With the selection of right-hander Jesus Ortiz from Miguel Melendez Munoz High School in Round 24, the Tampa Bay Rays did something they had not done since 2006: select two players out of Puerto Rico in one draft. Overall, they have selected just nine players from Puerto Rican schools since their first draft in 1996, tied for the 27th-least in baseball. There may be some luck involved with that–perhaps some Puerto Rican prospects were selected just before the Rays were going to pick them–but we can also say that the Rays may be increasing their presence on the island.
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To be clear, the Rays have never had anything against Puerto Rican players. Rene Rivera and Xavier Cedeno are both from Puerto Rico, and two examples from the recent past are Jose Molina and Jesus Feliciano. If the Rays selecting less players from Puerto Rico is anything except for bad luck, though, there is a chance that they weren’t scouting the island as thoroughly as they could have been and lost out on the chance to select a few prospects.
From 2002 to 2013, the Tampa Bay Rays selected just three players out of Puerto Rico, two in 2006 and one in 2009. Now they have taken three in just the last two years. Last year, their pick was outfielder Jaime Ayende, who signed after they drafted him in the 21st round. This draft, meanwhile, saw the Rays select their first ever pitchers out of Puerto Rico, first Edrick Agosto in Round 20 and then Jesus Ortiz in Round 24. We will have to see in coming years whether this trend of the Rays taking more players out of Puerto Rico will continue.
As noted by DRaysBay, Ortiz was the first player drafted out of Miguel Melendez Munoz High School since 1999. Agosto wasn’t selected out of a school while Ortiz came from a place to which no one had paid much attention in years. The Rays were clearly doing their homework on players from Puerto Rico in the last few months. Ortiz, who is committed to Seminole State Community College, gives the Rays a projectable right-hander they will hope to refine.
Ortiz is listed at 6’2″, 185 and tops out in the high-80’s with his fastball at this point. The Rays are certainly hoping that he can get that up a few notches with more work in the weight room, but the good news about a prospect throwing softly is that it makes him work more on his secondary pitches. Ortiz gets solid depth on his mid-70’s curveball and has good arm action on his relatively straight high-70’s changeup. Ortiz is also on the younger side for this year’s class, not turning 18 until August, so he will be given time to come along as a pitcher.
It is always a sketchy proposition trying to sign a high school player this late in the draft, but the fact that Ortiz is committed to a community college is a point in the Rays’ favor. Heading to school would be calculated risk for Ortiz–he could be drafted higher if he shows more velocity, but his projectable frame will never have more value than right now. In any event, it is nice that Jesus Ortiz gives the Tampa Bay Rays another draft pick from Puerto Rico, but it would mean a lot more if they actually got him signed.
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