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After Price, a long Rays wait
By Marc Topkin
Published June 7, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Making David Price the top pick in today's draft is the easy part for the Rays. The waiting to make their next pick - through 63 more picks, and four hours of ESPN2 hype - is the hard part.
With 34 compensation picks (which are given to teams who lose free agents) added after the first round, the Rays' second pick (No. 65 overall) is essentially going to be a third-round talent. Their third pick is No. 95 overall.
Worse, the teams that have the extra picks aren't the small-market clubs that need/deserve the help: The Giants and Padres will each pick six times, the Rangers five times and the Blue Jays four times before the Rays make their second selection.
But, under any terms, the process remains vital to the Rays.
"The amateur draft is and always will be critically important for us. Scouting and player development are our lifeline, " executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "R.J. Harrison and our amateur scouts have done a tremendous job lining up our draft board and we're looking forward to continuing our trend of drafting and developing quality major-league players."
DIFFERENT LOOK: The biggest change in the draft is that the first round (and compensation round) is on TV today, with ESPN2 showing the proceedings live from Disney. Each team will have ceremonial representatives - the Rays' are Don Zimmer and Dave Martinez - with the real work being done at their offices. MLB, in its ongoing efforts to suppress bonuses, has also put a deadline on signings (Aug. 15) and improved the compensation for teams that don't sign their top picks. (The Rays, for example, would get pick 1-A in 2008 if they don't sign Price.) The draft lasts 50 rounds, with 2-5 tonight and the rest Friday.
NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: After Price, the top picks are expected to include Georgia Tech C Matt Wieters, New Jersey prep RHP Rick Porcello, California high school 3B/1B Mike Moustakas and 3B Josh Vitters, Missouri State LHP Ross Detwiler and Lewis-Clark State 3B/1B Beau Mills (son of Boston bench coach Brad Mills). The top area prospects are Hillsborough High OF Michael Burgess, Middleton RHP Nevin Griffith and Bloomingdale/FSU 2B Tony Thomas.
JUCO IMPACT: The new rules eliminate the draft-and-follow process, where teams took high school players but waited for them to play a year at a junior college before deciding whether to sign them. St. Petersburg College coach Dave Pano, who has had 52 players sign pro contracts since taking over in 1998, said the new rule shouldn't change much, and actually could help jucos.
"Draft and follow wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, " Pano said. "You could be scouted by other clubs, but they couldn't contact you (since the drafting team held your rights). Now, if you don't like the money or round you're picked in, you can go back to the JC for a year and have all 30 clubs watching you."
Pano said his top draft candidate this year is infielder Christopher Garcia.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.