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Rays 2022 MLB draft preview: Up-the-middle position players

Will the Rays target players at the most valuable defensive positions this month?

COLLEGE BASEBALL: JUN 10 NCAA Super Regionals Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Up next in our draft-preview series are the up-the-middle position players.

These players tend to be the best athletes on the field. In the amateur ranks, the best players typically play these positions, but not everyone can play those positions at a professional level. The players in this preview have a shot to do so though. The Rays — like a lot of teams — like drafting these athletes.

Like our previous preview, some of these have been Rays picks in mock drafts, but some haven’t. We chose other players to balance out the preview, covering all positions and high school and college players.

College pitchers preview

CF Henry Bolte, Palo Alto High School (R/R, 6’3 195, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: not in top 100
Baseball America rank: 42
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 40

A team looking for a great athlete with very good tools later in the first day of the draft will be interested in signing Bolte away from his commitment to Texas.

There is risk though, and that’s probably why he’s not a unanimous top-50 pick in public rankings. His hit tool is his worst, rated below average by Baseball America and He swings and misses a lot, and his pitch recognition needs to continue to improve.

However, it’s important to focus on what he does well too. He has great bat speed with impressive power potential, and he’s a plus runner and plus defender in center field. He has enticing potential if a team believes his swing can be refined.

Video from is from Prospect Pipeline.

SS Cutter Coffey, Liberty High School (California) (R/R, 6’2 190, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 66
Baseball America rank: 64
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 105

The Rays seem to be less interested in two-way experiments, but what if I continued to write about them years later?

Coffey was previously viewed more favorably as a pitcher, but recent improvements at the plate have evaluators reconsidering. With improved pitch recognition and adjustments to his swing, grades on his hit tool have gotten better, but he still has work to do. When he makes contact, he shows average power potential.

It’s not guaranteed that he stays at shortstop, but he might. He has the arm strength for the left side of the infield and has enough athleticism to give himself a chance.

He’s committed to Texas but looks like he’ll go off the board soon enough to sign.

CF Drew Gilbert, Tennessee (L/L, 5’9 185, 21 years old)

244 PA, .362 AVG/.455 OBP/.655 SLG, 11 HR, 36 XBH

The Athletic rank: 22
Baseball America rank: 21
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 32

Gilbert’s at least an above-average defender in center field with a plus arm. He’ll certainly stick at the position as a professional.

Despite not being very big, he has some pop. Maybe that doesn’t last as a professional, but he had 21 home runs over the last two seasons and had 36 extra-base hits in 58 games in 2022. Offensively, he’s more known for getting his bat on the ball with a plate approach that has really improved.

College hitters always seem to get pushed up draft boards, and he’s a productive hitter with good defense. It’s possible the Rays don’t even get a chance to draft him.

SS Peyton Graham, Oklahoma (R/R, 6’3 185, 21 years old)

326 PA, .335 AVG/.417 OBP/.640 SLG, 20 HR, 41 XBH, 34-for-36 SB

The Athletic rank: 26
Baseball America rank: 35
FanGraphs rank: 5 rank: 28

Graham has always been productive at Oklahoma, but he took it up a notch in 2022. Over his first two seasons, he stole 15 bases in 71 games. In 2022, he stole 34 in 67. He also hit 20 home runs, making him the first player to hit those round numbers in a college season since 2004, according to

His tools are average or above average across the board. Maybe his plate approach is too aggressive, but he’s reportedly shown improvement in that area. He makes hard contact and could still add a little more strength. He just started playing shortstop this season but has the athleticism and arm to stay there.

Like Gilbert, the Rays may not even have a chance to draft him. He has nice upside, although there is some risk to his profile, both offensively and defensively.

C Kody Huff, Stanford (R/R, 5’10 198, 21 years old)

282 PA, .315 AVG/.411 OBP/.567 SLG, 13 XBH, 34 XBH

The Athletic rank: not in top 100
Baseball America rank: 182
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 214

Huff is the lone former Rays pick on Baseball America’s top 500. He was their 32nd-round pick in 2019, and he likely won’t wait that long to hear his name again. Here are the extensive notes we had on him back then:

Huff is another late pick who’s ranked on the BA 500. He checked in at No. 400 and is committed to Stanford. He has bat speed and arm strength.

Now, it seems like he just has average power and arm strength, but now he’s a Day 2 pick who earned himself some money by going to Stanford.

His first season as the Cardinal’s starter was nondescript, but he broke out in 2022. He raised his average by 52 points, OBP by 75 points, and slugging by 168 points.’s report notes his strong intangibles and baseball background. His dad was a former player and scouted for the Rays for several seasons.

C Brady Neal, IMG Academy (L/R, 5’10 180, 17 years old)

The Athletic rank: 73
Baseball America rank: 67
FanGraphs rank: 20 rank: 74

Like Nick Bitsko a couple drafts ago, Neal reclassified to get drafted a year sooner. He’s one of the youngest players available this month.

His tools are solid. Nothing stands out, but he will be able to stay behind the plate. He has a good arm, and he’s a good athlete. He’s proven at IMG that he can manage top high-school talent on the mound.

At the plate, he has shown improvement over the last year and could be a second-round pick. He makes good contact with a nice approach. Whether he gains significantly more power is a question though.

He’s committed to LSU.

Video from is from Prospect Pipeline.