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Devil Rays Draft Report Card

Best Pro Debut: OF Wes Bankston (4) was the Rookie-level Appalachian League MVP, hitting .301-18-53 and leading the league in homers and RBIs. OF Joey Gomes (8) won the short-season New York-Penn League homer crown, batting .279-16-52. OF Jason Pridie (2) hit .366-8-34 with 13 steals and topped the Appy League with 105 hits and nine triples.

Best Athlete: The Devil Rays scored four blue-chip athletes with their first four choices. SS B.J. Upton’s (1) arm and speed are both plus-plus tools, and he has the actions of a young Derek Jeter. Pridie is a legitimate five-tool player who showed a 92 mph fastball while winning the Arizona 4-A championship game. OF Elijah Dukes’ (3) combination of size, speed and strength has prompted comparisons to Bo Jackson. Bankston is a prototype right fielder. All four were high school football stars.

Best Pure Hitter: Upton or Pridie.

Best Raw Power: Dukes has more pure strength than Bankston or Gomes. 3B/RHP Romelio Lopez (18), 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, also has tape-measure power. The Devil Rays will give him a look as both a pitcher and hitter in spring training.

Fastest Runner: Upton has 6.5-second speed in the 60-yard dash, but he’s not as fast as two high schoolers from Louisiana. OF Blair Irvin (12) and SS Shane Shelley (37) both run in the 6.35-6.45 range. Louisiana State recruited Irvin to play defensive back.

Best Defensive Player: Upton.

Best Fastball: Lopez threw 94-97 mph during the spring. Among those who have made their pro debuts, RHPs Scott Autrey (7) and Brian Bulger (25) have 90-94 mph fastballs.

Best Breaking Ball: LHP Brandon Mann’s (27) curve.

Most Intriguing Background: Upton’s brother Justin, a shortstop, projects as the No. 1 pick for the 2005 draft. Lopez turned down $800,000 to sign out of Venezuela two years ago, then resurfaced after moving to Texas. Gomes’ brother Jonny, an outfielder, and unsigned RHP Justin Standridge’s (45) brother Jason, a righthander, are prospects in the Devil Rays system. Bulger’s brother Jason, a righty, was a Diamondbacks 2001 first-round pick. Pridie’s brother Jon pitches in the Twins system.

Closest To The Majors: Autrey has an edge over Gomes because Tampa Bay has a logjam of outfield prospects.

Best Late-Round Pick: Lopez. The Rays like the projection on lean RHPs Jason Hammel (10), Cole Smith (19) and Jarred Farrell (20), all of whom throw in the low 90s.

The One Who Got Away: LHP Mark Romanczuk (5) and RHP Mike Pelfrey (15) wanted big money and headed to Stanford and Wichita State when they didn’t get it. The fortunes of RHP Matt Harrington (13), a Rockies 2000 first-rounder, continue to plummet as he tours the independent leagues.

Assessment: Scouting director Dan Jennings provided a nice going-away present in his final draft before going to the Marlins. Now the challenge is to develop these athletes into players who can help the dismal big league club.

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