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We'll have to wait to judge Tampa Bay Rays draft

Mikie Mahtook might make Andrew Friedman look like a genius for drafting him. Check back in about five years on the LSU centerfielder and other picks.

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Mikie Mahtook might make Andrew Friedman look like a genius for drafting him. Check back in about five years on the LSU centerfielder and other picks.

ST. PETERSBURG

In baseball, you have to be quick. You have to be sharp. You have to think on your feet.

And those are just the requirements of the general manager.

Ah, poor Andrew Friedman. It was Monday night, the night of Friedman's annual IQ test (the major-league draft), and suddenly, Friedman was surrounded by decisions. He would make a pick, and here would come another one, and another after that, and another after that. It was late in the evening, and just like that, Friedman was playing in the lightning round from Password.

A pitcher from South Carolina. An outfielder from Louisiana. A shortstop. Another shortstop. A third baseman. A second pitcher. A third pitcher. Another outfielder. A fourth pitcher. Another outfielder.

Whew.

On and on it went, quicker than hiccups, as repetitive as popcorn, as rapid as drumbeats. Through the first round and sandwich picks, it was as if Friedman were picking in a three-man Rotisserie League. Once the 24th pick of the first round arrived, it seemed as if it was always Friedman's turn at bat.

"Controlled chaos," Friedman called it. All things considered, he seemed to enjoy the whirling, frenetic ride. After all, he will probably never have another draft night with 10 out of 60 picks.

"It was a lot of fun," Friedman said. "Our scouts did such a good job, they allowed it to be fun."

Also, it was as breathless, and it was relentless, and for a while, it seemed endless. Ah, but was it good?

Who knows?

At this point, not even Friedman and his scouting staff can be sure. That's the thing about the MLB draft. It's like throwing darts through a tornado. A lot of darts improve the odds, but that still doesn't guarantee a thing.

So was Friedman a genius? Or just very, very busy?

Did the Rays restock their minors? Or did the Rays just make a lot of noise?

Are the Rays better off today? And how many tomorrows will it be until we know?

I don't know about you, but I say we all get together in five years to decide.

That's how long it will be until anyone can tell how the Rays did Monday night, you know. For all of their picks, for all the potential, for all of the signing bonuses ahead, it will be sometime about 2016 before anyone knows how good this draft was for them. Oh, a player or two will trickle through before that, but to judge the haul, you'll have to wait.

Think about that: By 2016, we will know if the Rays are going to get a new stadium, and where, and whether Evan Longoria will play in it. By 2016, David Price will be in his 30s, and Joe Maddon will be in his 60s, and Don Zimmer will be in his 80s (still). The world will spin around quite a bit before we know about Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook and the rest of the orchestra who became Rays players on Monday night.

Was Guerrieri really one of the top two high school pitchers in the draft? Were those who graded Mahtook as a top 15 pick accurate? Was Jake Hager a reach or a slice of insight?

It bears repeating just how important a night such as this was for the Rays. They needed to do better than the odds suggest. They had to be smarter than most. Given their budget, the Rays are always going to have to survive by their wits, by drafting and developing their talent.

If this were the NFL, or the NBA or the NHL, you would begin to feel the impact of the draft in the next season or two. This is the downside of the baseball draft. (The upside? No Mel Kiper.)

How smooth will the ride be for the Rays' new employees? Some will rise, and some will fall, and some will get hurt, and some will develop and some will not. If the Rays are fortunate, a precious few of them will make an impact in the big leagues someday.

All of which leads us back to the image of Friedman, spinning around in his chair, trying to come up with 10 correct answers. Let's face it: Friedman has had a lot of smart moments in his years with the Rays.

How smart was he Monday?

Check back in 2016. Maybe 2017. If Friedman had a keeper of a night, eventually it will show on the scoreboard.

We'll have to wait to judge Tampa Bay Rays draft 06/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 12:39am]
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