It is always nice for a player to have bloodlines, and Landon Cray fits the bill. His uncle, Paul Sorrento, drilled 31 home runs for the Mariners in 1997 and 17 for the Devil Rays in their inaugural season the following year. Cray is an entirely different player than Sorrento, who was a first baseman and left fielder, but that isn’t a bad thing. Cray, who is 5’9″ and 170 pounds, is a centerfielder out of Seattle University who stood out enough for his excellent defense, strong plate approach, and blazing speed that the Tampa Bay Rays made him their 18th round selection.
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In his junior season at Seattle, the left-handed Cray hit to a .324/.412/.478 line with 10 doubles, 4 homers, 30 RBI, and 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts in 224 plate appearances. The most impressive part of his performance was his plate discipline and ability to make contact as he walked 28 times against just 11 strikeouts. It wasn’t anything new either as he managed a 30-11 mark in his sophomore year. The concern with his great patience and knowledge of the strike zone is that his pitch recognition isn’t as polished and we will have to see how he fares against more advanced secondary offerings. Even so, plate discipline is a nice place to start and could allow him to build momentum for himself in the lower minors.
Defensively in centerfield, Cray has good range and does a nice job reading balls off the bat. He looks like a relatively sure bet to stick in center, and he could be a terrific defender after more instruction. On the basepaths, though, Cray doesn’t use his speed so well quite yet. He runs hard down to first base, but once he gets there, he hasn’t been able to read the deliveries of opposing pitchers often enough. The hope is that he can improve that with time and become a significant stolen base threat.
The biggest reason that Landon Cray is available at this point in the draft, however, is that he is no sure bet to hit the ball with authority moving forward. He hit a halfway-decent amount of extra-base hits at Seattle, but he sputtered last year in the Cape Cod League, hitting to just a .214/.270/.265 line. He doesn’t have much power, and most of what he does have is to gaps rather than over the fence. The key for him as a professional will be to utilize his plate discipline to not only draw walks, but also find pitches he can drive. We will have to see how that process goes.
Landon Cray gives the Tampa Bay Rays a nice combination of athleticism and refinement, with his strong secondary skills giving him a chance to become a useful big league player. He has the tools to be a fourth outfielder on an MLB roster if he can hit at higher levels, and he could make his way to an even better career if he truly comes together at the plate.
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