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Rays deciding between two for top pick

Rays narrow down first pick options

BOSTON -- The Rays select first in today's 2008 First-Year Player Draft and their list has been pared down to two: Tim Beckham and Buster Posey.

By picking first, the Rays will become the first team in the history of the Draft to select first for two consecutive years. In years past, this was not possible because the top pick alternated between the team with the worst record in each league.

Rays scouts and baseball personnel continued to meet Wednesday hoping to reach a decision.

"We're excited about the caliber of player we're going to add to the organization," said Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations. "Talent-wise and makeup-wise, the guy we are picking has a chance to be an impact player in the Major Leagues."

Beckham is a high school shortstop from Griffin, Ga. Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison called him "a really good player at a premium position."

"Middle-of-the-field player, very good athlete, an advanced bat," Harrison said. "Has a real good awareness on the field. He plays the game with a great deal of enthusiasm. And then when you spend time with him away from the field he's the same guy. He's a fun guy to be around."

Beckham stands 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, which lends him the physical stature to play most positions. Harrison said Beckham would "absolutely" be a shortstop in the Rays' organization. A five-tool player, he is said to have the prerequisite range to remain at the position.

While Beckham is said to have a good feel for the game, he has some mechanical flaws to his swing. Nevertheless, he still has excellent bat speed. And though he's not a finished product, he has the kind of high ceiling that makes him extremely attractive.

Harrison goes way back with Posey, who is a catcher at Florida State University.

"Good player at a premium position," Harrison said. "He's always been a good player. I go back to reports when he was a high school player. And the one thing that sticks out is he's a good baseball player."

While Harrison said Posey -- who went to FSU as a shortstop -- has always been a baseball player, he allows that he's "just stepped it up."

"He's continued to get better," Harrison said. "You like to see that with these guys, each year get better. He's a conversion player, he's only been catching four years. And the way he's taken to it is really exceptional. And he swung the bat better this year than anybody would have given him credit for. He's a good player at a premium position."

Foremost, Posey is a premium player at a position at which the organization is somewhat thin. He is an advanced hitter with plate discipline, gap power and potential to become a 10-15 home run hitter. Given the transition he made from shortstop to catcher, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is more athletic then most backstops. He does not run well, but is said to have baseball player instincts running the bases.

Harrison feels good about Posey developing into a smart catcher, too.

"I can't address his ability to call a game because almost without exception, amateur catchers come to us with very little game-calling experience," Harrison said. "They all have to look in the dugout. We've talked to him about it and we've talked to the coaches at Florida State. They do let him have some leeway there. My guess is he'll be pretty good [at calling a game] because he's such a good baseball player. He's a bright guy. I believe that he has a good feel for the game and I believe that will equate to him being able to handle a pitching staff and understand these individual pitchers and do a good job that way."

No matter which player the Rays select today, they have made clear their stance on going with a player due to a positional need as opposed to talent.

"For us it is still talent, because I think if you look back two years ago and you look at the needs of the organization, they've changed dramatically in two years," Friedman said. "For us, it is all about talent, because if by chance you have something, you never want to take someone with the idea that you would trade them, but if you take the best player available either something opens up on your Major League team or you can go out there and make a move to add someone somewhere else. It really just gets back to taking the most talented player that you feel like fits you, fits your team. "

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

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