Top pick LeVon Washington thrilled, plans to sign soon with Tampa Bay Rays

UPDATE, 11:12: When told of Washington's eagerness to sign, Friedman said: "That's great news, and we feel the exact same way.'' Sounds like they'll try to get something down after the draft, which runs through Thursday. "We feel like him going out and getting 150-200 at-bats this summer puts him in a good position to open next year with a full season club, which is extremely valuable, obviously, in terms  expediting his path to the major leagues. And coming back from shoulder surgery, the sooner we can get him under our care, the more comfortable we'll feel.

"So it's great news and it's something I'm sure when the draft's over we're hopeful that we'll get it done very quickly in light of LeVon's comments.''

As for the second- and third-round picks, who both have appealing college opportunities, it sounds as if the Rays are going to be willing to spend to get deals done. "We know these players very, very well and we felt really, really comfortable with the selections,'' Harrison said. "They're good players. We've taken good players and we're going to go wrestle them. We think all these players want to sign.''   

Overall, Harrison said the Rays couldn't be any happier with their first three picks. "We feel like we added three premium athletes that are also very good baseball players,'' Friedman said.

UPDATE, 10:45: With their third pick, 108th overall, the Rays took another high school position player, OF Todd Glaesman of Midway High in Waco, Texas. Glaesman, 18, was the No. 53 prospect according to Baseball America, which said he is a "potential five-tool CF if he adds loft power to line-drive stroke.'' He is committed to Texas A & M. "This is another kid we've done a good job with and spent a lot of time with,'' Harrison said.

UPDATE, 10:01: With their second pick, No. 78 overall, the Rays took prep shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, of Menlo High in Atherton, Calif. He is committed to Stanford, and coming off a knee injury. "We like his talent and his ability so much we felt like it was the absolute right choice there,'' Harrison said.

UPDATE, 9:36:
Washington said he plans to sign with the Rays very quickly, basically as soon as they want to: "I'll be a Ray.''

Washington said he already talked to coaches at the University of Florida and told them of his plans. "I'm pretty much signing right now,'' he said. "I talked to my coach and everything he understands because I got drafted in the first round, he understands the opportunity I have.''

How soon will he sign? "As soon as they want it to I guess.''

How excited was he to be taken by the Rays? "Initial reaction? I was jumping up and down, I broke two of my necklaces and I was screaming for about two minutes straight,'' he said via conference call. "They're like rosaries, with crosses on them, and I broke two of them.'' 

He said his style of player is similar to Mets SS Jose Reyes, and that he would like the chance to play shortstop. He played 11 games in center as a senior but said, "I like shortstop. That's where I'm more comfortable.''

He said he did very well in the June 3 workout at the Trop, hitting a few balls over the wall - "I don't think they were expecting that.''

As for the connection with McGriff? "My mom's first cousin.''

He said his development as a hitter is the result of "practice and natural ability, a lot of hard work.''

UPDATE, 8:56: Rays officials said they were attracted to Washington on his overall skills and tremendous speed. "There's a lot of things we like,'' scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "First of all, he's a premium athlete and y'all that have been around here for a while know we like that kind of athlete. He fits right in with the kind of players that we've signed in the past. He's a well above average runner and we really like his bat. We think he's going to hit, and hit for a high average. ... We saw an advanced young hitter.''

They consider him a centerfielder and said they are confident they will soon get him signed, despite his college commitment and that his advisor is Scott Boras.

 "We're the home team for him,'' executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "The homefield advantage certainly can't hurt in terms of hsi family being able to come here and watch him play. We feel confident we're going to add him to our organization shortly and get him out playing.''

Washington had surgery in the fall to repair a slight tear in the labrum in his right shoulder, and is "a rehab situation." He spent much of his senior season as a DH, and Harrison said the Rays would hope to get him signed and into their system, figuring he could DH in the Gulf Coast League while rehabbing and then be fully ready to go by the fall instructional league. 

 "We didn't go into this blind,'' Harrison said. "It's just a matter of time, and getting him back to full strength. He's made good progress already on his rehab, and when he gets with us and gets with our people that will only make it that much better.'''

How fast is he? "Real fast,'' Harrison said, though not Carl Crawford fast. "He's one of the top runners in the draft. It's a tool that makes a difference for him.''

One other interesting note - Washington is said to be a distant relative of Rays special advisor Fred McGriff, who was in New Jersey representing the team at the draft, though that was clearly not a prime factor in the decision. "I learned it on the way over here (to address the media),'' Friedman said. "R.J. said he heard it the other day. Fred told him again when R.J. called him to tell him the pick. Certainly can't hurt and hopefully it can help us in the recruiting process.''

The Rays have been tracking Washington for about two years, and had him to the Trop for a workout last week and spent time with his parents. Harrison said they would be open to looking at him as infielder as well.

UPDATE, 8:29: The Rays used the 30th pick on INF LeVon Washington from Gainesville's Buchholz High. Washington, coming off rotator cuff surgery, was ranked the 29th overall prospect by Baseball America, which described him this way: "Arm injury (shoulder) makes draft spot a crapshoot, but can really hit and really run.''

Washington is 5-10, 170 pounds, hits lefthanded and throws righthanded, and is signed to play at Florida. Though he is listed as in infielder, there is talk that he is best suited to use his speed in the outfield.

Here is a more complete scouting report from BA:
Washington attends the same high school that Marlins lefthander Andrew Miller did, but he's about as different a player as he can be. Washington's arm strength might be at the other end of the scale from Miller's, as he's recovering from labrum surgery, and some scouts say his arm is below the 20 at the bottom of the 20-80 scouting scale. His arm and offensive package have drawn comparisons to Johnny Damon, another central Florida prep product. Like Damon, Washington can hit, and he was moving up draft boards thanks to his blazing speed and consistent spring. A 6.2-second runner over 60 yards at showcases, Washington has played mostly infield but doesn't have the arm for it, and most scouts see him as an outfielder thanks to his easy speed. Washington has bat speed at the plate, giving him solid pop, though not true power, and he has shown signs of developing a good pro approach. Washington, who spent three years in Guam when his father was assigned there while in the military, could move as high as the supplemental first round despite his arm.

Here is some of what mlb.com said about him, labeling him one of the best pure athletes in the draft: "He's got plus speed and knows how to hit. He was a little hard to get a read on because rotator cuff surgery limited him to DHing or playing second base. He's played shortstop in the past as well, but he profiles best in the outfield where he can use his speed to his advantage. He won't be the first prep outfielder to go off the board, but that pure speed should ensure he's not waiting too long to hear his name called."


UPDATE, 8:25: The Rays are on the clock as the Yankees just used the 29th pick on OF Slade Heathcott.

UPDATE, 8:22: There goes one of the high school outfielders, Reymond Fuentes, to the Red Sox at No. 28. So that knocks out the mlb.com prediction.

UPDATE, 8:20: Twenty-seven down, and Baseball America's projection for the Rays, N.C. prep catcher Wil Myers is still on the board, along with the group of the high school outfielders that have been mentioned.

UPDATE, 7:50: Well, there goes one of the names linked heavily to the Rays, California prep shortstop Jiovanni Mier just went 21st to the Astros.

UPDATE, 7:45: Twenty picks in, 14 pitchers have been selected, and only one of the players projected to be of interest to the Rays has gone, Boston College C Tony Sanchez.

UPDATE, 7:37: The Rays had the third-best record in the majors last season, after the Angels and the Cubs, so going by that they should have the 28th pick this year rather than 30th, right? But the baseball draft is not done simply in any form. Two additional compensation picks were added to the first round before the Rays' pick, which is why they dropped down. The extra picks are for teams that didn't sign their first-round pick form last year - the Nationals got one at No. 10, and the Yankees at No. 29, which will surely add to the drama should they take someone the Rays are eyeing.

The reason the Rays don't make their second pick until No. 78 is because there are 17 additional compensation picks added between the first and second rounds - sandwich picks, they're called - as compensation for teams that lost top free agents. And one of those is actually the Rays' fault, as the Brewers get an extra pick, at No. 47, for the loss of LHP Brian Shouse.

UPDATE, 7:22: Make that 11 of the first 15 are pitchers, which could bode well for the Rays if they indeed are looking at a middle-of-the-diamond position player.

UPDATE, 7:00: Seven of the first 10 picks have been pitchers.

UPDATE, 6:30: The first name connected to the Rays is gone - Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, taken fourth overall by Pittsburgh.

NEWS: The MLB draft started at expected, with the Nationals taking RHP Stephen Strasburg San Diego State. The Rays are expected to make their pick, the 30th of the first round, at about 8:15.

Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said late Monday they were looking at a group of about 16 names, figuring at least half would be chosen during the previous 29 picks. The Rays are committed to their take-the-best-player mentality, though they do tend to like middle-of-the-diamond position players early and pitching later.

These were the latest projections, starting with Baseball America, which has the Rays taking North Carolina high school catcher Wil Myers.

30. RAYS. Despite drafting Tim Beckham No. 1 overall last year, Tampa Bay would select (California prep shortstop Jiovanni) Mier if he got here. The Rays aren't accustomed to picking this low, so they're tied to many more names than usual, mainly athletic high school outfielders (Puerto Rico's Reymond Fuentes, Florida's LeVon Washington, Texas' Todd Glaesmann and Colorado's Jacob Stewart) and college pitchers (Florida RHP Billy Bullock, Oklahoma RHP Garrett Richards). Myers' bat and athleticism will be hard to ignore, however.
Projected Pick: WIL MYERS.

And from mlb.com:

30. Tampa Bay Rays: Reymond Fuentes, OF, Fernando Callejo H.S., Manati, Puerto Rico
This still could be (Arizona prep catcher) Tommy Joseph, could even be a guy like ASU outfielder Jason Kipnis or Mier if he's around, but here's saying the Rays will go with the speedy outfielder from Puerto Rico.

And from espn.com's Keith Law:

30. Tampa Bay Rays
Everett Williams, CF, McCallum HS, Austin, Texas



 

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:47am]

    

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