Rays make Price top overall pick
Star left-hander of Team USA, Vanderbilt opens 2007 Draft
ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price became the top pick of Major League Baseball's 2007 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday when the Devil Rays exercised the first pick to select the junior left-hander from Vanderbilt University.
During a conference call held after his selection, Price, 21, called it an honor to be the top pick of the Draft and to be joining the Rays, adding, "Now that it's over with, it feels good."
Twice since participating in their first Draft in 1996 have the Rays had the first overall pick, and both times, they selected a high school outfielder. In 1999, they used the pick to select Josh Hamilton, and in 2003, they used it to select Delmon Young. Both are now Major League rookies. The Rays have selected pitchers with their No. 1 pick four times in team history.
The Rays have had Price at the top of their board since last summer, which Price said never interfered with his approach.
"You can't really think about that," Price said. "You just have to have fun and play baseball, and that's what I did. I just continued to have fun. ... Go out there and have fun, and everything else will take care of itself."
Price has a nice body of work, but most impressive could be the performance he put forth for as the ace of the USA Baseball National Team's gold medal-winning squad that competed at the FISU World University Championships in Cuba last summer. Price finished 5-1 with a 0.20 ERA in eight starts, with 61 strikeouts and only seven walks in 44 innings.
Price is polished and close to Major League-ready, and he is advised by Bo McKinnis, an agent the Rays have worked with in the past. Price doesn't expect to be changed by money once he signs, noting that he is not a materialistic person. But he confessed that he does like shoes and owns approximately 50 pairs for his size 13 foot.
"I'll probably buy a pair of shoes," said Price when asked what he would purchase first.
The Rays hope to get Price signed and into their system as soon as possible. Both parties agreed to enjoy the day on Thursday before getting down to business.
Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said that Price is everything the organization is looking for in a frontline Major League starter.
"He's big, he's strong, he's athletic, he's left-handed," Harrison said. "He has two plus pitches, and we believe that the changeup is not far behind. It's just a matter of, he hasn't used [the changeup] an awful lot at the college level. He commands his fastball well, he competes, his character is unquestioned by those people that have been around him. He's a good top prospect."
The Rays grew enamored of Price after seeing him pitch in each of his starts this season and while scouting him when he pitched for Team USA last summer.
Harrison called Price "dominant" when he's at the top of his game, which he was on Friday night, when he struck out 17 in Vanderbilt's 2-1 win over Austin Peay in the Nashville Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
"He's got a knockout pitch with his breaking ball," Harrison said. "When he's at his best, he's like any top pitcher; his fastball command is well above average."
During the regular season, Price compiled an 11-0 record with a 2.71 ERA and led Division I with 175 strikeouts.
"I'd say he has a pretty good feel to pitch," said Harrison, who noted that Price is an exception among college pitchers because he calls his own pitches. "He has a pretty good idea of how to pitch."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
Asked to give a scouting report on himself during a conference call, Price offered the following:
"I like to throw my fastball and slider in any count. The changeup is my third pitch. I don't really use it, unless I really feel the need to use it. I throw my fastball to both sides of the plate. I like to locate that and move on to my secondary pitch.
"Actually, [the slider] was the main pitch I used to put people away with last year. But this year, just the ability to set up a fastball in has been my main strikeout pitch. If I need a big strikeout, I'm going to throw my No. 1 pitch, and that's my fastball. I feel like I can throw it in, out. It doesn't really matter what the count is or where the catcher is setting up. I see the glove, and I'm trying to hit it."
Price is familiar with the Rays and likes what he sees for their future.
"They are going to have a great team," Price said. "They have leaders like Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford leading the crop of obviously young, great players. With leaders like that on the mound and in the outfield for you, it's going to make it a lot easier and a lot funner to play. Manager Joe Maddon is one of the great managers in baseball. They're obviously a very talented team. It's a matter of time before they really, really start competing for pennants."
In addition to getting a talented left-hander, the Rays are getting a competitor who is motivated to be the best.
"When you do something, you always want to be the best, bottom line," Price said. "Playing video games, baseball, dominoes, you never want to lose. You never want to be second or third, for that matter. You want to be No. 1 in everything you do. That's my mind-set, whether it's school, baseball, video games -- it doesn't really matter to me. I always want to win."
In order to be the best, Price knows that he'll probably have to season some in the Minor Leagues, and he sounded humble when asked about his expectations concerning when he might make his Major League debut.
"The difference between Major League hitters and college hitters, there is not even a comparison," Price said. "Being able to pitch in the Major Leagues, you really have to have something about you. To go from college and breeze through the Minor Leagues is a rarity. You have to be careful with that."
Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said that the club does not yet know at which level Price will begin his career. But the Rays do believe that he has the potential to move quickly through the organization.
"All things being equal, one of the real benefits of taking the player we feel to be the No. 1 player in the country is his ability to move fairly quickly," Friedman said. "It's just something where we're not going to place expectations on us or him by setting a date. But I think it's in everyone's best interest that the day he's ready to pitch in the big leagues, he is pitching in the big leagues."
Harrison sounded pleased at the end of the day with the way the Draft went.
"Things went great, obviously starting out with Price," Harrison said. "[No. 2 selection] Will Kline, the right-hander from Ole Miss was really the guy we targeted for that pick. ... We had about six to eight guys; he was at the top of that list, so we were tickled."
The Rays rounded out the first day by making the following selections with picks Nos. 2-5:
Round 2: William Kline, RHP, University of Mississippi
In his first two years at Ole Miss, the 6-foot-2, 215 pounder threw just 17 2/3 innings due to Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery before his senior year of high school. After redshirting his freshman year, Kline pitched sparingly the next year before moving into the rotation in 2006, and he is now back to full strength. He has three pitches and projects to a No. 4 or 5 starter. Ole Miss is still alive in the NCAA Tournament; Kline has a 7-2 record with a 3.72 ERA. Harrison said that Kline has some similarities to current Rays starter James Shields.
Round 3: Nicholas Barnese, RHP, Simi Valley (Calif.) High School
Baseball America ranked Barnese as the 95th top prospect in the draft, the 53rd-best pitcher and the 21st-best high school pitcher. The 6-foot-2, 170 pounder went 6-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 12 starts, with three complete games, including two shutouts. He struck out 84 in 70 1/3 innings. His school lost in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. He threw a no-hitter in the first round and received a no-decision (on three days' rest) when his team lost in Round 2. He has committed to Cal-State Fullerton. Harrison calls Barnese a "real loose-arm kid" who has a live fastball and an above-average changeup with a developing breaking ball.
Round 4: David Newmann, LHP, Texas A&M
Baseball America ranked the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Newmann as the 106th-best prospect in the draft, the 58th-best pitcher and the 18th-best left-hander (12th collegiate). He currently has an 11-1 record with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts for the 10th-ranked Aggies (48-17). He earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors this season after missing all of 2006 with Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. The Rays project him as someone who will pitch out of the bullpen. "He has a little bit of a herky-jerky motion that creates some deception," Harrison said.
Round 5: Dustin Biell, CF, Inglemoor (Wash.) High School
A first-team King County 4A outfielder in 2006 and '07, Biell earned honorable mention All-State 4A this season. He has committed to Washington State. The 6-foot, 180-pounder has good tools and good makeup. He's a left-handed-hitting center fielder with a good bat; the Rays believe that he can stay in center field.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.