Rays readying to make most of Draft bounty

Rays readying to make most of Draft bounty

Rays readying to make most of Draft bounty
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are the talk of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Not because they have the top pick -- which used to come to the team as regularly as 100-loss seasons -- but rather because of the number of picks the club will have in the early portion of the Draft.

Tampa Bay has a record 12 of the first 89 selections and 10 of the first 60. The dozen picks include three in the first round, seven in the compensation round and two in the second round. Overall, the Rays can make 60 selections, which will be the most by a team since the Draft was restricted to 50 rounds in 1998.

"I think any guy in my position, or any organization, would tell you they'd love to be in this position any year," said director of scouting R.J. Harrison. "It's an opportunity to add depth, replenish your resources. And it's more opportunities to get big leaguers."

Tampa Bay won't make its first pick until No. 24, which came as compensation from Boston for losing Carl Crawford as a Type A free agent. After that, the club will make back-to-back picks at Nos. 31 and 32.

Draft Central

In addition to the 24th selection, the Rays received the 31st, 38th, 41st, 42nd, 52nd, 56th, 59th, 60th and 75th overall picks thanks to free-agent compensation.

This is just the second time in club history Tampa Bay will have extra picks. In 2010, it had two first-round picks and six of the first 100 selections: Nos. 17, 31, 42, 66, 79 and 98.

"Last year was the closest thing we've had to this," Harrison said. "That was the first year we had any extra picks. It's a different mindset."

The 2011 First-Year Player Draft will be held June 6-8 in Secaucus, N.J. Sixty picks, encompassing the first and supplemental rounds, will be made the first night. The Draft will continue on June 7 with Rounds 2-30 and June 8 will feature Rounds 31-50.

Having so many high picks begs the question about whether the team can afford to sign such a large number of players.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman addressed that question.

"We have planned in advance for this Draft and the expected financial outlay for this many players in the top of the Draft," Friedman said. "We will approach it no differently than we have in the past, and we should have no issues signing the guys that genuinely want to start their professional careers."

Tampa Bay's first 12 selections
2011 First-Year Player Draft
No. 24 -- From Red Sox for Carl Crawford, Type A
No. 31 -- From Yankees for Rafael Soriano, Type A
No. 32 -- Rays' own first-round pick
No. 38 -- Compensation for Soriano
No. 41 -- Compensation for Crawford
No. 42 -- Compensation for Grant Balfour, Type A, signing with A's.
No. 52 -- Compensation for Brad Hawpe, Type B, signing with Padres
No. 56 -- Compensation for Joaquin Benoit, Type B, signing with Tigers
No. 59 -- Compensation for Randy Choate, Type B, signing with Marlins
No. 60 -- Compensation for Chad Qualls, Type B, signing with Padres
No. 75 -- From A's for Balfour
No 89 -- Rays' own second-round pick

In the past, the Rays have been prominent at the top of the Draft, making David Price, Delmon Young, B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria some of their top picks.

"It's different than years gone by," Harrison said. "I have guys ask me, 'Who would you pick if you had a pick at the top of the Draft this year?' And I can only play fantasy baseball, because I'm not scouting those guys at the top the same way as I would be if we were picking up there."

Thus for Harrison and his scouting staff, they must allocate their resources different in preparation for this year's Draft.

"We try to cast a net of probably 100 players we're trying to get multiple looks at so we can make good decisions," Harrison said, "or the most-informed decisions we can make with those 10-12 picks in the first couple of rounds."

Harrison noted that the strength of the Draft will dictate the players the Rays select -- not organizational weaknesses.

"If you're weak at a certain position, if that particular Draft is weak in that position, it doesn't make any sense to manufacture something there," Harrison said. "You can't try to make something out of something that's not there. I think you have to look at the strength of each particular Draft and go from there.

"Every year, the applicant pool changes. Some years there's more depth with position players. Some years there's more depth with pitchers. It changes every year. The one thing that's a certainty is that the dynamics of the Draft change every year as far as who's in it and what's in it."

When asked if 2011 is a good year to have a lot of high picks, Harrison said that any year is a good year to have a lot of high picks.

"Baseball is such that you try to accumulate as many resources as you can," Harrison said. "Certainly, if we had a crystal ball to know which guys were going to be successful and which guys weren't, we wouldn't take the guys that weren't going to be successful."

Harrison cited the high attrition rate of young players for making the influx of numerous players into any organization a necessity.

"It's a tough business," Harrison said. "You're fighting through the Minor Leagues. So you're trying to figure [out] which ones are going to stay healthy? Which ones have the makeup? We do everything we can to try and hedge our bets on that. But we don't know what's going to happen until we get them out there playing."

Power arms are the strength of this year's Draft, according to Harrison.

"There are a lot of power arms," Harrison said. "And they're coming in all shapes and sizes. Some of them have rough deliveries and some of them are 5-foot-10 right-handers. But this is the most guys I've ever seen who are throwing mid-90s.

"The last three days [I] have seen three college guys out of bullpens, throwing at least 94 mph. I had a run earlier in the year when in 10 days I saw eight guys who hit 95 or better. A lot of these guys aren't particularly high Draft picks. They don't have a breaking pitch in place and they're a little rough. But I've never seen this many guys run the radar up as high as I have this year."

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