Rays Pop Prep Trio





ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The Rays' success in developing impact players is a testament to the good job they do in scouting. A little good fortune on draft day doesn't hurt, either.

And after making three of the top 42 picks in the draft, they felt pretty good about the way everything unfolded in landing what Baseball America ranked the top prep power-hitter in outfielder Josh Sale, the top prep catcher in Indiana's Justin O'Conner and the top prep pure hitter in outfielder Drew Vettleson.

"You have to get a little bit lucky for things to really fall into place," scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "And we feel like we were well-prepared and got a little lucky and got three guys we really liked in both regards."

As much as the Rays have trended toward athletic outfielders, they couldn't resist the potential of major power from Sale (SAL-LAY), a product of Seattle's Bishop Blanchet High who was ranked the top prep slugger in the draft.

Harrison called Sale "a corner outfielder with tremendous power, a guy we think has a chance to be a middle of the lineup type bat."

They also addressed the need for top-notch catching prospects by selecting O'Conner, a product of Cowan High in Muncie, Ind., who considers himself "pretty raw" behind the plate since he just started catching last summer. O'Conner also has hit 95 mph as a pitcher and has the athletic ability to move to third base if necessary. It's the second straight year the Rays have gone after a high-ceiling prep catcher after selecting Luke Bailey last year out of a Georgia high school.

With their third selection (42nd overall), the Rays completed their big night by snagging Vettleson, out of Washington's Central Kitsap High. Vettleson has the novelty of pitching both right- and lefthanded, but the Rays like him more for his bat. He also gets to go to the same organization as Sale, as the two are friends and sometime-workout partners.

Cool Rays

• Cuban free agents first baseman/outfielder Leslie Anderson and lefthander Sergio Espinosa were promoted from Class A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery. Anderson, who hit .262/.303/.405 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 21 games, is older, listed at 28, and could be a September callup for the Rays.

• Triple-A Durham radio man Neil Solondz got a June "callup" to work the Rays' pre- and post-game shows for a week while Rich Herrera went to do Bulls play-by-play.