The Tampa Bay Rays’ 2015 draft class simply isn’t ceasing to be interesting. Down in the 38th round, we have one of our most interesting players yet. Steven Sensley is a 6’2″, 220 outfielder out of Louisiana State-Eunice, a junior college, and he is a legitimate prospect who stands out in a variety of areas. In fact, it really isn’t a stretch to compare him to the Rays’ hero from yesterday, Steven Souza Jr.–he may just become the left-handed version of him.
Sensley is coming off his redshirt freshman season at LSU-Eunice, presumably because he was injured in 2014. However, he was well-regarded out of high school, ranked as Baseball America’s 344th-best prospect in the 2013 MLB Draft and selected in the 33rd round by the Minnesota Twins, and he reestablished his value this year. Sensley hit to an insane .374/.466/.778 line with 11 doubles, 21 homers, 80 RBI, and even 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts in 57 games. He is committed to Louisiana-Lafayette for next season and could make a huge impact if he gets there.
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It is amusing that Steven Sensley shares Steven Souza Jr.’s first name, prefers being called “Steven” to “Steve,” and also has the same first initial of his last name. However, the comparison between him and Souza really takes place on the field. Souza is taller than Sensley at 6’4″, but both feature excellent bat speed and power potential, tremendous foot speed for their size, and excellent arm strength. Neither is consistent enough at translating his athleticism to strong outfield defense–Sensley was drafted a first baseman, a position that Souza also once played regularly–but there is enough optimism that each will figure things out in the future.
Sensley’s other flaw is also Souza-esque. He has a patient approach, but his pitch recognition comes with questions and we will have to see how he handles advanced pitching. He can hit the ball a long way when he connects, but the fear is that he won’t be able to do so often enough at higher levels. He has holes in his swing, and strikeouts may always be a part of his game, but that won’t matter much if he hits for power as expected.
The fact that the Tampa Bay Rays drafted Steven Sensley as a first baseman rather than an outfielder is likely more of a reflection of the part of the game they would want to be his focus in pro ball than their evaluation of his defensive ability. Everything about Sensley will surround whether he will be able to hit, and there is no point of having him juggle both offensive and defensive considerations until he refines his talents to the point that he gets on the big league radar. Out of high school, some scouts even liked Sensley in center–he should eventually be fine in a corner outfield spot.
The biggest question is whether Sensley will sign with the Rays, and the answer is that he probably won’t. He was likely asking for more money than teams felt was justified given his talent level–Souza was a fourth round pick, and Sensley could have been asking for at least sixth or seventh round money. Sensley also had an incentive to ask for more than he thought he was worth because he could zoom up draft boards if he taps into his potential at Louisiana-Lafayette next season. It looks unlikely that the Rays can come up with that type of cash, but they saw what he could do and decided that they had to give it a shot.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.