As we continue our review of the 2016 MLB Draft, let’s take a look at the Tampa Bay Rays and their most recent draftees.
First Pick: Pick 13, Josh Lowe, 3B, Pope HS, GA
Lowe was one of the top prep bats in this year’s draft. The sweet swinging lefty had one of the better pro debuts, hitting a combined .249/.374/.405, with a 127 wRC+ between the Rays’ Gulf Coast and Appy League teams. The low batting average is a bit concerning, especially given the .336 BABIP - it wasn’t the result of bad luck. But the 17.3 BB% is very nice. Surprisingly, he only had two stolen bases - I expect that to increase next year. He will likely start next year in Low-A. If he can get the batting average up and reduce the strikeout rate from 27.6%, he will jump up the rankings next year.
Biggest Steal: 9th round, Peter Bayer, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
One could be tempted bringing up some other top ten round picks here - Jake Fraley, with his nice BB/K ratio and speed on the basepaths; Austin Franklin, with the raw, electric stuff the Rays have been known to harness; or Zack Trageton, who showed plus control and feel as a 17 year old. But for me, it’s Peter Bayer.
Bayer spent three years at the University of Richmond looking like college ball would be as far as he’d make it. He started working out with Driveline Baseball Academy in 2014, and continued in 2015 - read all about it here. After dominating the Cal Collegiate Summer League, he decided to transfer to DII Cal Poly Pomona, and had a breakout season. He finished with 14.4 K/9, and started hitting the mid-90s consistently for the first time.
Bayer was a cheap senior sign, but one who still had projection, thanks to his late development. In his first pro season, he threw 32.2 innings, with 45 strikeouts to only three walks, good for a 15.0 K/BB ratio, with a 0.64 WHIP, 0.83 ERA, and a 1.67 FIP. He’s a guy to follow next year.
Post-10th Round Sleeper:
Statistically, there are seven post-tenth round picks that stood out this summer: Brian McAfee (38th), Bobby Melley (34th), Robbie Tenerowicz (27th), Matthew Vogel (25th), Sam Long (18th), Dalton Moats (15th), and Josh’s older brother Nathaniel Lowe (13th). But for now, I’m going with Long, who was a top 400 draft prospect according to Baseball America.
Long spent three years at Sacramento State, with the first one starting a few months after graduating high school early in December. He was never someone who wowed you, but he was a solid lefty with starting pitching stamina. His fastball sits in the 88-90 range, with a plus change. He had a 3.33 ERA, 2.54 FIP, 11.7 K/9, 3.9 K/BB, and 1.33 WHIP. If he can add velocity with pro coaching, or improve his breaking ball, he could stick as a BOR lefty starter. Otherwise, he could be a deadly LOOGY with his changeup.
Overall, I am a fan of the Rays draft. They did rely heavily on arms past the first two rounds, which gives this draft a high-bust potential. But I am a fan of the arms they took, and how they are able to develop arms in their farm system. Right now, I’d give this draft a solid B.