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2020 MLB draft: Tampa Bay Rays select RHP Nick Bitsko with the No. 24 pick

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The Rays opted for upside on the mound with their first pick Wednesday.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With the No. 24 pick in the draft, the Rays selected right-handed pitcher Nick Bitsko from Central Bucks East High School in Pennsylvania.

While other teams in the draft zigged, favoring college players with longer track records on the field, the Rays zagged, taking a high school pitcher who hadn’t taken the mound this season before sports were canceled due to the pandemic. Prior to drafting Matthew Liberatore with the No. 16 pick in 2018, it had been seven years since the Rays took a high school pitcher in the first round. They’ve now done it in three straight years after selecting JJ Goss with the No. 36 pick in 2019.

Teams had even less information on Bitsko than the typical high school prospect in this draft. He was previously viewed as a top prospect in the 2021 draft, but he reclassified and was drafted a year early. Teams don’t often scout players heavily before their draft year, and with the widespread cancelations this season, there simply weren’t many opportunities to get looks at him.

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ESPN subscribers can read Kiley McDaniel’s story on how Bitsko used analytics and social media to get the attention of evaluators this spring.

He was ranked as Baseball America’s No. 19 player in the draft ($), No. 14 at MLB.com, No. 18 at The Athletic ($), No. 16 at FanGraphs, and No. 16 at ESPN ($). MLB.com gave the 6’4, 225-pound 17 year old 60 grades for his fastball and curveball, a 50 for his changeup, and 55 for his control.

In his mock draft last month, Homin suggested that he would be a good pick for the Rays but did not believe he would be available this late in the draft.