We are now less than 24 hours away from what will be the biggest day of the 2007 baseball season for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. From most accounts the Rays are faced with the exact same scenario that the Minnesota Twins had to endure in 2001 when they had to choose between Joe Mauer and Mark Prior. In that draft, the Twins went with the can’t-miss catcher who didn’t miss over the “can’t miss” pitcher that has so far not even been close to the target.

All indications are that the Rays will take David Price and we have to admit that a 2009 rotation of Kazmir-Shields-Price makes us down-right giddy. Still, the new Devil Rays front office subscribes to two philosophies that fully agree with. First is the idea of taking the best player available, regardless of position. The second philosophy is an old adage in baseball of being strong up the middle, and that starts with the catching position. We still think the Rays will take Price, but it would not surprise us if the Rays selected Matt Wieters. The Rays pitching depth in the minor leagues is suddenly a strength of the organization and Dioner Navarro has yet to show signs of becoming the all-star many projected when he was the Yankees top prospect. Of course, Wieters might be an easier selection to make if he weren’t represented by Satan.

DEVIL RAYS DRAFTOPIA…

  • David Price may have tipped the hand of the Devil Rays the other day when he participated in a conference call. He sounded a lot like a player that had already been selected by the Devil Rays.

It’s only a matter of time before they start competing for pennants…I think they’re going to have a great team. With leaders like Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford leading a group of young, great players. It’s gonna make it a lot easier and fun to play. With manager Joe Maddon, one of the great managers in baseball, they’re obviously a great talented team.

  • Good news for the Devil Rays, if indeed David Price is there guy. Vanderbilt was eliminated from the NCAA tournament much earlier than expected. The loss means that Price, who normally throws 120-130 pitches per game, will have 3-4 fewer starts this year than had Vandy gone on to win the College World Series.
  • Three of the top draft experts from Baseball America participated in a roundtable discussion about this year’s baseball draft. When asked if David Price would be the first pick of the draft, Jim Callis and Alan Matthews agreed that Price should be and will be the top pick.

The consensus among most scouting directors is that Price stands above everyone else in his draft class. As one put it, “There’s David Price, but after that there aren’t a lot of top-of-the-draft guys.” I’d say that he’s rated just slightly higher than Andrew Miller was as the top prospect last year. Price also is advised by Bo McKinnis, so there shouldn’t be much risk of protracted negotiations. He’ll probably get the standard contract given to the best college pitchers each year, a big league deal worth from $5 million to $6 million, and MLB may have the Rays wait to announce it because it doesn’t want that deal to affect others. Price also would be a good fit for Tampa Bay. The Rays’ biggest weakness in the majors is pitching, even though they have some impressive arms coming up through the minor [Jim Callis]

The deal breaker comes in your evaluation of Price, for me. If he’s a true No. 1 pitcher, and some scouts think he is, I don’t see how you can walk away from him, regardless of your evaluation of Wieters. I don’t think R.J. Harrison, the Devil Rays scouting director, has any doubts about Wieters’ ability to catch and throw. Let’s not forget, Harrison himself was a tall, lanky catcher in his days in college at Arizona State who was drafted by the Cardinals. But based on the way Price has pitched, my hunch is the Rays’ like him as a future No. 1 pitcher, recognize the lack of starting pitching in Tampa Bay at present, and make Price their choice. [Alan Matthews]

  • John Manuel also thinks Price should be the top pick but argues that a case can be made for Matt Wieters.

I think Price should be, though I do think a case could be made for Matt Wieters. If “signability” weren’t a factor, I’d really want to know, if I were running a club, if my scouts thought Wieters could catch and throw at the big league level. It sounds like he can, and it sounds like he can hit. A switch-hitting C, possible repeat all-star kind of talent, versus a front-of-the-rotation LHP. I’d actually consider organization need in that case, because to me both are legit 1/1 overall talents, and you’re not selling yourself short on talent. In the end I’d still take Price, but it’s pretty close on talent, for me. I don’t think there’s another true 1/1 talent in the draft; it’s down to those two. [John Manuel]

Spoke with a couple of general managers recently and asked if they would trade their best young pitcher for Crawford — in both cases, these are excellent major league pitchers — and they immediately shot down the speculation. “No chance,” said one. “I love Crawford, and there are a lot of players I would trade for him. But not that guy [the pitcher], because how would I replace him?”…So if the Rays pass on Price, they would still be searching for someone like him. They need to take the pitcher.

 
 

1 Comment

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