Tampa Bay Rays 2022 MLB Draft Report Card
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Best Pure Hitter: SS Chandler Simpson (2s) transferred to Georgia Tech from Alabama-Birmingham and promptly led all Division I hitters with a .434 average. He’s a high-contact, slap-and-dash hitter with minimal power, but the speed to consistently sustain high BABIP numbers. In his pro debut he hit .370/.471/.482 with just an 11.3% miss rate and a .417 BABIP.
Best Power Hitter: 1B Xavier Isaac (1) has absolutely gargantuan raw power. He has a massive, 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame and hits towering home runs with 80-grade juice, though C Dominic Keegan (4) might have the most accessible in-game power currently, and posted the best 90th percentile exit velocity of the Rays’ 2022 draftees this summer.
Fastest Runner: Simpson (2s) is a top-of-the-scale runner who went 59-for-66 (89.4%) in stolen base attempts in his college career. He went a perfect 8-for-8 in just eight games in the FCL. That speed should inflate his batting average and also gives him a chance to play center if he has to move off of the infield.
Best Defensive Player: OF Ryan Cermak (2s) is an above-average runner who made plenty of web gems during the 2022 spring with Illinois State. He has a chance to be a plus defender at the position, with plus arm strength as well. OF Brock Jones (2) doesn’t have the same arm strength, but he is a good runner who could be an above-average defender in center. SS Jalen Battles (5) is probably the pick for this category, however, as an instinctual defender at shortstop with above-average defensive ability and above-average arm strength.
Best Fastball: RHP Trevor Martin (3) has a fastball that sits in the 95-96 mph range out of the bullpen and can touch 98, with good carry. LHP Chris Villaman (9) sits in the low 90s, but also has good carry on the pitch and impressive feel to spot it.
Best Secondary Pitch: The Rays rounded out their second day with a pair of college pitchers with standout changeups. Villaman (9) generated a 54% whiff rate with his low-80s changeup that could be an above-average pitch, which is a similar grade that RHP Cade Halemanu (10) has received for his cambio.
Best Pro Debut: A number of Tampa hitters performed well in their debuts. Keegan (4) had the best wRC+ mark (169) of the group, while also showing impressive power, while each of the other prominent college bats acquitted themselves nicely: Jones (2) hit .265/.407/.529 with four home runs in 19 games, Simpson (2s) hit .370/.471/.482 with more walks (six) than strikeouts (four) and Cermak (2s) hit .273/.333/.636 with a pair of home runs and a triple in just seven games.
Best Athlete: Jones (2) was a safety on the Stanford football team before he stopped playing to focus on baseball. He has the speed and raw power combination common of many players who win this category on top of the multi-sport background.
Most Intriguing Background: The Rays drafted a pair of high school players who were late-helium prospects who weren’t frequently seen during the summer showcase circuit in 2021. Isaac (1) is the first. He didn’t play during the summer thanks to a foot injury, but his power gives him significant upside, with the risk that comes from not having proven his hitting chops against the top pitchers in the class. RHP Gary Gill Hill (6) is young for the class with plenty of athleticism and arm speed and got plenty of attention after sitting in the low 90s.
Closest To The Majors: The Rays don’t push their prospects too quickly, but Simpson (2s) has the sort of hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills to move quickly.
Best Late-Round Pick (Or NDFA): RHP Roel Garcia (14) signed for just $50,000 but was terrific in a 12.2-inning pro debut. He posted a 2.13 ERA, struck out 23 batters (41.8%) and walked just three (5.5%). Garcia pitched with a fastball around 92 mph, but the pitch has plus riding life. He threw it for strikes nearly 75% of the time and generated whiffs with both his fastball and slider at rates north of 33%.
The One Who Got Away: The Rays didn’t sign LHPs Levi Huesman (17) or Quinn Mathews (19), both of whom ranked on the BA 500.