The intrigue surrounding Rays first-round pick RHP Taylor Guerrieri
The Rays were excited they could land Spring Valley High (S.C.) RHP Taylor Guerrieri with their first pick Monday night, No. 24 overall, talking about his power arm and potential.
Guerrieri, rated the 10th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America, could eventually turn into a front-of-the-rotation kind of starter, according to MLB Network analyst John Hart, the former Indians general manager. Whether he develops into that remains to be seen, but Guerrieri's mid-to-late 90s fastball and breaking ball mix, along with his size (6-foot-3) are definitely intriguing.
"The talent is really good," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "I mean, really good."
But with Guerrieri, 18, the talk has not all been about his talent. It's been reported that makeup and maturity issues forced Guerrieri to drop in the draft, though Harrison has said those were based on a lot of misinformation and has been "blown out of proportion." The Rays have done their due diligence on Guerrieri, and felt comfortable with what they found.
Guerrieri has been unavailable for comment. He told The State (S.C.) Monday night his advisors told him not to conduct any interviews. In fact, as of 11:30 a.m. this morning, Harrison hadn't spoken with his first round pick, saying he had left a message Monday night.
Though the silence could raise some questions, Harrison is satisfied with what they've researched on Guerrieri, who they've followed since last summer. Harrison appeared to indicate that with Guerrieri's alleged makeup concerns, there's more smoke than substance.
"In our business or any business, especially now that there's more media involved..if a kid has some sort of hiccup, rumors start, things start spreading around," Harrison said. "Sometimes (teams) just choose to back away from it. But this guy has got really good ability..... Look, it's life. Sometimes (stuff) happens. We weren't run off by it...
"I think a lot of it is blown out of proportion. And I think because of the fact the kid switched schools his senior year and stuff like that, people start to make more out of it than what it is."
Guerrieri did change schools in his senior year, going from North Augusta to Spring Valley. North Augusta assistant coach Vic Radcliff said Guerrieri transferred partly to be in Columbia, close to the University of South Carolina, where he was committed to play in college. He also was familiar with an assistant coach at Spring Valley. Radcliff made it clear there was "no hard feelings" over the transfer, and wished Guerrieri well.
Radcliff described Guerrieri as a "special athlete" and competitor, who "always wanted the ball in big situations." He said Guerrieri was the type of player that elevated the play of teammates. "He made the other kids around him want to work better," Radcliff said.
Radcliff did, however, indicate that there was some growing up Guerrieri needed to do, though he declined to get into any specifics. And he believed Guerrieri will rise above it.
"Kids get into things, and Taylor is no different," Radcliff said. "What is glaring above all is he's passionate about baseball and playing major league baseball is something he has always talked about, a dream of his. I think he's got a good supporting cast with his parents, they stay on him. I just think that with professional sports, there are temptations out there, that especially for a young kid who hasn't been exposed to that kind of thing before. I talked to a couple of scouts, everyone is on the same page. They just need to keep a good watch on him and make sure they help him make good decisions."
Though Guerrieri hasn't been available for comment - we could hear from him later - he told Baseball America before the draft he has heard all the rumors about his makeup issues, but isn't letting it get to him.
"I hear about some of it," Guerrieri told Baseball America. "At some point you've gotta be like, 'Come on. Let me live my life. Stay out of my business and move on with your life.' Really, none of the rumors you've probably heard are true, unless they're good rumors, hopefully.
"As far as baseball goes, I've always had a right mind on the field. I feel like I've always been a notch above everyone else, not talent-wise, but I know the game well. Maturity on the field, there's no problem there."