By today’s rules, the 40th round is the final round of the MLB Draft. With their selection there, the Tampa Bay Rays had two options: treat it like an ordinary late-round pick without much potential or take a chance on a player who slipped earlier in the draft. In 2012, the Rays chose the latter route and wound up with an interesting relief prospect in Nick Sawyer because of it. Then they did the same thing this year as they selected right-hander Conor Harber out of Western Nevada Community College.
Harber, 6’2″ and 205 pounds, just finished up his second junior college season and is set to head to Oregon next season as a two-way player if the Rays don’t sign him. The likely scenario is that he does end up a member of the Ducks. However, the Rays will try to put the money together to sign him and may just have a chance. The reason is simple: if you’re a pitching prospect, you want to be developed by the Rays.
Conor Harber’s talent on the mound is clear. Even though he has not yet committed to pitching full-time, he has already touched 93 MPH with good sink and has shown a curveball and changeup as well. His athleticism helps him repeat his delivery and command his fastball well for a player with limited experience on the mound, and his secondary pitches have come along as well. In a relatively rare twist, Harber’s changeup is better than his curveball, featuring a good arm slot and occasional late bite. His curve will require more work, but he’s shown good break on it at time and that is something he can rectify as he moves up the ranks. Harber is a real pitching prospect, and if he is signed, the Rays will surely send him out to start.
If the Rays don’t sign their 40th round pick, Conor Harber, they still made the right pick- and it is not as though they could have selected someone else who would have signed and made a major impact. If they do somehow sign Harber, though, it will be quite the coup. A maneuver like this has already worked once for the Rays, and if they find the money to sign Harber, it could very well work out again.