Tampa Bay Rays select LSU's Mikie Mahtook 31st overall, prep star Jake Hager 32nd in MLB draft

ST. PETERSBURG — LSU centerfielder Mikie Mahtook already does things the Rays way.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder uses his speed and athleticism to swipe bases and take away hits in the outfield.

One of the most productive players in college baseball, the 31st overall pick Monday by Tampa Bay also could rise quickly to the major leagues.

Mahtook hit .383 with 14 homers and 56 RBIs this season and led the Southeastern Conference with 29 stolen bases.

"It's not a secret that we value guys who can do everything," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "We put a premium on defense, we put premium on guys who can run the bases and obviously what they bring offensively and we feel like he's got a very well-rounded game that will fit in with the style that we like to play."

There was never any doubt that the Lafayette, La., native would go to LSU; the only question was which sport he would choose. His late father Mike and uncle Robbie played football for the Tigers. Scouts noticed Mahtook early, and he was drafted in the 39th round in 2008 by the Florida Marlins.

"It's kind of weird," Mahtook said. "I grew up in a football family, so I'm the first baseball player to come out of here. Everybody has been real supportive and I've been fortunate to be around athletes my whole life and to be able to continue the Mahtook legacy at LSU was huge for me."

Mahtook contributed as a freshman to the Tigers' national championship team in 2009.

It's no accident the Rays focused on the middle of the diamond on Monday. They drafted two shortstops, three outfielders, a third baseman and four pitchers.

"We definitely put a premium on up the middle guys and there's a really nice balance," Friedman said. "We have a lot of players that we feel like have a chance to be really good major-league players that can impact a game. That's our goal. That's the way we approach the draft.

HAGER READY TO BEGIN: Shortstop Jake Hager, the 32nd overall pick by the Rays, said he plans to forgo a scholarship to Arizona State to begin his pro career.

Hager, a 6-1, 180-pound Las Vegas Sierra Vista High School star, hit .547 with 11 HRs and 57 RBIs this season and committed to the Sun Devils. But he said he started to get plenty of interest from Tampa Bay's scouts.

"I had a feeling that Tampa was going to take me," Hager said. "They scouted me pretty hard, there were a lot of phone calls, they were on me pretty much every week and I just had a very good feeling. Their scouting directors and everyone has been to my games."

Hager says he believes he will play shortstop at the pro level but also has the ability to play second or third base.

"I'm ready to play pro ball," Hager said. "I've been ready to play pro ball. I'm very excited about the opportunity to pursue my dream. College is great, Arizona State is great. I love them. I'm ready to move on and pursue my dream and play pro baseball."

HOPING FOR PRICE TWICE?: You can't blame the Rays for going back to the well. With the 59th overall pick, they took a left-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt, Grayson Garvin. Considering David Price's success, he has some big cleats to fill. "Hope we have as good of luck as we did with the other one, right?" Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. Garvin (6-6, 225) went 13-1 with a 2.37 earned run average and was named SEC pitcher of the year. "He's been a very good pitcher, we've seen a lot of him over the years," Harrison said.

AROUND THE MAJORS: The Pirates took hard-throwing UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 overall pick. The Mariners selected Danny Hultzen, a left-handed pitcher from Virginia, with the No. 2 choice.

Tampa Bay Rays select LSU's Mikie Mahtook 31st overall, prep star Jake Hager 32nd in MLB draft 06/07/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 1:29am]

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