Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Decision Looms for the Rays

The Rays have the number pick in the upcoming MLB Amateur draft that will be held on June 7th and 8th. The Rays have the luxury of knowing that their man will be there, they just may not be sure who that is. The players who are rumored to catch the Rays eye are David Price, Matt Weiters, and Josh Vitters. While I can see the Rays taking either Price or Weiters, I just do not see them taking Vitters. Vitters is a great 3B prospect, but the Rays are set at 3B and Vitters coming out of High School would take a while to get up to the big club. Price seems to make the most sense for the Rays since their one glaring problem is pitching, but with the arms they have now in the minors it would not surprise me if they went out and got Weiters, who is considered to be the best position player in the draft. The Rays may also be weary of taking another college pitcher in the first round, as their luck with first round college pitchers has not been the best.

Price is a 6-5 left hander who has been looked at as the consensus number 1 pick all year and his past performances show why. Prices numbers are phenomenal and have been his whole career. In 2006 Price had his "worst" college season going 9-5 with a 4.16 ERA, 155 strikeouts in 110.1 innings pitched with only 43 walks. Price followed that up with an outstanding performance for the US National team leading them to a Gold medal in Cuba. Price went 5-1 with a .20 ERA, with 61 strikeouts in 44 innings and while only walking 7. With Price leading the way Vanderbilt entered the 2007 season as a top program in the country. Price led the Commodores to the SEC Title going 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA. Price pitched 133.1 innings and struck out 194 while only walking 31. As you can see by his numbers, Price has lived up to the billing, but the number of innings may make the Rays a little weary. Price is a big strong kid with good movement on his fastball, a good slider, nice change-up and has great command. Price has the power and control you look for and is a left hander. Also, the Rays have had problems with character guys from their first round pick, but Price does not carry this risk. Anyone who is asked about Price talks about how great of a young man he is and how he prepares for a game and is a great leader.

Wieters is considered the best position player in the draft and can play not only Catcher and First Base, but also was a good pitcher for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Weiters is a big strong kid with a great arm, but needs to work on his footwork and blocking skills. In three years in College Weiters average never ended below .355 and he never had less than 10 home runs in a season. Weiters is a patient hitter and knows how to work the count to get himself into better position to be effective offensively. Weiters was a good relief pitcher for Georgia Tech averaging 5 saves a season and about a 3/1 strikeout to walk ration. Weiters obviously won't be pitching in the big leagues, but it does show his arm strength and accuracy he has behind the plate that will help him catching. His familiarity with pitching will also help him with his ability to call the game from behind the plate and relate to the pitcher. Right now Weiters is still a work in progress defensively, but with some time in the minors he could be a very solid defensive catcher to go along with his great offensive presence. If the Rays don't take Weiters number 1 overall he will most likely go to the Royals number 2 overall.
Now the Rays most glaring need is and always has been Pitching and so Price looks like the obvious choice. Price could be ready to come up to the Rays come the middle of the 2008 season and would make a great addition to the rotation with Kamir, Shields, Niemann and others. Weiters is an interesting pick for the Rays also though because they have never had that offensive minded catcher who can also play some defense. Navarro is just not what the the Rays expected and Riggans has not been healthy enough to show the Rays much after he was called up and given a shot. The Rays do have an interesting prospect in Jaso who is tearing the cover off the ball in Montgomery right now and also has thrown out over 50% of the runners who have stolen on him. The emergence of Jaso as a legitimate prospect may have weighed in on the Rays decision.
I think the best choice for the Rays is to take Price and add him to the other great young arms that we have, but I would understand if they took Wieters. A couple years ago the Twins were "forced" to take Joe Mauer because a college pitcher named Mark Prior was too expensive to sign. I guarantee no one on the Twins is regretting that decision at this moment. Here the "signability" issues may be switched as Weiters is represented by Boras, but there is precedent for a catcher to be taken above a pitcher and turn out better. If Weiters is the next Mauer i think you have to take him, but I think Price addresses a need for the Rays and he is simply too talented to pass up on. From what i am hearing the Rays will be taking David Price on Thursday, but either way I will be a happy man.

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