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Rays sign 2020 first-round Draft pick Bitsko

@juanctoribio
June 23, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite being one of the youngest players in the 2020 MLB Draft at age 17, and despite not throwing a single pitch as an upperclassman, Nick Bitsko -- and his immense potential -- made it easy for the Rays to select him with the No. 24 pick.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite being one of the youngest players in the 2020 MLB Draft at age 17, and despite not throwing a single pitch as an upperclassman, Nick Bitsko -- and his immense potential -- made it easy for the Rays to select him with the No. 24 pick.

But after drafting him, the Rays knew the difficult part was going to be signing Bitsko, who was committed to the University of Virginia. On Tuesday, the Rays were able to make it official with Bitsko, adding the first-rounder to a long list of highly touted pitching prospects within the organization.

The deal for Bitsko came with a $3 million signing bonus, according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. That’s slightly over the $2,831,300 slot value for the No. 24 pick.

Bitsko, who reclassified to the class of 2020 in order to reach another level of baseball, said that his decision to sign with the Rays came down to feeling “mature enough mentally and physically,” despite just turning 18 years old. In January, he announced his decision to graduate from high school early, making him eligible for this year’s Draft. His final high school season was scheduled to begin in April, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously it’s a great organization, and they’re top level in developmental and stuff like that,” Bitsko said. “The reclassification decision back in the fall, I think it was the right decision overall for me to do something and further my career in baseball and see how far I can take this throughout pro ball and see how far I can go.”

On the field, Bitsko’s ability to reach 98 mph with his fastball was a huge attraction to the organization. The right-hander also projects to have a plus curveball, which should help him go through the Minors a little bit faster, if all goes well.

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, Bitsko went a combined 4-2 with a 1.27 ERA and 68 strikeouts. Those numbers were good enough for Bitsko to win the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in Pennsylvania. He was also named a Perfect Game preseason All-American.

Off the field, the Rays came away impressed with his maturity. In fact, Bitsko mentioned that he’s going to look into the stock market in order to invest some of his signing bonus.

“Nick is an exceptionally talented young man, and we are thrilled to have him in the Rays organization,” said senior director of amateur scouting Rob Metzler. “Nick’s physical attributes -- size, arm action, delivery and athleticism -- paired with an advanced maturity and professional focus, should give him a great chance to complete his way through the system.”

By signing Bitsko, the Rays have now come to an agreement with four of their six Draft picks: Alika Williams, Jeff Hakanson, Hunter Barnhart and Bitsko. The team has spent $5,785,000 of its $7,474,600 bonus pool, leaving $1,689,600 to sign second-rounder Ian Seymour and fourth-rounder Tanner Murray. The club is expected to come to an agreement with both Seymour and Murray.

“It’s a great day,” Bitsko said. “It’s a big relief not having to worry about all the shenanigans. It’ll be fun to see how I develop this summer and go from here.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.