Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays draft high school outfielder Josh Sale with top pick

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were already excited about the draft because of the unique opportunity it presented, as they boasted two first-round picks for the first time in club history, and three selections in the first 42.

Then they admittedly got a bit "lucky," landing three high school players they wanted (and are confident they can sign). Their top pick (at No. 17) was outfielder Josh Sale (from Seattle's Bishop Blanchet High), whom scouting director R.J. Harrison says "is a corner outfielder with tremendous power, a guy we think has a chance to be a middle of the lineup type bat."

Then, at pick No. 31, the Rays got the draft's top high school catching prospect, Justin O'Conner, and at No. 42, outfielder Drew Vettleson.

"You have to get a little bit lucky for things to really fall into place," Harrison said. "And we feel like we were well-prepared and got a little lucky and got three guys we really liked."

They took Sale (pronounced SAW-LAY) with their original No. 17 pick, and had two compensatory picks at No. 31 (for not signing 2009 first round pick LeVon Washington) and No. 42 (for losing free agent catcher Gregg Zaun). But executive Andrew Friedman said they already have an agreement in principle with O'Conner, and is hopeful they'll be able to sign the other two.

Baseball America tabbed Sale the draft's top corner outfielder, the best high school power hitter and 10th best overall prospect in the draft, projecting the left-handed slugger as a .280 hitter with 30 home run power. The Gonzaga commitment said he was "excited" and "extremely grateful" the Rays selected him, and it seems as though he's leaning toward starting his pro career.

"I don't have a definite answer, but I don't see myself going to school," said Sale, 18. "Right now, I'm just thankful for the Tampa Bay Rays investing in me. It's been a nonstop celebration."

The Rays love Sale's power, his plate discipline and work ethic, which he said he got from his parents. There's his father, Jesse, a former powerlifter who crafted his workouts, and his mother, Kelley Richardson, a juvenile corrections officer who still packs his lunch. Sale has gone to the RIPS Baseball Training Complex in nearby Burien five days a week at 6 a.m. to hone his hitting skills.

"I've done this for 27 years, and he's the most special one I've ever had," said Sale's personal hitting coach Aaron Horrocks, who has worked with him for about eight years. "His work ethic is impeccable. This guy just lives in the gym."

Jesse says his son also has a smooth golf swing. Sale, at age 11, hit a hole-in-one at a company golf tournament from 135 yards with a wedge that was about an inch short, and won the longest drive contest at 309 yards.

O'Conner is from Cowan High School in Muncie, Ind. Despite just beginning to catch last summer, and admitting he's "pretty raw," Baseball America rated his arm as the best among high school position players. O'Conner also played shortstop and third base, but the Rays plan to help him make the transition to catcher. O'Conner, an Arkansas commitment, appears pretty ready to sign and will play wherever he's needed. The Rays have been his brother Jacob's favorite team for several years.

"This is like a dream come true to me," he said.

Sale says he knows the Rays' third pick, Vettleson (Central Kitsap High in Silverdale, Wash.), pretty well, having played against him often. Vettleson, known as a switch-pitcher, is a better prospect as a hitter with power potential.

"We have some things in common," Sale said. "But I can't quite throw left-handed."

Tampa Bay Rays draft high school outfielder Josh Sale with top pick 06/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 12:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.