Just through Round 21, there are significant questions why the following Tampa Bay Rays draft picks were still available when the Rays selected them: Chris Betts (Round 2), Ian Gibaut (11), Joe Davis (16), Edrick Agosto (20), and now Matt Dacey (21). Even as we say that, though, Betts and Davis likely slipped because of signability concerns, Gibaut had issues with both his command and secondary pitches, and Agosto wasn’t at any school this past year. There are reasons that explain most of the difference between their expected draft slots and where they ended up. For Dacey, however, the fact that he fell to Round 21 is a little harder to fathom.
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Dacey was the 263rd best prospect in the draft according to Baseball America, but he ended up being just the 658th overall selection. It isn’t as though he should be a difficult sign either. Dacey is a junior coming off a big season at the University of Richmond. He hit for crazy power on his way to a .313/.424/.652 line with 12 doubles, 17 homers, and 52 RBI in 238 plate appearances. He had 17 home runs on a team where no one else had more than 7, and he also led the team in slugging percentage, runs scored, and walks. Why wasn’t he picked in the top 10 rounds with that sort of profile?
The consensus is that Dacey’s power is real. He can hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark and he has the bat speed to prompt optimism that he can continue delivering in-game power against more advanced pitchers. If Dacey has slipped this far, however, clearly teams believe that his flaws can’t be ignored. Dacey has holes in his swing–he will always strike out–and his patience may be more of a matter of knowing when he is being pitched around than pitch recognition. He will be attacked with secondary pitches as he moves up the pro ladder, and we will see how he reacts.
We can talk about Matt Dacey’s bat speed, but it isn’t always there. He too often sells out for power, elongating his stroke and allowing him to be beat by higher-velocity fastballs. Then we have the matter of his foot speed, which is markedly subpar. He certainly won’t be swiping many bases, and if he isn’t a “clogger” on the basepaths, he comes pretty close. More importantly, his speed prompts questions about his defense.
Dacey spent 2015 as a third baseman, and the Tampa Bay Rays listed him at that position when they drafted him. He has good enough arm strength to make most of the throws at the hot corner. However, his range is limited and he doesn’t have enough of an arm to make plays consistently when he can’t set his feet. He shouldn’t have a problem at first base, but he is slow enough that he wouldn’t even be that great of a defender in left field. The Rays will work hard with him on his defense and see what they can do, but there’s a good chance that he moves down the positional spectrum, putting even more pressure on his bat.
Even as we say all of these concerns, though, no one is doubting that Matt Dacey has legitimate power, and the Rays don’t have many guys like that in their system. We don’t know what will happen with his plate approach and defense, but you are not supposed to find a slugger like he is this late in the draft unless the player in question has no bat speed at all. Dacey, of course, does have the quick swing that gives him a chance. Dacey can’t be a sure sign as a 21st rounder, but it sounds like he will agree to terms and the Rays like what they are getting.
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