The Rays brass have some decisions to make with the MLB draft being shortened due to COVID-19. While its not yet determined if the draft will be 5 or 10 rounds, either option will be a fraction of the normal 40 round draft.
Do they take the best player available at every pick? Do they focus on the weaker areas of the organization? Are they more cautious or do they go for riskier signings? Do they have a hotline set up for all of the soon-to-be undrafted free agents?
There is a lot up in the air right now. What we can be fairly certain of though, is that there will be at least 5 rounds, including two competitive balance rounds. I took a look at some of the draft prospects projected to go near each of the Rays 6 picks in the first 5 rounds, and have mocked who I’d like to see the Rays target.
Round 1 (Pick 24): RHP JT Ginn, Mississippi State
What better time than now to draft a pitcher who is out with an elbow injury? The minor league season may be completely lost due to COVID-19, so grabbing Mississippi State’s JT Ginn who is out for the season anyway makes a lot of sense.
Ginn would be long gone before the Rays first pick if not for the injury, as he has some seriously wipeout stuff from the right side with two plus-plus pitches in his fastball and slider. Could that be something like a Chris Archer?
There is risk in this pick with both the injury and Ginn’s leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore. The Rays could convince him to sign if they are comfortable paying over the slot, but then they would have less money to work with for the rest of the draft.
For two double plus pitches, I think you have to get him to sign here.
Competitive Balance Round A (Pick 37): C Dillon Dingler, Ohio State
With two catchers projected to go near this slot, the Rays take one to address one of the weaker positions in the organization. Baseball America has Dingler ranked at exactly 37, and his defense fits more to the Rays liking than someone like, say, Arizona’s Austin Wells, who may have to move off the position due to his questionable defense.
Dingler has big league arm strength, athleticism, size and durability to stay at the C position. The only reason he projects out of the first round is because a broken hamate bone sapped his developing bat in his sophomore year. The power looked real this year, but we only got a glimpse due to the shortened season.
It will be interesting to see how heavy teams weigh his 5 dingers and 1.164 OPS in just 35 AB. Oh, and how do you pass on an 80 grade baseball name like Dillon Dingler?! Catcher is a perennial position of need for the Rays, so they should target one here.
Think if there’s one guy outside the T15 w/ star upside it might be Dillon Dingler— (@eccentricladdie) May 2, 2020
Generational athleticism at catcher (played CF), very good EVs, beginning to tap into immense raw power, elite bat control (11% BB, 13% K for career), elite catch & throw, defensive versatility pic.twitter.com/8ieWWOrc9V
Round 2 (Pick 57): CF Enrique Bradfield, American Heritage High School (FL)
CF Enrique Bradfield has 80 grade speed. The extraordinary athleticism allows him to range deeper into the outfield gaps than most, which makes it easy to project Bradfield as one of the better center field defenders in the game.
With a knack for making contact but little power behind the bat, its easy to see a comp here to an outfield version of current Rays prospect Xavier Edwards. As with Edwards, the question here is if the rest of the profile will be enough to play in a game where power is king.
In full disclosure I thought about slotting High School LHP Daxton Fulton here, who could slip down the list, but the Rays are already taking enough injury risk with their first two picks. Instead, they look for a clean bill here in the prep CF.
Round 3 (Pick 96): LHP Ian Seymour, Virginia Tech
If the Rays stock the farm full of quality position players, say 2 additions within the first 3 picks, the Rays should start a run on pitchers. The Virginia Tech lefty punched out 40 batters in just 20 innings this year, good for an absurd 2 per inning. Couple that with just 5 walks in the same sample, and that starts to look like first round talent.
The caveats here are 1) small sample size, 2) mediocre freshman and sophomore years, and 3) poor mechanics. That said, when I see his delivery I think upside. If he can K 40 in 20 innings with mechanics scouts question, imagine what he will look like when the Rays help clean it up. There is a good open-side view of his delivery in slow motion around the 10 second mark in this video:
Round 4 (Pick 126): RHP Cam Brown, Flower Mound High School (TX)
The 6-3, 210 prep righty out of Texas falls to the fourth round on concerns of his stuff deteriorating with recent weight gain. The Rays should take a chance here and trust their player development staff to get Brown onto a professional work program, and get his above average graded fastball, slider, change up, and control back and clicking.
There is concern, however, that Brown believes in himself and chooses the college route to get his stuff back and climb higher up the draft board. Signability risk is not something the Rays typically play with in the first ten rounds, but in a truncated draft in a time of global uncertainty, it could be worth rolling the dice.
Round 5 (Pick 156): RHP Mason Hickman, Vanderbilt
Rounding out a 5 round draft, the Rays should take 6-6, 230 righty Mason Hickman out of his Friday night starting gig at Vanderbilt. Maybe the stature gives him above average extension and angle on batters as they can’t seem to tee up his below average fastball velocity, even in the difficult SEC.
Three secondary pitches certainly help the profile, but its the plus command that has and will carry him through his career. I could see Hickman slotting into the back of a major league rotation as soon as next year, but there is #3 starter potential if he can refine his carrying tool even further into the elite range.