Now that that draft is out of the way — no offense to Mssrs. Clayborn, Bowers, Foster or any other future Buc — it's time to focus on the one that could shape a Tampa Bay franchise for a decade to come.
With 10 of the first 60 picks in the June draft and 12 of the first 89 (all by the end of the second round) — a result of the free-agent exodus from the Rays, looming changes to the draft process and one of the deepest talent pools in years — the Rays have an unprecedented opportunity to stock their organization with the potential impact players that are vital to their chances to compete.
And, with five weeks to go before the June 6-8 draft, they are in the midst of a massive scouting effort to take maximum advantage of their opportunities.
"Because of our revenues and the competition we face, the amateur draft is arguably more important to us than to any other club, and this year's draft is easily the most important in our history," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "The number of high picks we have is literally unprecedented. It's a tremendous opportunity for us, and we're devoting more energy and resources to the process than we ever have."
The only previous team with close to the number of early picks the Rays have is the 1990 Expos, who had 11 of the first 84. They ended up with seven big-leaguers, though only one real standout, OF Rondell White. Their other picks included INF Shane Andrews and LHPs Chris Haney and Gabe White.
The Rays are looking — and willing to spend the requisite millions — to do better and are considering myriad possibilities. "We're not locked into any one specific profile, and we're keeping an open mind in getting as many looks as possible at the top talent in the country," Friedman said.
"Every pick is its own opportunity, and we're going to look for the best talent that we can each time it's our turn. Our goal is to come away from the first two rounds with 12 players who can be significant contributors in the American League East."