The Tampa Bay Rays picked a 17-year-old out of high school with their first pick yesterday, could they snag a homegrown Florida high school talent today?
The Tampa Bay Rays were confident enough in their analysis to take 17-year-old Nick Bitsko with the 24th pick of the 2020 MLB Draft last night. Bitsko had only pitched his freshman and sophomore seasons in high school before announcing he would graduate early and not pitching at all this season.
Now, people are calling this a very “Rays” move, and it is. But the Rays weren’t the only team in on this player. At just 17, his fastball already goes 96-97 mph and recently hit 99.
His fastball and slider are already rated as above major-league average…and the kid just started driving!*
The thing about this pick that makes it a “Rays” move is that they trusted their information. MLB.com had Bitsko rated as the 14th best prospect in the draft. Everyone knew this kid was going to be something special. The Rays were the first team to trust the information they had and take emotion out of the equation.
All 23 teams picking ahead of the Rays knew all about this kid. They had the spin rates, the metrics, the videos, all the information, they knew what he was. But see, most decision-makers in baseball have on thing in common. They are human.
It’s like this internal battle of dialogue between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. With most teams, it goes like this:
Inner Spock: “Everything we have says this kid already has a better fastball and slider than the average major-league pitcher.”
Inner Kirk: “But he’s…JUST A KID! Don’t-you-understand!? He only pitched his freshman and sophomore years of high school, Spock! He’s…TOO YOUNG!”
Inner Spock: “Captain, he has exceeded expectations in every examination of his abilities. And Jim, he will be considered an adult human very soon. By then, his power will have grown to far exceed that of an average adult male baseball player. He will then have elite physical abilities matched with the wisdom and mental growth that we will be able to provide him while he is under our guidance.”
Inner Kirk: Mr. Spock! As usual, you make great points, but I’m going to have to ignore them and follow my emotions!”
Most teams are run by humans and the Jim Kirk in all of them can oftentimes overpower the logical Spock on the other shoulder.
Here’s how that conversation plays out with the Rays front office:
Inner Spock: “Captain, everything we have says this child already has a better fastball and slider than the average major-league pitcher.”
Inner Kirk: “But…”
(Spock punches Kirk in the face.)
Inner Spock: “It appears the Captain has been incapacitated. I will now assume command of the Enterprise. With the 24th pick of the 2020 MLB Draft, the Rays confidently select Nick Bitsko.”
Welcome to the Tampa Bay Rays Nick Bitsko. Add another future superstar to the farm.
*I’m merely making an assumption. I did not do any due diligence involved with verifying that he does, in fact, have a valid driver’s license.