With the 2014 Rule 4 MLB Player Draft fast approaching its time to take an in depth look at some of the prospects that could be available. The Rays hold the 20th overall selection in the draft and will come across several options for players they could select. The Rays have generally looked at players with considerable upside in the first round of their most recent drafts. When selecting a high school hitter with your first pick, your essentially are picking just on upside. The Rays have experienced mixed results with prep players before, but the players available are sufficiently talented that it could be worth going down that route again.
Earlier this week, I took a look at some college hitters that could intrigue the Rays. Now, I will be taking a look at some of the high school bats that the Rays could be looking at. I won’t be mentioning Alex Jackson and Nick Gordon due to the fact that there’s virtually no chance either makes it out of the top 10 picks, making it virtually impossible for the Rays to sniff either of them. The Rays generally look for great athletes who possess several tools and tremendous upside when they are drafting high schoolers. In recent drafts, players such as Riley Unroe, Spencer Edwards and Drew Vettleson have caught the eyes of Rays’ scouts thanks to their tools and potential. So let’s take a look at some of the high school bats that could be available by the time the 20th pick rolls around.
Derek Hill OF Elk Grove (Calif.) HS (Bats Right/Throws Right)
Hill is considered the best pure centerfielder in the draft and is one of its most explosive athletes. He flashes elite defensive skill and running ability. His bat is his biggest question, as he only has average bat speed and limits his power because he doesn’t really incorporate his lower half in his swing, though that can be fixed by good coaching. He does have good plate discipline and uses the whole field nicely. Hill will likely be selected in the 2nd half of the draft. The Rays will definitely be intrigued by Hill, as his athleticism and upside fits the Rays’ mold. He has a good chance to be available when the Rays are picking, and they should strongly consider taking the talented centerfielder.
Monte Harrison OF Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West HS (R/R)
The Nebraska football commit has a tremendous skill set to work with. Like Hill, he’s an incredible athlete who has great speed, a great arm that can hit 97 MPH from the outfield, and a power bat. His bat will be a long-term project, as he needs to make more contact and clean his swing to tap into his raw power, but once he focuses only on baseball it should improve. Harrison is likely to be taken between picks 20-27 and will probably get a considerable bonus to pass up his commitment to Nebraska. He should be available when the Rays are on the clock and definitely fits the type of athlete they will look for at the high school level. After finding success with another former wide receiver (Desmond Jennings), they will strongly consider Harrison if he’s available at the 20th pick.
Jacob Gatewood SS Clovis (Calif.) HS (R/R)
Gatewood is an all-or-nothing prospect. He has the chance to become a potential superstar, but there’s also a real possibility he doesn’t make it past Class-A ball in the pros. He has a narrow 6’4, 190 pound frame and his huge raw power has earned him praise throughout the industry. He also has a great arm that can hit 95 MPH on the mound and would play great on the left side of the infield. He is most likely a third baseman in the future thanks to only average speed, but he could be a good defender there. He doesn’t have a great feel for hitting and struggles to make contact, which is why he’s such a risk. If a team loves his skillset, he could be taken anywhere from 10-20. But he’s such a risk that he could also fall to the late 1st round. If Gatewood is on the board when the Rays are up they will be forced with a tough choice. His superstar potential is intriguing but my guess is that the Rays pass due to concerns about whether he’ll hit enough to tap into that huge power.
Braxton Davidson OF T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C. (L/L)
A potential middle of the order bat, Davidson packs a punch as evident by his 6’3, 215 pound frame. He has a smooth left-handed swing that allows him to hit for both solid average and power. He isn’t a great athlete, so speed isn’t a part of his game and he will most likely end up at first base in the pros because of it. Davidson could get picked anywhere in the 2nd half of the 1st round if a team believes he can be a middle of the order bat despite his shortcomings. The Rays could be intrigued by his power potential from the left side, so they might take a chance on Davison if he’s still available.
Ti’Quan Forbes SS Columbia (Miss.) HS (R/R)
Forbes is another high ceiling talent with some intriguing tools. He is a plus runner who should be able to use his speed well on the base paths. He shows some serious power potential but also has some swing and miss in his bat, which could prevent him from tapping into that power. Defensively, he’s shown the ability to play well at shortstop with pretty good range, but his arm strength is only average and he might have to move to the outfield. He would be a reach at 20, but is still a player worth considering.
Michael Chavis 3B Sprayberry HS (Ga.) (R/R)
Chavis does just about everything well but doesn’t have one tool that sticks out above the others. He runs pretty well for a third baseman and should be able to stay at third thanks to pretty good range and a strong arm. Offensively, he has a pretty good feel for hitting and should be able to hit for both average and power. His does swing and miss too often, which is why some are concerned he won’t hit at the next level, and is why he might drop in the draft. His overall skill set is nice however and he could end up going in the first round, but more likely won’t be selected until the supplemental round. Chavis is probably not the type of player the Rays would take a chance because his lack of a tool that sticks out, but he can’t be completely counted out.
Two other high school hitters that could possibly go in the first round are Michael Gettys (OF Gainesville HS (GA)) and Marcus Wilson (OF Junipero Serra HS (Los Angeles)), but neither should be drafted as high as the 20th pick. Overall there are going to be some talented high school bats available when the Rays are picking at number 20. If the Rays decide to go this route and take an upside high school bat with their first pick, I think it will be Monte Harrison, but there are other intriguing options that could be available.. In our next draft segment I will go over which college pitchers the Rays could select with the 20th overall pick.