ARLINGTON, Texas — Now that the months of extensive prep work are out of the way, the Rays are ready for a busy first night of the draft.
With three of the top 42 picks — and six in the top 100 — the Rays will have options and opportunity to bolster their farm system. They tend to like pitchers with significant potential and athletic position players, but as usual they are saying they are open to anything and not saying much more about it.
Florida high school pitchers A.J. Cole (Oviedo HS) and Karsten Whitson (Chipley HS) have been popular names linked to them in mock drafts, as have outfielders Josh Sale (Blanchet HS, Wash.) and Delino DeShields Jr. (Woodward Academy, Ga.), son of the former big-leaguer.
"As a scouting director and a scouting staff, you're kind of (rubbing your hands together) 'cause you get more opportunities," Rays scouting chief R.J. Harrison said. "But it's a different challenge from what we've had in the past."
The Rays have the extra picks this year because of what they didn't get last year: additional "same-slot" compensation picks at No. 31 for not signing first-rounder LeVon Washington (back in the draft and not expected to go nearly as high) and No. 79 for not signing second-rounder Kenny Diekroeger (starred as a Stanford freshman and is not yet re-eligible to be drafted).
Plus, they get the No. 42 pick for the "loss" of free-agent catcher Gregg Zaun, who signed with the Brewers.
Of note, there is no further compensation if the Rays don't sign the No. 31 pick, meaning they are very likely to make a "safe" selection, perhaps with a predraft deal in place.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.