Rays hope they picked power gem in Dacey

Rays hope they picked power gem in Dacey

ST. PETERSBURG -- Hoping to find a power source, the Rays selected Richmond third baseman Matt Dacey in the 21st round of the 2015 Draft.

"We hope he can make a difference because of the bat and the power, and at that point in the Draft, you look up at the board and if there are guys who stick out, you take a chance," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said.

Richmond baseball coach Tracy Woodson knows a little bit about what a power hitter should look like having spent parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers and Cardinals.

"Dacey's big tool is power," Woodson said. "That's one of the toughest things to draft. Because if he doesn't hit for power then you've completely missed on a Draft pick. But you watch him in batting practice. He's got juice in the bat and he's left-handed. Power is his thing. He's got power."

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Dacey, 21, caught everyone's attention during the 2014 TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby when he came in third after putting on a show at TD Ameritrade Park.

Dacey, who stands 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, played third for the Spiders because he was the most athletic of a trio earmarked for third, first and DH, but Woodson allowed that most scouts have told him Dacey projects more as a first baseman/left fielder than a third baseman. He has a strong arm with limited range.

Having spent time in the Major Leagues, Woodson understands the nature of the beast. And getting to the big leagues -- then succeeding there -- comes down to adjustments. Those who can adjust remain, those who can't, don't.

"I was in pro ball for 22 years," Woodson said. "I played for 14 and managed for eight. We talk about it a lot among my staff. There are so many guys who throw so hard now. You never saw five guys in a bullpen that were 95 to 98 mph. So that's going to be his biggest thing. How is he going to stack up against guys who are throwing that hard?"

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Dacey hit .313 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2015, which showed improvements across the board, including a rise in his average of almost 50 points. So he's already demonstrated an ability to adjust.

"He jumped up, hit .268 last year, then hit .313 this year," Woodson said. "So it got better. He's got to learn to go the other way a little bit, because if he gets hot it's unreal. But he gets pull-happy at times. He'll learn. He works at it. He hits all the time. He's a good kid and he wants to do well."

Harrison said the Rays scouts who saw him "were adamant about selecting him and seeing if we could get him in the organization."

"That was an opportunity at the point to grab a bat that stuck out for us," Harrison said. "Now we've got him and hopefully we can get him signed.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.