1. Tony Saunders, LHP, Florida 4. Quinton McCracken, CF, Colorado 6. Bob Abreu, LF, Houston (traded to Philadelphia for SS Kevin Stocker) 8. Miguel Cairo, 2B, Chicago-NL 10. Rich Butler, RF, Toronto 12. Bobby Smith, SS/3B, Atlanta 14. Jason Johnson, RHP, Pittsburgh 16. Dmitri Young, 1B, Cincinnati (the PTBNL for the 11/11 trade for CF Mike Kelly) 18. Esteban Yan, RHP, Baltimore 20. Mike Difelice, C, St. Louis 22. Bubba Trammell, LF, Detroit 24. Andy Sheets, SS, Seattle (traded to San Diego for C John Flaherty) 26. Dennis Springer, RHP, Anaheim 28. Dan Carlson, RHP, San Francisco 30. Brian Boehringer, RHP, New York-AL (traded to San Diego for C John Flaherty) 32. Mike Duvall, LHP, Florida 34. John LeRoy, RHP, Atlanta 36. Jim Mecir, RHP, Boston 38. Bryan Rekar, RHP, Colorado 40. Rick Gorecki, RHP, Los Angeles 42. Ramon Tatis, LHP, Chicago-NL 44. Kerry Robinson, CF, St. Louis 46. Steve Cox, 1B, Oakland 48. Albie Lopez, RHP, Cleveland 50. Jose Paniagua, RHP, Montreal 52. Carlos Mendoza, CF, New York-NL 54. Ryan Karp, LHP, Philadelphia 56. Santos Hernandez, RHP, San Francisco 58. Randy Winn, CF, Florida 60. Terrell Wade, LHP, Atlanta 62. Aaron Ledesma, 2B/SS, Baltimore 64. Brooks Kieschnick, LF/1B, Chicago-NL 66. Luke Wilcox, OF, New York-AL 68. Herbert Perry, 1B-3B, Cleveland 70. Vaughn Eshelman, LHP, Oakland
1. Acquired 1B Fred McGriff from Atlanta for a PTBNL. 2. Signed free agent RHP Roberto Hernandez. 3. Traded LF Bob Abreu to Philadelphia for SS Kevin Stocker. 4. Traded RHP Bryan Boehringer and SS Andy Sheets to San Diego for C John Flaherty.
CHRIS KAHRL’S ANALYSIS
The Devil Rays spent alot of time talking about how much time they’d spent on
scouting over the past two years, but when push came to shove, they favored
players that people from their front office brass were already intimately
familiar with from their previous employment. The D-Rays made three picks each
out of the Braves and Marlins, the previous employers of their GM, Chuck LaMar,
and their manager, Larry Rothschild.
In some cases, that limited the organization’s choices. Jeff Suppan should have
been anybody’s first pick, but the affiliation with Rothschild locked the
D-Rays into Tony Saunders. Picking Bobby Smith as early as they did is indefensible
any way you slice it: he won’t hit well enough to handle third (especially if
the Rays do not, as rumored, sign Wade Boggs), and the acquisition of Kevin
Stocker makes it clear he won’t be manning short any time soon. The selection
of Rich Butler is amazing: after twenty years’ worth of graveyards being
littered with the bleaching bones of bad Blue Jay outfield prospects, you would
have thought that somebody noticed how hard it is to toss another one onto the
There were tactical mistakes as well as strategic ones: why lock yourself into
Mike Kelly if you want to get the best talent you can from the Reds? Why make
Jim Bowden’s life easier? Again, LaMar’s old conviction that Kelly can play
from their days with the Braves artificially limited the team’s choices from
the Reds’ organization.
That is not to say the Rays didn’t make some good picks: Bob Abreu, Bubba
Trammell, Kerry Robinson, Steve Cox, Randy Winn, Brooks Kieschnick, and even
Carlos Mendoza are all potentially useful players. But Abreu’s now in Philly in
exchange for a 28 year-old shortstop with dubious skills at bat and in the
field, and chances are pretty good that Cox will get to play in lovely Durham
now that Fred McGriff has been acquired. That isn’t written in stone, of
course; the Devil Rays may run a wide-open camp that allows Cox to win a job at
first so that McGriff can DH, with Trammell and/or Kieschnick moving to left.
Unfortunately, it seems more likely that one or both of Quinton McCracken and
Mike Kelly will open the season as regulars, although Robinson, Mendoza, and
Winn are the better prospects. There are rumors that McCracken will be moved,
and the Rays can’t make that move soon enough.
Trading for Fred McGriff is being defended as a generator of fan interest, but
that seems overstated: fans in Tampa are already going to be interested in
their new team, and first basemen who can hit are a dime a dozen. Vlad
projections for `98 indicate that the D-Rays wouldn’t really lose much if they
played Cox regularly:
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SB CS BA OBA SA Steve Cox 557 104 151 23 1 19 81 87 0 0 .271 .370 .418 Fred McGriff 550 99 145 23 1 26 86 76 2 1 .264 .353 .451
In fact, with sluggers like Kieschnick or Trammell, neither of whom have great
mastery of the strikezone, a player with Cox’ discipline is even more important
without getting into the out-making skills of Miguel Cairo or John Flaherty.
That brings me to one of the major mistakes of this draft: the catchers the
Rays decided to choose from. Mike Difelice is a dandy backup, but to John
Flaherty? Tired myths like “there ain’t no good catching” aren’t true, unless
you don’t want to have catchers who do more than catch. That a player of
Difelice’s caliber was picked in the first round is hardly an indictment of the
Cardinals’ farm system as much as it is in the Rays’ judgment, because people
as Mike Difelice are always available on the waiver wire or in the Rule V
draft. This wasn’t the only example of this kind of thinking: having players
like Jim Mecir, Ryan Karp, Herbert Perry or Vaughn Eshelman aren’t horrendous
decisions, but the problem is that players who do what they can do are
routinely and freely available (Eshelman having just visited the waiver wire a
month before the draft).
Larry Rothschild gets a lot of credit for his skills as an instructor and
teacher of the art of pitching, and to match that, the D-Rays did take a group
of pitchers with good potential: Esteban Yan was probably the team’s best pick in the
first round, and Brian Rekar, Albie Lopez, Jose Paniagua,
and (to a lesser extent) Dan Carlson could
all wind up being fine major league pitchers, either as starters or relievers.
Rick Gorecki is a potentially outstanding reliever, and John LeRoy has gotten
good marks for his stuff, and has been described as “teachable.” Although the
Rays were generally smart enough to not pick too many minor league relievers,
they still wound up with two minor league closers: Mike Duvall, who is probably
capable of pitching at the major league level, and Santos Hernandez, who was an
old man at 25, blowing away children at A-ball with a mean forkball.
The Rays may not have had to field the worst team in the American League, but
if the same logic that dictated the team’s first-round priorities plays itself
out in how they choose their major league roster and who plays regularly,
they’ll be hard-pressed to avoid it. Given the unique opportunity that the
expansion draft represents, it’s a shame that they did not take better
advantage of it.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now