ST. PETERSBURG — Scouting director R.J. Harrison said it wasn't by design, but the Rays' first two draft picks Tuesday established speed as a clear asset for this class, with Texas high school SS Spencer Edwards and junior college OF Andrew Toles coming to the organization with reputations as base-stealers.
"Those guys are premium runners," Harrison said of Edwards, a second-round pick who will have to be lured out of a commitment to Texas, and Toles, a third-round pick from Chipola College in the Panhandle.
Edwards does much more than run, hitting .407 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs along with 24 steals, and Toles hit .387 but was best known for getting 29 steals in 45 games. The Rays took four centerfielders in their first nine picks Tuesday, but Harrison said they'll all get work there, rotating in from the corner outfield spots.
Toles was a fourth-round pick of the Marlins in 2010 but opted to sign with Tennessee, where he had 21 stolen bases as a freshman in 2011 before being dismissed from the program. Harrison said the Rays checked that out and found the problems were more "classroom-related."
"We'd done our work on that, and … we felt good about going ahead and taking Toles," he said.
LIVE ARMS: The Rays had only two pitchers in their first nine picks, but they like what they see in the high school RHPs: fourth-rounder Nolan Gannon, a 6-5 standout from the San Diego area; and sixth-rounder Damion Carroll, a 6-3 prospect from suburban Washington, D.C.
"It starts with good big frames. They both have loose arms," Harrison said. "They both currently will throw fastballs up to 93-94. It's not some kid we're projecting something we haven't seen."
LOCAL PICK: Tampa Bay's 10th-round pick went to University of Tampa LHP Sean Bierman, who missed the 2011 season with Tommy John elbow surgery but bounced back this season, going 8-3 with a 2.27 ERA. He had 85 strikeouts and 11 walks and said he has been a Rays fan since he opened his college career at Vanderbilt, where he missed David Price by just a few months.
"I'm really excited. Just really happy to have the opportunity to be healthy again," said Bierman, a 42nd-round pick of the Reds in 2007. "I'm excited to finally have a chance to play at the next level."
THIS AND THAT: There's more speed in seventh-rounder Marty Gantt, a 5-9 OF who had 29 steals at College of Charleston while hitting 11 homers, and ninth-rounder Joey Rickard, who had 17 steals and 54 runs as a junior at Arizona. … 14th-rounder Chris Kirsch, a LHP from Lackawanna (Pa.) College, had nearly half his outs via strikeout this season, with 101 in 70 innings. … Want power? The Rays will have to break him out of an Oklahoma commitment, but 12th-round C Taylor Hawkins hit 28 homers as a senior.
USF: Two-way standout Walker Lockett of Jacksonville was taken in the fourth round by the Padres, likely costing Bulls coach Lelo Prado a key member incoming class. Another signee, Winter Haven C Levi Borders, son of former big-league C Pat Borders, went in the 11th round to the Braves. USF junior RH reliever Austin Adams, a Zephyrhills grad, went to the Angels in the eighth round, and senior RHP Derrick Stultz, who went 9-1 with a 3.29 ERA after a nearly three-year absence, went in the 14th to the Diamondbacks.
AROUND THE NATION: The Astros led off the second day by selecting Gators SS Nolan Fontana. … In the 15th round, the Rangers took Alabama high school OF Jameis Winston, who has a strong commitment to play quarterback at FSU.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.