The Tampa Bay Rays have selected 21-year old Casey Gillaspie, one of college baseball’s best pure hitters this season, at 20th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. Gillaspie is a switch-hitting college first baseman from Wichita State.
The Rays have not had much success drafting position players early in the MLB draft lately, but that didn’t stop them from taking Gillaspie’s polished bat. The younger brother of Chicago White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie, Casey put up an outstanding .389/.520/.682 line this year in his junior season, including 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 59 games. He also led the uber-competive Cape Cod summer league with 8 home runs during the summer of 2013. Gillaspie has above-average power on both sides of the plate, but unlike a significant amount of players that have power, there isn’t much swing and miss to his game. He put up an impressive 58-28 BB-K ratio this season, showcasing an advanced plate approach. His hit tool is also just as good as his power, and he could develop into a consistent .280 hitter with 20-25 home runs a year while drawing plenty of walks and not striking out much. Thanks to his polished bat, he should be quick to the big leagues. This pick is a safer pick, but doesn’t sacrifice much upside. Gillaspie’s ability to make contact and draw walks should carry him to the majors, even if he doesn’t reach his power ceiling. But if he does reach is potential, he should be a valuable switch-hitter in the middle of the Rays lineup for years to come.
From a mechanical standpoint, Gillaspie has a beautiful swing on both sides of the plate. He uses his lower half nicely to take advantage of his 6’4”, 235 pound frame. Unlike so many power hitters, he does a good job of keeping his hands and arms loose and letting his hips power his swing, which is what allows him to make such consistent contact without sacrificing pop. He is a smart hitter and this leads to quick adjustments at the plate when needed. What caused him to fall to 20th overall is his limited defensive profile. He is a below-average runner, and that will limit him to first base for his entire career. However, he is a solid defender there thanks good instincts. These instincts also helped him to go a perfect 8-8 in stolen bases this year despite the poor speed.
Overall Casey Gillaspie is a solid pick by the Rays. They did bypass some higher upside, higher risk players, like high school pitchers Grant Holmes and Sean Reid-Foley. But, Gillaspie has all the skills needed to be a quick to the big leagues, middle of the order hitter. Sound instincts and plus intangibles will also increase Gillaspie’s chance of reaching his full potential. Check back at Rays Colored Glasses later tonight and throughout the rest of the draft as we continue to break down the players that they take.