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Baseball America Online - College

Devil Rays Draft Preview

By Bill Ballew
May 14, 2003

Scouting Director: Cam Bonifay (first draft: 2003)

2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking sixth)
1. Rocco Baldelli, of, Bishop Hendricken HS, Warwick, R.I.
2. (Choice to Reds as compensation for free agent Juan Guzman)
3. (Choice to Cubs as compensation for free agent Steve Trachsel)
4. (Choice to Braves as compensation for free agent Gerald Williams)
5. Jace Brewer, ss, Baylor

2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking third)
1. Dewon Brazelton, rhp, Middle Tennessee State
2. Jon Switzer, lhp, Arizona State
3. Chris Flynn, rhp, Stony Brook
4. *David Bush, rhp, Wake Forest
5. Chris Seddon, lhp, Canyon HS, Santa Clarita, Calif.

2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking second)
1. B.J. Upton, ss, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Chesapeake, Va.
2. Jason Pridie, of, Prescott (Ariz.) HS
3. Elijah Dukes, of, Hillsborough HS, Tampa
4. Wes Bankston, of, Plano East HS, Plano, Texas
5. *Mark Romanczuk, lhp, St. Mark's HS, Newark, Del.

(*Did not sign)

2003 Draft
Devil Rays pick first in rotation

After taking a conservative financial approach in the first round two years ago, the Devil Rays made the most of the second overall pick in 2002 and signed the prospect most scouts agreed was the best high school position player available: shortstop B.J. Upton, who signed at the end of the summer for a $4.6 million bonus, tops among last year's draft class.

The Rays made good picks in the later rounds as well, in what looks like the strongest draft in former scouting director Dan Jennings' Tampa Bay tenure. While Jennings is now with the Marlins, he left the Rays such promising players as outfielders Elijah Dukes and Wes Bankston and converted flycatcher Jason Pridie. All three players were nabbed from the high school ranks.

General manager Chuck LaMar has said for at least the third time since joining the Rays in 1996 that the franchise is going to maintain its commitment to building through the farm system. The cash-strapped team may not have many options. Outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford (second round, 1999) have already made it to the big leagues, and young pitching is on the way, headed by Seth McClung (fifth round, 1999), a surprise member of the big league staff this year.

The Rays hope good draft picks remain the norm under assistant general manager Cam Bonifay, who took over the scouting duties upon Jennings' departure last season. Conventional wisdom would dictate the Rays cannot afford to go on the cheap during the draft if they hope to continue improving and keep new manager Lou Piniella around.

Needless to say, the Rays want to add another significant piece with the first overall pick in this year's draft. The top targets appear to be California high school outfielder Delmon Young, who has already had a workout at Tropicana Field, and Southern's Rickie Weeks. Florida high school outfielder Ryan Harvey is an outside possibility.

After the first pick, pitching will be a priority, particularly with the big league staff so young and thin. A college pitcher who could provide Piniella quick help is a likely choice. And with LaMar involved in the process, the Rays can be expected to land at least one dual-sport athlete in hopes that another Crawford could pan out with concentration on the diamond.