06/04/07 10:00 AM ET
Price may be right for Rays
Vanderbilt left-hander could go No. 1 in First-Year Player Draft
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Just don't ask the Rays.
"We're going to take who we believe to be the best player in the country," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "[Scouting director R.J. Harrison] and his staff have done a tremendous job of getting in and seeing these guys multiple times with a lot of different people, and getting to know them as well. Information-wise, we feel prepared to make the best decision, but we're not going to cheat the process."
The Rays publicly stated that they had narrowed down their choices for the top pick to Price, Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters and Cypress (Calif.) High School third baseman Josh Vitters.
"Two of the guys are done playing; David Price is still pitching," Harrison said. "Any decisions or getting completely locked in would be premature at this point. We're pretty comfortable with where we're at. As far as a final decision, we're still a few days off."
Harrison gave his opinion of each of the prospects starting with Price.
"We just think [Price] has everything we're looking for in a front-line Major League starter," Harrison said. "He's big, he's strong, he's athletic, he's left-handed. He has two plus pitches, and we believe that the changeup is not far behind.
"It's just a matter of [that] he hasn't used [the changeup] an awful lot at the college level. He commands his fastball well, he competes, his character is unquestioned by those people that have been around him, he's a good top prospect."
Harrison said the Rays believe the switch-hitting Wieters has all of the tools to be an everyday Major League catcher with middle-of-the-lineup -- or close to the middle -- offensive potential.
"We like his bat and his power, he has an above-average arm," Harrison said. "He has soft hands; he receives it well. He's a big guy, you don't see a lot of guys his size catching -- about 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. He's a good baseball player. He's very competitive. [In] the three years he was at Georgia Tech, he was also off-and-on the closer for the team. I've seen him go on the mound and throw 95-96 mph at the end of the game."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
When Vitters' name is mentioned, Harrison thinks about his bat.
"When we talked about young hitters ... the biggest question on young players is [that] we'll talk about all those other tools, and you get down to it and you go, 'Well, what about the bat?' There's no 'well' on this guy," Harrison said. "We feel this guy's going to hit and he's going to hit with power, and he's going to be a middle-of-the-lineup, big-league ballplayer. I think he's going to move along at a pretty good clip, too."
MLB.com will broadcast every pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 7-8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. Video coverage of the remaining rounds on Day 1 will air at MLB.com, with live interviews and analysis from Orlando by Casey Stern, Jonathan Mayo and Perfect Game USA's Dave Rawnsley.
Day 2 of the Draft will get under way at 11:30 a.m. ET and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com with analysis from Mayo and Perfect Game USA's Allan Simpson.
Also again this year, fans can follow every pick with MLB.com's live Draft Tracker, a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player, featuring biographical data, statistics, scouting reports and rare scouting video.
Despite any disclaimers to the contrary, the vibe around the Rays' camp is that Price is their guy. The Rays have had somebody at every one of his starts this season, and they scouted him when he pitched for Team USA last summer.
Harrison called Price "dominant" when he's at the top of his game, which he was on Friday night when he struck out 17.
"He's got a knockout pitch with his breaking ball," Harrison said. "When he's at his best, he's like any top pitcher; his fastball command is well above average."
During the regular season, Price compiled an 11-0 record with a 2.71 ERA, and he led NCAA Division I with 175 strikeouts.
"I'd say he has a pretty good feel to pitch," said Harrison, who noted Price is an exception among college pitchers because he calls his own pitches. "He has a pretty good idea of how to pitch."
While the Rays appear headed toward selecting a pitcher with their first pick, don't be surprised if the picks that follow in the Draft are dominated by position players.
"I think we need to replenish our position players," Harrison said. "A lot of those good young players we've talked about for years are now playing in this ballpark, though that's not to say we have some coming."
Harrison believes pitching depth is now the strength of the organization.
"I think we did a good job building our depth in pitching with the group of guys in Triple-A, and the group's throwing pretty good at Double-A," Harrison said. "And we've got two of the big horses in the organization pitching at [Class A] Vero in Wade Davis and Jake McGee, and the staff at [Class A] Columbus is really good.
"You look at what they're doing, we've got some guys to really get excited about. I think pitching depth has all of a sudden become a strength. We just have to get some of those prospects to start becoming good Major League pitchers."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.