DETROIT – Whatever gamble the Rays took in using the No. 36 draft pick on hard-throwing high school right-hander J.J. Goss appeared to pay off when he said Tuesday he will go pro and forgo a commitment he made as a sophomore to home state power Texas A&M.
"It’s definitely a decision that’s going to change my life,'' Goss said on a conference call with Tampa Bay media. "Talking it over with my family, my mom, and my advisers that have been there through this thing, if the opportunity was there, like we talked about, for me to be able to pursue my dreams and start my major-league career, then that’s what we were going to do.''
The assigned value to his draft slot is $2,045,400. Rays scouting director Rob Metzler said nothing was official yet but the team was optimistic of a signing. “We’re on a course for that to happen,’’ Metzler said. “There’s logistics and until they’ve signed on the dotted line we don’t get too far into specifics.’’
Of the eight players the Rays took in rounds 3-10 on Tuesday, five were college pitchers, though not by any plan, Metzler said. Lefty Ben Brecht (fifth round, UC-Santa Barbara), Nathan Wiles (eighth, Oklahoma) and Evan McKendry (ninth, Miami) were all weekend starters. Colby White (sixth round) was a reliever for Mississippi State.
Most intriguing may be Duke’s Graeme Stinson, a fourth-round choice who missed time and had a notable dropoff in performance this season for what Metzler said were “medical issues” but wouldn’t specify. Stinson was ranked the 70th best draft prospect by mlb.com and 84th by Baseball America; the Rays took him 128th.
“We’re optimistic about chances to get him healthy and get him back to the stuff we saw last summer (with Team USA),’’ Metzler said. “We thought it was excellent risk/reward.’’
Metzler said they were “excited” to start the second day using their third-round pick on centerfielder Shane Sasaki, who topped the draft class in Hawaii after hitting .565 as a senior at Iolani High. “He’s somebody we started work on last summer,’’ Metzler said. “Somebody we were thrilled to get in that spot.’’
Right-hander Seth Johnson, who the Rays took at No. 40 from Campbell University, also seems eager to get his started, having switched from playing shortstop in high school and junior college to pitching this season, clocking at 98 mph and striking out 81 in 66 1/3 innings, though still needing work on his secondary pitches.
Though getting attention recently from scouts, Johnson said, "If a year ago you would’ve told me I’d have been picked this high I would’ve told you were the craziest person on the planet.'' His draft slot value is $1,856,700.
Goss said it was “kind of surprising" to be taken by the Rays since other teams had expressed more interest, called the opportunity to develop in the Rays pitching-rich environment "real exciting,'' sees himself as a power pitcher in the mold of Justin Verlander, and hopes to get to the majors as quick as possible.
Goss has already pitched at the Trop, having participated in a Perfect Game showcase event last summer, and said the chance to get back there as a pro was “a blessing."
Also, he knows Rays pitching prospect Shane Baz, who was acquired last season from Pittsburgh, and got a text from him this morning.
The draft continues and concludes Wednesday with rounds 11-40.