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Devil Rays Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: 3B Kelly Eddlemon (12) batted .293-10-42 at short-season Princeton. In instructional league he played at second base, where his bat would be more valuable.

Best Athlete: OF Rocco Baldelli (1), only the second first-round pick ever to come out of Rhode Island, was a state sprint champion and led his high school to state titles in baseball, basketball and volleyball. RHP John Benedetti (10), believed to be the first player ever drafted out of Augustana (Ill.), can dunk despite being just 6 feet tall. He was Augustana’s basketball MVP as a senior.

Best Hitter: Baldelli or 2B Mike Krga (7). Krga hit .273 at Princeton while Baldelli batted .216. The Devil Rays didn’t expect a lot out of Baldelli because he didn’t see top-flight pitching in high school and was recovering from a pulled oblique muscle.

Best Raw Power: Baldelli.

Fastest Runner: Baldelli runs a 6.38-second 60-yard dash. He gives Tampa Bay another outfielder with top-of-the-line speed.

Best Defensive Player: SS Jace Brewer (5), who wrote all 30 teams before the draft to tell them he planned to return to Baylor to improve his skills. The Devil Rays gambled and changed his mind with a four-year major league contract worth $1.5 million.

Best Fastball: RHP Evan Rust, a nondrafted free agent out of St. Mary’s (Calif.), can touch 95 mph. Among the draftees, the lowest-selected player signed by Tampa Bay, RHP Juan Renteria (47), can reach 94 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: SS Edgar Gonzalez (30) is the older brother of Adrian, the No. 1 overall pick by the Marlins. At 6-foot-9 and 265 pounds, LHP Hans Smith (11) may be the largest player selected by any club.

Closest To The Majors: Under the terms of his contract, Brewer was promoted to Tampa Bay in September. He didn’t appear in a game because of tenderness in his shoulder. He may have a small tear, and the Devil Rays will know if he’ll need surgery by the end of October.

Best Late-Round Pick: Back problems prevented RHP Jamie Shields (16) from pitching much as a high school senior, but Tampa Bay area scout Fred Repke monitored Shields over the summer. Once they believed he was healthy, the Devil Rays signed him. In instructional league, Shields threw 92 mph with a solid average changeup and a borderline average curveball.

The One Who Got Away: Oklahoma State OF Luke Scott (45) led the Cape Cod League with 11 homers this summer.

Assessment: The Devil Rays were deluded if they thought signing free agents Juan Guzman, Steve Trachsel and Gerald Williams will make a significant difference, and it also cost them their picks in the second through fourth rounds. They regrouped as best they could by signing Brewer and Shields.

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