For big-league executives such as Rob Metzler, the 2021 All-Star break has more of a breakneck feel.
Even as the Rays’ senior director of amateur scouting was wrapping up the 2021 draft with 10 picks Tuesday, Tropicana Field groundskeepers were preparing the park for the five-day Perfect Game National Showcase starting Wednesday. Other USA Baseball events will follow. There’s also the Cape Cod League to monitor, not to mention the Aug. 1 signing deadline for draftees.
“I told everybody to make sure to take some time in late August or Labor Day to regroup,” Metzler said, “because it’s a marathon.”
On Tuesday, Metzler and his staff completed arguably the most critical stretch of this marathon and seemed pleased with the strides they made.
Unlike the draft’s outset, when the Rays used their first six picks on position players, Tuesday’s crop yielded eight right-handed pitchers — and a potential power-hitting steal.
Their first choice Tuesday, UCLA right-hander Sean Mullen, had been on Tampa Bay’s radar for years. Employed as both a starter and reliever in 2021, Mullen used his cutter (clocked in the high 80s) to post a 9-1 record, 3.39 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. In 77 innings, the Bakersfield, Calif., native struck out 89.
“We really like his athleticism and competitiveness. ... Those are the two ingredients we value,” Metzler said. “He’s somebody we’ve scouted since high school, but I think it’s been a pretty steady progression.”
Two rounds later, the Rays selected 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wake Forest first baseman Bobby Seymour, the 2019 ACC Player of the Year. Erasing any lingering questions about his power, Seymour led the Demon Deacons in batting average (.302), home runs (21), RBI (55), slugging percentage (.709), hits (54) and walks (28) in 2021.
Metzler even suggested Seymour might already be a Ray had the pandemic-shortened 2020 draft spanned longer than five rounds.
“He was a big prospect and a big ACC bat for quite some time,” Metzler said. “I think it’s fair to say that he was a casualty of the five-round draft last year.”
The Rays snagged six more right-handers before the draft ended. The only physical question mark of the bunch is 14th-round pick Antonio Menendez, Seymour’s teammate at Wake Forest.
Initially projected as a Friday or Saturday starter in 2021, Menendez (6-4, 215) missed the season with an elbow injury. His role will be determined upon completion of his rehab, according to Metzler.
“I think our feeling was that (the draft) was a positive outcome,” Metzler said. “It never goes to script, but there wasn’t any crazy twists or turns.”
Also on Tuesday:
* Like the Bucs, the Rays had the final selection of the draft. The baseball version of Mr. Irrelevant, Texas Southern pitcher/outfielder Kam Fields, spent parts of three seasons at Texas before transferring prior to the 2021 season. A two-sport athlete at Lakeview Centennial High in Garland, Texas, Fields was a prep quarterback.
* Though prosperous offensively (.353, 10 home runs, 42 RBI) this past season at College of Southern Nevada, 12th-round pick Jonny Cuevas will be employed as a pitcher with the Rays, Metzler said. The 6-3 right-hander went 10-4 with a 3.26 ERA (and 1.35 WHIP) in 2021, striking out 109 in 80 innings.
* Fifteenth-round pick Conor Angel, the 2020 opening-night starter for Louisiana (formerly Louisiana Lafayette), appeared in only seven games this past season (0-1, 6.48 ERA, one start) before opting out to focus on the draft. “His career at ULL probably didn’t go as they or he would’ve liked,” Metzler said, “but we like the ingredients and like the chance for his development with us in the Rays organization.”
Rays draft picks
Rd. No. Pos. Player, school
Round 1 (28th): SS Carson Williams, Torrey Pines (Calif.) High
Round 1-c (34th): INF Cooper Kinney, Baylor (Tenn.) High
Round 2 (63rd): 1B Kyle Manzardo, Washington State
Round 3 (100th): SS Ryan Spikes, Parkview (Ga.) High
Round 4: (130th) OF/INF Dru Baker, Texas Tech
Round 5: (161st) OF Mason Auer, San Jacinto (Texas) College North 2- way
Round 6 (191st): LHP Mason Montgomery, Texas Tech
Round 7 (221st): RHP Logan Workman, Lee (Tenn.) University
Round 8 (251st): LHP Patrick Wicklander, Arkansas
Round 9 (281st): LHP Alex Ayala Jr., Florida SouthWestern State College
Round 10 (311th): RHP Austin Vernon, North Carolina Central
Round 11 (341st): RHP Sean Mullen, UCLA
Round 12 (371st): RHP Jonny Cuevas, College of Southern Nevada
Round 13 (401st): 1B Bobby Seymour, Wake Forest
Round 14 (431st): RHP Antonio Menendez, Wake Forest
Round 15 (461st): RHP Conor Angel, Louisiana-Lafayette
Round 16 (491st): RHP Ian Leatherman, Central Michigan
Round 17 (521st): RHP Conor Dryer, Central Missouri
Round 18 (551st): C Kenny Piper, Columbia (Mo.) College
Round 19 (581st): RHP Sean Hunley, Tennessee
Round 20 (611th): RHP Kamron Fields, Texas Southern
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