With an AL-best 3.41 team ERA and a plethora of young pitching, both on their current roster and in the minors, pitching is not an issue for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays clearly realize this, favoring position players in the draft, as four of their first five and nine of their first 12 draft picks were position players.
The Rays selected Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer with their lone pick in day one of the draft, the 25th overall selection. Scouts love his raw power, which is his best tool, and his ability to hit the ball to all fields, and he has a plus arm that would play well at both third base and right field. However, his range at third base is questionable, which could warrant a move to first base down the line. This could wind up being the best option for the Rays anyway, as they have Evan Longoria blocking Shaffer’s path to the Show at third, and behind Carlos Pena there’s a lack of quality first baseman. Shaffer hit .336 with 33 extra-base hits, 8 steals, and 63 walks this past season.
The Rays took Spencer Edwards, a high school shortstop out of Texas, with the 88th overall pick. He has incredible speed and athleticism, but is a bit raw at the plate, partly due to also playing football in high school. He hit .453 with 20 extra-base hits and 17 steals in his senior year.
The Rays then took their first of several outfielders, Andrew Toles, with the 119th pick. Toles, a center fielder who was drafted out of high school by the Marlins in the 4th round in 2010, was dismissed from the University of Tennessee’s baseball team after the 2011 season, and played a Junior College in Florida this past spring, where he hit .367 with 19 extra-base hits and 29 steals.
The Rays switched things up and took a high school pitcher, Nolan Gannon, with the 152nd pick. Gannon is a big righty, at 6’5″ 195 pounds, and has already been clocked at 92 mph. He went 9-2 with a 0.82 ERA and held opponents to a .173 batting average. In 77 innings, he allowed 47 hits while striking out 127 and walking 27 batters.
The Rays took another center fielder, Bralin Jackson, with the 182nd pick. Jackson, a high-schooler from Missouri, is a 4-tool player, as he hits for average with a balanced approach at the plate, has great speed, plays good defense, and has a strong arm. He is one of those rare position players who bats right-handed but throws left-handed.
The Rays finished up the first 10 rounds of the draft by taking RHP Damion Carroll, OF Marty Gantt, C Luke Maile, CF Joey Rickard, and LHP Sean Bierman. The Rays are hoping this will be another good draft class that will help them stay competitive in the tough AL East for years to come.
About the Author
Written by Will Creager
I'm currently a senior at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, FL, studying math and sports journalism. Sports are my passion, especially baseball.