Just a day away from the start, the Rays come into the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft with a much different look from last June. After having a record 12 picks in the first two rounds of last year's draft, the Rays won't have their first choice until the 25th selection and won't have another until the 88th pick. Also, the Rays do not have the benefit of compensatory picks this year, which will give their draft a much slower feel as Tampa had seven compensatory picks in 2011.
The Rays will be limited financially as well, as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement puts a cap on every team's bonus distribution. The Rays will have to manage with just $3.871 million to allot amongst their first 10 draft picks.
Don't expect to see the Rays seeking a specific position in the draft, as team scouting director R.J. Harrison recently stressed the fact that the Rays organization never looks at depth in any one position. What we can expect, however, is the Rays to take high school players rather than college players early in draft. Harrison seems to like the talent he sees from the high school players this year, but still nothing is for certain at all. Another trend to look out for is where the Rays draft from. The Rays have a history with a handful of draftees from the Northwest Pacific region.
Possibilities for the Rays in the first round
Who will the Rays select with the 25th overall pick Monday night—that's the million-dollar question. Let's take a look at some possible names, starting with three mock drafts (volume 1 of all three):
- ESPN (Keith Law): Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview H.S. (Portland, Ore.). Height, weight:6-2, 200. B/T: R/R
Kelly is a two-way prospect who has strong hands but a noisy lower half. He's the best player available for the Rays, a team with a history of drafting top talent from the Pacific Northwest, such as 2011 supplemental first-rounders Jeff Ames and Blake Snell.
- Baseball America (Jim Callis): Ty Hensley, RHP, Edmond Santa Fe H.S. (Edmond, OK). Height, weight: 6-5, 220
After having a record 12 selections in the first two rounds in 2011, Tampa Bay will have to make its picks count now with no extra choices and a relatively small $3.8 million bonus pool for the top 10 rounds. The Rays develop high school pitchers as well as anyone, and Ty Hensley could give them another potential frontline starter.
- Minor League Ball (John Sickels): D.J. Davis, OF, Stone H.S. (Wiggins, MS). Height, weight: 6-0, 170. B/T: L/R
There are all kinds of scenarios that make sense here. I'll look for a premium tool and pick the fastest man in the draft, prep outfielder D.J. Davis, who has made enough progress with the rest of his game this year to push into first round consideration. D.J. Davis, OF, Mississippi HS.
Ty Hensley is my guess for the Rays' first pick, as I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a talented high school arm in their first overall pick for the second consecutive year (Taylor Guerrieri in '11). The Rays' starting pitching surplus won't be a factor in deciding whether to draft pitching early, as Harrison clearly stated that they're looking for the best available player. Here are some other possibilities for the Rays in the first round:
- Stephen Piscotty (3B/OF, Stanford): If the Rays decide to take a college bat for their first pick, third baseman Stephen Piscotty could definitely be a possibility. Piscotty has hit .335/.425/.488 for Stanford this season with 53 RBI and 5 homers. In 2011, he led the Cape Cod League (a wooden bat league) with a .349 average. He's a very good hitter overall, and his 6-3, 205 pound stature translates into some decent power. Defensively, he has a great arm over at third but has some issues with his footwork. However, many scouts believe he'll fit just fine in a corner outfield position anyways.
- Stryker Trahan (C, Acadiana H.S, LA): Many scouts consider Trahan as the nation's best high school catcher, and there are clear reasons why. He has great agility and quickness behind the plate, despite his large 6-foot-1, 220 pound frame. His arm isn't too strong, but it's very accurate and he releases the ball quick. The Ole Miss commit also runs surprisingly fast, and provides big-time power and good bat speed from the left side. Most can agree he's the second-best catcher overall in this year's Draft, after Florida's Mike Zuzino who will likely be drafted very early Monday night.