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Tampa Bay Rays Take Brett Sullivan’s Bat Speed in Round 17

By Robbie Knopf

We have talked quite a bit in these draft profiles about the type of players that the Tampa Bay Rays like to select, and this piece will feature that in a minute as well. Before we get there, we need to talk about the type of player that the Rays have stopped picking in the Round 5 to Round 20 range over the last two years: low-ceiling college infielders. Guys like Tyler Bortnick, Taylor Motter, Thomas Coyle, and Ty Young (gotta love all of those “T” first names) couldn’t play shortstop and couldn’t hit the ball with enough authority to have any real chance of starting anywhere else. Even Motter, who has been as good as the Rays could have hoped, is likely going to end up as a utility player.

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Last year, however, the Rays picked a different type of college infielder, Jace Conrad. Conrad couldn’t play shortstop either and stood out more for his defense at second base and speed. Unlike the others, however, he showed potential to be much more at the plate. He didn’t have good plate discipline or pitch recognition, but he showed great bat speed and legitimate power potential. He certainly had more risk, but if he panned out, the Rays would have a legitimate starting infielder. And of course, becoming a utility player was a perfectly fine fallback for him.

The Rays’ 17th round pick in this year’s draft, Brett Sullivan, is another player in the Conrad mold. This season at University of the Pacific, he hit to a .275/.314/.492 line with 11 doubles, 5 triples, 7 homers, and 28 RBI in 207 plate appearances. His plate discipline was bad, especially by college standards, as his strikeout to walk ratio was just 21-11. However, his bat speed is legitimate and he also comes with raw power, maybe even more than Conrad. If the Rays can improve his approach, he could turn into an interesting player.

Sullivan was Pacific’s starting shortstop, but it tells us everything we need to know that the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him at second base. He has solid range (although his speed isn’t great) and a strong arm, but his hands aren’t good enough for shortstop and he fits better at second or third base. He won’t just play at those spots. Interestingly enough, Sullivan got into a few games as an emergency catcher in college, and though he won’t play there with any sort of regularity, he has the chance to be utility player who can literally play everywhere like the Rays have with Jake Elmore.

There is a chance that Sullivan also fails to impress in the minor leagues, but even if that is true, don’t confuse him with Bortnick or Coyle. He is also a second baseman that will wind up playing multiple positions, but the Rays like the fact that he has upside at the plate and now will hope to bring it out. If there is any takeaway from our analysis of Conrad and Sullivan, it is the following: it is fine to end up with a utility player, but you would always rather have a player with at least some chance chance of becoming a starting infielder.

Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.

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