The 2014 MLB draft will start tomorrow as teams scramble to finalize their boards and draft strategies. The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t had the best drafting lately, as only Tim Beckham, Kevin Kiermaier, and C.J. Riefenhauser have seen big league time from their 2008-2013 classes (though there is likely more to come from that bunch). The Rays will have 4 picks inside the top 100 this year at 20th, 60th, 72nd, and 96th overall. Here’s an attempt at choosing which players the Rays will draft in those four slots.
20th overall: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP from Sandalwood HS in Florida
The Rays haven’t had much success taking bats early in the last few years, so I believe they will go pitcher-heavy, especially with there being such depth at the position in this class. Reid-Foley fits the Rays bill as a pitcher with front-line upside, though of course high school pitchers always come with plenty of risk. Right now, his fastball sits around 91-93 MPH with consistency, but when needed he can dial it up to around 96. He has a great build at 6’3”, 205 lbs, which should allow him to add a little more velocity as he matures. His slider is easily an above-average pitch, and has plus potential down the road. His changeup is his worst pitch, but it still has above-average potential and the Rays do a great job of developing the pitch. There is a chance he is picked before 20th, but somewhere in the 17-23 range seems around right for him. If a guy like Tyler Beede or injured Jeff Hoffman fall this far, they will also be strongly considered. There will also be a host of high school bats that the Rays will take a look at here, including Monte Harrison, Jacob Gatewood, and Derek Hill. The injured Erik Fedde might also intrigue the Rays. But in the end, Reid-Foley makes plenty of sense.
60th overall: Garrett Fulenchek, RHP from Howe HS in Texas
Another high school RHP with a big frame, Fulenchek throws a sinker with plus potential that sits in the 90-93 MPH range. But, he is 6’4” and weights 185 pounds, meaning there is plenty of velocity to be added. The two reasons he would fall to later in the 2nd round are his inconsistent secondary stuff and issues with repeating his delivery. He throws a slider that has flashed plus potential thanks to late bite, but it is inconsistent and he does not command it particularly well. As with most hard throwing high schoolers, he rarely needs to throw his changeup, though it has looked decent the few times he has used it. With such a big frame, repeating his delivery should get easier with added strength and that should improve the command and consistency of his overall pitches. There is a chance that he goes before this, but there is also a chance he falls further depending on how teams think he can iron out his mechanics. Regardless, he has the upside of a number 2 starter, and you could do much worse at 60th.
72nd overall: Cole Tucker, SS from Mountain Point HS in Arizona
Tucker stands out for his elite speed and instincts. He plays tremendous defense at shortstop, and he is likely to stick there in the future. His speed will also play nicely on the basepaths. Tucker is a switch-hitter, but that is where his overall game lacks. For the time being, he has little power, and his bat definitely holds him back. However, at 6’3”, 165 lbs he should add strength going forward, and he could end up developing decent power. The team that believes in his bat is the team that will draft him, but late 2nd round-early 3rd round seems a good place for Tucker. The Rays certainly haven’t shied away from taking defense-first high school shortstops in the past, and Tucker would join Reid-Foley and Fulenchek as a nice trio of players with good upside, though also high risk.
96th overall: Jace Fry, LHP from Oregon State
The Rays generally like taking players from the Pacific Norwest, as their area scout for the region, Paul Kirsch, does a great job of finding talent. Fry, from Oregon State, is never going to wow with stuff, but his deception, command, and pitchability make him a desirable pitcher. He has a low 90′s fastball that has solid movement. Fry also throws a curveball, but he throws it at multiple different speeds to keep hitters on their toes. His changeup is a bit inconsistent, but it has nice sink and deception when it is on. Another plus is that he has performed will in the PAC-12, one of the harder conferences in college baseball. He may not have huge upside, but should be a quick to the big leagues, back of the rotation starter.
One note about this mock- if the Rays did take so many high schoolers high in the draft, they would likely have to take some college seniors later on in the first 10 rounds to save bonus pool money. However, they did use a similar strategy in last year’s draft by picking Nick Ciuffo, Riley Unroe, and Thomas Milone early and then saving money in the 9th and 10th rounds by taking Austin Pruitt and Aaron Griffin.
There are plenty of talented players in this year’s draft, and the Tampa Bay Rays will have their pick between higher upside picks or lower upside, but lower risk picks. Generally, they lean towards the higher upside picks, but with Andrew Friedman you never know. We will just have to wait and see how things pan out in the next couple of days.