Rays should narrow their choice to three

May 6, 2008 at 10:25 am 4 comments

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The Tampa Bay Rays have the first pick in the upcoming 2008 Rule-IV draft, a position they have become familiar with, and they have a ton of options. This draft, unlike others in years past, is wide open. There is a small group of guys that could go first according to tbo.com’s Marc Lancaster: Vanderbilt 3B Pedro Alvarez, Griffin (Ga.) High SS Tim Beckham, Florida State C Buster Posey, Missouri RHP Aaron Crow, University of San Diego LHP Brian Matusz, and Riverside (Calif.) Patriot High C Kyle Skipworth. But I will give you the three guys I think the Rays should consider: The aforementioned Posey and Beckham, and the never mentioned South Carolina 1B Justin Smoak.

I’m not saying the Rays have to take one of these three but I am saying that the Rays should be taking a different approach to this draft than years prior. If it were up to me the discussion wouldn’t go past these three guys: Justin Smoak, Buster Posey, and Tim Beckham.

The Rays don’t “need” pitching even though the old adage “you can never have enough pitching” still rings true. They have the best group of young pitchers in all of the majors with Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel, and Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Nick Barnese, Alex Cobb, Mitch Talbot, and others on the way. That is one impressive group.

Although I am not an advocate of drafting for “need” the Rays are in a good position to do that now and it might be a good idea because they may not be picking this high again for a long time.

Here are the cases for all three players starting with Smoak.

Smoak stands at a strong 6’4”/215 and is a switch hitting lefty with good strength and good athleticism. He is currently (as of 5/6) hitting .401/.519/.808 with 19 homers, 17 doubles, 55 RBI, 48 runs scored, and 44 walks against only 22 strikeouts in 182 at-bats playing in all 48 games with an SEC schedule. He has a line drive stroke that has a bit of an upper-cut to it which leads to a good number of extra base hits. He is very fluid and has a very good eye. His swing should translate easily to wooden bats despite his sub par showing last year with the wood. His glove is exceptional at first and is considered a plus. He has good range and a good arm. He kind of reminds me of a less powerful Mark Teixeira that should hit for a high average and draw a good number of walks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smoak hit .310/.400/.525 in the bigs while playing above average defense at first.

I think the Rays have to add Smoak to the discussion. The Rays are also poised to be contenders starting next year if not this year. Smoak can be ready in 1 ½ – 2 seasons. He would fit in at 1B/DH with Pena in 2010 which is Pena’s last season under contract and then Smoak can allow the Rays to let Pena walk and take the extra draft choices. The lineup in 2010 could look a lot like this:

1. Desmond Jennings – RF
2. Carl Crawford – LF
3. B.J. Upton – CF
4. Carlos Pena – 1B/DH
5. Evan Longoria – 3B
6. Justin Smoak – 1B/DH
7. Reid Brignac – SS
8. John Jaso – C
9. Jason Bartlett – 2B

The Rays could always go with the biggest upside player in shortstop Tim Beckham but he is far off. Beckham is a potential superstar. He has the ability to be a B.J. Upton type while sticking at shortstop but he is at least 3-4 years away. He reminds me a little of Rickie Weeks with his strong wrists and exceptional athleticism. Beckham may be the best player to come out of this draft and that may be tempting for the Rays but by the time he is ready Carl Crawford and Scott Kazmir may be gone and Calros Pena almost assuredly will be gone. The Rays are in good shape to take an impact college bat for the first time in their short history and I think

This is also why I think Buster Posey should be mentioned heavily. Posey is currently hitting .464/.552/.827 with 14 homers, 17 doubles, 3 triples, 5 steals, 54 RBI, 62 runs scored, 38 walks against 14 strikeouts in 179 at-bats playing in all 47 games with an ACC schedule. Posey has done this while playing catcher, a huge need position for the Rays (and almost every other team). Posey is a converted shortstop that also comes in and closes games for the Seminoles. Posey is a pure athlete behind the plate. He is flexible, he has a good arm, and he is slick with the glove and good at blocking balls in the dirt. He projects as more of a .300/.360/.440 guy than his college numbers show but that is All-Star type stuff for a catcher. He should also be a guy who will annually push for more walks than strikeouts. This is what the 2010 lineup could look like if the Rays take Posey.

1. Jennings – RF
2. Crawford – LF
3. Upton – CF
4. Pena – 1B
5. Longoria – 3B
6. Jaso – DH/1B/C
7. Brignac – SS
8. Posey – C
9. Bartlett – 2B

If the Rays go with Smoak they will add a very good offensive weapon that is patient and has a very good glove at first and it will allow the Rays to let Pena walk after the 2010 season and take multiple draft picks. If they take Posey they add an offensive catcher that is very good with the glove up the middle. He allows the Rays to move John Jaso to DH and he can be Posey’s primary backup receiver. If the Rays take Beckham they can’t add him to their immediate plans but they can build around a kid like this for the future.

So what do the Rays do?

The Rays are in a tough position but it’s a problem almost anyone would want to have. The Rays are finally in a position as an organization where they can draft to add a guy on a 2 year plan and this is the perfect time to that with Posey or Smoak.

Who will they take? I don’t know. But I do believe it is in their best interest to take one of those three guys with Posey and Smoak being the best selections for their plan as a contending team in the AL East.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. supremesportsjustice  |  May 6, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Great article Jonathan! I believe Smoak is the right choice here.

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  May 6, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks! I’m not sure if I think it should be Smoak or Posey but it should be one of the two. It should not be Pedro Alvarez or a college pitcher.

    Reply
  • 3. Joe Tribou  |  May 24, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I completely agree with everything, do you think it is possible for a move to RF for Smoak? I know he is a great first baseman but I believe the Rays offensive output could be maximized with a move to RF for Smoak. Considering Pena stays in St. Pete.

    Reply
  • 4. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  May 25, 2008 at 8:07 am

    I don’t think that would be in the Rays plans at all. I think if they took Smoak (which has never been in their discussion) he would serve at 1B and they would let Pena walk after 2010. The Rays have Fernando Perez and Desmond Jennings both in their OF plans for the future and Ryan Royster if he develops more discipline.

    I can see another team doing that but Smoak’s glove is so good at first I think it would be a bad move. I think people underestimate how good a good fielding 1B make the infield.

    Reply

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