The Tampa Bay Rays love to get creative in the later rounds of the draft. At a time when teams take many uninspiring players, the Rays manage to find players that still have intrigue. They did just that in the 26th round of the 2014 draft, where they selected outfielder Cade Gotta from the NAIA ranks.
When looking at Cade Gotta, the first thing that pops out is his gaudy numbers. In his senior year with NAIA San Diego Christian College this season, he hit .406/.532/.685 with 11 homers while stealing 42 bases and scoring 73 runs in 60 games. He also showcased outstanding plate discipline, walking 53 times and striking out just 22 times. Mechanically, Gotta can get a bit too far out on his front side and his swing can also get too handsy sometimes. He needs to stay back and rely more on his lower half in order to fully harness his swing’s potential. However, those are not fatal flaws by any means, and the fact that he is a smart hitter is going to help him tremendously as a pro. At 6’4”, 205 pounds he has a nice, strong frame, and he could hit for decent power down the road. His biggest issue is going to be proving that he can hit against professional competition, as he hasn’t had much of a challenge playing in the NAIA. But, his bat has potential, and smart hitters can often be hard to find in the later rounds of the draft.
Defensively one might look at his 6’4”, 205 pound frame and discount centerfield as an option. But, as his 42 steals last season show, Gotta is surprisingly quick. His arm will do fine in center, and he put up a solid 5 assists in the outfield this year while making just 2 errors en route to a Golden State Athletic Conference gold glove award. He should be able to stick in center field down the road, but a move to a corner spot can’t be completely discounted. Gotta has showed plenty of ability to play defense, and that is something that the Rays must love.
In the end, this is one of my favorite picks in this draft. Gotta fell this far because of his age (23 in August) and his lack of competition in college. However, he’s shown ability with the bat, on defense, and on the basepaths. The Rays might just have found a diamond in the rough in Cade Gotta.