The Rays have not selected a prep pitcher in the first round since 1997. Because of this years abundance of first round picks this could change, though. And while there will be lots and lots of highly projectable prep pitchers available in the 1st supp. and 2nd round I wouldn't mind the Rays taking one of the following pitchers with one of their 3 1st round picks.
Jose Fernandez, RHP, Tampa HS (FL), South Florida commit The local product possesses one of the biggest FBs in this draft. His FB sits comfortably (even in later innings) between 93 and 95mph, topping out at 97mph. He also has a nasty slider with good late movement and a developing change-up in his reportoire. While his change-up lacks behind the other two offerings, he mixes them up very well and shows good pitchability. While his body has the built of a workhorse, some scouts still are not convinced of him ending up as a starter. His delivery is a max-effort one and his stamina is a bit in question. If he can throw with a little less effort, though, he can be a #1/#2 workhorse pitcher with two plus-plus offerings.
Henry Owens, LHP, Edison HS (CA), Miami commit He arguably has the highest ceiling of any pitchers on this list because of his very advanced polish and exceptionel stuff (projection). Despite his size (6'6'') he has a very good delivery and arm action. His FB sits between 90-92 mph (topping out at 94) and could gain some velocity with him filling out his body more. Then it can become a plus pitch as he keeps the ball down in the zone. His main strength, however, is his pitchability. He always keeps the hitters of balance by changing speeds and throwing in his big curveball and decent change-up. His plus command and control also stands out and makes him very unhittable. Despite me shying away from prep pitchers very early on (risky), he and Jose Fernandez might be the only two I'd consider with the 24th pick.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Lawrence Academy (MA), Vanderbilt commit Maybe it's a bit of a reach to select him with the 31st or 32nd pick, but I simply love him. As Jonathan Mayo points out, "There might not be a high school pitcher with better mechanics than this Massachusetts product". He has a very easy delivery which repeats well. He throws a low 90s FB which can reach the mid 90s. With his projectable body filling out scouts expect him to throw 93-95mph on a regular basis. With a little less heat, he can add some movement to it. Overall the FB projects as a plus pitch, as does his sharp curve. His CH also has the potential to become plus. Right now, like many other prep pitchers, it is thrown a bit inconsistent, though. The command of all three pitches is already very good and his athleticism also is top notch.
So, in my eyes, he and his three pitch mix would be a good selection at 31 or 32 while maybe also being available with one of the 1s-round picks. He seems to be hard to sign away from his commitment to Vanderbilt, though.
Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy HS (AR), Arkansas commit Dillon Howard is often named together with Henry Owens in times of projectability and current polish. I, though, think he might lack a bit behind Owens in both. Nevertheless, his arsenal is pretty impressive and defenitely worth a 1s-round (or even the 31st or 32nd) pick. He possesses a mid 90s FB which sits in the 92-93mph range and has some sink and run to it. Overall it's a plus offering. His breaking pitches (curve and change-up), though, project to be "only" average in the end. His clean delivery, good polish and decent command make him one of the safer prep selections, though.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Alhambra HS (CA), Washington commit Robert Stephensen is still fairly raw while having excellent projection with his 97mph heat (routinely 93-95mph). He has the optimal pitchers built (6'3-6'4; long limbed; strong and projectable frame). With latest reports of improved secondary offerings (curve and change-up) he moved up draft boards. Nevertheless, his delivery needs some smoothering as he might need too much effort for his pitches. Scouts are comfortable that this can be corrected, though.
Michael Kelly, RHP, West Boca HS (FL), Florida commit Some years from now Michael Kelly could be one of the best pitchers out of this draft class. He has excellent projectability with big FB velocity (up to mid-90s now, projected to be in mid-to-upper 90s in the future). His curveball and change-up also have the potential to be above average. Nevertheless, he is a bit less polished than Henry Owens or Jose Fernandez. This might keep him out of the first round. His command especially of the breaking pitches is exceptionally well sometimes but overall a bit inconsistent.
I personally would consider these 6 pitchers with the following picks:
- #24: Henry Owens
- #31/#32: Jose Fernandez, Robert Stephensen, Tyler Beede
- #38/41/42: Dillon Howard, Michael Kelly