2020 Tampa Bay Rays Draft Recap
The Tampa Bay Rays entered the 2020 MLB draft with six draft picks, including three in the first 57. With a team ready to win now, as well as having the best farm system in baseball, the Rays could afford to take an aggressive route. They came away with four pitchers and two shortstops. Let’s take a look at the newest Ray members.
Round One, Pick 24: Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East High School, Pennsylvania
With the 24th pick, the Rays knew they would get an opportunity to get a very solid player and could gamble with a high ceiling prospect. They did exactly that when they selected Nick Bitsko, a right-handed pitcher who will turn 18 on the 16th of June. The Rays have plenty of arms ready to make the leap in the next year or two, so drafting a high school prep star is something they could easily afford to do.
Bitsko came in to the draft as the number 14 prospect so the Rays were more than excited to see him fall to 24. As a young man, he already sees his fastball in the mid 90s range and his curveball has great spin and depth. They both grade out at 60 (above average). His delivery is very smooth and is quite comparable to current ray Charlie Morton. He will be a fun prospect for the Rays to develop inside the top system. He has a huge ceiling to grow into.
Round One, Compensatory A Pick 37: Alika Williams, SS, Arizona State
Alika is a great defender who the Rays have no reason to believe would need to move anywhere. He has great instincts and arm strength to be an everyday shortstop. His consistent contact allowed him to provide protection for Spencer Torkelson, the number one overall pick. Power is one department he can hopefully grow into. He was the 40th overall and will join several big league destined shortstop prospects the Rays have.
Round Two, Pick 57, Ian Seymour, LHP, Virginia Tech
At 57, the Rays decided to grab another college arm in Ian Seymour. The lefty made great strides at Virginia Tech as well as the Cape Cod League. At the Cape, his fastball saw a nice uptick to the mid-90s.
Although his fastball is regularly seen in the low 90s, hitters really struggle to time it due to the way he hides the ball. His changeup is a his best pitch as it has nice fade a deception off the fastball. With those two pitches, he can be a very effective southpaw out of the bullpen. In order to remain a starter, he will have to tighten up his slider. It showed great promise in the early stages of 2020 before the pandemic ended the season.
Round Three, Pick 96, Hunter Barnhart, RHP, St. Joseph High School, California
A true two sport athlete, Hunter Barnhart chose the diamond over the gridiron. He was a star Quarterback for his high school in California, but his ability to throw 96 mph as a high schooler is worthy of professional attention. With his focus now being on pitching, there is no telling how good Hunter could be.
To go along with his mid-90s fastball, he has one of the best curveballs among high school arms. His changeup is a distant third pitch for him, but hard throwers with a great curveball don’t throw a changeup very often in high school. He has plenty of time to fine-tune his third pitch. He may be the most intriguing draft pick with the most room to grow.
Round Four, Pick 125, Tanner Murray, SS, University of California-Davis
The fourth round was very interesting for many teams and the Rays decided to select Tanner Murray. He is a very solid defender who can hold his own at the professional level at shortstop.
The Rays love the way he can hit for contact despite his poor showing last summer at the Cape. He struggled quite a bit but hopefully can pick up where he left off at UC Davis where he hit .364. He, as well as Alika Williams, joins the loaded middle infield pipeline of prospects.
Round Five, Pick 155, Jeffrey Hakanson, RHP, University of Central Florida
With their last selection of the crazy 2020 draft, the Rays returned home and took a local kid in Jeffrey Hakanson. Hakanson was a star at Tampa Jesuit high school and traveled on I-4 over to UCF where he was the team’s closer.
His fastball shows great life as it sits in the mid-90s coupled with a sharp breaking ball to put hitters away. In 2020, he faced 28 hitters. 20 of those hitters walked back to the dugout with the bat still in their hands. He averaged two strikeouts per inning in his UCF career. That kind of production plays at any level.
Of all their draft picks, he could make the most immediate impact as a reliever. It’s always fun when a ball player gets drafted by the team he grew up watching.
The Rays looked to add to their already top-of-the-line farm system. They have done that will four quality arms and two athletic collegiate shortstops. The next few days will be a free-for-all with teams being able to sign undrafted players to a contract.
All six drafted players are expected to sign, which is always a success when high school prep stars are involved.
Both college arms, Seymour and Hakanson, could be up with the team in a couple years, especially if they go the bullpen route.
Bitsko and Barnhart will take their time in the system but both have very high ceilings to grow into. It will be exciting to see them mature through the minors.
Williams and Murray will look to push through the tough competition of the deep middle infield that the Rays have. The Rays have six shortstops in their top 30 prospects besides these two.
These six guys, along with the rest of the Rays signees, will be very eager to get started with their professional careers.
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