ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays took a shortstop with their first pick in the draft Sunday night.
Of course they did. They collect them like baseball cards.
And in drafting Carson Williams — a smooth fielder and impressive hitter from Torrey Pines High in San Diego — with the No. 28 overall pick, the Rays feel they just added another prized addition to their stash.
With the No. 34 pick, the Rays chose another offensively strong prep player, taking second/third baseman Cooper Kinney from Baylor High in Chattanooga, Tenn. The draft continues with Rounds 2-10 on Monday and 11-20 on Tuesday.
So can an organization, especially one that just promoted 20-year-old Wander Franco atop an impressive list, have too many shortstop prospects?
“No,’' said Rob Metzler, the Rays’ senior director of amateur scouting. “Happy to answer. No. In our view, I think it’s obvious by how we’ve acted within the draft, within the international market, within the trade market, it’s something that if we have somebody with that kind of defensive ability and that kind of well-rounded prospect, we think the range of outcomes is really positive, and the chance to make an impact on the organization is multiplied.
“If having too many talented shortstops is a problem, we’re happy to have (it) in this organization.’'
The Rays didn’t get to pick until No. 28, as the draft order is set up in reverse order of regular-season finish the previous season. That comes after picking 22nd in 2019 and 24th in 2020, a process that principal owner Stuart Sternberg said was unfair — to put it mildly — preferring a system more weighted by revenues and not picking behind larger-payroll opponents such as the Red Sox and Yankees.
“The structure of the amateur draft is an absolute disgrace and an abomination,’' Sternberg said Sunday. “We and other lower-revenue teams continue to get severely penalized for our successes.’'
Both players drafted Sunday said they are planning to sign. The slot value for Williams, who has a college commitment to Cal, is $2,493,900. It’s $2,148,100 for Kinney, who has an offer from South Carolina. The Rays have a total draft pool of $7,955,800.
Williams, 18, said he was “ecstatic” to be taken by the Rays. “I love the organization, love the way they run things and love all the guys in the system,’' he said. “I couldn’t be more happy.’'
As for joining an organization that, per mlb.com, has 10 shortstops among its top 30 prospects?
“I’m excited to be in the system,’' he said. “And I think it’s a compliment at the end of the day.’'
Metzler said that Williams — who will be used solely as a position player despite his pitching prowess — appealed to them by how he got better, bigger (growing 2 inches) and stronger over the past year at the plate. As a senior he hit .495 with 10 doubles, 11 home runs, 34 steals, 35 RBIs and a 1.577 OPS in 21 games.
“He’s a player who I can say tons of great things about him,” Metzler said. “But I think what I’d highlight is just how every time from last summer, last fall, through this spring, he has consistently gotten better. He’s a player who’s put a ton of work into his ability and has a ton of ability, and has made incredible strides from last summer until now.’'
Kinney, whose father is a high school coach, is admittedly a more advanced hitter than defender, a lefty swinger who hit .480 with 19 doubles, 10 homers, 50 RBIs and a 1.529 OPS in 31 games as a senior. Kinney impressed during a workout at Tropicana Field last week, Metzler noting his power to all fields and his character.
“I feel like I have a pretty high baseball IQ, and I feel like I’m a pretty mature hitter in the box,’' Kinney said. “I’m a pretty versatile player on defense.’'
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.