Rays prepare to make top pick in draft
Tampa Bay selected first overall in 1999 and 2003
ST. PETERSBURG -- For the third time in Devil Rays history the organization, will have the No. 1 overall selection in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.
In 1999, the Rays used the first pick to select Josh Hamilton, and in 2003 they used it to select Delmon Young. Both outfielders are now Major League rookies.
Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, said drafting No. 1 isn't that much different from drafting in the top five.
"The main difference is we control our own destiny," Friedman said. "Whoever we have on top of our draft board we can take."
At this early juncture, Vanderbilt left-hander David Price appears to be the guy at the top of the Rays' board.
Price has many accolades, but most impressive might be his body of work as the ace of the USA Baseball National Team's gold medal-winning squad that competed at the FISU World University Championships in Cuba last summer. Price finished 5-1 with a 0.20 ERA in eight starts with 61 strikeouts and only seven walks in 44 innings.
Talent notwithstanding, Price is polished and close to Major League ready and he is advised by Bo McKinnis -- not Scott Boras -- an agent the Rays have worked with in the past.
"Is Price good? Yeah, but we're keeping an open mind," Friedman said. "We like him a lot, though."
Friedman said the team's drafting philosophy is to select the best available player. And while need at a certain position could temper that philosophy, Friedman said the Rays "were not going to sacrifice a lot of value to do so."
Having the No. 1 pick also allows a team to have the player signed, sealed and delivered by the time the selection is made.
"It's not a criteria [for selecting a player]," Friedman said. "Obviously it's always nicer [to have the player signed]. Once we get down the homestretch and get our board set we'll reach out and see if we can structure a deal."
If the Rays don't select Price, other viable options could be Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, Cypress (Calif.) High School third baseman Josh Vitters, and Fitch High School (Groton, Conn.) right-hander Matt Harvey.
While having the No. 1 pick is the part of the draft that will grab the headlines, the meat and potatoes for any organization is what happens in the remainder of the draft.
|1||Price, David||Vanderbilt U||LHP|
|65||Kline, William||U Mississippi||RHP|
|95||Barnese, Nicholas||Simi Valley HS||RHP|
|125||Newmann, David||Texas A&M U||LHP|
|155||Biell, Dustin||Inglemoor HS||CF|
The Rays have made 633 draft picks in franchise history, and from that group there have been 32 "homegrown" Rays who were drafted by the team and worked their way through the organization's farm system to make their Major League debuts with the Rays.
Based on the available talent pool, Friedman believes college pitching will dominate the first round and that college position players are also attractive.
Friedman, Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison, senior vice president of baseball operations Gerry Hunsicker and Rays national cross-checker Tim Huff will spend the coming weeks lining up the organization's draft board.
"We need to build depth in the Minor Leagues, fill rosters," Friedman said. "Once the short season begins, you need to be able to field functional teams."
As the draft progresses to the later rounds, Friedman said they might pick a player based on "one tool that interests you."
"It might be a little bit of a Hail Mary [selection], but a calculated one," Friedman said.
At the Major League level, the current Rays are one of the most exciting young teams in baseball, which is due in no small part to the influx of athletic players the organization selected in past drafts. They look like they are headed in the right direction, which will lead to different circumstances in future drafts.
"We're looking forward to picking at the end of the first round," Friedman said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.