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More from Rays top draft picks, team officials

Here are more quotes from Thursday night's draft, transcribed by the Rays:

Comments from Rays 1st pick Nick Ciuffo

(On attending his first major league game):

“It’s a funny story. My first ever big league game I ever went to was at Tropicana Field. … I’m not sure about how old I was, probably 6 or 7 years old. Actually, my dad knew somebody that worked in his SID office as an intern, and somehow he had a connection with the Rays. We went down to Disney World for a family vacation, and being the baseball fans me and my dad are, the real vacation for us was to get to go Tropicana Field and see some major league baseball. … I think this is just destiny. If you go back and look a couple of years ago, Taylor Guerrieri was selected [by the Rays] in the first round and he played on my travel team [the South Carolina Diamond Devils], so I’ve called him before. Two weeks ago, I think he called me and we talked for about a half hour just about the Rays organization and how much he loved it, and how much he’d love for them to pick me. He saw the mock drafts where I was going [to the Rays], and he kept texting me, ‘I hope they get you, I hope they get you.’ Me and him have actually been texting back and forth for the past hour since the pick was made.”

(On his first thoughts after being selected):

“I was so excited. My heart was beating so fast, my hands were shaking. It’s kind of like a blur. I was so excited, there were so many different emotions going through my head that really I can’t remember. … This is every kid’s dream. I’m an 18-year-old kid that’s played a game for the past 15 years, and I just heard my name called in MLB Network Studio 42 saying that I was a first round pick. This is every kid’s dream. Every kid that puts on the uniform, every kid that takes a swing with the bat, his dream is to play major league baseball and I’m taking the first step to doing that.”

(On comparisons to A.J. Pierzynski):
“Larry Bowa was kind of the first person that dubbed me as A.J. Pierzynski because we kind of mess around with each other and talk a little bit of smack, all in fun, but I’m a very competitive person. The one thing I tell people a lot is, ‘I love to win. The one thing I hate more, is losing.’ I’m very competitive when it comes to any sport, doesn’t matter if it’s ping pong, if it’s basketball or if it’s baseball. If I’m playing a sport, I’m very competitive and I think that’s where the A.J. Pierzynski comes in.”

(On moving through the system):

“I wouldn’t really say they haven’t had success developing catchers. I’m not really sure about who they’ve had in the past, but I can guarantee everybody in Tampa Bay and everybody in the state of Florida one thing: that I can’t promise you that I’m going to get to the big leagues, but I can promise you there won’t be another catcher coming out this draft that’s going to work harder than me to get to the big leagues.”

(On his relationship with Rays area scout Brian Hickman):
“It got to the point where he wasn’t even a scout to me. It got to the point where we were so comfortable with each other that it was really more like friends. He did a great job. He was at almost all my games. He let me know, especially being a catcher, little things that he thought I might need to change. I’m just thankful that he thought highly enough of me to put his name on the line, and put his job on the line to pick me as a first round guy.”

Comments on the first two picks by Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison and executive VP Andrew Friedman:

(On what they liked about Nick Ciuffo):

RH: “We like his tools and the chance to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues. He’s a high school kid who’s going to start his journey and work his way through the minor leagues. We have a guy that’s got a plus arm, average defender, and we like his bat—bat and power. He’s a tough kid. We like the kid…He’s got some personality indeed. He’s an animated guy.”

(On Ciuffo projecting as a catcher):
RH: “We think he’s a catcher. We do. That’s one of the major reasons we took him…He’s athletic behind the plate, he has the good arm. He throws like a catcher. It’s not a long slinging arm action—he looks like a catcher. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. He’s a strong-bodied kid. He’s got bad speed. He’s performed well in the summers when we’ve seen him. He’s performed well this spring and there were just a lot of things to like about him.”

(On the importance of Ciuffo’s competitiveness):
RH: “I think it’s really important for any kid, especially in that position. You want a guy that’s not afraid to get out in front of things and take charge.”

(On Stanek falling in the draft):
RH: “It’s happened this way the last three years for us. We’ve had guys that have fallen to us. We were talking about it the other day, you have to be ready for anything that might happen, so we were prepared for this.”

(On Stanek’s pitch repertoire):
RH: “Fastball-slider. He’s got a live fastball. Velocity wise, we’ve seen him up to 97-98 miles an hour. He comes from a couple of different angles. Good life to the fastball. Big slider. He’ll show you a curveball and change. I talked to his pitching coach, who I played with in the Cardinals organization, I called him tonight, shortly before we took him, and said, “Any reason we wouldn’t want to take Ryne?” He said, “Absolutely not, I think his best days are ahead of him.” That made me feel pretty good, because that’s what we’re looking for.”

(On Stanek’s improvement since high school):

RH: “I think he’s improved a good amount. A lot of it is just about maturity, and he’s dealt with pitching in the SEC. He’s been in a good program with a good pitching coach, so I think that he’s made good strides.”

(On selecting a catcher with their first pick):

AF: “I think a big part of that is it’s probably the toughest thing to develop. Developing front-line starting catchers is as difficult of a thing as there is in baseball. The grind, both sides of the ball, the expectations are extremely tough, so as much as you can get to know a guy, it’s even more important in that role. Brian Hickman did a tremendous job really getting to know Nick. We think he is a really good prospect on both sides of the ball. The fact that he’s also a left-handed hitter helps. It’s an area, I think, throughout the industry, there’s really a dearth of really good catching prospects. To be able to add one, that also hits from the left side, was something that really excited us. … I just think if you look at profiles and things that carry more industry value, catchers have a really high upside and a really low downside, just because they’re tough to develop. There are a lot of really good catching prospects that haven’t made it, but the ones that do carry significant value on a major league team. The fact that he also hits left-handed is something that certainly helped the profile.”

(On Ciuffo’s signability and relationship with Taylor Guerrieri):

AF: “I think it helps in terms of familiarizing himself with the organization and getting a feel for how we do things and different coaches and staff members on our player development staff. As far as signability, I don’t know that it helps one way or the other. I think Nick wants to go out and start his professional baseball career, and that is music to our ears.”

(On Ciuffo’s maturity level):
AF: “He certainly has a high motor. He’s a guy that is very animated behind the plate and has a lot of passion. He was extremely driven to help lead his high school team this year. He’s a guy who has a lot of fun playing the game. The road from where he is right now to the big leagues is a long one, and the fact that he seems to love the game as much as he does and has a passion for the game, I think will help.”

(On Stanek moving through the minors):

AF: “I think that’s one of the benefits of taking a college pitcher, is that in theory they can move a little bit faster than we’ve tended to do with some of our high school guys. He has competed in the SEC, two power pitches, a guy that we think can miss bats and be able to move fairly quickly -- I guess relatively so; I don’t think we really fast-track anyone, but on a relative scale I think he has a chance to get here pretty quickly.”

Quotes from Rays second pick Ryne Stanek:

(On if he was disappointed that he wasn’t chosen earlier and if he is happy Tampa Bay chose him):
“I would have liked to go a little bit earlier but I can’t say that I’m too disappointed. I still got taken in the first round and Tampa is a great place and a good place for right-handed pitchers and pitchers in general to go and develop. I feel like it’s a good fit for me.”

(On if he thinks he will move quickly):
“I hope so. I feel like I am ready and mature enough and my ability is good enough to move pretty quickly but it’s up to the organization and whatever they choose to do. It’s kind of up to them right now.”

(On if he was aware that the Rays had interest when he was in high school):

“Yes. At the time in high school they were talking to me a lot and they were one of the few teams that was looking at me quite a bit and that they were a possibility out of high school.”

(On what he needs to improve):

“Just commanding my fastball a little bit better. My secondary pitches I feel like I command pretty well and are pretty good. My fastball is good enough that when I locate it, I feel like I’m pretty tough and can compete with everybody.”

(On if he sees himself as a starter or reliever):

“I definitely see myself as a starter. I’m able to throw four pitches for a strike and my mentality on the mound—I feel like I’m better suited to start for a team.”

(On if he’s eager to sign):

“I’m definitely excited to get my career started and see where it all takes me.”


[Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 1:52am]


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