The Tampa Bay Rays have been lauded for their ability to draft and develop big league caliber players. Look no further than the 2014 team that will feature Rays’ draftees Evan Longoria, David Price, and Matt Moore, among others to see this. But something that most people don’t realize is that from the 2008-2013 drafts, the Rays have only produced two players that has seen ANY big league time- Tim Beckham who has 8 MLB PA under his belt, and Kevin Kiermaier who has 0. It is easy to say that the Rays’ last few draft classes have been disappointing. Even the 2011 and 2012 draft classes seem as if they are going to underperform their expectations, although it might be a bit early to say that with certainly. With all this in mind, could the Tampa Bay Rays 2013 draft class finally be one that lives up to expectations?
The Rays took some risks in the 2013 draft, but it has the potential to really pay off. The Rays went high school heavy in the early part of the draft, which is risky. High school players often come with higher upside, but also with a bigger bust rate. High school catcher Nick Ciuffo was taken at number 21 overall as the Rays first pick. He is already a decent defender behind the plate, although as with most high school catchers there is work to be done. He has a nice smooth swing from the left-side of the plate, and has the ability to hit both for average and power. Overall, he has the ceiling to be an above-average major league catcher, but as with all high school picks there is a high chance he never pans out. High school shortstop Riley Unroe was taken with the Rays 2nd round pick at number 60 overall. He has the ability to not only stick at shortstop, but to be a great defender there, something that is really attractive from a high schooler. On top of this, he has an advanced plate approach, is a switch hitter, and has the ability to hit for a high average, albeit with little power. He could be an above-average everyday shortstop down the road. Speedy 3rd round centerfielder Tommy Milone is a player to keep an eye on, as well as 4th round second baseman Kean Wong and 8th round pitcher Roel Ramirez, all of whom could become good big leaguers.
The college side was also interesting for the Rays. Normally college players come with less upside, but more certainty of reaching the big leagues. However, the Rays took SP Ryne Stanek at number 29 overall. Stanek features great stuff, and could be a frontline starter down the line, however he fell this far to the Rays’ because of injury worries. He has already lived up to his injury-prone reputation, as he will miss at least the first part of the season recovering from injury. But, his upside made the risk worth it in the Rays’ eyes. The rest of the Rays’ college picks in the first 10 rounds were largely to save money to sign some of their high school guys. 5th rounder Johnny Field could be decent, and 9th and 10th rounders Austin Pruitt and Aaron Griffin were good in their pro debuts, but none of them are players to get too terribly excited about. Hunter Lockwood, an 11th round JUCO pick, has real power potential, and could be a sleeper guy to keep an eye on.
It is very hard to say if this class will live up to expectations. It does have the potential to be one of the better draft classes in Rays’ history, but is also has the potential to produce no big leaguers if these risky players don’t pan out. They took plenty of players with big upside from the high school ranks, but these players also have a high probability of never panning out. Even with their biggest college draft pick, the Rays took Ryne Stanek, who has just as big of a bust potential as anyone else the Rays’ took. However, like the high school picks, he has big upside. This draft featured a questionable strategy by Andrew Friedman, who really needs a win in the draft to replenish a system that is having a down year. But, if you question Andrew Friedman you are normally going to be wrong. Hopefully that proves to be the case, and the Rays’ 2013 draft class will do a good job developing its potentially huge big league talent.