The Rays had 6 picks for the 2020 Draft and heavily relied on pitching to fill these slots. Everyone knows that Tampa Bay is loaded with hitting prospects so to emphasize pitching shows where they felt they needed to improve moving forward.
We are going to break down what appears to be an interesting mix of players and work out how they would fit into the Rays’ impressive farm system.
Round 1 Pick 24 : Nick Bitsko – RHP – Central Bucks HS East (PA)
Age: 18 – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’4 – Weight: 225lbs
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The Rays surprised a few people with their 1st Round pick, but they picked up a serious talent. Standing at 6’4, the newly-turned 18-year-old graduated early to be included in this year’s Draft. He has the potential to bulk up further and is topping 97mph already.
Fastball: It’s no secret that he is extremely quick with his fastball. Regularly reaching 92-96mph, he topped 97mph during the season and 98mph in practice. He has a 19.1inch lift to his pitch, and it has a 99.6% pitch efficiency. This is consistent with MLB style fastballs and shows the impressive levels he has. He backs this up with incredible control and manipulation to be so accurate and create the movement on the ball.
Secondary pitches: He has 2 secondary pitches. These are a changeup and a slider. Although he doesn’t use his changeup that often, he has the feeling for it and it can easily be thrown around 80mph.
His backup pitch is his slider. Regularly clocking in at 78-82mph, it is a hard breaking ball with plenty of shape. It also allows him to get plenty of swings and misses.
Delivery: He starts with a high kick, followed by a quick arm action. He always looks controlled with his action and he generates plenty of power despite looking smooth when doing so.
Utilizing his large frame, he regularly gets strikes with all 3 pitch types. He shows the ability to be a pitcher and mixing up what he does rather than just throwing a hard pitch. He has plenty of projection and upside, although he hasn’t really shown what he’s truly made of.
High School Career: In his 2 seasons with the Central Bucks he made minimal appearances, particularly at a high level. He had an overall record of 4-2, and an ERA of 1.27 with 68 strikeouts.
Despite this lack of action, he was named a 2020 Perfect Game Preseason All-American and was named the 2019-20 Gatorade Player of the Year for Pennsylvania.
Interestingly, he can play outfielder and hit .450 with 5 HRs.
Overall: One of the most exciting prospects in the 2020 Draft, the youngster has shown the velocity and use of secondary pitches to be a long-term player for the Rays. It will be interesting to see how he copes with more pitching and emphasis to do well but if any team can get the best out of him it is Tampa Bay.
Round CBA Pick 37 : Alika Williams – SS – Arizona State (AZ)
Age: 21 – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’2 – Weight: 180lbs
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Touted as one of the best defenders in this year’s Draft, Alika Williams found himself drafted by the Rays in the compensatory round. Another player that seems to be more hitting orientated rather than power, he has the tools to be an impressive player in the Rays’ system and hold down a primary role in the long-term.
Offensive: Certainly not one of the most powerful players in the Draft, but he has the ability to control the strike zone extremely well. He focuses more on his hitting ability, and this usually pays huge dividends for him.
He has a wide stance, keeping himself very upright, which doesn’t allow for great bat speed or movement. His swing is nice but uses his core too much when creating the action. If we released his shoulders or his lower body a bit more, then this would allow him to generate better power. For a 6’1 frame, he is very static in his hitting stance, but if he can grow into his body he can adapt to make his contacts more powerful.
He has unbelievable plate discipline, culminated in him being walked more than he was struck out at ASU. He can make the most of balls out of the zone and can make plays despite not barrelling the ball cleanly.
Although he lacks significant power, he has shown improvements since he was initially drafted in 2017 by the New York Yankees. He may not hit the HRs required to be successful, but he has managed to adapt himself to hit more XBH. If he can continue to develop, as well as utilizing his above-average speed to steal bases, then he has a promising future.
Defensive: Being deemed the best defender in the Draft speaks volumes for his defensive abilities. He is solid positionally, has good arm strength, quick hands, and agility to make plays on the move. He started out as a 2B early in his ASU career, but switched to SS and never looked back. His arm strength is what will keep him at SS, as he can regularly make the throws to first, or even be the man on the bag for double plays.
College Career: Despite starting his ASU career going 0-from-9, he turned it around to record 52 hits over his final 51 games. He ended the season with a BA of .280, with 8 doubles, 1 triple and 20 RBIs. He had just 17 strikeouts and drew 13 walks. Defensively he had 86 putouts, 145 assists, and just 9 errors to finish with a fielding percentage of .963.
He improved significantly in 2019 in terms of power-hitting. He launched 4 HRs, as well as 12 doubles and 3 triples to end the season with a BA of .333. He was struck out just 28 times and walked 33 times.
He slugged .474 on the season, which was nearly 150 points more than his freshman total of .333, and hit 10 more extra-base hits compared to 2018.
From a defensive perspective, he helped turn 36 double plays, as well as finishing second in the Pac-12 with 149 assists. His defensive efforts led to him being named a member of the Pac-12 All-Defensive team as a result of making just 8 errors and having a fielding percentage of .967.
Although his BA was just .250 in 2020, he hardly struck out, doing so just 4 times in 64 at-bats. He managed to hit a double, triple, HR and 8 RBIs.
Defensively he made just 4 errors, picking up 22 putouts and 38 assists. He turned 8 double plays on the year, tied 7th in the Conference, whilst sitting third with his assists.
Overall: The most impressive defender of the Draft has the ability to play regular baseball for the Rays purely on his fielding strengths. He can hit the ball cleanly and well if he makes contact but will need to work on his power in order to be successful in the Majors.
Round 2 Pick 57 : Ian Seymour – LHP – Virginia Tech (VA)
Age: 21 – Bat: L – Throw: L – Height: 6’0 – Weight: 210lbs
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With their 2nd Round pick, the Rays selected lefty Ian Seymour. He’s not the biggest pitcher but has shown significant improvements since last year that could prove to be hugely beneficial.
Fastball: He consistently reaches 92-93mph, but this has been a significant improvement from the 89-90mph he had in 2019. He has heavy life in his fastball that regularly deceives hitters. There seems to good control over the pitch, with it finding the strike zone on a regular basis, with its most effectiveness coming against RHH.
Secondary pitches: His secondary pitches include a changeup and a slider. Whilst his changeup is well controlled and causes a lot of damage, his slider is not his best tool and could use some work.
His changeup serves as his go-to pitch to get strikeouts. It works well as his off-speed pitch to complement his fastball, by bringing the velocity down significantly from low 90s to low 80s.
Although he has his 3rd pitch, his slider, there needs to be a focus on ensuring it becomes more than just a slurvy changeup. It moves quite well but tends to miss the strike zone too much.
Delivery: He has a high kick and quick wind up, followed by a smooth arm action. He looks to come into RHH, but can adjust his action to hit the outer zone to mix up his pitching technique. He has decent movement on his pitches, which creates problems when located well, but has the tendency to miss as well.
College Career: His first season at Virginia Tech ended up with a 3-3 record, with an ERA of 4.17. Although he didn’t have an impressive strikeout rate (70 in 69IP), he was named in the ACC All-Freshman team, as well as the All-AAC Academic Baseball Team.
2019 saw him post a 4-5 record, with an ERA of 3.97, in 13 games started. Although this wasn’t as good as he would have expected, he increased his strike rate (81 in 70.1IP) and then continued to improve by having a standout summer in the Cape Cod League. He went 2-2, with an ERA of 2.48 and 39 strikeouts in 25.2IP.
This allowed him the opportunity to have an impressive 2020 season, and although he only managed 4 starts, he finished with a 3-0 record and an ERA of just 2.21. This was cemented with 40 strikeouts in just 20.1IP, and only 5 walks.
These impressive figures led to him being named in the 2020 Collegiate Baseball All-American Third Team, the VaSID All-State Pitcher of the Year and VaSID All-State First Team starting pitcher.
Overall he ended in the top seven in six categories since Tech joined the AAC in 2005. This included first in strikeouts per 9 innings, third in lowest opponents BA, sixth in strikeouts and lowest ERA, and seventh in starts and most pickoffs.
Overall: The consistent lefty proved himself to be a reliable pitcher for Virginia Tech, but there are questions whether he is best suited as a starter or as a reliever. He has been a starter for most of his career and has significantly bulked up to improve velocity, but there is potential to be a dominant left-handed arm out of the bullpen.
Round 3 Pick 96 : Hunter Barnhart – RHP – St.Joseph HS (CA)
Age: 18 – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’2 – Weight: 205lbs
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With their 3rd Round pick, the Rays picked up the intriguing pitcher Hunter Barnhart. The multi-sport athlete is impressive physically and generates decent power, but his inexperience on the mound is a concern.
Fastball: His fastball usually stays around the 90-92mph area, with the potential to reach 96mph at times. It has a nice, heavy sinking action as well as regularly pounding the strike zone. He has good control over his pitch, and this could be due to his QB background. He also utilizes his height effectively by creating a downhill plane with his pitch.
Secondary pitches: He has 2 secondary pitches. He has his best pitch, his curveball, and a changeup. He needs to work on his consistency and ability to use all 3 pitches together but his general control is good.
His curveball is his best tool. It has a sharp bite, with plenty of spinning action. It usually drops to around 77-80mph and has decent depth.
His changeup needs work but he throws it well with good arm speed. With more focus on making it a significant pitch, then it has the potential to be a good addition to his arsenal.
Delivery: He has a slow wind-up, bringing his knee up high before throwing with a decent amount of force. It doesn’t require huge amounts of effort but has a lot of upside due to his freshness and ability. His inexperience does sometimes show due to his mechanics and approach, but he throws for strikes and can still be commanding.
High School Career: He had a 2-2 record, with an ERA of 1.27, over 27.2 innings during his Junior and Senior seasons.
In a shortened 2020 season, he picked up 18 strikeouts in 11 innings, in 2 games, with an ERA of 0.64. He split the majority of his time between baseball and football, and although this kept him fresh, he hasn’t thrown too much.
Overall: Due to being a two-sport athlete, he has the physical attributes to deal with the demand for a significant amount of pitching. However, on the flip side to that he lacks the experience that most pitchers have in regards to innings pitched and the way he utilizes his pitches.
Round 4 Pick 125 : Tanner Murray – SS – University of California – Davis (CA)
Age: 20 – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’2 – Weight: 190lbs
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With their 4th round pick, the Rays selected consistent hitting but power lacking infielder Tanner Murray. A player not featured in many Top 200s, he has the ability to make great contact with the ball.
Offensive: One thing is for sure, he makes solid contact with the ball. His body is slightly closed and he has a little skip to the ball as it arrives to open himself up. Although his bat speed is slow, he has great hand-eye coordination and discipline to ensure he utilizes his tools effectively. There is the potential to mistime his swing but more times than not he is able to spray the ball around the field and pick gaps in the outfield.
Despite this ability to hit the ball into the outfield gaps, he shows minimal bat speed and leverage in order for HRs to be more regular. He is not the most powerful but he is technically smart and barrels the ball up well to make up for it.
He has the ability to pick up stolen bases as well, with 21 in 3 seasons. He may not be the quickest but makes smart runs.
Defensive: He has the potential to be a solid, athletic defender. He has loose arms and is an accurate thrower, as well as having plenty of carry with his throws. There are talks of him sliding over to 3B, which would put more emphasis on his batting skills, but his smooth glove skills and quick hands make him a perfect candidate at SS for now.
College Career: His college career started brightly, averaging .333, with 10 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, and 22 RBIs in his freshman year. This led to him being named Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year, as well as picking up a career-first Conference Field Player of the Week nod after finishing 5-for-5 against Hawai’i.
His sophomore year saw him lead all offensive stats for UCD, including runs (37), hits (71), RBIs (31), doubles (16), triples (4) and slugging percentage (.503). He was selected to the All-Big West Conference’s First Team after finishing with a BA of .364 and having just 15 strikeouts in 49 appearances.
Despite the shortened 2020 season, he still managed to hit 7 doubles, 3 triples, 1 HR and 8 RBIs with a BA of .310 in 16 appearances.
Overall: Although he lacks significant power and HR ability, his impressive contact and plate discipline could make him an interesting proposition moving forward for the Rays.
Round 5 Pick 155 : Jeff Hakanson – RHP – Central Florida (FL)
Age: 21 – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’0 – Weight: 185lbs
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The right-handed reliever from UCF became the highest-drafted Knight since 2014. Despite not being included on many lists, the Tampa-native could have been tracked by the Rays early on and concludes their 2020 picks.
Fastball: He has a 92-95mph fastball that has a high spin rate and tops out at 97mph. This can cause deception due to its ability to make it hard to barrel up. His delivery action significantly increases this possibility and is by far his most impressive tool. It was one of his biggest improvements over his 3 years at UCF, in terms of velocity and command.
Secondary pitches: He developed an extremely effective loopy slider in 2020, that allowed him to be less of a hard thrower coming out of the bullpen and more a controlled pitcher.
He reached between 82-84mph with his slider, taking some serious velocity off of the ball. This allowed his two-pitch mix to be hugely effective and struck out hitters for fun. This was reciprocated into his figures and made him UCF’s hottest arm in 2020 with some eye-watering numbers.
He also has a changeup that sits in the mid-80s, that with further development will become a significant third pitch for his arsenal.
Delivery: His delivery is one of the reasons he has been so successful. He puts an incredible amount of force through his body to throw as hard as he can. The movement and quick arm speed make him hugely deceptive and the added slider makes him difficult to make contact with.
College Career: As a freshman, he earned a 3-0 record, with an ERA of 5.52 coming out of the bullpen. He made the most appearances by a freshman pitcher and held opponents hitless in 10 of them. His 26 strikeouts in 14.2 innings earned him team-high strikeouts per inning at 1.85, as well as recording a bullpen-best .118 opponent batting average.
In his sophomore year, he made 22 appearances out of the bullpen, posting a 1-0 record, with an ERA of 3.38, 52 strikeouts, and 6 saves. This included a run of 3 on the bounce, which led to him finishing 7th in the American for saves. He notched a bullpen-best 3.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well as leading the team with a 17.55 strikeout per nine innings mark.
Although he made just 7 appearances in a shortened 2020 campaign, he still picked up 6 saves and posted phenomenal stats of 20 strikeouts and one run allowed in 8.1 innings. These figures solidified him as one of the best bullpen arms in the later rounds of the Draft.
Overall: As a reliever, he has the incredible ability to strikeout hitters, and with continued development on his slider, he could become a dangerous bullpen arm in the Majors. If he can work on his changeup to be a significant 3rd pitch in his arsenal then this will solidify him as an important member of the bullpen.
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