The Draft of a dream for Rays' No. 31 pick

July 11th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry’s Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Adrian Santana had a feeling the Rays would pick him in the MLB Draft on Sunday night.

Well, not just a feeling.

“I had a dream about them a couple nights ago,” Santana said on a Zoom call with Tampa Bay media during Day 1 of the Draft.

In that dream, Santana said, he was playing in a high school game and went to get something from his car. The only people around were Rays scouts. Speaking to his advisor, the 17-year-old Miami commit from Doral Academy (Fla.) said, “Oh, I don’t think this is a coincidence.”

Maybe it was, but Santana’s dream still proved to be prophetic on Sunday night. The Rays selected the switch-hitting shortstop with the 31st overall pick, their second pick in this year’s Draft.

When Santana’s name was called, he said, it was hard to hear anything else in his family’s house. They were supposed to have a small gathering, but around 100 people -- family, friends, coaches and the like -- showed up.

“It was super exciting. It was so loud in the house,” Santana said. “It was kind of crazy how loud I got.”

Rays scouting director Chuck Ricci said the Rays had been looking at Santana for “a while.” (To be fair, even for a team that practices what it preaches about taking an open-minded approach to talent evaluation and acquisition, athletic switch-hitting shortstops are kind of Tampa Bay’s type.) And after a workout at Tropicana Field late last month, Santana left a strong impression on evaluators.

That workout, Santana said, is what led him to believe he’d be picked by the Rays. He had a great day from both sides of the plate and drove some balls out of the park. He just felt good, and the fit felt right.

“He's such a good kid. He's got so much energy, and he's such a special defender,” Ricci said. “The profile, as he gets stronger, has the chance to be special. Switch-hitting, speed, elite defender at shortstop -- really a fun kid to be around.”

Asked to describe himself as a player, Santana set a pretty high bar.

“The next switch-hitting Trea Turner,” Santana said. “That's the best way to put it.”

Of course, Santana will have a long way to go after he starts his professional career. He only just began switch-hitting after his sophomore year of high school, so his left-handed swing is a little behind his right-handed swing. He says he already feels “great” with it, but it’ll take time, training and reps to get where he needs to be.

Santana hit 11 homers during his senior season, but he’ll have to add strength to his 5-foot-11, 155-pound frame if he wants to improve his ability to make hard contact against professional pitching.

“I think that's going to be a big part of his development moving forward. And in talking to Adrian, I think he realizes that,” Ricci said. “We sat down with him at the Combine. I think that's a part of his game that we're going to help them address, and I think once that comes, I think the bat's going to really come on.”

If nothing else, Santana will be a prospect to dream on.