ST. PETERSBURG — When it comes to the Rays' first first-round pick, right-hander Taylor Guerrieri, few debate his power arm and potential.
In that sense, the fact that the Spring Valley High (S.C.) senior — who was ranked the 10th best overall player in the draft by Baseball America — fell to Tampa Bay at No. 24 overall drew plenty of excitement.
"The talent is really good," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "I mean, really good."
But what has raised some questions is why, exactly, Guerrieri dropped in the draft, and there have been some rumored issues with maturity and makeup. And the fact that he has been silent since Monday's selection, not speaking to the media like other first-rounders do, further fueled speculation.
Guerrieri told his hometown paper, The State (Columbia, S.C.), that his advisers instructed him not to conduct interviews. He did speak to a Rays area scout Monday night, and Harrison plans to meet with Guerrieri and his family next week to emphasize the importance of getting a deal done.
Harrison isn't concerned about Guerrieri, saying the rumored off-the-field issues were based on a lot of "misinformation" and "blown out of proportion."
"In our business or any business, especially now that there's more media involved … if a kid has some sort of hiccup, rumors start, things start spreading around," Harrison said. "Sometimes (teams) just choose to back away from it. But this guy has got really good ability. … Look, it's life. Sometimes (stuff) happens. We weren't run off by it. …
"And I think because of the fact the kid switched schools his senior year and stuff like that, people start to make more out of it than what it is."
Guerrieri did change schools in late October of his senior year, going from North Augusta to Spring Valley as his family moved to Columbia. Though details are fuzzy, North Augusta assistant coach Vic Radcliff said Guerrieri transferred partly to be close to the University of South Carolina, where he was committed. Guerrieri also was familiar with an assistant coach at Spring Valley, Collin Liggett. The Aiken County School District confirmed it was a legit transfer, and Radcliff said there were "no hard feelings."
Radcliff did indicate that there was some growing up Guerrieri needed to do, though he declined to get into specifics.
"Kids get into things, and Taylor is no different," Radcliff said. "What is glaring above all is he's passionate about baseball, and playing major-league baseball is something he has always talked about, a dream of his. I think he's got a good supporting cast with his parents, they stay on him.
"I just think that with professional sports, there are temptations out there … especially for a young kid who hasn't been exposed to that kind of thing before. I talked to a couple of scouts, everyone is on the same page. They just need to keep a good watch on him and make sure they help him make good decisions."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.