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2010 Draft Preview - Tampa Bay Rays

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The sixteenth part of my draft preview series is on the Tampa Bay Rays and their scouting director R.J. Harrison.

Owner: Stuart Sternberg, bought club in 2005
General Manager: Andrew Friedman, first season was 2006
Scouting Director: R.J. Harrison, first draft was 2006

Looking Back

2006 Draft: $5.6 Million Budget

1. Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State, #3 Overall: Longoria was considered a plus offensive player with good third base tools, and he was easily the best hitter in the 2006 draft class. He was considered an easy top five pick, and this was an excellent first pick by Harrison and company. Following players selected: Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow, Andrew Miller. Signing bonus: $3,000,000.
2. Josh Butler, RHP, San Diego, #47 Overall: Butler was a solid second- to fourth-round prospect with a good college starting arm. His draft stock had slipped over the course of his junior year, but the Rays believed they could get back to the higher levels Butler performed at earlier in the season. Following players selected: Mike Felix, Chris Tillman, Ronnie Bourquin. Signing bonus: $725,000.
3. Nick Fuller, RHP, Kell HS (GA), #79 Overall: Fuller became infamous when he was dismissed from South Carolina with teammate Lonnie Chisenhall. However, before that he was an electric prep arm with excellent projectable stuff, but most people misread his signability, leading to the Rays missing out on this pick. Following players selected: Shelby Ford, Tony Butler, Brennan Boesch. DID NOT SIGN.
4. Alex Cobb, RHP, Vero Beach HS (FL), #109 Overall: Cobb was considered a second- to fourth-round prospect, though he was much less projectable than the average top prep arm. He featured an above-average curve and above-average command, and this was a solid, somewhat safe pick. Following players selected: Jared Hughes, Ricky Orta, Ryan Strieby. Signing bonus: $400,000.
5. Shawn O’Malley, SS, South Ridge HS (WA), #139 Overall: O’Malley wasn’t on a lot of teams’ radars, but the Rays are famous for their mining of the Pacific Northwest. O’Mally mainly featured good defensive tools and signability, making him an interest pick here, though he was projected to go five or more rounds lower. Following players selected: Pat Bresnehan, Nathan Adcock, Scott Sizemore. Signing bonus: $200,000.
Other Notable Selections: OF Desmond Jennings (10th), Itawamba CC (MS), $150K bonus; OF K.D. Kang (15th), Parkview HS (GA).

2007 Draft: $8.0 Million Budget

1. David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt, #1 Overall: Price was pretty much the no-brainer first overall pick of the 2007 class, even with Matt Wieters on his tail. Price featured top of the rotation stuff with above-average command, and even his big price tag didn’t scare the Rays away. Following players selected: Mike Moustakas, Josh Vitters, Daniel Moskos. Signing bonus: $5,600,000*.
2. William Kline, RHP, Ole Miss, #65 Overall: Kline wasn’t expected to be such a high pick, as most considered him a third- to sixth-round prospect. His stuff was pretty average, but he featured above-average command, and the Rays needed a signable player after picking an expensive arm like Price at the top of their draft. Following players selected: Sam Runion, Jordan Zimmermann, Duke Welker. Signing bonus: $513,000.
3. Nick Barnese, RHP, Simi Valley HS (CA), #95 Overall: Barnese was a projectable prep arm that was considered a signable name. He was a top three rounds candidate on most boards, and his athleticism made him a good candidate to fill out as he went up the chain, offering good upside. Following players selected: Danny Duffy, Tony Thomas, Brian Friday. Signing bonus: $366,000.
4. David Newmann, LHP, Texas A&M, #125 Overall: Newmann was considered a solid top three rounds prospect after having a longer-than-average injury history, including a long recovery from Tommy John surgery. He featured average to above-average stuff from the left side. Following players selected: Peter Hodge, Darwin Barney, Quincy Latimore. Signing bonus: $250,000.
5. Dustin Biell, OF, Inglemoor HS (WA), #155 Overall: Biell is another Pacific Northwest prospect that was taken early compared to most draft boards around the league. He was a solid athlete with solid upside, making him neither a huge upside pick or a very safe pick, either. Following players selected: Adrian Ortiz, Brandon Guyer, Andrew Walker. Signing bonus: $150,000.
Other Notable Selections: LHP Matt Moore (8th), Moriarty HS (NM), $115K bonus; RHP Joseph Cruz (30th), East Los Angeles JC (CA), $100K bonus.

2008 Draft: $9.9 Million Budget

1. Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS (GA), #1 Overall: The Rays’ final pick at the top of the draft for what is likely to be a large number of years, Beckham featured the biggest upside of any player in a loaded 2008 hitting class. He had great athleticism and tools, and this pick was not second-guessed by many knowledgeable analysts. Following players selected: Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, Brian Matusz. Signing bonus: $6,150,000.
2. Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Coconino HS (AZ), #47 Overall: Lobstein was a fairly disappointing draft prospect that the Rays were lucky to get this far back in the draft. He showed good flashes of top of the rotation potential, and then followed that up with fringy stuff for most of the spring. He was also considered an expensive sign, but his potential talent was undeniable. Following players selected: Tanner Scheppers, Johnny Giavotella, Xavier Avery. Signing bonus: $1,500,000.
3. Jake Jefferies, C, UC Davis, #78 Overall: Jefferies was an interesting prospect if only for his lack of weaknesses. His power was his weakest tool, but he put the bat on the ball better than anyone else in all of college baseball, and that was expected to turn into solid hitting production. He was expected to go in the third- to fifth-round range. Following players selected: Jordy Mercer, Tyler Sample, L.J. Hoes. Signing bonus: $515,000.
4. Ty Morrison, OF, Tigard HS (OR), #113 Overall: Yet another Pacific Northwest prospect, Morrison featured good all-around tools, but with a lack of polish, which is to be expected with the vast majority of prep bats. He was expected to go in the fourth- to seventh-round range, making this a solid pick for upside, though his bust rate was considered high. Following players selected: Chase d’Arnaud, Tim Melville, Kyle Hudson. Signing bonus: $500,000.
5. Mike Sheridan, 1B, William & Mary, #143 Overall: Like Jefferies, Sheridan’s best asset was an ability to simply but the bat on the ball. He rarely struck out, and while had more power than Jefferies, he also played a less demanding position at first base. He was considered a fifth- to eighth-round prospect. Following players selected: Justin Wilson, John Lamb, Greg Miclat. Signing bonus: $195,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Matt Gorgen (16th), California, $125K bonus.

2009 Draft: $4.0 Million Budget

1. LeVon Washington, 2B, Buchholz HS (FL), #30 Overall: Washington was a borderline first-round prospect with plus-plus speed and a plus hit tool with average raw power. However, he was coming off an arm injury that made him a 20 thrower and his Scott Boras connection made him hard to sign. The Rays couldn’t get him to sign on the dotted line at the deadline, making this a wasted pick. Following players selected: Brett Jackson, Tim Wheeler, Steve Baron. DID NOT SIGN.
2. Kenny Diekroeger, SS, Menlo HS (CA), #78 Overall: Like Washington, Diekroeger’s signability was a huge question mark heading into the draft. He had big-time athleticism, and while the polish wasn’t great, he had one of the highest ceilings in the entire 2009 draft. The Rays couldn’t meet his bonus demands, and they let him go to Stanford. Following players selected: D.J. LeMahieu, Pat Corbin, Trevor Holder. DID NOT SIGN.
3. Todd Glaesmann, OF, Midway HS (TX), #108 Overall: Glaesmann was a solid athlete that was built to hit for power. He was a little raw all around, but his tools were undeniable, as he projected to be a good center fielder and middle of the order hitter. His signability was also a question mark, but he was expected to be signable in the top three rounds for reasonable money, making this a good pick. Following players selected: Austin Kirk, Josh Spence, Jonathan Meyer. Signing bonus: $930,000.
4. Luke Bailey, C, Troup County HS (GA), #139 Overall: Bailey was a possible top ten pick before going down with Tommy John surgery a few months before the draft as a result of pitching. He featured very good hit and power tools, as well as a plus arm before his injury. He was going to need more than slot to sign, but getting Bailey this far down was an absolute steal. Following players selected: Chris Rusin, Wes Hatton, Miguel Pena. Signing bonus: $750,000.
5. Jeff Malm, 1B, Bishop Gorman HS (NV), #169 Overall: Malm was considered a hit-only prep first baseman, and that was an attractive combination for only a fair number of teams near the top of the draft. However, his power was legitimate, and some teams thought of him as a second-round prospect, making this selection a quality one. Following players selected: Wes Darvill, Casey Haerther, Michael Taylor. Signing bonus: $680,000.
Other Notable Selections: LHP Kevin James (9th), Whitefish Bay HS (WI), $625K bonus.

R.J. Harrison is one of the most experienced scouts at the scouting director level, and he’s been with the Rays since their scouting department was created in 1995. A former minor league player, Harrison’s been scouting or managing in the minors for some 30 years, and he’s been at the national crosschecker or higher level for over 10 years now, and his experience is a major asset for Tampa Bay. He’s going to be running his fifth draft as the scouting director for the Rays, having taken over for current Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken when Wilken left for Chicago. Looking at some of the trends from his first four drafts, it’s pretty easy to point out an affinity for the Pacific Northwest, and for the West in general. The Rays’ West Coast Crosschecker is Fred Repke, a man made famous by such signings as Evan Longoria and James Shields, with Jake McGee on the way, from his years as the Rays’ Northern California and Northern Nevada area scout. The Pacific Northwest scout in this situation is long-time scout Paul Kirsch, who has turned that region into the Rays’ territory. There weren’t any early Pacific Northwest picks in 2009, but there were plenty of West Coast picks, starting with Diekroeger and continuing through Malm and beyond. Expect that trend to continue in 2010, as they still have a strong scouting presence out west. Looking at specific personnel trends, it’s fairly obvious that the Rays prefer prep hitters greatly over college hitters, especially hitters with athleticism to spare. Malm was a notable exception in the 2009 draft, but the power upside with him was the draw. On the pitching side, the Rays like to fill up their system with raw upside arms from the high school level, though they mix in a fair number of college arms. They’re much less set on prep arms than they are prep bats, but in general, this is a scouting director that prefers prep players over college players, especially beyond the early first round, where obvious candidates such as David Price and Evan Longoria came into play.

In terms of draft budgeting, the Rays have done pretty much as well as anybody in the league. In the years since Harrison took over amateur scouting, the Rays have spent the 6th-highest amount on draft bonuses, which is obviously helped by the high picks they had with Longoria, Price, and Beckham. Those three combined for $14.75 million of the $27.5 million spent over those four years, good enough for almost 54 percent of their entire spending. However, they’ve still spent healthy amounts outside of those three players, and only the disappointing 2009 in terms of signability pulled down their ranking. When looking at the average amount given to scouting directors, Harrison’s average is in the top five in baseball, so I think it’s fair to say that the Rays aren’t generally a cheap team. They just ran into a couple of players whose signability they either gauged wrongly or thought whose prices would come down. I expect a rebound in 2010. Since Rod Barajas is about to make his contract official, I can say with confidence that the Rays own picks 17, 31, 42, 66, 79, 98, 131, and every 30 picks after that. That kind of bounty could easily result in a draft budget of over $8 million, and that’s my expectation after a down year in 2009 for spending. That’s not saying that the money rolls over year-to-year. I’m simply saying that the Rays have a chance to add a large amount of talent to an already booming farm system, and I think they realize their opportunity. It’s not every day that a team has six picks in the top 100.

Connecting players to the Rays is especially difficult, since it’s hard to know how much signability will be an issue with picks 31 and 79, which are compensation picks for Washington and Diekroeger respectively. Not signing picks in those slots means they lose any sort of compensation, so a lot of the leverage slips to the player at that point, so more conservative drafting in those slots might be in order. My latest mock draft has the Rays going with Yordy Cabrera, Brandon Workman, and Robbie Aviles with their first three picks and that generally makes sense. Cabrera’s athleticism and power bat fit the traditional Harrison mold, and Workman and Aviles are bigger pitchers, Aviles with the upside that the Rays typically prefer for their development program. I’ve also been thinking about Taijuan Walker as a good candidate there, as well. Other names I think we might see are Martin Viramontes, Kevin Rhoderick, Dixon Anderson, and Kellen Sweeney for the second round slots. Later names might include Scott Frazier, Jake Cole, and Mike Foltynewicz. These are all highly speculative right now, though they all fit into the Rays’ traditional scouting molds. Whatever happens, I’m sure the Rays will continue to fill their system with high-ceiling talents, and they’ll leave it to their player development staff to bring the talent out on the baseball field.

*Bonus information came from BA.

What do you guys think? What will the Rays do?