Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: Some hits, lots of misses in Rays' draft history

Drafting high school and college kids and projecting how they will handle the increased level of competition, mental and physical challenges and rugged schedule of pro ball is obviously hard.

And the Rays — who will try again this week, starting with the No. 13 pick Thursday night — have certainly shown that.

They have failed several times in the 10 drafts under the current ownership regime to yield any significant players from their 50-plus annual picks, despite putting major emphasis on it.

"We rely upon the draft more than almost any club in baseball, and we need to have successes," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said Friday. "To the extent that we don't have a good draft class in a year or two, it really hurts our ability to maintain a competitive club."

For example, only four players they selected and signed in the 2008-09 drafts have even reached the majors, and none of any real consequence: INF Tim Beckham, RHP Andrew Bellatti, LHP Kyle Lobstein (with Tigers, after being traded for C Curt Casali) and LHP Zac Rosscup (with Cubs, as a small part of Matt Garza/Chris Archer deal).

For another, none of their top four picks in 2010 made it, and only one, injured C Justin O'Conner, is even still in the system.

Hindsight, particularly in evaluating draft classes, can be unfair, but here is a look back at whom the Rays took with their top picks in the past 10 drafts and whom they could have taken instead, with, for context, their wins above replacement rating from baseball-reference.com:

2006

Took Pick WAR

3B Evan Longoria 3 43.9

Could've taken

LHP Clayton Kershaw 7, Dodgers 52.3

RHP Tim Lincecum 10, Giants 22.7

RHP Max Scherzer 11, D'backs 33.0

History lesson: Rays made the right call in getting a franchise cornerstone position player who got to the majors quickly. Teams with regret should be Royals, who took RHP Luke Hochevar No. 1, and Rockies, RHP Greg Reynolds No. 2.

2007

Took Pick WAR

LHP David Price 1 29.1

Could've taken

C Matt Wieters 5, Orioles 15.3

LHP Madison Bumgarner 10, Giants 25.7

OF Jason Heyward 14, Braves 31.9

History lesson: Though Wieters had some appeal, Price was the obvious choice for the 1-1 pick and proved to be everything — postseason record aside — Rays could have wanted as a Cy Young winner and team leader. Lingering question will be if they got enough back in trade in LHP Drew Smyly, INF Nick Franklin, INF prospect Willy Adames.

2008

Took Pick WAR

SS Tim Beckham 1 0.2

Could've taken

3B Pedro Alvarez 2, Pirates 4.8

1B Eric Hosmer 3, Royals 10.4

C Buster Posey 5, Giants 30.1

History lesson: The decision to pass on Posey is, and may forever be, one of the biggest blunders in franchise history and is exacerbated by Beckham's lack of success to be more than a fringe player. Though Hosmer has been really good, the Pirates, Royals and Orioles (taking LHP Brian Matusz fourth) should also be scolded.

2009

Took Pick WAR

INF LeVon Washington 30 NA

Could've taken

RHP Garrett Richards 42, Angels 5.9

3B Nolan Arenado 59, Rockies 16.3

CF Jason Kipnis 63, Indians 16.7

History lesson: The price of their 2008 success was dropping to the bottom of the first round, and it proved problematic. Drafting Washington was a bad move, though not signing him may have been wise as he went to the Indians in 2010 and hasn't yet made it above Class A. Arenado would've been a pretty good option.

2010

Took Pick WAR

OF Josh Sale 17 NA

C Justin O'Conner 31 NA

Could've taken

OF Christian Yelich 23, Marlins 10.3

RHP Aaron Sanchez 34, Blue Jays 4.8

RHP Noah Syndergaard 38, Blue Jays 5.3

History lesson: The miss on Sale is underrated on Rays' list of bad decisions as he never got above Class A and had multiple discipline issues leading to his release. O'Conner, who hasn't gotten past Double A, is sidelined again with injuries. In what didn't turn out to be much of a draft class overall, their only real prize was CF Kevin Kiermaier, in round 31.

2011

Took Pick WAR

RHP Taylor Guerrieri 24 NA

OF Mikie Mahtook 31 0.6

SS Jake Hager 32 NA

Could've taken

RHP Joe Ross 25, Padres 3.4

INF Joe Panik 29, Giants 5.0

OF Jackie Bradley Jr. 40, Red Sox 5.2

History lesson: This was the draft, with the Rays having 10 of the first 60 picks due to free agent compensation, that was supposed to set them up for years. Results thus far have not been great, though improving. Mahtook is in the majors, LHP Blake Snell (52nd pick) debuted and will be back, OF Tyler Goeddel (41st) was a Rule 5 pick and playing for the Phillies, Guerreri is a prospect though with a Tommy John-repaired elbow, as is Hager, who had knee issues. Taylor Motter was a 17th-round surprise.

2012

Took Pick WAR

INF Richie Shaffer 25 0.1

Could've taken

3B Stephen Piscotty 36, Cardinals 3.5

3B Joey Gallo 39, Rangers 0.4

RHP Lance McCullers 41, Astros 2.5

History lesson: Shaffer has been a hit at Triple A but not yet in limited big-league opportunity, and, with Longoria at third, was blocked by offseason additions of Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce.

2013

Took Pick WAR

C Nick Ciuffo 21 NA

RHP Ryne Stanek 29 NA

Could've taken

OF Billy McKinney 24, A's NA

OF Aaron Judge 32, Yankees NA

LHP Sean Manaea 34, Royals NA

History lesson: Still searching for a frontline catcher, Ciuffo, as a high school pick, will require patience as he is still at Class A, hitting .289 with little power. Stanek has had injuries and is struggling this season at Double A.

2014

Took

1B Casey Gillaspie 20 NA

Could've had

RHP Grant Holmes 22, Dodgers NA

RHP Luis Ortiz 30, Rangers NA

1B A.J. Reed 42, Astros NA

History lesson: Gillaspie has shown power in minors, though lost half of 2015 season to injury and struggled in Arizona Fall League. Good 2016 start at Double A, hitting .302-9-25 with a .969 OPS, could keep him moving up.

2015

Took

OF Garrett Whitley 13 NA

Could've had

OF Trent Clark 15, Brewers NA

LHP Brady Aiken 17, Indians NA

OF Daz Cameron 37, Astros NA

History lesson: It is way too soon to make any real judgments. Whitley, a high school pick who didn't play much coming from upstate New York, had a so-so first season (.174, .604 OPS) but has a high ceiling.

Short stops

• At this point, who would be the Rays' rep(s) at the July 12 All-Star Game? RHP Alex Colome, who is fourth in the AL with 14 saves (in 14 chances)? A return trip for 3B Evan Longoria, who leads the team in homers and RBIs? RHP Erasmo Ramirez, with his seven wins?

• MLB.com and Baseball America both have the Rays taking SoCal prep OF Blake Rutherford in their latest mock drafts; ESPN's Keith Law has them on Puerto Rico prep SS Delvin Perez.

Rays rumblings

Saturday marked two years since Don Zimmer died, and he remains missed around the Rays every day. … No uniform changes for 2017 were requested by MLB's May 31 deadline. … Since the Rays are turning back the clock for the June 18 game with Buster Posey's Giants, could they go back to draft day 2008? … While some Rays personnel didn't like TV analyst Brian Anderson's criticism about the lack of leadership, be assured that some did. … Homering for the Mets on Friday were ex-Rays Asdrubal Cabrera, James Loney and Rene Rivera.

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