Quantity is the theme of this year's draft as the Rays have three of the top 42 picks, and six of the first 98, a product of gaining three additional selections through baseball's complex compensation process. Their mission, when the draft starts Monday night, is to shift the emphasis to quality and bolster their already burgeoning farm system. "It's unlike anything we've ever done," scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "Fifteen years, this is the first time we've had extra picks. It's a different challenge from what we've had in the past." Making it tougher? What they have to work with. "I would say, and I want to say this in a positive way, that this draft is probably void of depth with really significant-type prospects," Harrison said. "But I think there's a big pool of good prospects. In other words, at 17, 31 and 42, there's not that big a difference in the pool of applicants. … There's something for everybody I'd say in this draft. But I'm pretty encouraged by the depth of that pool." The draft is vital to the Rays, given their financial limitations, so in a way this could be the biggest week of the year. The Rays are usually open to anything, not sticking to any type of overriding philosophy, such as high schooler vs. collegian, or position player vs. pitcher. And they typically don't draft to fill needs, since the development process can take years. Here's a look back at what they can expect:
Having the 17th pick could turn out to be a good thing for the Rays if history were to repeat itself. Of the 44 No. 17 picks since the 1965 implementation of the draft, 29 played in the big leagues (and the three most recent still might).
The best players chosen at No. 17:
RHP Roy Halladay 1995 Blue Jays
RHP Brad Lidge1998 Astros
OF Jeromy Burnitz1990 Mets
OF Gary Matthews1968 Giants
RHP Charles Nagy 1988 Indians
Others of note: Brian McRae (1985, Royals), Cal Eldred (1989, Brewers), Cole Hamels (2002, Phillies), Dennis Rasmussen (1980, Angels)
Rays angle: They've never had the No. 17 pick, but they had one play for them, Eduardo Perez (1991 Angels) in 2004-05.
The Rays are a little more familiar with the No. 31 pick. They had it once — when MLB did them and the Diamondbacks no favors by making them pick at the bottom of their first three drafts — taking RHP Jason Standridge, though it didn't work out too well as he was 0-5, 6.38 over parts of four seasons.
They've had another, with a little better outcome, acquiring LHP J.P. Howell (2004, Royals) in trade.
Historically, the 31st pick hasn't been particularly rewarding, as only 15 of the 44 have made it to the majors. But one of those who did make it turned out pretty good: Greg Maddux (1984, Cubs), who won 355 games and for much of his career wore No. 31.
Others of note: Jarrod Washburn (1995, Angels), Aaron Heilman (2000, Twins), Kirt Manwaring (1986, Giants)
Only 14 of the No. 42 picks have made it to the majors, though a few are familiar names:
Dennis Leonard1972 Royals
Mookie Wilson 1977 Mets
Clay Buchholz 2005 Red Sox
The Rays have had one come through, Marlon Anderson (1995, Phillies) in 2003.
Also of note: Bradenton's Chris Perez (2006, Cardinals)
If they knew then what they know now …
A look back at the Rays' first pick in their 14 drafts, and how they could have done:
2006Evan Longoria 3B Although … : Tim Lincecum, RHP
2007David PriceLHP Although … : Matt Weiters, C
1999Josh HamiltonOF Better choices?: Josh Beckett, RHP; Barry Zito, LHP; Justin Morneau, C
2000Rocco BaldelliOF Better?: Chase Utley, 2B; Grady Sizemore, OF
2002 B.J. Upton SS Better?: Zack Greinke, RHP; Prince Fielder, 1B; Cole Hamels, LHP
2003Delmon Young OF Better?: Rickie Weeks, 2B; Nick Markakis, OF; Jonathan Papelbon, RHP
2004Jeff Niemann RHP Better?: Jered Weaver, RHP; Stephen Drew, INF; Dustin Pedroia, INF
2008Tim Beckham INF Better?: Pedro Alvarez, INF; Brian Matusz, LHP; Buster Posey, C
1996Paul Wilder OF Should've: Jimmy Rollins, SS
1997Jason Standridge RHP Should've: Chase Utley, 2B (didn't sign)
1998 Josh Pressley 1B Should've: Matt Holliday, 3B
2001 Dewon Brazelton RHP Should've: Mark Teixeira, INF; David Wright, 3B
2005 Wade Townsend RHP Should've: Andrew McCutchen, OF; Matt Garza, RHP
2009LeVon Washington OF Should've: Tanner Scheppers, RHP; Matt Davidson, INF
Current Rays by round
1: David Price (1st overall, 2007), B.J. Upton (2nd, 2002), Evan Longoria (3rd, 2006), Jeff Niemann (4th, 2004), Carlos Peña (10th, 1998 by Rangers), Matt Garza (25th, 2005 by Twins); Sandwich: J.P. Howell* (31st overall, 2004 by Royals); 2: Reid Brignac, Carl Crawford, Kelly Shoppach; 3: Wade Davis, Sean Rodriguez, Hank Blalock; 4: Lance Cormier; 5: Randy Choate; 6: Ben Zobrist; 12: John Jaso; 13: Jason Bartlett*, Andy Sonnanstine; 16: James Shields; 34: Dan Wheeler; 57: Gabe Kapler
Not subject to draft: Willy Aybar, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Dioner Navarro, Rafael Soriano
* on DL
Here's a blast from Rays past, making a "comeback" at age 38 in the independent Golden League: RHP Albie Lopez, who last pitched anywhere in 2005. … Durham radio man Neil Solondz gets a "callup" this week to do the pre- and postgame shows while Rich Herrera goes to do Bulls play-by-play. … Do you wonder what umpires Angel Hernandez and Joe West thought of colleague Jim Joyce admitting he blew the perfect game call? … C Kelly Shoppach followed ex-Ray Aubrey Huff at Fort Worth's Brewer High. … Even the Wall Street Journal is writing about the Rays' attendance issues, noting "fans aren't exactly swarming to see them in their unattractive, poorly located Tropicana Field." … Ex-Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura has been benched by the Pirates, and there is speculation he could be released.
Got a minute? Kelly Shoppach
Best meal you can make? I can grill up pretty much anything.
Time killer at the mall? I'm usually just following my wife around.
Karaoke song if you had to? Some country song, just 'cause I think I know most of the words to all the songs.
Favorite TV show? I don't miss Survivor when it's on.
Dream (social) date? I'd like to have dinner with Simon Cowell, or sit in an airport with him, just to listen to his commentary.