The big question for the Rays after the 2014 MLB Draft was completed was going to be whether they could sign 11th round pick Spencer Moran. Moran is a 6’6″, 180 right-hander with plenty of projection to accompany a raw yet tantalizing arsenal. More velocity will come for him, but he has already touches 93 MPH with great downward movement, and he even shows promise with a curveball. Moran was easily a top five rounds talent, but he fell all the way to the 11th round thanks to concerns about his willingness to sign. However, either those signability questions were overstated or the Rays convinced him that their organization was the best place for him to develop as they signed him to a $390,000 bonus.
Spencer Moran’s bonus takes the Rays over their bonus pool by a solid amount–$267,099–and they will incur penalties because of that. The magic number to surpass the allotted amount, though, is 5% over, and the Rays fell short of that, meaning their penalty will be a tax, not the loss of any picks. Nice job by the Rays finding the money to sign Moran, and between Moran, Cameron Varga, Brent Honeywell, Brock Burke, and Blake Bivens, suddenly the Rays have added five more promising pitching prospects to their system. We will have to see how they develop, but they could go down as quite a haul.
Another recent sign worth noting is the Rays’ 21st round pick, Jaime Ayende-Morales out of the Roberto Clemente Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. Morales is a switch-hitting outfielder with bat speed, raw power, and excellent arm strength. He has work to do refining the mechanics of his swing, but he was certainly selected far lower than you would have expected for a player with his abilities. He likely slipped because of signability, but maybe the Rays knew something when they selected him in Round 21. They found a player who was ready to begin his pro career even if he did slip in the draft, and they did a nice job making him a part of their organization.
Overall, the Rays have now agreed to terms with 33 of their 41 draft picks including their first 11 and 20 of their first 22. The two still unsigned among those top 22 are Braxton Lee (12th), whose Ole Miss squad was recently eliminated for the College World Series, and Brian Miller, whose Vandy team is playing for the national championship. Those two are virtual locks to sign, but it may take another week or two to make that possible. It is also quite surprising that Matt Plitt, a senior sign out of Louisiana-Lafayette, has not been inked. That should happen soon as well. Among the remaining five unsigned players, though, there are more questions.
In both Round 25 and Round 27, the Rays selected juniors in college who have incentive to return to school. Tyler Wells and Grant Kay are both talented players who slipped after rough years, and they may decide to return to school and attempt to restore their draft stock. For the Rays, both players are good values, and expect them to dangle as much money as they can to look them both up. It would not be a total shock of either did not sign, but they will certainly be the priority for the Rays at this point.
For the final three picks, meanwhile, there is almost no chance that the Rays can sign any of them. Zac Law (23rd) and Josh Davis (32nd) are both coming out of high school while Conor Harber (40th) is committed to go to Oregon out of junior, and the Rays are out of money to go after them. While you never want to let high-upside players slip away, though, the Rays will be quite satisfied with the 38 players they do sign and could very well have found the draft that breaks them out of their recent slump. They found a formidable hitter in Casey Gillaspie, all of the talented pitching prospects, and even several college players with more upside than you would expect. Andrew Friedman, R.J. Harrison, and the entire Rays front office could not have asked for a better group of players than what the ones they selected.