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Rays 2021 MLB draft preview: Corner bats

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If the Rays want to add power to the organization, there will be options early in the draft.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The draft begins Sunday, so it’s time to wrap up our previews with corner bats. These players are more likely to play first base, third base, left field, or right field as professionals.

As usual, some of these players have been connected to the Rays in mock drafts, but some haven’t.

High school pitchers preview
Up-the-middle bats preview
College pitchers preview

OF Joshua Baez, Dexter Southfield School (R/R, 6’4 220, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 19
Baseball America rank: 31
FanGraphs rank: 22
MLB.com rank: 24

With plus power potential and a plus-plus arm, Baez strikes me as a player who would automatically be drafted in the top 15 picks 10 years ago. Even now, his upside may be high enough that he’s not available to the Rays at the end of the first round.

There are risks that could push him down the draft though. He strikes out too much, and in Massachusetts, he wasn’t going against top competition this spring. Despite that, his plate approach isn’t bad.

He’s a decent athlete and outfielder, but his likely destination is eventually right field thanks to his great arm.

Video is from 2080 Baseball.

OF Denzel Clarke, Cal State Northridge (R/R, 6’5 220, 21 years old)

173 PA, .324 AVG/.445 OBP/.570 SLG, 8 HR, 19 XBH, 15-for-17 SB

The Athletic rank: 52
Baseball America rank: 86
FanGraphs rank: not in top 71
MLB.com rank: 98

I’m including Clarke even though some reports suggest he could stick in center field despite his size.

He’s been a fast riser this spring with improved performance. He has some of the best raw power in the draft but hasn’t fully tapped into it in games yet. There are concerns about his hit tool, but his approach has gotten better. His strikeout rate is down, and his walk rate is up compared to earlier in his career.

It would be impressive if he’s able to maintain his plus speed at his size. This season, he had 15 steals in 17 attempts.

OF Hunter Goodman, Memphis (R/R, 6’1 210, 21 years old)

242 PA, .307 AVG/.401 OBP/.678 SLG, 21 HR, 32 XBH, 9-for-9 SB

The Athletic rank: not in top 100
Baseball America rank: 63
FanGraphs rank: 63
MLB.com rank: 87

Goodman has been a catcher his last two seasons at Memphis, and he may start his pro career there. However, there’s a lot of skepticism that he can stick there long term. A corner outfield position may be a better fit, and he actually has decent speed.

Because of his power potential, teams would love for him to stay at catcher, but it’ll play at other positions. He’s been one of the home-run leaders in college baseball and the Cape Cod League.

Like Clarke, his hit tool may be below average because he sells out for power. Throughout his career, he has lowered his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate, so he has made strides to be a more complete hitter.

IF Wes Kath, Desert Mountain High School (L/R, 6’3 200, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 78
Baseball America rank: 54
FanGraphs rank: 26
MLB.com rank: 34

There is quite a bit of variance in both where Kath is ranked publicly and how his tools are evaluated.

His hit tool seems to range from average to plus with a good ability to make contact to all fields, and he also has a nice approach. He has performed well in high school and at showcase events against top competition. His power tool ranges from below average to plus. He has the strength to hit for power, but perhaps is swing is geared for contact.

It’s unlikely he remains at shortstop but not impossible. He does have the arm for the left side of the infield.

Video is from 2080 Baseball.

IF Izaac Pacheco, Friendswood High School (L/R, 6’4 225, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 22
Baseball America rank: 36
FanGraphs rank: 60
MLB.com rank: 30

Pacheco has some of the best power in the draft. He has impressive raw power, and he hits for power in games too.

Does he sell out too much to hit for that power though? He reportedly has some swing-and-miss problems, and his plate approach has at times been too aggressive. His hit tool has been graded below average.

Right now, he plays shortstop, but at his size, that may not be realistic long term. With his hands and arm strength, he could be a very good defensive third baseman.

IF Trey Sweeney, Eastern Illinois (L/R, 6’4 200, 21 years old)

226 PA, .382 AVG/.522 OBP/.712 SLG, 14 HR, 26 XBH

The Athletic rank: not in top 100
Baseball America rank: 55
FanGraphs rank: 58
MLB.com rank: 55

Sweeney was one of the top performers in college baseball this season and was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

What stood out most was his plate approach. In 226 plate appearances, he had 46 walks and just 24 strikeouts. He made a ton of quality contact and hit for power.

His hit tool has been graded as plus. In addition to knowing the strike zone, he knows how to get his bat on the ball and make contact to all fields. He’s also strong enough that he could develop above-average power.

Sticking at shortstop doesn’t seem likely, but his bat would profile at third base, where he would be a good defender.