Willie Argo: 22nd Round Senior Looks to Recapture Upside

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays’ went four picks without an up-the-middle position player. That finally ended in Round 22 as they went with Willie Argo, an outfielder out of the University of Illinois. Argo is an interesting story. He had a chance to be a high draft pick the past couple of years but that never materialized.

Argo, an athletic 6’1″, 205, Argo showed some crazy potential in his first two years at Illinois. After not signing as a 49th round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008, Argo hit .355 with 12 homers and 10 steals as a freshman and was named a freshman all-American. Then as a sophomore in 2009, Argo’s average dipped to .318 and his homers to 4, but he set an Illinois record with 41 stolen bases in 45 attempts. But he fell to a .270 batting average and just 25 of 35 in steals in 2010 as he dealt with a wrist injury and he was just a 43rd round pick by the Pirates in 2011 but didn’t sign again. That ended up paying off for him. Argo hit .318 in 2012 for the Illini with 22 steals in 26 attempts and that spurred him up to the 22nd round in this draft, a big improvement but still much lower than it looked like he wound end up.

Argo’s defense and speed are still impressive. But the rest of his tools have disappeared since his wrist injury. (Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

Once upon a time, Willie Argo had Curtis Granderson upside. Argo showed some excellent bat speed with power potential, and although he swung and missed a lot, his power potential compensated. Argo showed and still shows excellent speed and the ability to steal 40 bases in a season, and he moved and still moves very well in centerfield. His arm was also excellent for a centerfielder. Argo looked like he had four-tool potential as Granderson-esque leadoff man who maybe only hits .250 with a ton of strikeouts but slams 25 homers, a whole bunch of triples, and steals 30 bases.

Argo’s power has evaporated thus far after his wrist injury and now he’s a tap hitter. He’s still fast and moves well in center, but his arm hasn’t been the same either. But the Rays are giving Argo a chance to get healthy and recapture the potential he once showed. They love his speed to begin with, but if he can get his power back he could still be a good all-around major league player. Argo comes with a ton of risk now because of his injuries, but he’s worth it. If he can get healthy and back to what he was, even as a senior sign, he will be an absolute steal.