The Tampa Bay Rays will pick 13th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, the first time since 2012 that a team other than the San Diego Padres is picking at that spot. There are two amusing comments we can make about that: 1) the Rays actually “acquired” the 13th overall pick from last year, Trea Turner, from the Padres before essentially dealing him to the Washington Nationals in the Steven Souza Jr. trade and 2) the Padres would have had the 13th overall pick three years in a row had they not signed ex-Ray James Shields as a free agent and forfeited their first round pick.
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What can the Rays expect to get with their pick? According to Baseball-Reference, 26 out of the 50 (52%) players to be selected 13th overall have made the majors, but that is a little misleading because the four most recent picks remain well regarded prospects even though they haven’t yet made their big league debuts. The better number is 26 out of 46 (57%) among 13th overall picks who were drafted at least five years ago. According to Baseball-Reference, 301.7 WAR has been accumulated across those 46 players, an average of 6.56 per player. On average, you get a useful big leaguer with this pick, and some players have turned into much more.
The first ever 13th overall pick, back in 1965, was catcher Gene Lamont, who had a brief big league career before becoming better known as a manager. The second player picked at 13th, however, was right-hander Gary Nolan, who went 110-70 with a 3.08 ERA in 1674.2 major league innings. He won at least 14 games in season five times and topped 200 innings on five occasions as well. His pitched his last game at age 29 because of arm troubles.
The Tampa Bay Rays appear primed to select a college starting pitcher this year, and whoever they pick will hope to follow in the path of Nolan and two even better starters that were picked 13th overall. Frank Tanana finished in the top-10 in the AL Cy Young Award voting in his second, third, and fourth full major league seasons on his way to 240 major league victories. Then there is the most recent player picked 13th to make the majors, Chris Sale. In a remarkable coincidence, he has also finished in the top 10 for the Cy Young in his second, third, and fourth full seasons.
On the position player side, meanwhile, players we have heard of include Manny Ramirez, Paul Konerko, Aaron Hill, Khalil Greene, and ex-Ray Casey Kotchman. Interestingly enough, Ramirez was drafted as a third baseman while Konerko was selected as a catcher. Ramirez and Konerko give 13th overall picks two different players with 425+ home runs–other than first overall (three), only sixth overall can match that tally among picks in the first round. It sure seems like power pitchers or power hitters are the way to go when you are picking 13th overall.
You never know what will happen in the MLB Draft, and that lack of certainty is a big reason why its viewership pales into comparison to the NFL and NBA Drafts. Even so, there is plenty of reason for excitement when you are picking as early as the Tampa Bay Rays are, and they may just end up with a great player. Could the Rays’ pick be the next in the line of Tanana and Sale?