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Rays Draft Central; First day wrapup

The Rays didn't know quite what to expect heading into a unique and unprecedented first day of the MLB Draft, boasting 10 picks among the first 60 selections (including seven in 22-minute span).

But after it was all over, a haul that included four pitchers and six position players, the Tampa Bay brass was excited with how it turned out. Apparently, they decided to do mock drafts Sunday night, which scouting director R.J. Harrison said was the first time they tried that (thanks to an idea by director of minor league operations Mitch Lukevics.

“I don’t think we did as well in any of those mock drafts as we did (Monday), to be honest with you,” Harrison said.

A big reason why was their first pick, right-hander Taylor Guerrieri (Spring Valley High, S.C.), rated  10th overall  by Baseball America who fell to them at No.  24 . One American League scout told Baseball America that Guerrieri had “the best high school arm I’ve ever seen.” MLB Network analyst John Hart, a former Indians general manager, called the South Carolina commitment “a big future front-of-the-rotation starter.”

While reported makeup and maturity issues led Guerrieri to drop in the draft, Harrison said that was “a lot of misinformation” and “overstated,” and that the Rays were “tickled” to have the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior with a power arm.

“We felt very fortunate to get a guy with that kind of future,” Harrison said.

The Rays covered a lot of ground with their first-day picks, focusing  on the middle of the diamond . They selected LSU centerfielder Mikie Mahtook (No. 31), and athletic player with power, and high school shortstop Jake Hager (No. 32).

Hager wasn’t the only shortstop the Rays selected, with Brandon Martin (Santiago High, Corona, Calif.) being taken at No.  38. Martin could be a hard sign as an Oregon State commitment, but according to Baseball America, he’s a “live athlete with intriguing bat speed and the ability to make highlight-reel plays at short.”

“There’s a really nice balance,” executive VP Andrew Friedman said. “We have a lot of players that we feel like  have a chance to be really good major-league players that can impact a game.”

Tampa Bay stocked up on pitchers, with right-hander Jeff Ames (Lower Columbia College) at No.  42, left-hander Blake Snell (Shorewood High in Washington) at No.  52 and another Vanderbilt 6-foot-6 left-hander, Grayson Garvin, at No.  59. “Hope we have as good a luck with him as we had with the other one, right?” Harrison quipped, referring to former top pick and Cy Young runner-up David Price.

But it was Guerrieri who was the most  touted of Monday’s group. As a senior , Guerrieri went 6-1 with a 1.10 ERA, including three complete games, striking out 72 in 51 innings.

Guerrieri spent  three high school seasons at North Augusta High before transferring to Spring Valley. North Augusta assistant coach Victor Radcliff Jr. said it was because Guerrieri’s parents wanted him closer to South Carolina, where he was committed.
Radcliff acknowledged there may be some maturity issues . But he  also said Guerrieri’s passion for baseball will shine through,  he  has a good support system and he’s  the type of player who raises teammates’ level of play.

“Ever since he was a freshman, he always wanted the ball in big situations,” Radcliff said. “He’s a special athlete.”

[Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 12:15am]

    

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