Day 1 of the 2014 MLB Draft is in the books, and the second day has just begun. Let’s do a quick recap of this year’s Rays MLB Draft class so far and discuss a few players the Rays could select today.
The Rays’ first pick was Casey Gillaspie, and he really is a different type of pick than the Rays have selected in recent years. Even when the Rays selected Richie Shaffer two years ago, it was because he was considered among the best bats available but slipped down to them. The Rays selected Gillaspie right around where he was expected to be. He is not a high-upside player, and in all probability, he will not be a superstar. But picking Gillaspie shows that the Rays are placing more of a priority on getting their picks at the top of the draft to develop as expected and become big league contributors. Gillaspie has a very good chance of being a starting first baseman today, and it may only take two to three years from him to get there. After that safe bet, then the Rays can go back and draft for upside.
With their second and third picks, the Rays did go back to drafting for upside with their selections of Cameron Varga and Brent Honeywell. Both come with concerning factors–Varga with his injury history and age, and Honeywell with his secondary pitches still being wrong–but they are two players with the ability to be number three starters or better down the line. Varga could even be a frontline pitcher if everything works out. At the end of the day, there is a question that has to be asked in the MLB Draft: how much of a difference does it really make to take an upside player at 20th overall or a round or two later? The Rays have seen so many high school first rounders fail, and while they may have been worthwhile risks, they decided that they don’t lose much by selecting the same type of player later on in the draft.
Today, the Rays will certainly draft more college players, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Rays went for a couple other high-upside high school players with their first few picks. They would love to have the opportunity to take Jakson Reetz, a catcher with upside on both sides of the ball. Trace Loehr, meanwhile, is the type of athletic player out of the Pacific Northwest that the Rays like. Expect another couple of high school players before the Rays go back to the college route in the 5th or 6th round. It will be exciting to see exactly how this Rays MLB Draft turns out.