Rays Kick Off Bonanza With A Surprise





ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. With an unprecedented 10 picks among the first 60 selections, the Rays were a bit unsure exactly how the first night of the draft would unfold.

And then they got a big surprise as righthander Taylor Guerrieri—the 10th-rated prospect by Baseball America—was available when they made the first of their selections at No. 24.

"We felt very fortunate to get a guy with that kind of future," scouting director R.J. Harrison said.

As a senior at South Carolina's Spring Valley High (after transferring from North Augustana), Guerrieri went 6-1, 1.10, including three complete games, while striking out 72 in 51 innings.

Though there was considerable speculation that reported makeup and maturity issues led Guerrieri to drop in the draft, Harrison said the Rays were not concerned.

"I think a lot of that is just a lot of misinformation or a lot of it might have been played up or overstated,'' he said. "He's an 18-year-old kid. He's going to be just fine.''

The reviews of his talent have been good, with one American League scout telling BA that Guerrieri had "the best high school arm I've ever seen" and MLB Network analyst John Hart, the former Indians general manager, calling him "a big future front-of-the-rotation starter."

After Guerrieri, the Rays addressed the middle of the field with their two other first-round picks, taking Louisiana State center fielder Mikie Mahtook at No. 31 and Sierra Vista (Nev.) High shortstop Jake Hager at 32. Then they took another shortstop, Brandon Martin (of Santiago High in Corona, Calif.) at No. 38.

"There's a really nice balance," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We have a lot of players that we feel like have a chance to be really good major league players who can impact a game."
 
COOL RAYS
 
• The Rays took three other pitchers among their 10 picks: righthander Jeff Ames (Lower Columbia (Wash.) JC) at No. 42, lefthander Blake Snell (Shorewood High in Washington) at No. 52 and lefthander Grayson Garvin (Vanderbilt) at No. 59.

• Shortstop Jake Hager, the 32nd pick, said he plans to forgo a scholarship to Arizona State and sign with the Rays. "I'm ready to play pro ball," Hager said. "I've been ready to play pro ball. I'm very excited about the opportunity to pursue my dream. College is great. Arizona State is great. I love them. I'm ready to move on and pursue my dream and play pro baseball."