Rays looking to boost a strong system in Draft

June 3rd, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- For a team like the Rays that relies on player development more than the free-agent market, the Draft serves as an important time to continue to stockpile young talent.

The 2019 Draft will take place tonight through Wednesday, beginning with tonight's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 41 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon ET.

Go to MLB.com/Draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Rays, whose first selection is the 22nd overall pick.

In about 50 words
Through the years, the Rays have built a reputation for developing quality arms, but Tampa Bay has done a much better job of stockpiling talented position players to go with its pitching prospects. Six of the Rays’ top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, are position players (seven if you count two-way player Brendan McKay), which allows them to go into the Draft ready to select the best player available and not focus on a specific weakness.

What they’re saying
"I think certainly, once you have guys that are out doing it, it makes it easier to be open to it. But it’s never something you want to force.” -- Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom, when asked about the possibility of drafting two-way players

Who might they take?
In his most recent mock draft, MLB.com Draft expert Jim Callis has the Rays selecting shortstop Gunnar Henderson from Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala. Callis notes that he could see Tampa Bay going after other prep shortstops, including Brooks Lee (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), Matthew Lugo (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico) and Nasim Nunez (Suwanee, Ga.). MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo also has the Rays drafting Henderson.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

This year, the Rays have a pool of $10,333,800 to spend in the first 10 rounds, which is the 10th most, including $3,027,000 to spend on their first selection, ranking 22nd.

Shopping list
The Rays come into the 2019 Draft with the second-ranked farm system in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, so it’s difficult to find a weakness. Tampa Bay will always look to draft the best player available, but trying to add a third-base prospect will be a priority. The Rays don’t have a third-base prospect on their MLB Pipeline top 30 list, and the only notable prospect at the position is 25-year-old Mike Brosseau, who is at Triple-A Durham. Tampa Bay’s search for a future third baseman will be something to watch next week.

Trend watch
Bloom and Erik Neander have proven that they aren’t afraid to take the player they believe is the best prospect on the board, regardless of whether he’s a college or a high school player. Three years ago, the Rays took outfielder Josh Lowe out of high school. Two years ago, the team selected McKay out of the University of Louisville in the first round. Last year, Tampa Bay selected pitcher Matthew Liberatore out of high school with the 16th pick in the Draft. There’s no notable trend with the Rays, which always makes it difficult to predict which direction they’re leaning.

Recent top picks
2018: LHP Matthew Liberatore (Class A Bowling Green)
2017: LHP/DH Brendan McKay (Triple-A Durham)
2016: OF Josh Lowe (Double-A Montgomery)
2015: OF Garrett Whitley (Class A Advanced Charlotte)
2014: 1B Casey Gillaspie (Traded to White Sox in 2017 for LHP Dan Jennings)