First, a note on our draft coverage: I'll be here all three days of the draft with information on every player the Rays take. They have three picks on day 1, which is Monday night. Day 2 is rounds 2-30, and day 3 is rounds 31-50. We'll have the 2010 Signing Board post up to keep track of which guys have signed and for how much on Wednesday night.
Here are the Rays picks by number overall:
and every 30 picks thereafter (161, 191, etc). Picks 31 and 79 are compensation for not signing LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger last year. They're unprotected, meaning the Rays lose them if they don't sign who they take with them this year. Pick 66 is compensation for Gregg Zaun leaving in free agency as a Type B.
At #17, the Rays will certainly be looking for the best player available. In BaseballAmerica's mock draft Jim Callis has the Rays taking Georgia high schooler Kaleb Cowart. Cowart's arguably the top two-way player available, offering a low-90s fastball with sink and a hard slider off the mound and raw power from both sides of the plate. Scouts seem to prefer him as a pitcher, though he prefers hitting. He has a strong commitment to Florida State, and it could take $3 million or more to ink him. Slot money for the #17 pick was about $1.5 million last year.
Other names that have been linked to the Rays at #17: Ohio HS RHP Stetson Allie (John Sickels' mock), California HS OF Austin Wilson (Kevin Goldstein's mock), Washington HS OF Josh Sale (Andy Seiler's mock), Middle Tennessee State OF Bryce Brentz (Keith Law's mock), RHP Karsten Whitson (Jim Callis' mock, separate from the BaseballAmerica one) among others who were not "picked" by the Rays in these mocks, perhaps most notably Miami C Yasmani Grandal, who reportedly has signed a pre-draft deal with the Kansas City Royals.
Let's start with Allie. He has some of the best pure stuff in the draft, in the same echelon as Jameson Taillon, who will be a top-3 pick. What Allie lacks is polish, and it shows in his command, which is a work in progress. He's got a nice pitcher's frame at 6'4" 225 lbs and carried his stuff, which includes an upper-90s fastball and a very hard slider, into later innings. He has a chance to go in the top 10 picks, and will probably want top-10 money no matter where he is taken.
Austin Wilson has the pro body at 6'4" 210 and the athleticism to go along with it. His bat lags a little bit behind in terms of picking up and hitting breaking pitches, but he has a huge ceiling. The mitigating factor is his signability. He's committed to Stanford, a notoriously tough school to sign players away from (as the Rays found out last year with Kenny Diekroeger). He'd be a risky pick, but a big-time steal if he pans out.
Josh Sale (pronounced SAH-lay) isn't as athletic as Wilson, but his bat and overall approach are more advanced. He shows a good feel for the strike zone, and his strength and bat speed give him big-time raw power. His swing might ultimately limit his power, though he's a hard worker and should be able to make the necessary adjustments. He won't be an asset at a corner outfield spot or a burner on the bases, but he won't kill you in either department.
Bryce Brentz is a streaky, all-or-nothing hitter with big power, leading all of Division I in home runs his sophomore year. His numbers were down this season, but he still showed good power. He can play any outfield spot, though profiles better in a corner spot. As a college player, he's obviously closer to the majors, but his approach might not make him any more of a sure thing.
Karsten Whitson is squarely on the plateau of high school arms behind Taillon, along with guys like Allie, Cowart, A.J. Cole, and Dylan Covey. He's got the ideal frame and athleticism to along with stuff that's already pretty good. He throws one of the better sliders in the draft, and can get his fastball into the mid-90s. He had a bit of an up-and-down spring, but the Florida high schooler has been on the circuit for a while.
The two guys I covet most are Sale and Allie. Ideally, the Rays would have a choice between the two at #17, but there's also a good chance that both are off the board by then. The fall-back option for me should both be gone would be one of the Cole-Whitson-Cowart troika. They're virtually even for me, but if all three are on the board, I'd rank them in that order. Cole and Whitson is as close as it gets, while Cowart could come with a higher price tag.
Personally, I'd steer clear of Austin Wilson. First of all, there's the possibility he doesn't sign, being a Stanford commit and all. Let's say the Rays do their homework and report him as signable. Now you're dishing out a hefty bonus to a guy who needs to refine his plate approach. I'm not saying it's impossible or even unlikely that he does, but he has futher to go from a hitting standpoint than a guy like Josh Sale. Obviously there's a lot to like about Wilson, but to pick him you've got the be comfortable that he'll sign and make the necessary adjustments. Too much of a gamble for me.
So that about covers pick #17. The Rays also make the second-to-last pick in the 1st round at #31. Some names that have been connected at this pick(though this late in the 1st round, it's as much guessing as projecting): Grandal (Callis' latest, though both Keith Law and Frankie Piliere have reported the pre-draft deal with the Royals), Citadel RHP Asher Wojciechowski (Piliere and Seiler), and Canadian HS C Kellin Deglan (Goldstein).
The prevailing notion is that the Rays play it safe here, a reasonable assumption considered the pick is unprotected. Wojciechowsi would represent a sure-fire sign, probably for slightly over slot money. He's a big righty who always had a good slider, but started throwing in the mid-90s with his fastball this spring to make it work better. He's durable, but lacks a true third pitch (his change-up is below average) and his future might be as a rubber-armed reliever. He's been linked to teams all over the 1st round, and is probably the "break glass in case of emergency" guy for some teams in front of this pick.
That would give him something in common with Kellin Deglan, a catcher from a Canadian high school. Justin O'Connor has emerged as the best HS catcher in the class, and Deglan could be a consolation prize for a team who wanted O'Connor. Deglin is raw but he's athletic, has a good arm, and some power potential (and doggone it, people like him!). I'd classify Deglan as unlikely but intriguing at this spot.
The more likely scenario is a college arm. Wojciechowski (who will be simply "Woj" from here on out) would be one, but guys like Chad Bettis from Texas Tech, Jessie Hahn from Virginia Tech, Seth Blair from Arizona State, and Barrett Loux from Texas A&M would be in the mix. Hahn and Loux both have some injury flags, but that hasn't stopped the Rays (see: David Newmann and Will Kline). Blair features the best stuff of the group, but he and Bettis have some issues with command. Like Woj, the future of all four of these guys could be in the bullpen, particularly in a organization as flush with pitching as the Rays.
One avenue I'd look into is the one of signable high school arms. RHP Peter Tago is one of my favorites, possessing a fastball with great movement, the makings of a nice curveball, and a lot of projectability. This line from the BaseballAmerica preview: "Oblivious to outside distractions, he calmly ambles off the team bus decked out in a hooded sweatshirt and wraparound shades with his iPod earphones firmly in place" calls to memory Matt Garza's approach.
RHP Tyrell Jenkins offers similar projectability. One of the most athletic players in the draft, he's committed to Baylor to play quarterback, but is considered signable. He's more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point, with his fastball that touches 95 as his best weapon. His off-speed stuff needs work, but it could develop nicely once/if he focuses primarily on baseball. RHP Tijuan Walker is even more of a project than Jenkins, but offers a similar ceiling.
As we get to pick #42, in the supplemental 1st round, it's pointless to talk about who the Rays may or may have been linked to. So instead, I'll just talk about some names that have caught my eye. The three HS righties above, Tago, Jenkins, and Walker, would also be in the mix here, but with the pick being protected, this could be the spot to try to hit a home run.
Garin Cecchini, a 3B from a Louisiana high school, would know about home runs. He might have emerged as a top-15 pick, but instead tore his ACL and missed much of the season. When healthy, he can rake, having led the U.S. 18U team in OBP and SLG... and Bryce Harper was on that team. He has a smooth swing from the left side and should produce good power as a pro. It could take 1st-round money to sign him away from LSU, but the Rays have shown a willingness to give out big bonuses to players who suffered injuries (see: Luke Bailey).
If the Rays do go big with their first 3 selections, or even 2 of the 3, both pick #66 and #79 could be sure-fire slot-or-below players with an eye toward saving some money in round 2 before employing a similar strategy to 2009 in rounds 3-10. Here are some names that intrigue me(these are in no particular order):
LHP Robbie Aviles: He's a tall, lanky lefty with 92-94 and projection. He was considered a 2nd-round-type talent, but he recently partially tore a ligament in his elbow, which could cause him to slide. If the injury doesn't leave him unsignable, he'd be a good value in round 4 or 5, though it'd take 2nd or 3rd round money to sign him.
LHP Logan Ehlers: He's a bit anonymous, hailing from Nebraska and not really pitching in the prep spotlight games. He's a polished lefty who throws in the 89-91 range with a nice curveball. Nebraska isn't exactly a baseball hotbed so he wasn't facing top competition, but he struck out 186 in 78 innings.
RHP J.R. Bradley: He's tall and lanky with tremendous control for a high school. The current stuff isn't off the charts, but he'd be a nice pick if you believe in the projection.
OF David Donald: He's very athletic, having starred at football as well as baseball in his South Carolina high school. He's also extremely raw, getting poor jumps on balls in the outfield and routinely fooled by off-speed pitches. His bat speed and raw tools are enough to get drafted, and he'd be signable, a good candidate for pick in the 13-17 round range, maybe sooner.
RHP Scott Matyas: The closer for the University of Minnesota, he's a fastball/curveball pitcher who put up some nice strikeout numbers thanks to a velocity jump into the low-90s. He's a Tommy John alumni.
RHP Clay Shrader: He's a JuCo guy, and the Rays have taken a pitcher from the JuCo ranks in the top 10 rounds each of the last two seasons in Shane Dyer and Devin Fuller. Shrader is a reliever, unlike Dyer and Fuller, but his stuff is better than theirs. He's on the small side with a max effort delivery, but his low-to-mid 90s fastball and hard slider are enticing.
I'll have another post with some more intriguing names on Monday night or Tuesday morning, before Day 2 of the draft. To wrap things up, here's a sort of perfect-world projection if I were running things:
#17: Josh Sale would be ideal and Stetson Allie would be a fine consolation prize. A.J. Cole, Karsten Whitsen, and Kaleb Cowart are all a notch below, but more than acceptable.
#31: Have to play it safe since the pick is unprotected, but I'd prefer a safe high schooler like Kellin Deglin, Peter Tago, Tyrell Jenkins, or Tijuan Walker to the safe college arm like Asher Wojciechowski, Chad Bettis, etc.
#42: Garin Cecchini, or another high-profile player who has fallen for one reason or another.
2nd round(#66 and #79): If the Rays don't go for a guy like Cecchini at #42, I'd like to see them do it at #66. #79 is unprotected, so that will almost certainly be a slot guy, or even below-slot.
Rounds 3-5: Two more high-ceiling players out of these three picks. If they do go for that, then the 5th rounder being a cheap college senior would be fine.
Rounds 6-10: Something similar to last year, where they targeted high ceilings(Kevin James and Derek Dennis), a college senior(Brett Nommensen), and two slot guys(Cody Rogers and Devin Fuller).
This post will be bumped to the top of the page periodically leading up to the draft on Monday night.