Nope, the Tampa Bay Rays diverged from seemingly every recent mock draft in existence, selecting high school outfielder Garrett Whitley over a bevy of college pitchers. That certainly isn’t a bad thing–Whitley has crazy upside. However, the Rays could still use an advanced pitcher to add to their starting depth, and that may be the way they go with their second round pick at 52nd overall or their third selection at pick #87. Let’s go through some arms that may interest them in that spot.
David Hill, RHP from U of San Diego
Hill, a 6’3″, 205 right-hander, is a college pitcher that comes with command issues, a breaking ball that has been too slurvy, and some concerns after he was overworked this season. On the positive side, he has a nice pitcher’s frame, a fastball that touches 94 MPH with great late movement, and the Rays’ favorite pitch these days, the split-change. He needs refinement to say the least, but you see a guy with the stuff to be a high-value pick. There is certainly some concern that he will be popped before the Rays have a chance at him.
Blake Hickman, RHP from Iowa
A player who might be more likely to stick around is Hickman. Once again, he isn’t the most polished pitcher, but he comes with major upside. He is 6’5″, 210 and can reach 97 MPH with his fastball, but issues with his secondary led to inconsistent results in college (52-42 strikeout to walk ratio this season) even though he was difficult to hit. That being said, he could move quickly as a reliever and the Rays are as good as anyone at teaching the secondary pitches he would need to continue starting.
Jeff Degano, LHP from Indiana State
Degano missed the 2014 season after Tommy John Surgery, but you have to like what he does on the mound. He is a left-handed with a low-90’s fastball and an interesting breaking ball. Scouts don’t like the fact that Degano’s breaking ball looks like a curveball one time and a slider the next. However, a lot of that is on purpose as he will throw it softer for first-pitch strikes and harder to put away hitters. You can certainly live with that. If the Rays can refine his changeup, he could turn into a nice mid-rotation starter.
Kyle Cody, RHP from Kentucky
Cody, an imposing figure at 6’7″, 245, had the stuff to be considered a high pick at one point, hitting 98 MPH with his fastball to pair with a swing-and-miss curveball. Then he managed just a 4.91 ERA at Kentucky this season, losing his command entirely. If the Rays think that they can get him back on track, he could be a frontline starter. A good question is whether the Rays’ experience with Jeff Niemann makes them more or less likely to take Cody.
Josh Staumont, RHP from Azusa Pacific (Division II)
Staumont may be even more a question mark, reaching 100 MPH with his fastball to go along with an excellent curveball and a clean delivery yet failing entirely to throw strikes. His story is the same as Cody’s, though his frame is more conventional at 6’2″, 205. If the Rays want a project coming out of college, Cody and Staumont are both interesting options.
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Andrew Suarez, LHP from Miami
Suarez may be the safer starting pitcher pick that some people had in mind for the Rays. He throws mostly in the low-90’s, but with a lot of strikes and a good changeup and slider. The bad news is that he is still around at this point because he missed time this season from an oblique injury and also has a shoulder surgery in his past. He is also an older prospect, about to turn 23 years of age. However, the Rays are fine with older prospects who have undergone shoulder surgery (see Nate Karns), and we will have to see if he’s an option for the Rays.
Maybe the rumors about the Tampa Bay Rays selecting a college pitcher were just a round or two off. We will have to see if the team ends up picking one of these pitchers or another college arm, and we can see that there are quite a few interesting possibilities that will be available.