Rays nab high-risk, high-reward catcher
Bailey's elbow surgery makes him lower Draft choice
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay's director of scouting R.J. Harrison said he was "tickled" to find catching prospect Luke Bailey available when the Rays' turn came up in the fourth round.
Harrison knew it was a high-risk, high-reward pick, and another player that Tampa Bay had scouted with a recent injury. But Bailey was just too good to pass up.
So with the 139th pick of the First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday, the Rays took Bailey, out of Troup County High School in Georgia, despite his having had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on his elbow in May, a fact that likely caused him to drop from a potential top-10 pick entering the spring.
It was Tampa Bay's third pick in the first four rounds of a player with some injury -- first-round pick LeVon Washington had surgery on his labrum this past fall, and second-round pick Kenneth Diekroeger had his senior season cut short due to a knee injury.
That didn't cause much hesitation for Harrison or vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who couldn't pass up the potential of Bailey, ranked the No. 7 overall prospect in Baseball America's top 100 in 2008.
"We do a tremendous amount of due diligence on the medical side, and we feel like we have a tremendous medical staff that is in a good position to get them back healthy," Friedman said. "We would not have taken them if we felt like it was something significant or would put them in a position to not necessarily get at their tools. We feel like, with our training staff, that we're going to be in a good position to get them on the field."
Bailey is 6-feet, 198-pounds and set team records last season with a 1.082 slugging percentage, 105 total bases, 61 RBIs and 17 doubles while batting .505. This year, he was hitting .569 with six home runs and 30 RBIs until late April, when he injured his elbow while pitching in a relief appearance.
The Tommy John surgery was performed by acclaimed surgeon Dr. James Andrews, also the Rays' team doctor.
"In the industry, an injury like that makes everybody take a step back," Harrison said. "But we think he was one of the better young catchers in the Draft."
Bailey has a scholarship offer to play for Auburn University, though Harrison believes he'll choose to sign with Tampa Bay.
"This kid wants to sign, he wants to get out and play, he wants to be a big leaguer," Harrison said.
Bailey headlines a second-day Draft class that was comprised mostly of position players, though several pitchers were taken in the middle rounds. Eight of Tampa Bay's first 10 picks were position players. Catcher was considered a position of emphasis for the Rays, though Bailey is the sole catcher they've selected so far.
Jeffrey Malm, 1B, Bishop Gorman HS (Nev.)
There was likely no better two-way player in the state of Nevada this year than Malm, who hit .564 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs and was 11-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings for Bishop Gorman this season. Malm has already committed to the University of Southern California. He was rated the No. 59 prospect by Baseball America; No. 25 by MaxPreps.
Devin Fuller, RHP, Chandler Gilbert CC (Ariz.)
Was selected in 14th round of 2007 Draft by Los Angeles Dodgers but opted to go to Arizona State. After freshman season, transferred to Chandler-Gilbert CC where he went 3-2 with 2.36 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 53 innings this season. Ranked No. 190 overall prospect by Baseball America.
Cody Rogers, CF, Panola JC (Tex.)
Hit .377 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs for Panola this season. Committed to Texas A&M.
Rays -- Top five selections
|30||2B||LeVon Washington||Buchholz HS|
|78||SS||Kenneth Diekroeger||Menlo School|
|108||CF||Todd Glaesmann||Midway HS|
|139||C||Lucas Bailey||Troup County HS|
|169||1B||Jeffrey Malm||Bishop Gorman HS|
|Complete Rays Draft results >|
Brett Nommensen, CF, Eastern Illinois University
A 5-foot-10 senior was a Baseball America midseason All-American for EIU this season and set school records for batting average (.525) and on-base percentage (.652). He was sidelined for a month with a wrist injury in April. EIU's all-time leader in runs, second in hits and walks, and third in steals.
Kevin James, LHP, Whitefish Bay HS (Wisc.)
Considered best high school pitching prospect in state. 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. Has a scholarship in line for Boston College. Hit .550 with five home runs, 35 RBIs and 37 stolen bases.
Derek Dennis, SS, Forest Hills Central HS (Mich.)
Has said he will attend Michigan University if not selected in the first or second round. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound shortstop was ranked the ninth-best at his position by Baseball America. Hit .517 with six home runs and 41 RBIs as a senior.
Alexander Koronis, RHP, University of Tampa
8-2 with 3.48 ERA as a junior for Tampa. Was a transfer from the University of Miami and a 40th-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers out of high school in 2006. For Monsignor Senior High School in Miami, he went 8-1 with a 2.30 ERA en route to helping win a Florida state title. He's 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds.
Andrew Bellatti, RHP, Steele Canyon HS (Calif.)
Has scholarship to Cal-State Fullerton. Went 3-1 with 2.33 ERA this season, and batted .450 with three home runs. Named First Team All-County.
Hunter Hill, RHP, Howard College (Tex.)
5-foot-11, 185-pound pitcher had a 3.94 ERA in 12 appearances as a reliever this season, striking out 24 in 16 innings to help the Hawks to a record 57 straight wins and a national championship. Hill was 11-0 with a 0.52 ERA his senior season for Prestonwood Christian Academy as district MVP.
Zach Quate, RHP, Appalachian State University
Had the best season by a closer in ASU history in 2009. 3-1 with team-record 11 saves and 1.09 ERA in 39 appearances. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound former starter was third-team All-American and first-team All-Conference.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Faith Christian Academy (Colo.)
Missed two months of this season with a broken hand. 6-foot-2, 165-pound right-hander was a Class-A all-state honorable mention by the Denver Post this year. Has scholarship to Missouri State.
Tyler Bortnick, 2B, Coastal Carolina University
Hit .363 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and 59 runs as a Second Team All-Big South honoree as a senior for CC. Played shortstop as a junior and was Big South Tournament MVP after going 9-for-18 in five games.
Alexander Diaz, RF, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy HS (P.R.)
6-foot-3, 180-pound outfielder batted .400 with 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases this season.
Jacob Partridge, LHP, John R. Rogers HS (Wash.)
Ranked the No. 1 left-hander in Washington by Baseball Northwest. 6-foot-2 pitcher throws in the low-90s and is athletic with a good curveball. He signed to play with Gonzaga.
Scott Shuman, RHP, Auburn University
7.90 ERA in 15 appearances for Tigers this season. 6-foot-3, 220-pounder was a 23rd-round pick by Milwaukee Brewers in 2006 after going 8-2 with a 1.72 ERA for Tift County HS (Ga.). Led Auburn with 2.00 ERA in 14 appearances as a freshman in 2007.
Dylan Floro, RHP, Buhach Colony HS (Calif.)
Was ranked No. 56 on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list as a junior. Allowed only four runs in 61 1/3 innings this season, holding hitters to .121 average. 12-1 with 0.75 ERA and seven complete games as a junior. Signed with Cal-State Fullerton.
Matthew Swilley, RHP, El Camino HS (Calif.)
6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander had fastball clocked at 94 mph.
Jake Sullivan, LHP, University of Arkansas-Little Rock
Went 5-5 with a 5.82 ERA in 13 starts for Trojans this season. 6-foot-5 left-hander allowed 100 hits and 50 earned runs in 77 1/3 innings. Signed with Georgia Tech out of high school as the No. 3 prospect in Arkansas.
Trevor Petersen, RHP, Hallsville HS (Tex.)
Texas Sportswriters Association Pitcher of the Year and Harrison County Player of the Year in 2008. 6-foot-3 right-hander went 9-2 with 1.33 ERA, 114 strikeouts and 22 walks this season. Also a preseason All-American.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Putnam City HS (Okla.)
Preseason All-American is a hard-throwing left-hander that signed with Oklahoma State. Went 7-2 with 1.64 ERA and 114 strikeouts this season.
Ryan Wiegand, 1B, Gonzaga University
Led team with 65 RBIs and hit .318 with seven home runs and .507 slugging percentage this season. 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, was 1st team All-Conference. Hit .365 with 11 home runs and 63 RBIs last season.
Daniel Rhault, SS, Rhode Island University
Atlantic 10 Player of the Year after hitting .393 with 12 home runs, 60 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage this season. Set school single-season record in RBIs and was on the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award watch list for the nation's best shortstop.
Brady Wager, RHP, Globe HS (Ariz.)
Named 3A Region Player of the Year. Had 2.25 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 40 innings. 6-foot-3, 190-pounder also hit .433 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.
Zach Rosscup, LHP, Chemeketa CC (Ore.)
First-team NWAACC All-Star. 6-foot-2 left-hander had a 1.36 ERA
Gabriel Cohen, LF, UCLA
Hit .274 with five home runs, 28 RBIs and 24 runs scored as a junior this season. Career .283 hitter in three years for Bruins. Hit .243 for Chatham A's of Cape Cod Baseball League this past summer.
Marcus Proctor, RHP, Pinnacle HS (Ariz.)
Son of former Major League catcher Marcus Jensen, who played seven seasons (1996-2002) with the Giants, Brewers, Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox, Rangers and Tigers.
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.