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Tampa Bay Devil Rays Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: OF Josh Hamilton (1) quickly showed why he was the first pick in the country when he ripped through the Rookie-level Appalachian League, hitting .347-10-48, and played a key role in helping short-season Hudson Valley win the New York-Penn League championship. 3B Andrew Beinbrink (7) also excelled, hitting .339-11-51 at Hudson Valley.

Best Athlete: As good an athlete as Hamilton is, OF Carl Crawford (2) may be better all-around. He was recruited to play the demanding quarterback position at Nebraska and scored more than 20 points a game in basketball.

Best Hitter: Hamilton still needs to work on his strike-zone judgment, but he has a sweet swing and can drive the ball to all fields.

Best Power: Hamilton’s power easily projects as an 8 on the scout’s 8-point scale. He could become a 40-plus home run hitter at the big league level.

Fastest Runner: Crawford has been timed in the 6.5-second range in the 60-yard dash and he gets from the lefthanded batter’s box to first in 3.9 seconds, but he still needs work on baserunning skills.

Best Defensive Player: Beinbrink drew raves from short-season New York-Penn League managers for his defensive skills.

Best Fastball: RHP Seth McClung (5) has little idea where his fastball is going, but it often gets to the plate at 94-96 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: 2B Oginga Aaron (19) is the nephew of home run king Henry Aaron. LHPs Nathan Cromer (10) and Jason Cromer (11) each gave up an opportunity to attend Wichita State so they could sign with the Devil Rays. Naturally, the identical twins signed identical $140,000 contracts.

Closest to the Majors: RHP Alex Santos (4) signed late in the summer, which gave him time to recover from the rib muscle pull he had in the spring at Miami. He is a polished 22-year-old.

The One That Got Away: Tampa Bay couldn’t reach terms with the top two lefthanders it picked, Eric Henderson (6) and Ryan Gloger (8). Both are from the Tampa area, but Henderson chose to attend North Carolina and Gloger headed for Stanford.

Best Non-Draft Sign: LHP Jim Morris was one of the top stories of the season, a 35-year-old high school coach who went from a tryout camp to the big leagues in two months. He had been out of professional baseball for a decade, but now consistently throws 92-93 mph and has touched 98.

Summary: Hamilton could become a player this franchise hangs its hat on for years. The rest of the class has plenty of potential but is raw for the most part. Crawford and RHP Doug Waechter (3) continued the organization’s love affair with top prep quarterbacks.

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