Tampa Bay Rays 2020 Draft preview

Rays draft preview
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The Tampa Bay Rays head into the 2020 MLB first year player draft with the best farm system in baseball. That doesn’t mean they are going to sit back and celebrate. The Rays pride themselves on drafting well and this year will be no different. With six draft picks including two in the top 40, the Rays will look to add even more dynamic weapons to their franchise. This Rays draft preview will take a look at who the team may pick early on.

The Draft

The 2020 MLB draft is like none seen before. It will only consist of five rounds and may be one of the hardest ones for scouts to prepare for. With COVID-19 bringing the baseball seasons to a halt before they really got started, scouts and team officials will have a harder time piecing together where the players’ health and projections lie. Pair this up with the yearly gamble on what players will sign or stick to prior collegiate commitments and you have some anxious war rooms on June 10th and 11th.

The draft pool this year is full of talented right-handed arms primarily from the college ranks. There are also plenty of toolsy middle infielders up for grabs as well. Finding the right player is always the difficult decision. With only five rounds, teams will need to decide between player available and going after areas of need.

Rays Draft picks

Round One – Pick 24,   Compensatory Round One (traded from Cardinals) – Pick 37        Round Two – Pick 57,  Round 3 – 96,  Round Four – Pick 126,  Round Five – Pick 156

Rays Areas of Need

The Rays have plenty of pitching, middle infielders, and outfielders among their top 30 prospects. That doesn’t mean the Rays won’t target several of the high-powered arms in this years draft. What it does allow them to do is to zig when the other teams zag.

Catcher

The Rays have one potential catching prospect in Ronaldo Hernandez.  Besides Hernandez, the Rays have struggled mightily with acquiring and keeping quality catchers. There are five catchers that are worthy of a selection with one of their first two picks.

Wishful Thinking

Patrick Bailey – NC State.

Patrick Bailey is a switch hitter who in all likelihood will be gone by the 24th pick. If he somehow is available, then the Rays shouldn’t waste much time in this selection. The 17th ranked prospect is everything a team will be looking for if they need a quality backstop.

Tyler Soderstrom – Turlock, California  (UCLA commit)

Tyler Soderstrom is an 18-year old high school star who is an offensive minded catcher. The 19th-ranked prospect grades out at 60 (above average) for both hitting and arm. His power will develop as is the case with most young players. The constant fear with high school kids is the commitment to a big baseball program.

Realistic Choice(s)

Dillon Dingler- The Ohio State University.

Dillon Dingler is the 24th-rated prospect which is exactly where the Rays draft in round one. He’s an athletic catcher who also spent time in center field for the Buckeyes. His 65 grade arm is the tops of any catcher and is one of the reasons why he’s been a successful catcher as well as outfielder at a high level. His 2020 season started with a bang as he hit .340 with 5 home runs in only 13 games. This shows the power is on its way.

Second Rounders

Austin Wells- University of Arizona.

Another offensive minded catcher, Austin Wells can hit and hit for power. The left-handed hitter is ranked just behind Dingler at 27th. The question with him is whether or not he stays as a catcher. For this reason, the Rays will likely take Dingler over him or hope he falls to 37.

Drew Romo – Woodlands, Texas (LSU commit)

Drew Romo is arguably the best defensive catcher of these five.  He is a potential Gold Glove award wiinner who can hit from both sides of the plate. If his offense catches up with his catching ability, he will end up being a first-round talent. He comes in as the 35-ranked prospect so he could be available at the 37th pick.

Corner Infielder

The Rays have middle infielders for days, but behind Kevin Padlo (3B), they really don’t have much on the corners to look forward to. The first two rounds will be very heavy with pitching and middle infielders so a corner position player may be a target in the later rounds. Still, here are a couple to look out for.

Jordan Walker – Decatur, Georgia (Duke Commit)

After Specner Torkelson and Austin Martin go with the first two picks, the next projected corner infielder comes in at number 33 with Jordan Walker. at 6’5, Walker can generate a lot of power both with his bat and with his arm. Some think he could transition to the outfield due to his athletic build. At his ranking, the Rays may be curious to see if he falls to them at 37.

Keep an Eye On

Blaze Jordan – Desoto, Mississippi (Mississippi State Commit)

Many have heard of him whether they remember or not. Blaze Jordan was labeled as a young phenom when he was seen hitting 500 foot homers in his young teenage years. His power is one of the best in this years draft, despite only being 17 years old. Most scouts wonder what corner spot he will play but one things for certain, he’s got power and a lot of it.

Aaron Sabato – University of North Carolina

Aaron Sabato and Jordan are the 40th- and 41st-ranked prospects respectively so the Rays will have to consider them at 37 or hold their breath until 57. Either way, Sabato is an intriguing first baseman to consider. His power grades out at 60 and many think that it could go even higher. One of the best first base prospects of this years draft. He draws comparisons to Pete Alonso and that should be good enough for anyone.

Starting Pitchers

With the draft being so rich in starting pitching, the Rays would be wise to to consider taking one of these arms. As the saying goes, one can never have too much pitching. While there are plenty of college arms in this years draft, high school arms are where the question to gamble truly lie.

There are three high school arms that are not expected to be available by pick 15, let alone 24, but if one was to slip, the Rays would have no problem jumping in. Jared Kelley was recently mocked as falling to 20 so it is possible that he could fall to the Rays. With the Rays starting pitching depth, he is surely worth the gamble. The other two, Mick Abel and Nick Bitsko are also high-risk, high-reward selections in the first round. Assuming those three are gone, here are some pitchers that the Rays may claim with their first two selections.

Bobby Miller – University of Louisville

The 6’5 right-handed is the 26th-ranked prospect. That means he should be available for a first round selection if the Rays decide to go that direction. Bobby Miller has the mid 90’s fastball and hard slider that can make him a nice first round option. He’s got the stuff and experience to be a top of the rotation star sooner rather than later.

Slade Cecconi – University of Miami

Slade Cecconi  comes in as a back-end first-round projection which means he will be an interesting gamble if the Rays want him. He should be available at 24, but he also may slip to 37. The 6’4 right-handed pitcher has the ability to be a starter or late inning reliever.

Carson Montgomery – Windemere, FL (Florida State commit)

Carson Montgomery may be one of the more intriguing right-handed arms in the draft. He is in the next tier for high school arms, but he isn’t far behind the trio. His fastball is above average as well as his slider. He throws strikes and is a local Orlando kid.

Draft Expectations

This year’s draft may be the hardest to predict what will happen due to the limit of rounds and minimal 2020 exposure. At 24 and 37, the Rays will get two high-level prospects that they will develop in the top system in the league. Pitching will be the name of the game after the first two hitters go off the board and the Rays will be in a wait-and-see situation as to what falls to them.

The Rays have many directions they can go, but it would be surprising to see them not take a quality catcher and pitching arm if the situation allows them to.

Dream scenario would be if Patrick Bailey were to fall to 24 and then take an arm like Slade Cecconi at 37. A more realistic one is to grab Dillon Dingler at 24 and Carson Montgomery at 37, or go Bobby Miller and best available hitter.

The Rays plans will unfold as the Draft, set to take place on June 10th and 11th, come around.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images