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Devil Rays 2002 Draft Overview

By Bill Ballew
May 13, 2002

Scouting Director: Dan Jennings (first year: 1996)

2000 Draft (First three 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)

2001 Draft (First three rounds, picking third)
1. Dewon Brazelton, rhp, Middle Tennessee State
2. Jon Switzer, lhp, Arizona State
3. Chris Flynn, rhp, Stony Brook

2002 Draft
Devil Rays pick second in rotation.

Was the 2001 draft the beginning of a new trend for the Devil Rays? For the first time, the team took a conservative approach. After gambling with money the team may not have had in previous years, general manager Chuck LaMar and scouting director Dan Jennings drafted a lower-priced option with the third overall pick, taking Dewon Brazelton.

Negotiations with Brazelton still took most of the summer, pushing his debut until this spring. He is now twirling at Double-A Orlando, while the rest of the class looks like another solid effort by Jennings. The Rays came away with depth, particularly on the mound with Brazelton, lefthanders Jon Switzer and Chris Seddon (fifth round) and righthander Chris Flinn. Jennings also maintained his reputation for finding talent in the lower rounds by nabbing outfielder Jonny Gomes (18th), last year's MVP in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.

It's no secret that decisions made in hopes of quickly building a competitive major league club handicapped the Rays' draft efforts in previous years, though Jennings has still done an impressive job. After a good draft in 1997 that netted catcher Toby Hall (ninth round) and righthander Jason Standridge (first), the Rays were without selections in the first three rounds in 1998, yet still came away with third baseman Aubrey Huff (fifth) and lefthander Joe Kennedy (eighth). In 2000, Tampa Bay was without second-, third- and fourth-round picks. The team gave shortstop Jace Brewer (fifth) a major league contract, while first-rounder Rocco Baldellli remains the team's primary hope.

LaMar, who remains a scout at heart, likes dual-sport athletes, a habit he displayed with such selections as George Lombard, Andre King and Jamie Howard while heading the Braves' scouting and player development departments in the first half of the 1990s. The Rays have found two-sport talent in Kenny Kelly (1997) and Carl Crawford (1999), though Kelly was lost to the Mariners organization. LaMar also believes in building with strong-armed pitchers, which led the Rays to sign loophole free agent pitchers Matt White and Bobby Seay to contracts totaling $13.2 million in 1997. Both have been major disappointments.

With cash now a problem for the franchise, the team will maintain the approach it used last year with a well-balanced draft consisting of young arms and athletes. With the second overall pick, Tampa Bay is considering righthander Adam Loewen and will look at the player who's left from righthander Bryan Bullington and shortstop B.J. Upton, the two players the Pirates are said to be deciding between for the first pick. Possible darkhorses for the pick are outfielder Jeremy Hermida and lefthander Scott Kazmir.

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