Rays land hot-hitter Manzardo on Day 2

July 13th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- A day after the Rays added to their collection of middle infield talent by selecting high school shortstop Carson Williams with their first-round pick then taking infielder Cooper Kinney 34th overall on Day 1 of the Draft, they picked up a few more intriguing position players then made a run on pitching prospects. 

Williams and Kinney both seemed eager to sign soon and get their professional careers started. Time will tell how that process unfolds and what becomes of the Rays’ nine picks on Day 2, a group they hope will further bolster the game’s top-ranked farm system with even more depth in an organization already overflowing with options. 

Tampa Bay didn’t select its first pitcher until the sixth round, then the club’s final five picks on Day 2 were all pitchers: two right-handers and three left-handers. 

“Best player available, so that’s the way the board shook out,” Rays amateur scouting director Rob Metzler said. “We were aware that we hadn’t taken a pitcher yet, but then there was a position player we were totally pumped about available, so we went in that direction.” 

Metzler and the rest of Tampa Bay’s front office will wrap up the 2021 Draft on Tuesday with Rounds 11-20, all streaming on MLB.com starting at noon ET. Here’s a look at each of the Rays’ Day 2 picks.

Round 2, 63rd overall: Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Washington State

Notable skill: There’s no doubt that Manzardo, MLB Pipeline’s No. 81 Draft prospect, went this high because of his bat. The 20-year-old left-handed hitter batted .365/.437/.640 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs in 47 games this spring after hitting .297 with a .942 OPS and seven homers in 33 games for the Willmar Stingers in the Northwoods League last year. He was arguably the best all-around hitter in the Pac-12 Conference this spring, showing his ability to hit for average and power to all fields while also working walks and getting on base. He’s limited to first base, but he’s worked to become a more capable defender at that position.

Fun fact: Manzardo was named to the All-America First Team by Collegiate Baseball, making him Washington State’s first All-America first-team selection since pitcher Aaron Sele in 1990 and the school’s first first-team All-American position player since John Olerud in 1988. Manzardo was also a third-team All-American last year, so the only other Cougars player to be a two-time All-American was Phil Westerndorf in 1975 and ‘77. Also, he was the highest selection out of Washington State since the Red Sox selected Scott Hatteberg with the 43rd pick in 1991.

Quotable: “We like his bat. We like his power. We think it’s a bat, a profile that has a chance to carry the position. We’re really excited about that one.”
-- Metzler

Round 3, 100th overall: Ryan Spikes, INF, Parkview HS

Notable skill: Spikes, MLB Pipeline’s No. 196 Draft prospect, has a quick right-handed swing that creates a lot of hard contact. He even produced impressive exit velocities with wood bats on the showcase circuit, which means he could hit for power if he gets the ball off the ground enough moving forward. Scouts have seen the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder crush fastballs but struggle against breaking balls -- something to watch as he begins to face professional pitching.

Spikes is a well-rounded prospect overall, as he has solid speed and a plus arm -- he sat in the low 90s as a pitcher in high school -- and the kind of makeup scouts love to see. The Tennessee commit was drafted as a second baseman, but scouts believe he has the tools and actions to stick at shortstop. He played shortstop, second base, third and the outfield while going 6-for-13 with a homer at the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championship, where first-round pick Williams was named MVP, last October.

Fun fact: Spikes’ Parkview High team in Lilburn, Ga., has won three national titles in the last decade and produced four big leaguers, including Jeff Francoeur and Matt Olson. Spikes led his team to another 7-A state championship this spring as he went 4-for-6 at the plate and saved both ends of the championship doubleheader.

Quotable: “An awesome outcome for us. Really exciting kid. Shortstop prospect, likely. … He will develop as a shortstop, but [he’s] probably able to develop around the infield as well. We like his bat. We like his foot speed. He’s a talented young man.”
-- Metzler

Round 4, 130th overall: Dru Baker, INF/OF, Texas Tech

Notable skill: Baker’s best tool is his speed, which grades out as a plus tool and receives plus-plus grades from some scouts. The 21-year-old used that speed to steal 18 bases in 51 games while hitting .343/.406/.484 with four homers and 14 doubles for the Red Raiders. His right-handed swing is built more for line-drive contact than home run power, although he could hit 10-12 per season with wood bats. The question is where he’s best suited to play defensively. He got his start at shortstop and third base as a freshman at Texas Tech in 2019, when the Red Raiders tied for a program-best third-place finish at the College World Series. MLB Pipeline’s 190th-ranked Draft prospect, Baker moved into the outfield corners last year and remained there this spring, but it seems like he’s bound to be another super-utility type once he enters the Rays’ system.

Fun fact: Baker was a two-sport athlete at Memorial High School in Tomball, Texas, having played third base and shortstop for the baseball team and quarterback for the football team. In addition to being the 2018 TSWA 5A all-state second-team shortstop in high school, he was named the first-team all-district quarterback as a sophomore and junior, throwing for 4,771 yards and rushing for 1,587 more while totaling 61 touchdowns over three seasons on the gridiron.

Quotable: “The typical Tampa Bay Rays utility profile might come along. I would expect that he will get a chance to play multiple spots, but we like his bat. We like his foot speed. We like his competitiveness.”
-- Metzler

Round 5, 161st overall: Mason Auer, OF, San Jacinto College North

Notable skill: Auer seems to have all kinds of tools and, like several of the Rays’ previous picks, the ability to pitch and hit if he wants to do so. He was a two-way player for the Frederick Keys in the MLB Draft League, playing center field and pitching out of the bullpen. The 6-foot-1 right-hander hit .235/.381/.412 with two homers and reportedly impressive exit velocities in 14 games in the Draft League, where the Rays got a quick look at him.

Fun fact: He’s taken an interesting path to this point. Selected by the Cubs with the 1,182nd overall pick in 2019 out of Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Mo., Auer instead chose to attend Missouri State. But he spent only one pandemic-shortened season there, taking the field for only 11 plate appearances as a hitter and three innings as a pitcher. He transferred to San Jacinto and led his team to the Junior College World Series while hitting .373 with 11 homers and 34 steals to go along with a 3.00 ERA, and he committed to play for Oregon if he doesn’t sign with the Rays.

Quotable: "It's a little different this time. It's a certain thing to happen this time instead of it maybe happening last time when I was in high school. I'm more excited."
-- Auer, to the Springfield News-Leader, on being drafted this year compared to going to the Cubs in the 39th round and not signing out of high school in 2019

Round 6, 191st overall: Mason Montgomery, LHP, Texas Tech

Notable skill: The 6-foot-2, 195-pound lefty’s best pitch is his fastball, which runs from 90-95 mph with good action up in the zone. He leaned on that pitch as he posted a 3.82 ERA with 84 strikeouts and only 48 hits allowed in 63 2/3 innings over 14 outings this spring. He walked a little more than 10 percent of the batters he faced and gave up roughly one homer per nine innings, and there are some questions about whether he has the secondary pitches to start at the next level. But the 21-year-old held opponents to just a .213 average in his final season with the Red Raiders while holding down a spot in their weekend rotation.

Fun fact: Montgomery was teammates with Baker, picked by the Rays two rounds earlier. He was previously selected by the White Sox in the 39th round of the 2018 Draft out of Leander (Texas) High School but opted to attend Texas Tech. He became the first pitcher selected by Tampa Bay in this Draft, although it’s worth noting the Rays used four of their six choices last year on pitchers.

Quotable: “Mason is somebody that we’ve known about for quite some time. He was somebody we scouted pretty heavily in high school, so that’s somebody who we’ve been excited about his development path for a while. To be able to get him with that sixth-round pick, we thought, was an awesome outcome.”
-- Metzler

Round 7, 221st overall: Logan Workman, RHP, Lee University

Notable skill: Workman, MLB Pipeline’s No. 218 Draft prospect, has a big four-seam fastball that touched 98 mph earlier this spring and usually sits between 91-96 mph with riding action at the top of the strike zone coming from his big, 6-foot-4 frame and high three-quarters arm slot. His best secondary offering is a low-80s changeup with fade and sink, and while he has improved his slider, it still lacks consistency. His big frame -- 6-foot-4, 215 pounds -- suggests that he should be durable enough to start at the back of a big league rotation eventually, although there are questions about his fastball command due to the amount of effort in his delivery. Worst-case scenario, it seems like his fastball-changeup combination would play in the bullpen.

Fun fact: Workman led the Coastal Plain League with 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings in the summer of 2019, then went 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA, a .091 opponents’ average and 53 strikeouts in 42 innings last year before nearly signing as a non-drafted free agent with the American League East rival Yankees. (Metzler noted that the Rays also pursued him last year.) He instead returned to Lee University in Tennessee for his senior season and went 8-1 with a 1.81 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings while setting a school record with a career 2.13 ERA.

Quotable: “You can go a couple different directions here. He’s got that big fastball. He’s got the potential to start. Or, if that doesn’t work out, he’s got enough fastball that can really play in the bullpen, too. So one of your better non-[Division I] players in this Draft.”
-- MLB Pipeline prospect expert Jim Callis

Round 8, 251st overall: Patrick Wicklander, LHP, Arkansas

Notable skill: Wicklander doesn’t have the most overpowering stuff, but he was MLB Pipeline’s 220th-ranked Draft prospect in part because of the way he performed in the Southeastern Conference, college baseball’s toughest league. It was Wicklander -- not Jack Leiter or Kumar Rocker -- who led all SEC starters with a 2.11 ERA. His fastball can touch 96 mph but usually sits between 90-92 mph and plays up in the zone because of his deceptive delivery and his heater’s carry. He’s a strike-thrower, but he can use his fastball to get swinging strikes in the zone or outside for chases. He also throws a sweeping slider in the 77-81 mph range, which shuts down left-handed hitters but doesn’t have quite the same effect against righties, and a changeup. He has a low release point, one of the diverse looks the Rays like to have on their pitching staffs, and hides the ball well enough to make hitters uncomfortable.

Fun fact: He was Arkansas’ No. 3 starter as a freshman in 2019 then struggled in four starts last spring. He was diagnosed with diabetes during the COVID-19 shutdown and opened this spring in the Razorbacks’ bullpen before emerging as the ace of a team ranked No. 1 most of the season.

Quotable: “Another left-hander with a good feel for the baseball and quality stuff that we think has a chance to continue developing in likely a starting role. … The combination of his ability to pitch, what we feel are his attributes to pitch, along with backing that up with his performance in the SEC, we were thrilled to get him.”
-- Metzler

Round 9, 281st overall: Alex Ayala, LHP, Florida SouthWestern State College

Notable skill: The 19-year-old lefty, standing at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, features a fastball that’s been clocked up to 93 mph with command that improved as the spring progressed. His secondary stuff is still reportedly in need of improvement, but as a lefty with some arm strength who’s learning to throw more strikes, there would seem to be some upside here. In 15 outings for the Bucs this season, he posted a 3.53 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 32 walks while allowing 44 hits in 63 2/3 innings. He was named the Suncoast Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Fun fact: Ayala Jr. attended Brito Miami Private School before going to Florida SouthWestern State College. During his senior season, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lefty did not give up a single earned run and struck out 34 batters.

Quotable: “We like him as well as a starting pitching prospect. Really excited that that was able to come together.”
-- Metzler

Round 10, 311th overall: Austin Vernon, RHP, North Carolina Central University

Notable skill: What stands out about Vernon is his size. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, the biggest pitcher the Rays have drafted so far in this class. He performed well, too, striking out 109 batters while posting a 2.55 ERA in 70 2/3 innings over 12 starts this season. He led his conference in strikeouts while setting a single-season school record, and he pitched for the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod League after his 2019 and ‘21 seasons at NC Central. Vernon missed the pandemic-shortened 2020 season while recovering from an arm injury that required surgery, and Metzler said the extra look in the Cape Cod League was “very helpful” for the Rays. 

Fun fact: Vernon pitched NC Central’s first no-hitter since the program was reinstated in 2007 in a 10-0 win against Delaware State on May 7 at, coincidentally, Durham Bulls Athletic Park -- home of the Rays’ Triple-A Durham affiliate. He also tied the program’s single-game strikeout record with 13 in a 10-4 win against Florida A&M on May 13 at DBAP.