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Rays start off draft with 1B Gillapsie

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Published:   |   Updated: June 5, 2014 at 11:57 PM

— Dinner-table bragging rights at the Gillaspie household belong to youngest sibling Casey after the Rays selected the 21-year-old 6-foot-4, 238-pound switching-hitting first baseman from Witchita State with the 20th overall selection in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft held on Thursday.

That spot in the order process is 17 slots higher than older brother Conor, who went 37th overall to San Francisco in 2008 and is currently starting at third base for the Chicago White Sox.

“Maybe there was a little sibling rivalry, I guess you might say,’’ Gillaspie said shortly after being selected by the Rays.

But younger brother also knows he is not in the same neighborhood as his older brother when it comes to being a baseball player - yet.

“He’s in the big leagues, he’s a great hitter . . . I can’t really compare to that,’’ Casey Gillaspie said. “It was cool (being selected higher than Conor) when it happened but now I’m ready and focused on making an impact.’’

Tampa Bay used the 60th overall pick on high school pitcher Cameron Varga from Cincinnati Hills Academy, a 6-foot-3 right hander with a 95 mph fastball who threw five no-hitters this season, his latest coming Thursday.

The Rays hope the power Gillaspie showed at Witchita State translates at the pro level. In his junior season with the Shockers, Gillaspie finished hitting .394 with 15 doubles, 15 home runs and 50 RBI in 203 at bats, which earned him All-American honors. He also led the Cape Cod summer league, which uses wooden bats, in home runs last summer. The 29th overall eligible prospect, and 12th overall position player, according to Baseball America, Gillaspie saw his stock rise over the past year after earling All-American honors with the Shockers, finishing tied for fifth in the NCAA in home runs while showing patience in drawing a NCAA high 59 walks this past season.

“He’s got plus-power, a really good idea of what he is doing in the batter’s box and is somebody we really fell like has a chance to get going and rattle some seats coming up through the minor leagues,’’ Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said.

R.J. Harrison, Rays scouting director, said Gillaspie already has the look of a major league player.

“He’s made the way you want a big leaguer to be made,’’ Harrison said. “This is a really strong man. This is not a kid you are waiting for strength to catch up. We’re talking he’s 6-foot-4 and 240 (pounds). He’s some kind of put together.’’

eerlendsson@tampatrib.com

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