As of this second, the rosters of the Tampa Bay Rays’ three lowest domestic affiliates–the Hudson Valley Renegades, Princeton Rays, and GCL Rays–feature no players selected in this year’s draft. Understandably, the Renegades only have six players on their roster because most of their players will come from the 2015 draft class. What is fascinating, however, is what the rosters of the rosters of the P-Rays and GCL Rays look like. The P-Rays already have 24 players while the GCL Rays have a crazy 29.
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What is the significance of those figures? Well, there are a variety of things we can say. One is that the Rays’ international program is starting to look up and is sending more players to America from the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues. Another is that the Rays selected several high school players in the last few drafts, and many of them are developing slowly. On the other side of coin, though, we can talk about how the Rays’ depth at Rookie Ball affected their draft strategy, especially in the later rounds. They didn’t have to draft more than a few low-upside college players to fill spots at Princeton and in the GCL–instead, they could select high-ceiling high school players and be fine even if most of them didn’t sign.
That brings us to the Tampa Bay Rays’ 39th round pick, centerfielder Tyler Rand out of Langham Creek High School in Texas. Rand, who is listed at 6’0″ and 180 pounds, is committed to the University of Texas, and that is why the Rays could select him here. He is expected to join the Longhorns and compete for playing time at the top of their batting order. However, nothing is a sure thing in this world, and the Rays thought that the slight chance of signing Rand was worth more than the type of unimpressive college player who would sign this late in the draft.
Rand stands out first and foremost for his blazing speed. He uses it well on the basepaths, where he complements it with a good feel for reading pitchers, and his range is outstanding in centerfield. He also showed enough arm strength to do some pitching in high school. At the plate, meanwhile, he has a compact stroke with solid bat speed and an all-fields approach. He shows flashes of raw power, although he will need to get more lift in his swing to harness it more often. At this point, he hits the balls to the gaps, and that works quite well given his speed.
The biggest concern with Tyler Rand, as is the case with many young players, is his patience and pitch recognition. It is a funny thing in baseball how even for the players who want to be aggressive and make things happen, it is critical to take pitches and draw walks. Rand will work on those areas moving forward, and he could unleash his speed even more if he can make strides. That will likely come at the University of Texas as the Rays will dangle some money and hope to sign him, but they expect to fall short. Rand will hope to be a much earlier draft pick in 2018.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.