All things considered, Rays ‘in a good spot’ for next week’s draft

With no games to scout since mid-March, and only five rounds of picks, the work and discussions have been different.
Rays amateur scouting director Rob Metzler discussed the upcoming draft on a Zoom media call Wednesday.
Rays amateur scouting director Rob Metzler discussed the upcoming draft on a Zoom media call Wednesday. [ MARC TOPKIN | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published June 3, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — When games will be played — if the season comes back — remains a major topic of conversation and consternation among Major League Baseball owners, officials and players.

But on June 10-11 there will be a draft — albeit one abbreviated to five rounds — and the Rays are about as ready as they can be at this point.

“I think we’re in a good spot," amateur scouting director Rob Metzler said Wednesday in a Zoom media call.

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As in any year, not picking until 24th means there is much the Rays don’t know about who will be available for the first of their two picks (also No. 37, an additional competitive balance round selection ) on Day 1 of the two-night ESPN-televised event; the team has six picks overall.

Amplifying the challenge this year is the lack of fresh scouting reports and information on college and high school players that teams haven’t seen play or work out since at least the mid-March coronavirus shutdown.

Metzler said their crew of scouts, supervisors, data analysts and executives made the best of it.

“We were able to get in front of some things in terms of systematic feedback," he said. “Our staff, they just did an awesome job during the closed period, quarantine period, in terms of watching video, talking to each other, looking at other perspectives, other evaluations. They did a great job in terms of really getting to understand the talent class, the talent class which is no longer moving.

“Three months of activity that we’d be trying to process didn’t happen. It’s been for the most part stable since March 12, so that gave us a chance to get ahead a little bit and be a little bit more prepared coming into draft meetings."

Not that that means they have any idea who they actually will pick.

Related: Rays’ draft plans uncertain well beyond who they might pick

A quick glance through the four most popular mock drafts illustrates that with four different guesses, from Texas prep right-hander Jerred Kelley ( to Rice right-hander Bryce Jarvis (The Athletic) to Miami righty Slade Cecconi (ESPN) to North Carolina first baseman Aaron Sabato (Baseball America).

“Life would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to build a whole board and we just knew what our choices were going to be," Metzler joked.

But given all the other uncertainty in their industry, they’re excited to be trying to figure out something that is actually scheduled to happen.

“We’re still, with a week to go, in the stage where it’s very normal, it’s awesome to have baseball conversations, baseball debate, varying baseball opinions bouncing back and forth to try to come to resolution how these players are going to be ranked," Metzler said.

“I think we’re probably in a pretty normal spot for a week out. Don’t have it all resolved for sure. We’re not going to have all the answers on draft night on how these all play out. But we’ll at least have our view, everybody’s viewpoints accounted for, and have our decisions how we’re going to place them."

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Rays officials also are spending time looking at players who, if not among the 160 drafted, can be signed for $20,000 bonuses by any team in what could amount to a college recruiting style pitch.