Draft Day One Recap | The Process Report

Draft Day One Recap

The thing I kept telling Tommy and Ryan Glass during last night’s draft was “We still have 49 rounds to go.” Usually, it is the ninth or 10th round by the time the Rays have selected this many players, but not this year. Because of that, I’m having perspective issues with the draft. If you split the 10 picks up into segments of three or four per year over the next few drafts (meaning a first, second, third, and maybe a fourth round pick) then I think everyone walks away thrilled with these selections. Instead, right now everyone is trying to figure out how many upside and high probability plays the Rays should have by now.

I think Guerrieri is the safest pick to be universally liked. Getting arguably the third-best prep arm near the mid-20s is one thing, but Guerrieri has legitimate upside. He has the ideal pitcher’s frame (at 6-foot-3 with room to grow) with the ideal power pitcher’s stuff (a fastball that can run hot into the upper 90s and a power curve) and has the chance to develop his changeup and cutter into worthwhile offerings.

Should Guerrieri sign—and initial indications suggest he will—then he becomes one of the Rays top right-handed pitching prospects immediately (likely top three depending on where you put Chris Archer and Alex Colome). There are some concerns with Guerrieri, though, namely character concerns. Part of the scout’s job is to get to know these players, or at least get to know people who know them. If the Rays think the makeup issues aren’t a big deal—or aren’t a big enough deal to avoid the potential for massive value here—then who am I to question.

It’s hard to find issue with the Mikie Mahtook pick either. College statistics do not mean a whole lot, but Mahtook had an OPS over 1000 for LSU this season in a tough conference. Getting a college-tested and approved center fielder who has tools to boot at pick 31 is good value. Mahtook features above average speed and has barrel awareness, so he isn’t just some run of the mill corner outfielder—at least not at this point in his development.

At this point is when the draft diverted a bit. The Dan Vogelbach-at-32 rumors clearly didn’t come true and while he is on the board still, the Rays began a run on players who, frankly, weren’t on the national radar for these picks. That isn’t to say these players are poor or somehow worse than the national mock alternatives, but the level of awareness and expectations surrounding these guys aren’t the same as the names tossed around again and again.

I rarely, if ever, question the Rays scouts. They know more about the evaluation process and more about these prospects than I do, so it’s difficult for me to say which players were a reach or a bad pick given that I’m working off scouting reports by prospect experts and video clips that don’t always tell the entire story. A good sense of doubt is required when using incomplete data, therefore, I tend to defer to the scouting staff.

Jake Hager was the first pick to raise eyebrows. Of the Rays selection ranked inside Baseball America’s top 200 (and nine of the 10 were ranked inside of the top 200), Hager is the lowest positional player taken by Tampa Bay (at 122). Not assisting in Hager’s reputation is how 50 percent of his draft profile discusses his status as a gamer that gets his jersey dirty constantly. The reality is if Hager turns into David Eckstein 2.0 (and I’m not saying he will or that the comparison even works) then that is good value. It is. The 32nd pick in the draft having a lengthy major league career, no matter how mundane and overstated that career is, has to be considered good value.

There were more flashy picks and names available, but most of those guys are still available. I couldn’t tell you whether that speaks to their skill sets being overrated by the outsiders or their cost concerns being feared by the insiders, but the Rays stand a chance to still grab one (or two) of those fellows while also grabbing a bunch of their guys beforehand.

After Hager, the Rays tabbed another high school shortstop in Brandon Martin. I had the sneaking suspicion the Rays would take a toolsy shortstop early because it’s a safe bet. I just misidentified it as being Trevor Story instead of Martin, who flashed five tools during the season. People are going to question why you need more shortstops when you have Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee within three years of being ready, but Hager and Martin can move to second, they can move to third, they can move to center. That’s the beauty of drafting athletes up the middle: they aren’t at the end of the defensive spectrum line early into their developmental cycle.

Tyler Goeddel is another prop athlete who played third base but apparently might be able to cut it in center field. He has a lean, projectable frame with tantalizing bat speed and athleticism. He is essentially a traditional Rays pick to the core, as he also has baseball blood lines. The same applies for the other two positional players taken by the Rays before the end of the first night: college outfielders Kes Carter—who also flashed five tools during the season—and James Harris Jr.—the only pick to fall outside of BA’s top 200, but described as an “explosive athlete” with a high ceiling.

The other three picks on the night for the Rays were pitchers. Jeff Ames, a big righty with a power fastball; Blake Snell, a tall prep lefty who needs to develop his secondary stuff; and Grayson Garvin, an even taller lefty who could use some work on his breaking stuff but has good velocity and a fastball that might become above average. Garvin is the only one of those pitchers that I have experience with and even then I wasn’t zoned in on him throughout the game.

As for whether these are good picks or whether I like them, I can’t really answer the first and I only have so much to offer on the second. My philosophy when it comes to drafting players or evaluating lower-level prospects isn’t based on quantitative data much at all. I want tools and I want ambition. Surviving through the minors isn’t easy, but I want someone who puts in the work and has a good foundation for success with innate abilities. Sprinkle in some good luck and I think you’re going to generate a few decent players over the years. Are there a few players who I think fit that criteria of the 10 offered here? Yeah, but we’ll see.

Before the draft, R.J. Harrison said this class offered the most velocity he had seen. Sure enough, the Rays added four pitchers who can dance near or around the mid-to-upper 90s on the first night; heck, before the second round even begins. Yeah, there are 49 rounds to go. Let’s see who else they can pluck.

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