The Rays' golden opportunity
Tampa has 12 of the first 89 picks in June's draft. Is that enough to rebuild?
With the MLB draft order nearly finalized (Felipe Lopez has a shot at messing things up a bit), much of the talk before the 2010 prospects actually start playing is the flurry of picks acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays. Thanks to free-agent compensation, the Rays currently have 12 selections between No. 24 and No. 89 overall in June's draft. That is a nice bounty in what has the potential to be one of the deeper drafts in recent memory, but to be fair cost has to be taken into account. Based on 2010 bonus recommendations for each draft slot made by MLB, those picks have a "value" of just over $9 million. That's a big number, considering that the average team spent nearly $6.5 million on draft bonuses in 2010, with the Washington Nationals setting a new record with a shade under $12 million. The combination of high picks and an excellent group of talent evaluators in Tampa should lead to an outstanding haul, but at the same time there will have to be some budget picks in there -- those players that the Rays like and will sign quickly for under the slot figure.
Still, it's a fun exercise to figure out what kinds of players Tampa Bay could (emphasis on could; this is the draft, and nothing is guaranteed) get come June but keep a realistic approach. Here's a look at what those picks have meant historically, good and bad. (Note: "Big Leagues" measures how many of the 46 picks from 1965-2010 simply got to the majors, while "Regulars" measures careers somewhat looser, as having a starting role for three years, or current big league players projecting to that.)
2010 Slot Figure: $1.242M
Best Prospect In Last Three Years: Gary Brown, San Francisco Giants
Best Pick Of All Time: Alex Fernandez (28.5 WARP), but Chad Billingsley could catch him.
Big Leagues: 26
Notes: Billingsley (2003) is the last 24th pick to make an impact, with he and Joe Blanton (2002) the only ones in the last 20 years to have substantial careers. Rondell White (1990) was the best position player, and only he and Rich Dauer (1974) played more than 1,000 games.
For Kevin Goldstein's full breakdown of the top picks ever at the 12 draft spots the Tampa Bay Rays have this season, you must be an ESPN Insider.