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 on which player they’d like to select. The Rays have generally looked at players with considerable upside in the first round of the most recent drafts. Last time I looked at high school hitters who the Rays could be interested in taking. This time I’ll be taking a look at college pitchers that could be among the Rays MLB Draft targets
The Rays generally haven’t taken many college pitchers at the top of their last draft, but last year took Ryne Stanek with their second first round pick. Stanek fell due to injury concerns but his upside remained very high, which is the type of combination the Rays would likely target out of a college pitcher. Grayson Garvin was picked in the compensation round in 2011, but he was more of a “safe” option without a front of the rotation ceiling among their bevy of riskier picks. Several college pitchers have had to undergo Tommy John surgery and have seen their stock drop, which has made it very difficult to project where some of these arms might go. At this point there are several college pitchers that we can almost definitely rule out to be available when the Rays are picking at number 20 including Carlos Rodon, Aaron Nola, Jeff Hoffman (despite undergoing Tommy John surgery), and Kyle Freeland. So let’s take a look at what college arms might be available at number 20:
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
The former first round pick features a very good arsenal. He’s got a fastball that typically sits in the 93-95 MPH range and has a plus changeup. He also possesses as nice curveball that shows good break and has some good bite to it as well. His 6’4″, 215 pound frame is pretty solid and should help his durability as a starter. Beede has struggled with SEC competition this year amid struggles with command and has seen his stock drop as a result. Nevertheless, his ceiling remains very high and coming from the power house pitching factory that has produced pitchers such as David Price, Sonny Gray and Mike Minor, it’s hard to see too many teams pass on him. There is a chance Beede could be available at number 20, and if he is there, the Rays could very well take him.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Newcomb is one of the better left-handed pitchers in the draft and comes from a smaller school. He’s a big powerful pitcher with a 6’4″, 240 pound frame and a fastball that can hit 96 MPH. He has a decent slider that could become a plus pitch over time and a changeup that needs work. His biggest issue are his command, which could cause him to slide more than expected in the draft, and the fact that he’s faced weak competition. Newcomb is likely to go between picks 10-15, but there’s still a chance he ends up being on the board when the Rays are picking. Newcomb is an intriguing arm and the Rays would probably take a long look at him if he were still on the board.
Erik Fedde, RHP, UNLV
Fedde is another victim of the Tommy John epidemic. He had a chance to go in the top 10 until he went under the knife recently. When healthy, he has an above average fastball-slider combo that should be able to generate plenty of strikeouts. On the negative side, his slim build of 6’4″, 165 pounds, makes scouts question his durability and having to undergo Tommy John surgery has only amplified that concern. Fedde could go anywhere at this point and should be available when the Rays pick at 20, but they will most likely pass on him due to the extent of his injury concerns.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
Finnegan has been one of the most dominant pitchers in college baseball recently. His fastball is usually in the mid 90s but can touch the upper 90s. His slider has turned into a great weapon and he has a decent changeup as well. He even has outstanding control that should also help him get the most out of his strong arsenal. However, durability is a concern for Finnegan as he is only 5’11″, 185 pounds, which prompts questions about whether he can handle a starter’s workload. He has also recently went through shoulder soreness and missed some time because of it. Finnegan will probably go somewhere between picks 10-20 and could be there when the Rays select. If the Rays believe that Finnegan can handle a starter’s workload, then he will definitely be an option at number 20.
Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
The Louisville closer is the best pure relief prospect in the draft. He has a power arm, with a fastball that usually sits in the upper 90s and has hit 100 MPH several times. His fastball also has good life to it and he has a wipeout slider to compliment it. Burdi throws a changeup as well but will probably scrap that pitch in pro ball. Burdi projects to be a solid two-pitch reliever with the potential to be a very good closer. No fault of his own, though, that will not be enough for the Rays. The Rays never select relievers in the first round, and there is no reason to think that Burdi will be an exception.
If the Rays decide to take a college pitcher at number 20 it will be because they see front-of-the-rotation upside. Tyler Beede is a guy they would love to see fall to number 20, but there’s only a slim chance of that happening. The most likely pick would be Finnegan. He has a decent shot to be available and could become a very good major league starter if he can stay healthy. His size might scare off enough teams for him to land with the Rays at the 20th pick. Next time we’ll be taking a look at what high school arms the Rays might look at in the first round.