In baseball more so than other sports, drafting for need is not a good idea. Drafted players take two or three years to crack the big league roster even in the best-case scenario, and everything can change for a franchise in that period of time. Even with that the case, however, teams will head into the 2014 MLB Draft looking towards specific areas and aiming to bolster their depth in that area before their selections are through. Right now, we are going to discuss the Tampa Bay Rays’ organizational depth, and their areas of need will not have much to do with which direction they head in the first round. However, by the time their 41 picks are in the books, there are certain spots that will show up more than others, and let’s go position by position to figure out which spots those will be.
At the major league level, the Rays have plenty of pitching depth, as has been the case for years. At the minor league level, though, the situation is not quite as secure. At Triple-A, the Rays have Nate Karns, Enny Romero, Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery, Matt Andriese, and Merrill Kelly. However, Karns is an older prospect and everyone but Andriese could very well end up in relief. Grayson Garvin, Ryne Stanek, Taylor Guerrieri, and German Marquez headline the rest of the prospects, but the Rays could use another starting pitching prospect or two. It isn’t an enormous organizational need, but the Rays could certainly select a pitcher early if the right one falls to them and could select at least two or three in the first five rounds.
The Rays never select relievers early on in the draft, but they wouldn’t have a big need for them even if they did. Aside from the big league bullpen, the Rays have C.J. Riefenhauser, Kirby Yates, Jeff Beliveau, Adam Liberatore, recent relief convert Jake Thompson, Braulio Lara, and more. That doesn’t even include the starting who will end up in the relief. The Rays would rather select more starters knowing that a bunch will end up in relief. Don’t expect more than a few pure relievers in the Rays’ enttire 2014 Draft haul.
Ryan Hanigan being hurt and Ali Solis taking his place on the roster is not a good thing, but the Rays do have some talented catchers in their organization. Curt Casali at Triple-A and Luke Maile at Double-A both have a chance to start, and Justin O’Conner at High-A still has a lot of potential. Nick Ciuffo, Oscar Hernandez, and David Rodriguez, meanwhile, are talented catchers that aren’t as far along in their development. It would be a surprise for the Rays to take more than one catcher in the first 10 rounds.
The Rays have James Loney signed for two more years and a few players with a chance to be his eventual successor. Richie Shaffer has looked better this year (although he needs more work), Patrick Leonard has delivered an outstanding season, and Cameron Seitzer can be discounted despite a tough start to 2014. There is no surefire starter here, and the Rays will have to consider a big-time college bat early in the draft, but their depth looks fine overall.
The good news for the Rays about second base is that a lot of shortstops eventually move there. In terms of pure second baseman, the Rays have two interesting prospects in Ryan Brett and Kean Wong and no other real prospect after that. Brett might be Ben Zobrist‘s eventual heir apparent, and Wong could be an interesting player in a few years, but the Rays could really use some depth. Expect another couple of college second baseman and maybe one a little earlier than we’re used to.
This might be the biggest strength in this system. The Rays are committed to Yunel Escobar until at least 2016, yet they have Hak-Ju Lee at Triple-A and Jake Hager at Double-A. Then there are prospects like Riley Unroe and Brandon Martin at the lower levels. The Rays could use another higher-upside players for Short Season ball, and while they won’t select a player like that in the first round, they could easily go that route with their second or third pick.
There is some guy named Evan Longoria manning this position, and Tyler Goeddel represents an interesting prospect at the position. The Rays will likely select a few college infielders capable of playing there (and of course Shaffer is now), but they would rather just select more high school shortstops than an actual third baseman. A college bat who could move to another spot could be an option, though.
The Rays’ outfield certainly could be more productive this season, but the Rays have a lot of names in the picture here. Matt Joyce‘s time with the Rays may not be long, but David DeJesus has looked great while Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers retain upside. Then there are Kevin Kiermaier and Wil Myers, who are starting to establish themselves. In the minors, meanwhile, Mikie Mahtook and Granden Goetzman are interesting and it is certainly too early to give up on Andrew Toles. Thomas Milone, Spencer Edwards, and Hunter Lockwood represent three other players with potential. The Rays will likely throw another prep outfielder or two into the mix in the first ten rounds.
Based on this cursory look, we can expect the Tampa Bay Rays to draft four pitchers, one catcher, two shortstops, two outfielders, and one second or third baseman in the 2014 MLB Draft. At least two of the pitchers and the final infielder should be a college player, and there is always the change the Rays go after a college bat early on.