Will the Tampa Bay Rays be Tempted by USF Pitcher?

The Tampa Bay Rays have the 16th pick in Monday’s Major League Baseball new player draft.  Could they be tempted by a local lefty?

At the beginning of the NCAA season, University of South Florida left-handed pitcher Shane McClanahan was widely regarded as a top ten pick for this season’s MLB draft.  That ranking would have had him drafted well before the Tampa Bay Rays were on the clock.

After a rough 2017-2018 season, McClanahan has seen his stock drop enough where he might now draw the attention of the Rays.  But, will he?

The redshirt sophomore is a fastball throwing lefty who is two years removed from Tommy John surgery.  But, following last season, he attracted the attention of just about everyone.  He held opposing batters to a .181 batting average while striking out over 12 batters per nine innings. This season has been another story.

In 2018, McClanahan’s record has fallen to 5-6.  While he’s still striking out batters at the same pace as last season, his control has been at times shaky.  In 76 1/3 innings, he has fanned 120 batters while walking 48.  It’s the walks that have top teams backing off a bit.

What will the Rays do?

The Tampa Bay Rays have five picks on Monday night.  Their first, the 16th pick, will be the one to watch for McClanahan.  But, most mock drafts that have floated around leading up to Monday night seem to believe that the Rays will not target college players or pitchers at all.  Many believe that the Rays are eyeing one of several high school athletes who can most likely play all over the field.

Jonathon Mayo with mlb.com, for example, projects the Rays to select corner infielder Triston Casas out of American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida.  His reasoning overall is that with so many picks in the first two rounds, “…they can be aggressive and go after high school talent.”  In the same mock, Mayo has Shane McClanahan dropping to the Minnesota Twins with the 20th selection.

Personally, I believe that McClanahan, if available, would pose an interesting option for the Rays.  First, they have never been bashful after pursuing pitchers following Tommy John surgery.  The successful return of Nathan Eovaldi on Thursday is only the most recent example. Quite honestly, they have to be optimistic about pitchers following the surgery, with top prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon going down this spring with the same injury.

Obviously, McClanahan come with some risk.  Physically, he’s not overly big, so there is some concern that his frame might have a hard time keeping up with his near 100 mph fastball.  But, it’s always hard to ignore a left-handed pitcher with that kind of arm.

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