The MLB Draft is here. While that doesn’t mean much to most of the world, it is quite an important day for of baseball fans, and that is especially the case for Rays fans. From first round picks like Evan Longoria and David Price to later-round picks like Matt Moore and Desmond Jennings, the Rays used the draft to find the building blocks to turn their franchise around and hope to continue using it to keep them among the best teams in baseball. Tonight, the Rays will have three picks: the 21st overall selection in the first round, the 29th overall pick as compensation for B.J. Upton, and the 60th overall choice in the second round. Who could the Rays be looking to select with these picks? Let’s take a look at some of the names who Rays fans could get to know quite well over the next several years.
Nick Ciuffo, C, Lexington (SC) High School
As the Rays continue their search for a catcher, Ciuffo has emerged as the next player the Rays could look towards. Unlike players like Justin O’Conner and Lucas Bailey who have been major busts, Ciuffo is not a player with plenty of power and arm strength but an unrefined approach everywhere. Ciuffo stands out most for his all-around talents both offensively and defensively with the chance be an excellent two-way catcher someday. Ciuffo has a disciplined approach at the plate with above-average bat speed and gap power at this point that could grow into average pop down the line. Defensively, Ciuffo ranks only behind Reese McGuire in the class with great hands, smooth actions, and a strong arm and could be a plus defender in time. Going for all-out upside hasn’t worked for the Rays, but maybe going with a player with a little less potential and a little more polish will finally result in a successful player. He doesn’t seem like a typical Rays pick, but after failure after failure, maybe it’s time to change.
Hunter Dozier, SS, Stephen F. Austin State
Stephen F. Austin State shortstop Hunter Dozier is the type of toolsy yet polished hitter not often found even among college shortstops. Unfortunately, though, he’s more likely to end up at second or third base, making him an impressive but not breathtaking prospect. Dozier, a big 6’4″, 220, attracts attention for his strong wrists that lead to a quick, compact stroke and hard contact to all fields. He has a patient approach and solid pitch recognition, but he almost stays too disciplined, leading to too much of a gap-to-gap approach when he has more power to tap into. Overall he projects as above-average in terms of hitting and average in terms of power for a third baseman. He doesn’t have the range for shortstop, but with good hands and a great arm, he could be a great defender at third base. Dozier would give the Rays an advanced hitter who could be a big part of their lineup in not too much time.
Tim Anderson, SS East Central Community College
Anderson is a little raw, especially for a junior college product, but his all-around abilities at the shortstop position make him an alluring option for teams seeking up-the-middle talent. Anderson shows excellent bat speed with flashes of power, but his stance may have be redone so he can drive the ball with authority more consistently. Anderson makes a lot of contact needs work on patience and pitch recognition. Anderson may stand out the most, though, for his excellent speed that gives him a chance to be a 40-stolen base threat with refinement of his instincts and he could survive as a slap hitter if his bat never develops as expected. Defensively, he has good hands, reflexes, and range, but his arm isn’t very strong, putting his ability to stay at shortstop in question. But quickening his release could make him serviceable enough that a future there is a possibility, and he does have the ability to hit enough for second base if that’s where he ends up. Anderson may be a junior college player and not a high school pick, but he would certainly be an upside selection and the reward could be significant. After selecting Andrew Toles worked out well last year, Anderson could be next.