SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 07: MLB commissioner Bud Selig speaks during the MLB First Year Player Draft on June 7, 2010 held in Studio 42 at the MLB Network in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Rays Sign All 10 First Round Picks, Including Pitcher Taylor Guerrieri

The Rays have been aggressive in signing their top draft picks, already locking up half the players they selected in the first round.

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Rays Sign 5 Of 10 First Round Picks, Including Shortstop Jake Hager

The Tampa Bay Rays had an impressive haul in this past year’s MLB draft, selecting 12 out of the top 100 players taken in the draft. As a result of all the free agents they lost this past offseason, the Rays had 10 first round draft picks and they made the most of their collection of picks, selecting a wide range of players and balancing upside with signability.

With short season ball just getting underway, the Rays seem to be hurrying to sign as many of their top draft picks as possible. Here are all the players that the Rays have signed thus far, courtesy of Rays Prospects:

Pick #32 — SS Jake Hager
Pick #42 — RHP Jeff Ames
Pick #52 — LHP Blake Snell
Pick #56 — OF Kes Carter
Pick #60 — OF James Harris, Jr.

These signing have been trickling in over the last week or so, and the news about Jake Hager signing was just released today. All in all, these picks have so far cost the Rays only $3.4 million, which is around $300 thousand less than slot. The Rays have gone over slot to sign a few of these picks, like Jake Hager, but for the most part they have been able to strike conservative deals with these players.

The rays have also signed second-round pick Granden Goetzman, a high school outfielder that is very highly thought of. He signed for slightly more than slot, getting $490 thousand.

For more analysis and coverage of the Rays’ 2011 draft picks, follow DRaysBay and Rays Prospects.

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Rays Select Riccio Torrez, Jonathan Davis In Fourth And Fifth Rounds

After selecting 14 players in the first three rounds of the MLB Draft, the Rays settled back and diversified a bit late in the draft. With their fourth and fifth round picks, they took two third basemen: Riccio Torrez and Johnny Davis.

Here’s Baseball America’s analysis on Torrez:

He won over scouts because he can do a little bit of everything and has a long track record of performance. Torrez has a line drive swing, with the chance for more power down the road. He profiles best at third base, or could wind up being a utility player because he’s agile enough to play second base or shortstop in a pinch.

And now some of their thoughts on Davis:

At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, third baseman J.D. Davis is a good hitter with a lot of strength and above-average power. His swing is more about strength than pure bat speed, which concerns some scouts. He also has a stocky body with a thick lower half and will have to watch his conditioning as he gets older. He is already seen as a baseclogger.

As you get late in the draft, there are fewer and fewer sure picks. Both these players look to have good upside, and only time will tell on how well they will develop. Their skill sets — toolsy, versatile — is exactly what the Rays have been known to target, so it’s no real surprise that the Rays targeted them.

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Rays Select Johnny Eierman In Third Round

With their 13th pick of the MLB Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays took Johnn Eirman — a shortstop out of Missouri. While Eirman may not stick in the infield, he has a lot of upside and profiles well as a centerfielder.

Here’s DRaysBay’s analysis on Eierman:

Johnny Eierman (MO) and Senquez Golson (MS) are your typical high school, raw, toolsy outfielders. Eirman is a great athlete with plus footspeed. He has a quick right-handed bat that projects to hit for power. His issues are primarily due a lack of polish. His approach is poor and he’s struggled against better pitching. He can get too aggressive in games, but he’s shown big talent in batting practice and drills.

And now some of Baseball America’s thoughts on him:

Eierman has well above-average bat speed to match hit foot speed, though he’ll have to make adjustments against better pitching. He has a long righthanded stroke with an inconsistent load, and he’s too aggressive at the plate. If he can iron out his swing, he could be an average hitter with plus power. A shortstop for his high school team coached by his father John, Eierman won’t stay in the infield in pro ball. He lacks the hands and actions for second base, and his average arm may not be enough for third. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has the tools to become a solid center fielder.

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Rays Select Granden Goetzman, Lenny Linsky In Second Round

The Rays had a busy day yesterday, selecting 10 players within the first 60 picks of the MLB Draft. Not only that, but they had two picks coming up in the second round, allowing them to sneak yet one more player away from all the other teams.

With those two picks, the Rays selected outfielder Granden Goetzman and closer Lenny Linske.

Here’s DRaysBay’s analysis on Goetzman:

Projecting future power in high school prospects is hard even when they show it in games. Projecting it solely off of perceived athleticism and bat speed can get tricky. While generally less refined than their college counterparts, more toolsy high school draft prospects can end up with even higher upside. This group is the home of young players that look like they should excel at many facets of the game. The first two, Granden Goetzman (Palmetto, FL) and Matt Dean (TX) play short for their high school teams, though neither look like they’ll stick. Goetzman garners Jayson Werth comps because of his smooth right-handed stroke that looks like it will develop considerable power. His size, athleticism, arm, and future position bolster the Werth comps as he should be a plus defender in right that might be able to handle center.

And now Baseball America’s thoughts on Linsky:

Linsky was a decent prospect coming out of high school—though he wasn’t drafted—but he has blossomed at Hawaii. He has improved each year and was nearly unhittable this spring, helping the Rainbows finish first in the Western Athletic Conference for the first time since 1992. His fastball has incredible sink, even at 92-94 mph, and he can run it up to 96 from a low three-quarters arm slot. Hitters frequently swing over his fastball, and he has a dominating slider that can get as high as 89 mph. One scout joked that hitters need a shovel if they want to elevate the ball against Linsky. He allowed just three extra-base hits during the regular season—all doubles.

Both players sound like excellent selections by the Rays, and add to their already deep and diversified draft selections. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a Rays fan.

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2011 MLB Draft, First Round: Tampa Bay Rays Results

The MLB Draft moved quickly last night and we posted a lot of scouting reports here on SB Nation Tampa Bay, so it was easy to get lost within the piles and piles of writing. Wait, who got drafted again? Who's that player? What position does he play? The Rays drafted so many names, it's difficult to keep track of it all.

So to help out, here's a quick summary of the Rays 10 first-round picks in the 2011 Draft:

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B.A. = Baseball America

It's pretty obvious to tell that the Rays reached a lot in the middle section of the draft. They definitely got good deals on the bookends -- even though Harris isn't ranked within BA's top 200, Goldstein is very high on him -- but some of those middle picks leave you scratching your head. Were they sign-able guys, and the Rays tried to balance reaching for top talent with cheaper players? Or are the Rays simply much higher on these players than other places? Baseball America, while excellent, is far from infallible - it's entirely possible the Rays saw things in these players that they believed would case them to be underrated by most people.

It's impossible to tell at this point how any of these picks will turn out, so it's worth remembering that all these picks are essentially crapshoots. While a handful of them may work out, the vast majority of them probably won't -- that's just the reality of draft picks, even first round picks. So even if the Rays gambled with some players tonight, it may work out in the end that their luck works out and these players succeed -- who knows?

At the very least, the Rays got two great picks in Taylor Guerrieri and Mikie Mahtook. I hesitate to call this draft great, but considering the amount of picks the Rays had, they could afford to take some gambles. Now we'll just have to see how many of them pan out.

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Tampa Bay Rays Finish First Round With Picks #52, 56, 59, and 60

The final four picks of the Rays' ten are in. Surprises include no teams drafting OF Josh Bell or LHP Dale Norris, highschoolers projected as 15th and 16th overall. 

#52: Blake Snell, LHP

Snell is a slender pitcher with a major-legue ready velocity at 94 mph. A high school graduate, but home schooled and still ineligible for his college commitment to Washington.

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From Baseball America:

Snell is a long and lean 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, but he has narrow, sloping shoulders and may always be skinny, and scouts don't see anywhere to put a lot of added weight on his frame. His fastball sits between 88-92 mph, and he has touched 94 this season. While that grades out as an average fastball, scouts question whether he'll be able to maintain that velocity over a full minor league season because of his frame. His curveball and changeup are just average at best.

Snell has performed well this season and wasn't fazed when there were 40-50 scouts behind the backstop. Snell was home schooled until this year and was committed to Washington's banner class, but he has not yet qualified academically, which may make him more signable. Because of his signability, his velocity and how well he has performed in front of crosscheckers, Snell could get popped as high as the supplemental first round, though on pure talent he would probably go a few rounds later.

#56: Kes Carter, OF

A left handed hitter with a smooth swing and great discipline at the plate. Carter is a college outfielder from Western Kentucky and projects as a five tool player. He adds a nice mix to the high upside high schoolers taken early and fits a Rays mindset of high tool players with great potential getting on base.

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From Baseball America: 51st overall

An athletic 6-foot-2, 205-pounder... He still needs to fine-tune his timing at the plate and turn on balls more frequently. He has slightly above-average speed that plays up on the bases and in center field, as well as a solid arm for the position. The biggest issues with Carter are his struggles against lefthanded pitching and his health. He injured his hip in the Coastal Plain League last summer, sat out during fall practice and missed time this spring with a calf strain. Nevertheless, he shouldn't last past the second round.

#59: Grayson Garvin, LHP

SEC pitcher of the year, he finished the year at Vanderbilt (David Price's alma mater) with a 13-1 record. He offsets the young talent drafted early as a mature left handed pitcher that could rise quickly in the farm system. 

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From Baseball America: 56th overall

Garvin has performed as well as any Division I pitcher over the last calendar year. He was the Cape Cod League's ERA champion last summer at 5-0, 0.74 with 37 strikeouts in 37 innings. In the spring, he was 11-1, 2.08 and was a perfect 9-0 in Southeastern Conference play until his last start of the regular season. He was named SEC pitcher of the year.

Garvin's performance stems from his size, solid stuff and ability to pitch off his fastball. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, he gets a good angle on his fastball, pitching downhill, coming inside effectively at 90-92 mph and reaching 94-95 on occasion. His fastball velocity should be a tick above-average as a pro, and he uses his fastball well to set up his solid-average changeup, which has solid fade when he turns it over. His slurvy slider is below-average and rarely generates swings and misses, which limits his upside for many scouts, and he may wind up throwing more of a cutter eventually. Garvin is considered a safe pick, and his summer performance could push him into the first or supplemental first round despite his short breaking ball.

#60: James Harris Jr., OF

The tenth pick is another high schooler, uncommitted to a university. He was not ranked within the top 200 prospects and a big surprise. 

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From Baseball America: 13th ranked in the state of California

6-foot-1, 175-pound athletic frame. He's raw and may need two years in Rookie ball, but he has huge upside. Harris is an explosive athlete. He is a well above-average runner, with a 37-inch vertical leap, and can fly on the bases and in center field. He has below-average arm strength, but enough for center field.

A righthanded hitter, Harris is patient at the plate, trying to get on base any way possible, and some scouts wonder if he's actually too passive. He also shows some raw power. Harris has not committed to a college, so he should be signable.

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Sixty Picks In, Yet No Vogelbach

With over sixty picks into the 2011 MLB Draft, Dan Vogelbach remains undrafted. The Florida native and high school first baseman packs a lot of power. Some experts predicted the Rays would go for Vogelbach with their pick at number 32, but instead he has gone undrafted so far.

Vogelbach brings with himself not only a lot strength, but a number of health concerns. Though he plays a generally undemanding position (first base), he is far from a model of fitness and may need to improve his shape to enjoy a long and successful career.

The MLB Draft is perhaps the most unpredictable of all the major sports drafts. So far, the only first baseman drafted has been C.J. Cron, the Utah product drafted by the LA Angels in the first round (17th overall). The Rays typically never draft according to organizational needs, preferring instead to take talent regardless of position, but few can deny the team’s lack of first base and power hitter depth.

Hopefully, Vogelbach or similar players will still be around for the later picks too.

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Tampa Bay Rays Select Brandon Martin (38th), Tyler Goeddel (#41) And Jeff Ames (#42)

The Supplemental round has begun.

#38: Brandon Martin, SS

Another high school player, Martin is a five tool infielder. He committed to Oregon State (an incredible program) and has worked out well for major league scouts. The Rays have ten picks in the first round – three have been high schoolers and two have been shortstops. Tampa Bay is pursuing athletes. 

Martin was connected heavily with the Yankees, but the Rays were able to swoop in before he dropped that far. 

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From Baseball America: 65th overall

[Martin] worked hard to add muscle in the offseason, and it paid dividends at the plate. Scouts used to question his bat, but now they praise his line-drive swing and bat speed…

He’s a good high-ball hitter with an aggressive approach, and he could mature into a solid-average hitter. An average runner, Martin is a fast-twitch athlete who can make highlight-reel plays at shortstop, though he has plenty of work to do there. He has good range and a strong arm with good carry, but he’s also an upright defender who tends to field balls deep and needs to smooth out his actions. He has a quiet personality but is a good teammate and a hard worker.

Martin can play nearly every position, so the SS label should not be taken seriously. Convincing him to skip out on a college career at Oregon State should prove very difficult. 

 

#41: Tyler Goeddel, 3B

A UCLA commit, the Rays have gone after another high school player. He is slender but projects to have power and durability. Goeddel is suspected to be an easy sign to the big leagues.

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From Baseball America: 89th overall

His brother, Erik, is a pitcher in the Mets organization, drafted out of UCLA last year. Tyler has a gangly and projectable 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame. He’s also a well above-average runner, athletic enough to play third base, though his speed may be best utilized in center field. Goeddel has above-average arm strength and shows intriguing tools at the plate. He takes aggressive swings with bat speed, and his bat head stays in the hitting zone for a long time. 

 

#42: Jeff Ames, RHP

Ames is a power pitcher with a high strikeout rate. He is committed to Oregon, but may be eager for the big leagues. He has been a followed talent for some time now, he was drafted by the Phillies in 2009 (46th round) and the Rockies in 2010 (30th round) but turned both selections down. Even still, this is another early pick for the Rays.

From: Baseball America: 119th overall

… sitting 92-95 mph and touching 97 in the West Coast League, ranking as the league’s No. 3 prospect. His stuff has held up this spring, as his fastball has been consistently in the mid-90s. His fastball has nasty, riding life and arm-side run. His breaking ball doesn’t always show the tight break scouts like to see, his changeup is just all right, and he does pitch with some effort, but he should go high enough this year to keep him away from his commitment to Oregon.

 

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Tampa Bay Rays Select Mikie Mahtook And Jake Hager With #31/32 Pick

The Tampa Bay Rays take their second and third picks of ten in the first round back-to-back with #31 and #32. Notably still available are OF Josh Bell and LHP Dale Norris. The draft room looks easy and relaxed. 

#31:  Mikie Mahtook, OF 

Originally drafted by the Marlins, he committed to LSU to follow family footsteps with the Tigers. He leads the SEC in stolen bases and batted .383 last year. Some call him a true center fielder and could have been drafted in the high teens had there not been a bank-run on pitchers. Mahtook could be a five tool player and Jim Callis was quick to point out, "College athletes with solid tools across the board and big performance in SEC usually don't last until No. 31." This was certainly a best-available pick.

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From Jonathan Mayo:

Mahtook wears the uniform well with an excellent baseball body. He's got very good bat speed and with good mechanics and looks like he should be an above-average hitter at the next level. He hits to all fields, with his power -- which should be Major League average -- coming mostly to the pull side. He'll overswing at times, though that may be more due to his aggressive style than his lack of approach at the plate...

Defensively, he's got the ability to play anywhere in the outfield. His arm is fringy average, but it's fairly accurate, and his all-out play and good instincts allow his average range to play up.

#32: Jake Hager, SS

Baseball America ranked this high school player outside the top 100. He's commited to Arizona State, but the Rays continue to take shots at high school phenom's, comfortable with spending picks on potential busts for the chance to land a player thought untouchable at such a young age. Jim Callis is not as supporting with this pick noting, "they could have waited a while on that one."

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Baseball America wrote:

Hager doesn't have one standout tool, but he can do a little bit of everything and always plays hard. He's an average runner but has nice actions at shortstop with an above-average arm. Hager is a good hitter and performed with wood at showcase events last fall. He has some pop, though he profiles as more of a gap hitter with average power. His tools play up because he's the prototypical baseball rat. He has passion for the game and is typically the dirtiest guy on the field, playing with toughness and energy. He's a leader on the field with good makeup, exactly what you want from a shortstop. He could go as high as the second round and if he doesn't sign, he'll head to Arizona State.

Across the board writers are skeptical at this pick. Such a high choice used on Hager is quite a vote of confidence from the Rays. The high leverage pick could have been used on a college player ready for the big leagues, but the Rays used their first and third of ten on high school athletes. Such confidence could sway the players to sign, but the risk is high for these picks to be a wash.

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2011 MLB Draft Results: Tampa Bay Rays Select Taylor Guerrieri With #24 Pick

With their first of ten picks in the first round, the Tampa Bay Rays have selected Taylor Guerrieri with the 24th overall pick. A high school player Guerrieri has a fastball, curve and change that can take him to the top of any team's rotation. A strike thrower and power pitcher, Tampa has huge upside if Guerrieri drops his commitment to South Carolina. There is certain risk in drafting a teenager, but as Keith Law notes: big G is a top ten or twelve on talent alone.

This is a deep draft for pitchers, and six of the last seven before Tampa's was an arm. The first pick of ten may not sound exciting, but even one pick would be worth notoriety. Here, the Rays started with a bang by choosing Guerrieri.

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Baseball America ranks Guerrieri tenth overall and had the following writeup:

Guerrieri will be one of the toughest calls for clubs in the first round. He has one of the draft's best arms... Guerrieri has a pitcher's body at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with long arms, coat-hanger shoulders and present strength. Getting his "man strength," to use the scouting term, has allowed him to maintain his delivery better, and his stuff has improved as a result. At his best, Guerrieri's fastball touches 98 mph and sits in the 93-96 range. He throws his curveball with power as well at 80-83 mph. He flashes a changeup and a cutter in side sessions but rarely uses them in games. Like most high school pitchers, his velocity can vary from start to start, but he still sits 91-93 on his off days. His athleticism and strength allow him to repeat his delivery well, though his command is a question.

Keith Law feels Guerrieri will "need to throw more quality strikes and develop a consistent third pitch, but the arm strength and potential for a plus breaking ball is very enticing." If Guerrieri is a bust (in talent or commitment) the Rays have nine more picks to go. If the Rays did not have so many picks, such flexibility would not allow Tampa Bay to take risky picks. Tonight the upside was enough and the Rays may have bagged a top ten talent twice as late in the draft.

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2011 MLB Draft: Final Mock Draft Has Rays Selecting Josh Bell With 24th Pick

With the MLB Draft only a few hours away, all the final mock drafts for the major analysts are out. Here are the projected first-round draft picks for the Tampa Bay Rays, including links to each full mock draft:

Keith Law: C.J. Cron, Brandon Nimmo, and Johnny Eierman 
Kevin GoldsteinJosh Bell, Dan Vogelbach, and Brandon Nimmo 
Jim CallisChris Reed, Henry Owens, and Blake Swihart

As for the Josh Bell pick, Goldstein has this to say:

Thoughts on what the Rays will do with their picks have gone from aggressive to “crazy aggressive.” They don’t have the cash to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees in the free agency market, so this year’s plethora of picks is their chance to find cost-controlled superstars. Bell is the best high school bat in the draft, and the Rays are looking more and more like they’ll do what it takes to sign the best player they can find with nearly every pick.

Josh Bell is, without a doubt, the best hitter available in this year’s draft, but he’s recently expressed that he would like to go to college in favor of signing with a team. His agent if Scott Boras, though, so it’s unclear if this desire is sincere or a mere attempt to drive his price higher.

The Rays have 10 first-round picks tonight, and while they have made it clear that they have a large budget to accommodate these picks, this is the first time anyone has suggested they have the money to pursue Bell. If this rumor from Goldstein is true, it could make this an absolutely huge night for the Rays.

But of course, odds are that the draft tonight will end up looking nothing like what most analysts are currently predicting. Only time will tell, and thankfully we don’t have too much longer to wait.

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2011 MLB Draft Order: Tampa Bay Rays Draft Picks

The first round of the MLB Draft is set to kick off tonight at 7 PM (coverage on MLB Network starts at 6 PM), and the Tampa Bay Rays are in for one busy night. While MLB is only running the first round of the draft tonight, the Rays still have 10 picks as a result of all their free-agent losses this past off-season.

it’s going to be a little hectic keeping track of all the action tonight, so here’s a rundown on which picks the Rays have and why they have each pick:

First Round Picks:

Pick #24 – Carl Crawford
Pick #31 – Rafael Soriano
Pick #32 – Regular pick

First Round, Compensation Picks:

Pick #38 – Rafael Soriano
Pick #41 – Carl Crawford
Pick #42 – Grant Balfour
Pick #52 – Brad Hawpe
Pick #56 – Joaquin Benoit
Pick #59 – Randy Choate
Pick #60 – Chad Qualls

You can find the full MLB Draft order here at Baseball Nation.

And for live coverage of the Rays 10 first round picks, follow SB Nation Tampa Bay on Twitter or Facebook.

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2011 MLB Draft: Be Cautious With Mock Drafts

It’s MLB Draft day! As fan of all team are getting psyched up for the action tonight, the interwebs are being hit hard today with all the latest mock draft news. Kevin Goldstein is saying the Rays will take Dan Vogelbach! But wait, that’s not what Keith Law and John Sickels have in their newest mock drafts. Who do you trust? Should you trust anyone’s take more than someone else’s?

In short, no. Mock drafts are notoriously a crapshoot, even with analysts as informed and connected as Kevin Goldstein, Keith Law, and John Sickels. Teams guard their draft information very closely and are loathe to give away many hints going into the draft, and on top of that, the draft is a dynamic process. Even if a team has a certain player high on their draft board, one or two teams acting differently than you’d expect could throw off everyone else’s pick down the line.

if you need proof, just check out what Kevin from DRaysBay showed recently:

Last year, Gary Brown went 24th overall, Justin O’Conner went 31st overall, and Cito Culver went 32nd overall. Jim Callis did a mock draft the day of, and predicted those picks would be Yordy Cabrera, Derek Dietrich, and Christian Yelich. On June 4th (three days prior to the real deal), he had Jedd Gyorko, Yasmani Grandal, and Ryan LaMarre in those spots. How about May 28th? Nick Castellanos, Chad Bettis, Tyrell Jenkins. Going all the way back to his first mock, which was May 14th, he pegged Yordy Cabrera, Tyrell Jenkins, and Kyle Parker into the 24, 31, and 32 picks. In other words, out of four mock drafts, he didn’t have the correct player going in those spots once.

How about Keith Law at ESPN? He also did four mocks (May 24, May 31, June 4, June 7). His guesses at pick #24 were: Brett Eibner, Christian Colon, Nick Castellanos, and Jedd Gyorko. Again, it was Gary Brown that in fact went #24. At #31, he had: Jedd Gyorko, Brandon Workman, Derek Dietrich, and Mike Kvasnicka. 0-4. #32: Tyrell Jenkins, Christian Yelich, Gary Brown, Tyrell Jenkins. That’s two 0-12s.

I highly recommend reading the whole article, as it really goes to show how difficult it can be to predict which player will be taken when. But that’s not to say that mock drafts are useless: far from it, as they are great for showing about how high players may go, and for highlighting what each team is looking for with their picks. When taken in a large, collective view, they can be very helpful in giving fans an idea which players their team might be considering. These analysts know what they’re talking about, even if they don’t get the exact draft order correct.

As the Draft gets closer and closer today, we’ll be updating this Stream with information on certain prospects that mock drafts have going to the Rays. These will be players that have appeared in multiple mocks, and appear likely targets for the Rays tonight. Will the Rays actually take any of them? Only time will tell, but this is the closest we can get toward guessing.

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MLB Amateur Draft: Rays Linked To Brandon Nimmo and C.J. Cron In Mock Drafts

With the MLB Amateur Draft coming up next week on June 6th, the final crunch is on. Prospect mavens are churning out their near-final mock drafts, and the draft field is abuzz with which players are rising and falling.

The Rays have been linked to a large number of players over the past few weeks, with a handful of names standing out above the rest. Here’s the full list of frequently-mentions players, compiled by Rays Prospects:

Kolten Wong (2B/COL)
Andrew Susac (C/COL)
Brandon Nimmo (OF/HS)
C.J. Cron (1B/COL)
Josh Bell (OF/HS)
Jose Fernandez (RHP/HS)
Henry Owens (LHP/HS)
Tyler Beede (RHP/HS)
Dillon Howard (RHP/HS)
Robert Stephensen (RHP/HS)
Michael Kelly (RHP/HS)

It is notoriously a crapshoot judging which players will be selected with which pick, with even the most connected and experienced analysts whiffing more than they make contact, so it’s better to view these names as merely a Wish List: players the Rays probably like, and could select with one of their multiple picks.

While Josh Bell has stated he would prefer to return to college (which is either serious, or a bid to get lots of money), Brandon Nimmo and C.J. Cron have stood out as impressive prospects. Nimmo is difficult to project, as he has less playing time than other top prospects and has only played in American Legion games, but he’s a very toolsy player – great bat, state-champion 400-meter runner, and a great overall athlete.

Meanwhile, C.J. Cron is widely considered one of the best power hitters in the draft (if not the best). He’s a first baseman and not the most athletic player, but he seems to only be drawing more and more attention as the draft gets closer. Given the Rays lack of power in the minors, he’d be a great player for them to pick, but it’s quite possible he gets selected before the Rays even have a chance at him.

For more draft coverage, check out DRaysBay and Rays Prospects.

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Will the Rays Draft Starting Pitchers in 2011?

The Tampa Bay Rays have some of the best starting pitchers in the majors. How much of that is the result of good drafting? MLB.com's Peter Gammons recently said a lot of great things about the value of young starting pitchers and was quick to note the Tampa Bay Rays' pitching staff.

As if the Yankees and Red Sox want to hear about it, the Rays' starters have more wins, more quality starts and a better ERA than any other team in the AL East. They are being paid $8 million, less than what Joe Blanton earns. Not only that, but Tampa Bay has four prime pitching prospects on the immediate horizon.

Starting pitching is not an immediate need. The first round is typically used by teams to stock up on the best players to fill the deepest holes. With ten picks in the first round, should the Rays go after starting pitching? 

Gammons went on to quote Oakland Athletic's GM Billy Beane (of Moneyball notoriety):

"Let's face it, no small-market team can afford to go into the market to get starting pitching. To survive and compete, you have to draft and develop pitching, or go out and get it before it's on the Major League radar screen."

This seems to be the Decade-of-the-Pitcher, where elite pitching draws some of the highest paying contracts in the majors. What will the Rays do when their supply runs dry? As a "small market team," the Rays will use the same strategy Beane lays out.

This is nothing new for the Rays. Going into the season the lineup was a lock for James Shields, David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann. Of the Rays' top ten starting pitchers, how many were drafted?

Drafted: David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jake McGee, Alex Cobb

Under-the-Radar Acquizition: Chris Archer (Matt Garza trade), Alex Torres (Scott Kazmir trade)

In other words, the Rays build starting pitching from within (as opposed to big ticket acquisition teams like the Phillies) and rely heavily on the draft. Tampa Bay's entire starting rotation was drafted!

So can we expect the Rays to draft more starting pitching? Absolutely. The only pitcher listed above to be drafted in 2008 or later is David Price, when he was the first pick overall in the draft. It takes years to develop a quality pitcher and this is the time for the Rays to prepare for the future. If there is a pitching prospect on the board worth taking, you can believe the front office won't hesitate. Nothing is more affordable than home-grown talent. 

Case and point: John Lackey. As Gammons points out, his $15.25 million salary is roughly the equivalent of the Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay starters combined. The fact he has allowed six, nine, eight and nine runs in four of his seven starts and has an 8.01 ERA only makes it all the more sweeter.

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MLB Amateur Draft: Tampa Bay Rays With Glut Of First-Round Picks

The Amateur Draft for Major League Baseball is coming up in less than a month - June 6th, to be precise - and the Tampa Bay Rays are set to make a killing. Not only is this draft class considered one of the best of the decade, but the Rays have an impressive amount of upcoming draft picks this year - 10 in the first round (first 60 picks), and 12 in the top 89 picks.

This is a unique situation, as teams rarely have that many first round picks, but the Rays benefited from the departure of so many free agents this off season. While most mainstream analysts were discussing the Rays' downfall with the departure of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Grant Balfour, Rafael Soriano, and Joaquin Benoit, the Rays were content to sit back and collect compensation draft picks for losing these players to other teams.

This was a situation the Rays had planned for somewhat, as they knew they could not keep that many players once they became expensive free agents, and general manager Andrew Friedman has hinted that the team has been preparing themselves for this draft for the past few seasons. Considering that the Collective Bargaining Agreement for baseball could be changed by the time next year's draft rolls around - it expires at the end of this season - this may have been the Rays last chance to stock up on draft picks to this extent, and they plan to take full advantage of the situation.

While many people are suggesting the Rays might be constrained by their draft budget this season, I tend to believe that the Rays aren't about to go halfway on this thing: this is a unique opportunity to restock their minor league system for years to come, so I don't see them skimping on the money. Considering how important young talent is to the Rays, this should be one year where signability is tossed out the window.

As the draft gets closer, we'll be covering the draft here on SB Nation Tampa Bay in this Stream. For all the latest mock drafts, news, and analysis, check back here or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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