NEW YORK — The Rays can't do anything about having to wait two-plus hours before making the 30th pick tonight in the first round of the annual draft. It's the price of last season's success.
Their challenge is to make that pick, and the subsequent ones, starting with No. 78, as productive as in past years when they picked at or near the top of each round.
Scouting director R.J. Harrison said late Monday they had a list of 16 names and will be eager to see who is left. "We have a pretty good target group,'' he said. "You hope like heck (the other teams) leave us a couple of the names toward the top of our list.''
Baseball America most recently projected them to take Bonita (Calif.) High shortstop Jiovanni Mier. Catchers Tommy Joseph (Horizon, Ariz., High) and Tony Sanchez (Boston College) and Midway (Texas) outfielder Todd Glaesmann have also been suggested.
The Rays, who philosophically like middle-of-the-field position players early and pitching later, see the draft pool as "real splintered," deep in high schoolers overall and college pitchers. Several catchers are available, which would fill an apparent organizational need.
But the Rays don't draft that way, due to the lag time until a player is ready for the majors.
"I think we'll always be beholden to the take-the-best-player-available mentality because even if it creates a surplus as some point, we're confident we can take it to market and make a trade to address a weakness," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "So we're not going to bypass value or talent to address a need because so much can change in the interim period that we certainly don't think we're smart enough to play the futures game that far out."
The finances will be different this year because the Rays won't have to commit as much to a top pick. They paid bonuses of about $6 million to their top picks the past two years; picks at the end of the round typically get about $1 million.
Friedman said, though, the Rays don't ever have a strict budget for the draft, pooling funds for those players, international signings and other areas: "Everything is somewhat intertwined, and it's kind of a slush fund that goes back and forth between the different departments."