My Ho-Hum Draft Attitude


Not sure why, but I do not get up for all the hoopla and pageantry of the First Year Player Draft or Rule 4 Draft like some people do around the Tampa Bay region. You will not see me profile or even throw a huge amount of fanfare or prognosis towards a player getting their first taste of professional baseball just yet….They have not cut their teeth yet on the rawhide and still might not sign or make the grade out of the gate. The First Year Draft is not a sure thing draft where stardom and money come falling from the sky like rain, but is it a great starting point towards achieving a lifetime dream.I do not even watch the pomp and circumstance of the whole Draft process even though  I did love the idea a few years ago when Major League Baseball held the draft at the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, and the Tampa Bay Rays shipped a bunch of fans across the state to watch the events unfold firsthand. I regret not going on that special one-time only journey more for the life experience than for the names pop on the big draft board.

The main excuse or premise I have for not watching or giving a huge amount of time or effort into this initial draft is that the process will take more than four years before these picks can even attempt to blossom onto even for the Double-A or Triple-A rosters, much less gain a chance to stay long into the Spring Training season with the big squad.

The solid fact that a High School kid hit .450 this season or pitches in the upper-90’s  has my interest, but the level of competition they faced is more cause for me to get overly excited. This First Year Player Draft is just that, a leaping off point for these athletes to decide if their MLB dreams will start now, or they forgo the signing and attend college and take the gamble of seeing their stock rise or lower their future draft position. And maybe this is an underlying element to this draft that has me yawning instead of jumping for joy, not that the Rays selected an ambidextrous pitcher in the early rounds.

Unlike the NFL Draft where it is a minute possibility that a player will decide to not pursue a professional career (unlike Bo Jackson and Tampa Bay), the MLB is centered around more unpredictable elements. Sure most of the 30 Major League scouting departments know more useless information about a player before that player’s name is sent to the podium even far beyond if they are an easy sign, or bankable within the team set monetary guidelines. I do not see the Rays anytime soon paying “Matt White” ( $10.2 million) upfront bonus money to a 18-year old even if he does have a golden arm or can shoot a ball into a basket from 500 feet away. Those numbers are no longer fiscally realities to this franchise….yet.

The draft process can produce flaws and guys who slip into full radar view who never pan out, or achieve even sub-par performances in the minor league and never get a chance to step onto a Major League diamond. I have one firm example for you, and one that most long time Rays fans still shake their head over even today. Outfielder Paul Wilder was selected with the Rays first initial pick in the 1996 draft, and never achieved even a partial degree of what Rays scouts saw in him during workouts and game footage.

Wilder was firmly hampered by injury concerns throughout his Rays career, and never got above the high Class-A level before finally bowing out and disappearing into the darkness. Wilder is a firm example of why I do not get worked up, or excited about signing a player right out of high school or college. There are too many variables between that signature going on that contract, and the day they finally step out of the clubhouse wearing the teams colors for the first time.

So I just watch their progress through the short-season farm teams and wait until they officially get on my radar at Port Charlotte where we can get box scores and information readily available to see daily.
I really have not followed former Rays first pick Tim Beckham’s rise through the Rays system until this season since he is stationed now less than 80 miles from the doorway of Tropicana Field. It is not an idea of “out of sight, out of mind”, but a more realistic view of them not being a viable option until they begin their rise through the Rays farm system with authority.

All we have to do is look at the spirited and enthusiastic tale of Matt White who signed with the Rays after his agent, Scott Boras found a loophole in the draft system and the Rays offered up a huge chunk of change for his right arm. White had numerous shoulder and pitching injuries and never got to be even a shadow of the pitcher we all thought he would become before finally getting to the Major League level. He was selected in the same draft class with local Sarasota southpaw native Bobby Seay.

But while Seay was taking his turn running through the Rays system, White was sidelined by injury or personal situations that hampered him until he finally retired still at the minor league level. That right there in a nutshell is why I do not get excited or even predict, complain or even get ruffled by the Rays draft selections. Too many flip-flopping variables, too many “what if’s” in the scenario, and ultimately, nothing can be cast in cement or gold as to the future of any one of those selected.

But then every once in a while a guy come from out of nowhere like Rays 89th Round selection  relief pitcher Travis Phelps. He showed me that the even the forgotten can rise up and be counted when he made his Major League debut on April 29, 2001 for the Rays against the Boston Red Sox and worked two scoreless innings of relief work. Guys fight to get to this point in their careers to wear the colors of their parent team. We do not see the sweat and toils and struggles firsthand, but see the physical remains of that adventure when they finally make it to “The Show”.

There is a small percentage of players that the Rays draft in this current two day process who will ever make it to the top tier of the minor league ladder, much less put on a Major League uniform. So the first sound of their names by an announcer during a draft possibly 5 years earlier is not a huge thing to me. But when the Public Address announcer at Tropicana Field finally says their name, you can bet I am alert, attentive and ready to see another Rays player achieve his childhood dream.

The first time I hear their name echoing throughout Tropicana Field, they have made that final step in the process, and now the job of maintaining that spot takes on a whole different set of parameters. So if the Rays drafted an ambidextrous pitcher in an early round, that is fine with me, but until he gets at least to Port Charlotte, he is what Kevin Costner once called “meat” to me.

10 Comments

after all the rays have been blessed with in the draft i thought you would be gung ho each year. im sure the front office knows what they are doing this time around and will pluck the feathers off the best bird in the flock to come on down to tampa. sorry about that analogy-not my best work
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I have just learned not to put all my eggs in one basket and get over joyed and gung ho on guys that are years away from helping solve problems at the Major League level.
I am more exicted about the Aneury Rodriguez’s and Jeremy Hellickson’s who are just under the cusp of providing depth and talents to the big club.
But then I also saw a lot of guys picked before me in the NFL draft never set upon the turf…even once during the regular season…So my hopes are for health, wealth and a bit of good karma for the Rays draft class of 2010.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Interesting take on the draft.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Cat,
I am just one of those interesting people, so hopefully I can give a wild opinion not thought of before….hopefully.
Seriously, I just do notget so excited of we get a Top 10 guy, or a bottom tier High Schooler who can throw 100, but has the accuracy of a blind archer.
Until they get a little farm team seasoning into their work ethic, you never know how they would come out.
I just see no reason to emotionally invest myself at all in a guy who has not earned his first 15-day paycheck yet for your organization.
After Princeton and Hudson Valley (Rookie/short-season) conclude, then youget a small glimpse at the future….hopefully.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

As an aside: If these kids don’t sign right away they potentially lose a whole year of development. The kids who follow their agents blindly and wait till August per say, don’t realize it, but they set themselves back a whole year. That is why the A-Level short seasons start in June so as to wait for these guys to sign. Then they move on to long-season A. The Baseball Draft really is yawn inspiring. Outside of the super-scouts, these draft picks are a crap shoot.
mike
http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.mlblogs.com/

Very true article about the MLB draft. Makes a guy like Stephen Strasburg seem all the more incredible.
http://zkonedog.mlblogs.com/

Zkonedog,
There is more of a room for error in MLB First Year player drafting than in the NFL Draft. IN the MLB variety of the draft, you can get someone and it takes a few years before he reaches or helps your ballcub, even in September.
In the NFL Draft, you had to be pretty much correct with the first 5 rounds of the draft, or you were not going to have a good season.
In baseball, those guys get to mature, in football, we had to already be mature on draft day.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Mike,
I am a firm believer that a baseball player seems to take a few years to mature, especially if he is cming straight out if High School into the baseball farm system.
If for nothing else but to get used to wooden bats and hard breaking stuff like sliders and cutters that are almost non-existent in most non-AAU Leagues.
But with training and instruction improving every day, maybe some day we can see someone again go straight from his prom to the Majors…But I kind of doubt it.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Just a minor note: Wilder was taken with the (Devil) Rays’ first pick in the 1996 draft, not the 1998 draft. That was Josh Presley (in the 4th round — they didn’t have any picks in the first 3 rounds that year).

You are totally correct. Do not know how I missed that 2 years ago, but thank you for letting me know about my brainfart. Seriously, I know it was 1996, but not sure why I put 1998 since I knew Wilder was already in our system that season. Just goes to show you I’m not perfect ( far from it) and do thank you for showing me the error.
I have corrected it and also saw it was a post that lost the photos since our merge to WordPress, so edited the photos out of the post too.

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