When a high school player slips to the 34th round of the MLB Draft, he is rarely signable. However, the expectations for a 34th round college player aren’t high at all, so if a team thinks that there is any chance of signing a prep draft pick, it may be worth selecting him. Ryan Caldwell has displayed two reasons to think that he just might end up in the Tampa Bay Rays organization: a commitment to Walters State Community College rather than a four-year school, and his excitement after the Rays picked him.
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Caldwell is a 6’2″, 180 outfielder who is extremely athletic. He played baseball, football, and basketball at Ezell Harding Christian School in Tennessee, and he was even a switch-hitter on the baseball diamond. It’s always nice when a switch-hitter shows similar swings from both sides of the plate, but that isn’t true for Caldwell. From his natural right side, he shows an all-fields line drive approach with good bat speed and the potential for power. As a lefty, meanwhile, his swing may actually be a tick quicker, he has more of an uppercut in his stroke, and he is a little too pull-happy at this point.
No matter which batter’s box he is coming from, his speed is blazing. Good luck getting him at first on a groundball into the hole at short or a swinging bunt down the third base line. He should also be a significant stolen base threat, although like many young players, he needs to work on reading pitchers. A similar thing can be said about him in centerfield. His pure speed gives him excellent range, but he needs work on reading flyballs off the bat and taking good routes to the baseball. His arm, meanwhile, is around average with the potential to get a little bit better.
If the piece linked above can be trusted, Caldwell may be the type of player that the Rays could sign if they are willing to pony up $100,000 or slightly more. The major counterpoint is that he lasted this long in the draft because if he and his athleticism were perceived to be signable, he could have been selected 23 rounds ago if not during the top 10 rounds. Teams may question his swing–and he may end up as a pure right-handed hitter in pro ball–but it is hard to argue with his raw ability.
Caldwell is the obvious type of player who could turn into a top prospect after being selected extremely late in the draft. If the Tampa Bay Rays add him to their system and help him refine his tools, he has a chance to be a starting centerfielder in the major leagues. Caldwell could also say, though, that if he lives up to his talent level at Walters State, he may end up with a draft slot more indicative of his abilities. All we can say is that we will find out in the coming days and weeks whether the his professional career is about to begin or is at least a year away.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.