We are now just three hours away from the outset of the 2015 MLB Draft. Everything will begin at 7:00 PM EST, with the first, supplemental first, and second rounds happening tonight. At this point, we have all of the information we are ever going to get regarding who Tampa Bay Rays are looking to draft at 13th overall, at least until the draft actually starts. Let’s break down the latest buzz.
Of the big four mock drafts (Baseball America, Kiley McDaniel, Keith Law, and MLB.com), three of them have the Rays selecting Vanderbilt right-hander Walker Buehler. Only McDaniel has the team selecting another pitcher, UCLA righty James Kaprielian, and everyone but Jim Callis of MLB.com has the Rays turning down the pitcher to whom they were linked for the last several weeks, Jon Harris. R.J. Anderson talked about Harris’ issues repeating his delivery, and the Rays may have soured on his motion in favor of those of Buehler and/or Kaprielian.
I discussed yesterday how Harris versus Kaprielian is basically a toss-up, but I can’t say I’m as sold on Buehler. Here’s the elevator pitch for him: he’s safer than Harris with similar velocity and throws harder than Kaprielian, giving him greater upside. The counterargument is that his secondary pitches aren’t as good as either of them, and even if he has the best chance of being at least number four starter in the big leagues, he may have the lowest probability of being a number three starter or better. Even so, Law links the Rays specifically to Buehler, and the Rays may see an adjustment they can make with him that will help him exceed his projections.
In other news, Law continues to say that the Rays particularly want Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi, although it looks extremely unlikely that he will make it to the 13th overall pick. McDaniel says that the Rays will only take a college pitcher if none of Ian Happ, Garrett Whitley, and Tyler Stephenson falls to them, but I’m not sure I buy that for Whitley and Stephenson. The Rays would love an advanced hitter like Happ, but it sure seems like they are done with these high-risk, high-reward high school players, especially if a talented college arm is available.
At the same time, I won’t go as far as Baseball America did. They think the Rays will go conservative with their pick because of their recent draft struggles, but have the Rays really been faltering so badly in the draft? We can concede that they had a bad run from 2008 from 2010 and may not have gotten the most out of their big 2011 draft, but they have shifted strategies since then and we will have to see what they get from 2012, 2013, and 2014.
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If the Rays draft a college pitcher, it will have nothing to do with whether or not they think recent picks are working out and everything to do with what they believe is the best strategy for them moving forward. They don’t feel the need for a safe pick and they just want the best available player according to their needs. Correlation does not imply causation–even if the Rays draft a college player, that doesn’t mean that they felt that they had to select one. If a talented high school player (say Daz Cameron or Trenton Clark) falls, they will heavily consider taking him as well. However, all else equal–essentially, if the top high school player available is no better than the top college guy–they will lean towards the more polished prospect.
More Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft coverage is coming in the next few hours here at Rays Colored Glasses. If you have any questions, don’t wait until after the draft to ask!