Rays sign first-round Draft pick Whitley
18-year-old outfielder gets full slot value of $2,962,100 as No. 13 selection
ST. PETERSBURG -- Garrett Whitley's life has been a whirlwind since the Rays selected him with the No. 13 pick overall, in the 2015 Draft.
Whitley, 18, first had to graduate from Niskayuna (N.Y.) High School. Next came the physical with the Rays. Then he signed on the dotted line Tuesday for $2,962,100, which is the full slot value for the No. 13 pick. And, finally, the five-tool outfielder put on a uniform and took batting practice at Tropicana Field.
"The Draft was amazing, and then today, to actually sign that contract," Whitley said. "There's been a lot of people asking for my autograph back home. A lot of pictures. Just a whole lot of excitement back home. And excitement for me in anticipation of this day. Now it's here and I'm ready to get to work."
Whitley became the highest high school Draft selection from the state of New York since the Indians drafted Manny Ramirez in 1991 -- also at No. 13.
Tampa Bay has signed 10 of its first 12 selections and 24 overall. Bringing in Whitley quickly is a good thing for the Rays as it will allow him to begin the process of getting acclimated to professional baseball. He will report to the Rays' Gulf Coast League team in Port Charlotte on Wednesday.
"It's a great thing," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "Really excited. The delay was just waiting for Garrett to graduate from high school. So he graduated last Thursday, so we got him in here the first opportunity with his family. Get through the physical today and everything is good. Now we got him in uniform. We'll take him down to Port Charlotte and get him going tomorrow."
Whitley, who bats and throws right-handed, emerged as a potential first-rounder with a succession of strong performances late last summer on the showcase circuit. He lived up to that billing by continuing to swing a good bat as spring came to the Northeast.
"He's kind of that classic cold-weather kid," Harrison said. "... This guy hasn't played like the guys in Georgia and down here [in Florida] and the Southern California kids. So to get a chance to watch him play against good competition last summer [in showcases], we watched him for a 10-day stretch and he just got better and better, which is what the elite athletes are capable of doing."
Whitley has an advanced approach at the plate for a high schooler from a cold-weather state, and his strength and bat speed could produce above-average right-handed power. His pure speed is his best tool, grading as a legitimate plus.
Whitley's speed also gives him plenty of range in center field, and he has a better arm than most players at that position. He had committed to Wake Forest. Choosing to sign a professional contract was not a tough call for the personable youngster.
"Pro ball is what I wanted to do," Whitley said. "My education is important to me. But I can go back and get that. I want to start my career."
Tuesday afternoon Whitley had the glow of a little boy seeing a Major League park for the first time. He talked batting practice strategy with Rocco Baldelli and bat sizes with Evan Longoria and took some decent hacks in the cage -- hitting the wall several times. Clearly he is excited about the prospects of Wednesday in Port Charlotte and whatever the future brings.
"This is an unbelievable experience," Whitley said. "Playing professional baseball has been my dream my entire life and today it became official."