Tampa Bay Rays 2019 MLB Draft Report Card
Every year at the conclusion of the regular season, Baseball America revisits each teams' most recent draft class. Each class has its no-doubt, high-profile names to keep an eye on, but our annual draft report cards highlight the best tools, best debuts, late-round steals and more. Here are the names you need to know from every organization's 2019 draft.
Best Pure Hitter: The Rays were very familiar with SS Greg Jones (1) going back to his high school days, but as they continued to scout him, they were struck by his steady improvement. Jones is a switch-hitter who generates above-average bat speed thanks to strong, whippy hands that bring the bat through the zone without a big load or weight transfer. He uses the whole field, hitting plenty of line drives. His plus-plus speed also helps him beat out infield hits. 1B Jake Guenther (7) is a polished pure hitter who has strength to go with an advanced approach. Guenther hit .345/.462/.576 for Texas Christian last spring and followed it up by hitting .320/.431/.423 for Rookie-level Princeton.
Best Power: The Rays didn’t land an abundance of power. Guenther has strength to add power potential down the road, but his approach and level swing plane are not really geared for home runs.
Fastest Runner: Jones is a plus-plus runner out of the box, and he really gets going when going home to second, first to third or first to home. The Rays landed a number of other plus runners including OF Shane Sasaki (3), OF Zach Huffins (13), OF Logan Allen (14) and OF Garret Hiott (25).
Best Defensive Player: SS Ben Troike (11) and SS Nick Sogard (12) are a pair of middle infielders with reliable hands, solid actions and the steadiness to stay up the middle. Troike’s stronger arm makes him more likely to stay at shortstop long term, although it’s worth noting that the Rays like to move most of their infielders around to various positions. Jones has the athleticism and tools to be an impact defender, but there’s plenty of debate around baseball about whether he’ll eventually fit in center field or can stay at shortstop. Jones is capable of making a highlight-caliber play at shortstop with plus range, but he has work to do to become more consistent with how his hands work and his overall throwing.
Best Athlete: Jones was one of the best athletes in the 2017 draft coming out of high school and was considered the best athlete in the 2019 college draft class.
Best Fastball: RHP Seth Johnson (3) is relatively new to pitching, but he has a plus, 93-95 mph fastball with life. In one of his last outings of the season in a short two-inning stint, he was consistently getting to 96-98 mph. RHP JJ Goss (1s) sat 90-96 mph this spring. His fastball shows promising life and has projection remaining. RHP Colby White (6) got plenty of swings and misses in the Southeastern Conference with a mid-90s fastball.
Best Secondary Pitch: Goss’ slider and changeup both could end up as plus pitches. Not surprisingly, neither are all that consistent yet, but he flashes plenty of promise with both offerings. LHP John Doxaxis (2) will show a plus slider at his best, as it can sit 84-85 mph with sharp, late break. RHP Evan McKendry (9) features a swing-and-miss changeup.
Best Pro Debut: Jones hit .335/.413/.461 for short-season Hudson Valley, finishing third in the New York-Penn League in batting average and OPS and seventh in slugging percentage. RHP Jayden Murray (23) went 1-2, 2.45 with 47 strikeouts, eight walks and 31 hits allowed in 40.1 innings.
Best Late-Round Pick: Murray impressed in his debut. Area scout David Hamlett liked his fastball and slider as well as his understanding of how to set up hitters. Murray has a 93-94 mph fastball and a promising slider. RHP Ben Peoples (22) barely pitched, but when he did he impressed with a 93-95 mph fastball and solid spin on his developing breaking ball. Area scout Steve Ames stayed on Peoples after the draft, and the Rays signed him right before the signing deadline. Hiott and OF Hill Alexander (28) both had strong debuts.
Most Intriguing Background: Johnson was a shortstop in junior college, but after struggling at the plate for two years, he moved to the mound. After just one year at Campbell, he was a supplemental first round pick. After an extremely impressive sophomore season and a summer with Team USA, LHP Graeme Stinson (4) was considered a likely first-round pick coming into 2019. Stinson’s arm speed, fastball and slider all backed up dramatically as a junior and he was shut down in mid-March. Stinson did make one appearance as a pro in late August and was pitching in instructional league. He’s healthy, but has to work to regain his previous velocity.
Closest To The Majors: The Rays are not an organization that speeds players to the majors—they like to make sure that players are fully ready to contribute before they call them up to the majors—but Doxaxis could be a fast-mover by Rays' standards as a polished, strike-throwing lefty.
The One Who Got Away: RHP Andrew Peters (23) was considered one of the top junior college pitchers in the draft class before blowing out his elbow. The Rays would have liked to have signed him, but he opted to head to South Carolina to improve his draft stock. SS Cam Shepherd (20) didn’t hit as a junior, but he’s a very sure-handed shortstop. He opted to return to Georgia for his senior season.