Rays agree to deal with No. 37 pick Williams

June 19th, 2020

When the Rays selected with the No. 37 overall pick, they felt like they had just landed one of the best defensive shortstops in the 2020 MLB Draft. On Thursday, the Rays made things official, inking Williams to a deal.

Williams and the Rays agreed to a $1,850,000 bonus, sources told MLB.com. That’s slightly under the $1,999,300 slot value for the 37th pick. Williams becomes the second Rays draftee to agree to a deal, joining right-hander Jeff Hakanson, who signed his deal on Wednesday.

First-round pick Nick Bitsko, second-round pick Ian Seymour, third-round pick Hunter Barnhart and fourth-round pick Tanner Murray have yet to sign their deals, but the Rays remain optimistic about all four of those players. Signing Williams to under slot value helps the Rays with their remaining picks, especially with Bitsko, who is expected to ask more than his slot value, which is around $3 million.

By officially adding Williams, the Rays have yet another highly regarded middle infield prospect in the top-rated farm system, per MLB Pipeline. The Rays already have Wander Franco, MLB's top overall prospect, as well as the club's No. 3 prospect Vidal Brujan, No. 4 Xavier Edwards and 2019 first-round Draft pick Greg Jones, as key middle infield prospects. Not to mention Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe are expected to be with the club in the long term.

“I think it’s good,” Williams said of the competition in the farm system. “The competition brings out the best in all players. It’s going to be fun.”

During his time at Arizona State, Williams also proved that he can be productive at the plate to go along with his stellar defense at shortstop. As a junior in 2019, Williams served as the cleanup hitter for the Sun Devils, hitting right behind Spencer Torkelson, who was selected with the No. 1 pick by the Tigers last week. Following Torkelson, Williams provided quality protection for the slugger, earning an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2019 after posting a .333 batting average and 53 RBIs, both career highs.

Williams’ ability to control the strike zone also played a big role in his success at Arizona State. In 549 plate appearances with the Sun Devils, Williams struck out just 49 times. That ability is why the Rays have kept tabs on Williams since his playing days at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego.

“Our history with Alika has been for quite a bit of time,” senior director of amateur scouting Rob Metzler said last week. “Our evaluation in high school was that Alika was going to be this kind of player, we just felt it was in his best interest to go to college, continue to gain strength and continue to show off his skills -- and he did everything he needed to in college.”