ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week until the June 5 draft, the Rays say they still have five players under consideration for the top pick.
Unlike last year, when Vanderbilt left-hander David Price was their obvious, and unanimous, choice at No. 1, this decision is open to debate. And the Rays plan to have one.
"There isn't someone who's really separated themselves like David did last year," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "So there's people with mixed opinions, and it's going to be a very active debate."
The five — in the order scouting director R.J. Harrison listed them, for what that's worth — are Florida State catcher Buster Posey, Griffin (Ga.) High shortstop Tim Beckham, Patriot High (Riverside, Calif.) catcher Kyle Skipworth, University of San Diego lefty Brian Matusz and Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
"This group, this year, I think it's pretty evenly balanced," Harrison said. "I can make a case for every one of those five guys."
Friedman acknowledged that three of the five are "more realistic," but declined to specify them. Posey and Beckham are two. Alvarez may be the third, though Matusz could be an interesting option.
The winnowing — which they say won't be based on the organization's current positional needs (catcher) or signability issues (Alvarez is rumored to be seeking a lot) — will continue into next week.
"There's no formula to it," Harrison said. "I spend a good deal of every day with those guys ricocheting around in my head."
Baseball America projects the Rays to take Beckham. His father, Jimmy, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette his son expects to be taken either first by the Rays or second by the Pirates.