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Draft

Rays down to two choices for top draft pick

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials have considered all kinds of factors, from complex statistical analyses to detailed talent evaluations to old-fashioend gut feelings, in determining the top pick of today's draft.

And as they wait until today to decide between finalists Florida State catcher Buster Posey and Griffin (Ga.) High shortstop Tim Beckham, they are really hoping they choose right.

After picking first overall four times (the first team to do so in consecutive years) and among the top eight for a 10th straight year, they expect their continued on-field success means they won't have this opportunity again any time soon.

"In our minds and our planning, hopefully this is the last time we're picking this high for a while," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "So we've put a little more pressure on ourselves to add another impact player before hopefully we start picking in the 20s."

The Rays, like any other team in any other year in any other sport, say they will draft whomever they consider the best player. As of Wednesday night, Baseball America and mlb.com projected them to take Beckham while Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.com had them taking Posey.

"We have a feeling, we're leaning one way, but we want to do our due diligence and there's no reason not to take the extra time that we have,'' scouting director R.J. Harrison said around 11 p.m.

The ongoing debate included some interesting questions.

One is whether to draft more for current need.

If so, that would suggest Posey because they are thin on advanced catching prospects. (And conversely, that they wouldn't draft Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez because they have Evan Longoria.)

Friedman and Harrison both said that would be the wrong reason to make a decision.

"It's still talent," Friedman said. "If you look back two years ago at the needs of the organization, they've changed dramatically."

Plus, Harrison said, "I don't think you want to give on a guy or exclude a guy that might be a better prospect because he plays a position where we think we already are strong."

Another question is whether they take the player who seems a surer bet to have an impact in the big leagues or the one with less certainty but a higher upside (as the previous Rays administration often did with mixed results).

The surer thing seems to be Posey, an advanced and mature collegian lauded for his on- and off-field abilities. The higher upside seems to belong to Beckham who, if he grows and matures as projected, could be a star much like B.J. Upton or brother Justin and, similarly, could be a candidate to be moved to the outfield.

One theory, reported by Baseball America, is the reason for the delayed decision is Rays officials were split on that issue.

>>FAST FACTS

Baseball draft

What: MLB first-year player draft

When: 2 to 9 p.m. today, continuing Friday.

Where: Disney Wide World of Sports Milk House (free admission today)

TV: ESPN2, 2 to 6 p.m.

On the Web: mlb.com

Rays' final two

Tim Beckham

Position: Shortstop

School: Griffin (Ga.) High

Age: 18

Ht./Wt.: 6-0/188

2008 stats: .500, five homers, 31 RBIs

Case for: Wiry, athletic five-tool type of player could be a future superstar.

Case against: As with any high school pick, adjustment to pro ball an unknown; some question about future position.

Buster Posey

Position: Catcher

School: Florida State

Age: 21

Ht./Wt.: 6-1/205

2008 stats: .468, 24 HRs, 86 RBIs

Case for: Converted shortstop is strong defensive and offensive player; could turn into a Russell Martin-type.

Case against: Might not have star-quality typical of No. 1 pick.

Rays down to two choices for top draft pick 06/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2008 9:03pm]
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