency in his profile, per BA’s scouting report:
In terms of pure stuff, Cecconi has more than any arm in Florida and stacks up with the better starters in the 2020 class. But having everything together at once has been a challenge for the 6-foot-4 righthander
The fastball is typically in the upper 90’s, and his breaking ball can dip down into the 60’s. He’s a Driveline guy, which the Rays likely appreciate, and has shown enough feel for a cutter and change to use both with regularity. According to Baseball America, all four pitches “flash plus” but it’s possible what’s been missing is not consistency in his pitching but the path of a pro to piece it all together.
Wildcards: If the Rays fall in love with projectable Florida State RHP CJ Van Eyk, I wouldn’t hate them reaching for him here due to the solid mix of pitches and professional delivery. Contrariwise, high school two-way Masyn Winn wows with big power at the plate and a 100 mph fastball leading three plus pitches, but he’s 5’11” and that causes projectability concerns.
Round 2 Target: LHP Logan Allen - Florida International
This six-foot southpaw has walked like ten batters in his college career, despite lacking overpowering stuff, might have just been considered a big fish in a small pond, but then went to the Cape Cod League and still struck out 24 and walked only three in 15.0 IP.
Allen is fearless, and his pitches clearly sneak up on hitters, and that’s enough to think he’s projectable if you’ve spent the last couple years following the likes of Poche and Ryan.
He’s been a two-way prospect as a first baseman with a .300 AVG, but that doesn’t appear to be the focus from a draft profile perspective.
Wildcard: There’s no way switch hitting, 20-year old Arizona State third baseman Gage Workman falls out of the top-50, right?
Round 3 Target: RHP Joe Boyle - Notre Dame
Let’s get this out of the way: 6’7” 20-year old righty Joe Boyle walked 12-per-nine at Nore Dame in 36 innings. If you can look past that and consider him a prospect and not a finished product, the tall reliever has a 102 MPH fastball and a breaking ball that embarrasses his competition.
If the Rays think there’s even a chance he could figure it out, he’s worth the selection here, particularly if they foresee potential to move out of the bullpen.
.@kileymcd saw Notre Dame sophomore RHP Joe Boyle yesterday work 96-98 and hit 100 mph. He also broke off a few plus sliders and is a first day prospect in our rankings for the 2020 MLB Draft https://t.co/ETaKXwFzAl pic.twitter.com/kheqcaaujB— FanGraphs Prospects (@FG_Prospects) April 1, 2019
Wildcard: Vanderbilt closer Tyler Brown said on social media he’s returning for the added year of eligibility being granted by the NCAA. If that changes, I’d consider him here. Of note is his compelling story. Jacksonville RHP Trent Palmer is another relief arm with a big fastball who could transition to starter as a pro.
Round 4 Target: OF Slade Wilks - Columbia Academy HS (Miss.)
With so much attention being given to the wealth of college arms out there, power hitting high school prospects are going under the radar. Wilks has a college commitment to Southern Miss but if he can be pursuaded out of it, the Rays could make him a target here.
Already a man among boys, Wilks has big power and great bat to ball skills. He’s one of the older players in his college class, but the exit velo’s speak for themselves at 19 years old.
2020 #MLBDraft prospect Slade Wilks (@Wilks_5) of Columbia Academy (Miss.) hit a ball with a 116.37 mph exit velocity and estimated distance of 480 feet at Saturday's MLB draft workout in Louisiana. pic.twitter.com/8u1NIMr1bP— Dan Zielinski III (@DanZielinski3) January 5, 2020
Wildcard: Injured Coastal Carolina CF Parker Chavers is likely to fall in the draft, where he previously would have been a top-100 consideration, due to an arm issue that kept him from reaching the field in time to play in 2020. If the Rays want him, they’d get him here.
Round 5 Target: OF Elijah Cabell - Florida State
If all you ever watched was Cabell in pregam drills, you’d think he’d be destined to be an All-Star with a cannon for an arm out of the corner outfield and enough power to obliterate the ball out of Dick Howser Stadium (he led the 2020 Seminole roster with 7 homeruns in 17 games). The problem is his strikeout rate, which was an ungodly high 40%.
Previously a 14th round draft choice by the Brewers in 2018, he’s still worth the investment. He was the No. 70 prospect out of high school that year at Baseball America, and has fallen just outside the top 150 there now, because I believe a team that drafts Cabell could try a conversion to catcher, where the strikeout rate won’t be as much of a concern.
Wildcard: If the Rays are looking to lock in a safe option at catcher, this is a good spot to pick up Duke switch hitting backstop Michael Rothenberg, who the Rays should have ample information on while scouting Duke’s pitching staff. He competed in the 2019 Omaha Home Run Derby, totaling 25 home runs through two rounds.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be inviting other masthead members to offer their mock draft choices as well in the weeks leading up to the draft, and as more professional mocks drop we’ll likely cover those too. Go Rays!