ST. PETERSBURG — With the 13th overall pick in Thursday's baseball draft, the Rays selected a high school third baseman who models his game off a player who is awfully familiar to the fan base: Evan Longoria.
"He's one of the best third basemen in the league, and he is definitely swinging the hot bat right now," Josh Lowe said.
Lowe, 18, was the Gatorade Georgia player of the year at Pope High in Marietta. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound left-handed hitter batted .391 this spring with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs. He also saved six games with 33 strikeouts in 22 innings while helping Pope to the state Class 6A final.
MLB.com rated Lowe the 17th best prospect in the draft and called him "the most talented two-way player" in the draft.
Rob Metzler, the Rays scouting director, said Lowe has "really good physical attributes. He's a big, strong athlete. Good foot speed and power and we think he has good ingredients to progress through our system. A long road, but we think he's a good bet to make that journey."
Metzler said Lowe will enter the organization as a third baseman.
That's fine with Lowe.
"I'm excited," he said. "If the organization thinks I can help them best as a third baseman and help them win, that's what I'm looking forward to do. And I know I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can to be the best third baseman in the entire organization and the league eventually, and if that's where they think I can help them win and bring championships to them, then I'll do that. But if they need me to go to another position, I'll be just as happy to do that as well."
When asked if he would like to try pitching, Lowe said, "I like hitting more than pitching."
The Rays selected University of Nebraska junior centerfielder Ryan Boldt with the 53rd pick.
The left-handed hitting Boldt batted .344 this season.
And the Rays, with the 77th and final pick of Day 1 of the draft (that ended 12:05 a.m.), selected LSU outfielder Jake Fraley.
The draft continues today with rounds three through 10.
This is the second consecutive year the Rays had the 13th overall pick. Last year they selected high school outfielder Garrett Whitley, who signed for $2,959,600.
Metzler said he's "very hopeful" Lowe will sign quickly. Lowe said, "I'm looking forward to play. I'm excited and ready to get this thing on the road and get this thing going."
Lowe's older brother Nathaniel is a junior at Mississippi State and also a first base prospect in this year's draft. Nathaniel was the Florida JUCO player of the year at St. John's River State College.
Lowe's father, Dave, was a fifth round draft pick by the Mariners in 1986. He declined the Mariners offer to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played football and baseball. He became a career pilot for the Navy.
"He comes from good athletic roots," Metzler said.
Lowe visited Tropicana Field on Tuesday and was impressed with the facility, especially the roof that kept the field dry during the rainy day. He hit six home runs during his round of batting practice, driving five off the batter's eye in centerfield and reaching the walkway beyond the rightfield seats with another.
"Definitely very cool stadium," Lowe said. "The turf is really fun to get on and run on. I'm not expecting any bad hops. I think the workout went really well. I think that contributed to why I got picked by them."