UPDATE, 6:32: Liberatore was happy to sign (for around $3.5M), happy to be with the Rays and happy to get his pro career started, heading to Port Charlotte on Wednesday to join the Gulf Coast League team.
Also, he has aunt/uncle who live in Tampa, Vicki and Doug Dunbar, and are big Rays fans, and other aunt and uncle in Punta Gorda.
All seems to have worked out well.
"I didn't really go into it with any expectation so I wasn't expecting to go anywhere in particular," Liberatore said. "I'm not resentful to the teams that didn't pick me and I don't wish I fell any further than I did. I'm happy right where I am.
"At the end of the day my competition is myself. I'm facing the guy in the mirror trying to make each day my best day yet. So I'm excited to be with the Tampa Bay Rays."
DEVELOPING: The Rays have signed top draft pick LHP Matt Liberatore.
Liberatore, a high school pitcher from Arizona, was the No. 16 overall pick in last week's draft.
The Rays were praised by several draft analysts for getting Liberatore in the middle of the draft given early chatter he was a top five pick.
The deal is reportedly for around $3.5 million, just under slot value.
"As an organization, we believe that Matthew has the physical and mental ability to develop into a top-end starting pitching prospect," Rays amateur scouting director Rob Metzler said in a team release.
"Through hard work to this point in his career, Matthew has shown an advanced ability to compete with an impressive repertoire of pitches and an arm action and delivery built for sustained success. On top of his physical ability, he is a young man with strong character and a great mental foundation for playing baseball. We believe these ingredients will continue to flourish in our system. We are thrilled that we were able to complete a deal so quickly after the draft in order to get Matthew started on his professional journey."
Liberatore, 18, went 8-1 with a 0.93 ERA (60.1-IP, 8-ER) and 104 strikeouts as a senior at Mountain Ridge (Az.) High, leading then to the Class 6A state championship game. He was named Arizona's Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year.
He also was tabbed as a first team Rawlings/Perfect Game All-American, and last summer pitched 12 scoreless innings for USA Baseball's 18U National Team, recording the win in their gold medal game over Korea.