The Tampa Bay Rays love taking players with upside, and it seems that every year in the MLB Draft they can find players in the later rounds with high potential. Despite already being in the second half of the draft, the Rays found a high-upside player in the 21st round in outfielder Jaime Ayende-Morales. If they can get him signed, he could turn into one of the more intriguing prospects from this draft class.
Ayende-Morales hails from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. A switch-hitter, he has shown plenty of ability on both sides of the plate. He has a smooth line-drive swing on both sides and impresses with his quick hands and raw bat speed. He does tend to be a bit pull-happy, and his swing can be too long at times. He also can get too far out on his front side. However, none of these issues are major, and they should be fairly easy fixes in pro ball. At present, there isn’t a ton of strength in his swing. But at 6’1”, 170 pounds he should be able to add muscle in the future. All-in-all, he has plenty of present ability on offense, and as a high school draftee he has plenty of time to iron out his issues and add strength.
Defensively, Ayende-Morales profiles best in right field. He showcases decent speed at the moment, but down the road he is likely going to be an average runner. He already has a strong arm, having been clocked at 90 MPH from the outfield. He may be able to handle center at the beginning of his pro career, but he will likely eventually settle in at right field, where his arm profiles nicely. A move to third base also could also be an option if the Rays believe that he is a better fit there.
Signing Jaime Ayende-Morales might be a tall task for the Rays. He is currently committed to play college ball at North Central Texas Junior College, meaning that if he does not sign this year, he can just re-enter the draft in 2015. However, the Rays should be receiving discounts on their 7th-10th round picks, which gives them a chance. They will be able to float a big number at Ayende-Morales if they want to–but that money could also go to locking up some of their other tougher signs. It will be interesting to follow the Rays’ attempts to sign Ayende-Morales in the coming weeks.