Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Prep pitchers pique Rays' draft interest

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays selected six straight collegians on the second day of the draft Friday, a nod toward more advanced prospects with better indicators of their ability.

Related News/Archive

But the two high school pitchers they took first could be the real prizes.

Left-hander Brock Burke of Evergreen (Colo.) and righty Blake Bivens of Danville (Va.) Washington were listed on what scouting director R.J. Harrison called, "our good pitching board."

Like RHP Cam Varga, their second-round pick, they are "guys we had in our cross hairs and we went ahead and chased them down," Harrison said.

Burke, a 17-year-old who throws in the low 90s, has a promising profile in addition to a resume that includes a 19-strikeout, one-hit shutout at Coors Field.

"He's a very, very projectable young guy with a good body," Harrison said. "He has all the things in place that you're looking for on a starting pitching prospect."

Burke is committed to Oregon.

Bivens, 18, improved his draft status at several showcase events, clocking consistently in the low 90s and featuring a solid curveball. He is committed to Liberty.

Overall, Harrison said they were excited by their haul and "feel pretty good where we are" in getting them signed.

COLLEGE TRY: Harrison said taking four college position players (and eight collegians overall) with their first 11 picks was more reacting to the draft board than a shift in philosophy. But he also acknowledged the benefits.

"If all things were equal on a position player, I'd assume go with the guy with a little track record and experience," he said. "They can get out and get going a little quicker. They don't have to navigate the back fields quite as much as the high school kids do."

INTERESTING LOOK: Having a body compared to stocky veteran reliever RHP Joel Peralta isn't necessarily the best compliment. But RHP Mike Franco has the Rays excited for other reasons as he went 9-3, 1.09 (second in Division I) for Florida International.

"He's a husky guy. He's not your prototypical right-handed starter build. But he's got good stuff. He's got major-league stuff," Harrison said of the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder. "And he has know-how."

LATE THURSDAY: Varga, who went to the IMG Academy in Bradenton before moving to Cincinnati, set a national prep record by striking out 33 consecutive batters. Overall, he was 10-0 with five no-hitters and 141 strikeouts (and six walks). … RHP Brent Honeywell features a screwball that Harrison said isn't a gimmick, but a legit weapon.

Rays' draft picks

1.(20)1BCasey GillaspieWichita State
2.(60)RHPCam VargaCincinnati Hills Christian Academy
2.(72)RHPBrent HoneywellWalters State (Tenn.) CC
3.(96)LHPBrock BurkeEvergreen (Colo.) High
4.(127)RHPBlake BivensDanville (Va.) George Washington High
5.(157)SSMichael RussellUniversity of North Carolina
6.(187)CMac JamesUniversity of Oklahoma
7.(217)RHPMike FrancoFlorida International
8.(247)3BDaniel MilesTennessee Tech
9.(277)RHPChris PikeOklahoma City University
10.(307)RHPBradley WallaceArkansas State

Prep pitchers pique Rays' draft interest 06/06/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2014 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Jays, looking for some carryover


    The six runs and 13 hits the Rays posted on Tuesday were a positive, but the true test if they are out of their historically bad hitting slump will come tonight and in the coming days as they try to build on their success.

    "Hopefully,'' manager Kevin Cash said after Tuesday's 6-4 win, "there is a …

    Daniel Robertson is expected to make a third straight start tonight, likely at shortstop.
  2. What you might have missed in the second episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]
  3. Why Noah Spence could be the Bucs' X-factor


    JACKSONVILLE — Noah Spence crouched in a four-point stance, bending low like a sprinter in starting blocks. At the snap, he took one step to his right, startling Jaguars left tackle Josh Wells with his explosiveness. Wells went for the move and Spence countered with an inside swim move, flying past Wells' right …

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Noah Spence (57) participates in training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  4. Lefty quarterback's task? Make sure nothing's lost in translation


    GAINESVILLE — When Florida receiver Brandon Powell first met new quarterback Malik Zaire this summer, he was struck by the Notre Dame grad transfer's enthusiasm and outgoing personality.

    Florida quarterback Malik Zaire talks with the press during the NCAA college football team's media day in Gainesville. Zaire is a lefty quarterback, just like Tim Tebow. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File)
  5. Nikita Kucherov in a wide-ranging Q&A


    While Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has a tendency to be quiet around the media, he's a Russian with a variety of interests and a passionate hockey mind.

    Nikita Kucherov recently did a Q&A with Russia's, in which he addressed an array of topics.