Pictured: Nick Bitsko
This year’s edition of the MLB draft featured only 5 rounds for financial reasons. Nevertheless, the Rays took some very talented players with tons of potential. Their first pick was RHP Nick Bitsko. They took him with the 24th pick in the 1st round. Bitsko is a 17-year old kid from Doylestown, PA. Some might wonder why the Rays took such a young player this early. Well he’s 6-4, 220 lbs and he’s already touching 98 mph on his fastball. The firepower is there and now he just needs to learn how to become a big leaguer as he gains experience through the minor league system. I am very excited to see Bitsko put on a Rays jersey in 3-4 years.
With the 37th pick in the first round, the Rays drafted SS Alika Williams. Williams is a 21-year old from San Diego, CA. He played college baseball at Arizona State University and had a solid career with the Pac-12 club. He hit an even .300 throughout his whole college career. His best season was his sophomore year in 2019 where he slashed a .333 BA with a .429 OBP and only 28 strikeouts. However, Williams is not a power hitter in the slightest, but the Rays saw his ability to get on base and great defensive play as promising tools to build on.
With the 57th overall pick, the Rays selected the Virginia Tech product, Ian Seymour. Seymour is a left-handed starting pitcher that has a fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s. He also has a very deceptive delivery that tends to keep hitters off-guard. Ian finished his collegiate career with a 10-8 record and a 3.72 ERA. He was off to a fantastic start in 2020 as he had a 3-0 record with 40 Ks and only 5 walks. I’m excited to see his turnover to professional ball in the Rays organization.
With the 96th overall pick, Tampa Bay selected high schooler, Hunter Barnhart. Barnhart is a RHP from Paso Robles, California. It’s obvious that California has loads of young baseball talent throughout the state and this kid exemplifies that. Scouts filled the stands to watch Barnhart pitch in his shortened 2020 HS season. He tossed 11 innings this year and finished with a 0.62 ERA and 18 punchouts. According to scouts, his fastball sits in the low 90s and he has an above average curveball. I can’t wait to see the Rays’ farm system tap into this young hurler’s potential.
With the 125th overall pick, the Rays selected another SS in Tanner Murray. The former walk-on attended UC Davis where he would eventually lead the team in most offensive categories. Murray had a career .343 batting average at UC Davis and he averaged only 15 strikeouts a season. His power numbers are rather low, but the Rays are excited to get the most of his great tools.
With the 155th pick in this year’s draft, the Rays selected Jeffrey Hakanson. Hakanson is a RHP from Tampa, Florida. He attended UCF and pitched very well for the Knights as he finished his career with an undefeated 4-0 record and a solid 3.44 ERA. He pitched in 7 games in the shortened 2020 campaign and ended with a flawless 0.00 ERA. The Rays are thrilled to be able to work with this hometown kid and build him into a future big leaguer.
The Rays drafted 4 pitchers and 2 shortstops in the 2020 draft. The thought process behind this method of drafting is that, first of all, it’s very important to load up on talented pitching prospects and the Rays have been doing that for years. Secondly, I believe the Rays drafted shortstops because of the pure athleticism and potential that they bring to the table. Most shortstops generally can play just about every other position on the field. The Rays have always loved having guys that could fill in at a different position every night. For example, Ben Zobrist, one of the best utility guys in the league, played in the Rays’ minor league system. Therefore, this draft was successful in that the Rays got talent that they can work with in some promising utility players.