With the 37th pick in the 2020 MLB draft, the Rays selected shortstop Alika Williams out of Arizona State University.
The glove-first shortstop is a lock to stick at the position with a major league projection on his defense alone. While the offense lags behind, it offers enough in the form of contact and plate discipline to see this as a safe pick for the Rays when splashier names were available.
During his collegiate career, Williams walked more than he struck out and slashed .294/.374/.391 while handling shortstop with ease. And while it doesn’t show in the numbers, Rapsodo data suggests the slick fielder may also have some sneaky pop in his bat that hasn’t shown in games yet:
Alika’s relationship with the Rays dates back to being a part of the Rays local scout-ball team in high school, and continued through COVID-19 as he worked out with Daniel Robertson at a private facility this spring.
From a risk profile perspective, after taking 17-year old pitcher Nick Bitsko at 24, the Rays opting for the safer pick in a college shortstop who’s defense should carry him to the majors is a reasonable choice.
The Rays acquired the No. 37 selction, a Compensation Round A pick, via trade when they sent pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena.