The Rays hoped for strength in numbers during Monday night’s First-Year Player Draft. They had a record 10 picks in the first 60 selections, potentially leaving them flush with top-flight prospects in their minor-league system.
"The more arrows you have, the more likely you are to hit the bull’s-eye,’’ Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
By all accounts, it looks like the Rays could be on target with their initial selection – right-handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. – at the 24th overall pick.
Guerrieri, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder who has signed with the University of South Carolina, was rated the draft’s 10th-best overall prospect by Baseball America, which recently quoted an American League scout as saying Guerrieri "has the best high-school arm I’ve ever seen.’’
His fastball ranges between 93 and 96 miles per hour and he has hit 98 mph on the radar gun.
"We were prepared for anything and we weren’t sure who was going to be available,’’ Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "We were happy to get a guy (Guerrieri) with that kind of future.’’
Also in the first round, the Rays selected LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook (31st overall), who batted .383 with 14 home runs, 56 RBIs and 29 stolen bases for the Tigers, and shortstop Jake Hager (32nd overall) of Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, who was rated the 122nd overall prospect by Baseball America. Hager has committed to Arizona State University.
"I’m ready to play pro ball,’’ said Hager, who added he felt the Rays would select him because of intense scouting from the organization. "I love Arizona State, but I’m ready to fulfill my dream.’’
Rays selected SS Brandon Martin (Santiago HS; Corona, Calif.) at No. 38 overall, 3B Tyler Goeddel (St. Francis HS; Mountain View, Calif.) at No. 41 overall and RHP Jeff Ames (Lower Columbia College; JC-Washington) at No. 42 overall, LHP Blake Snell (Shorewood HS; Washington) at No. 52 overall, OF Kes Carter (Western Kentucky) at No. 56 overall, LHP Grayson Garvin (Vanderbilt University) at No. 59 overall and OF James Harris, Jr. (Oakland Tech HS; California) at No. 60 in the compensation round.
Compensation picks were awarded after the loss of free agents Rafael Soriano, Carl Crawford, Grant Balfour, Brad Hawpe, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls.
Some published reports said scouts had concerns about the decision-making and makeup of Guerrieri, who spent three seasons at North Augusta (S.C.) High School before transferring to Spring Valley last October. Guerrieri’s family selected Spring Valley because they were familiar with assistant coach Collin Liggett.
"We’re happy with him,’’ Harrison said. "A lot of that (reported concern over Guerrieri’s makeup) was a lot of misinformation and it was misstated. He’s an 18-year-old kid. He’s going to be just fine.’’
Guerrieri was the fourth straight high-school player taken by the Rays with the organization’s first overall pick (2008-11).
Mahtook, who led the Southeastern Conference in stolen bases, comes from an LSU athletic family. His father Mike Sr. (1979-82) and uncle Robbie (1976-79) played linebacker for the Tigers football program. Mahtook played some quarterback in high school, but left the sport to concentrate on baseball. He was a freshman catalyst on the 2009 LSU team that reached the College World Series and won the national championship.
"The draft is a difficult process,’’ Friedman said. "It’s who can reach the major leagues and have staying power. We look at it from what we can control in the process and the returns were fairly sobering.
"With the lag time, it’s far different from the NFL draft. It’s far different from the NBA draft. It’s extremely difficult.’’
Harrison said the volume of draft selections could provide a rare opportunity for the organization.
"It’s an ongoing process,’’ Harrison said. "Obviously, we’re going to have greater impact this year just by sheer numbers, and sheer numbers at a higher level in the draft.
"I think it’s just a change to continue to add really valuable resources to our system and turn them over to the player development guys. I mean, that’s the goal every year, to add as many good guys as we can. We just get more swings this year.’’