We saw in the first round that the Tampa Bay Rays took a safer player in Casey Gillaspie with a better chance of developing as expected. In the 4th round, the Rays followed the same strategy as they selected Blake Bivens, a 6’2″, 205 right-hander out of George Washington High School in Virginia. Bivens is not a projectable player and may never hit much higher than the 90-93 MPH range he’s at now with his fastball. However, he is a more advanced high school player than we ever see the Rays see, and he just may move more quickly.
Upside is a great thing to throw out there. You always want to dream of a player being a number one starter or a five-tool centerfielder. But Bivens has what it takes to be a strong number three starter. He has a repeatable delivery that helps him generate run and sink on his fastball. He throws a lot of strikes already, and his command could end up being plus in the future. Then his secondary pitches make him stand out even more. A lot of high school pitchers are still working to find shape on their breaking pitches, but Bivens throws a high-70’s breaker with sharp 11-to-5 break. He has shown the ability to both spot it for strikes and use it to put hitters away, and it has a chance to be his out-pitch moving forward. He even has used a changeup to keep hitters off-balance, although he needs work to match his fastball release angle and arm speed. Bivens possesses very good pitchability, and while his stuff–or at least his fastball and curveball–might not improve all that much, Bivens isn’t a project like other pitchers the Rays have selected. Bivens is a player who can pitch next season at Low-A and be a positive influence on some of the Rays’ other prospects who are still trying to figure out who they are as pitchers. And even if we can’t throw out “upside” like usual, Blake Bivens is a talented pitcher with the ability to be a strong starting pitcher for the Rays someday. He may be exactly the shift in strategy the Rays need to turn their recent draft history around.