Looking Back at the Rays 2018 MLB Draft

1st round – Matthew Liberatore, LHP

Liberatore is a long 6’5″ lefty pitcher who has been regarded as the top prep pitcher in his class. There is room to add about 15-20 pounds of lean muscle that will only enhance his potential as he makes his way through the Rays pipeline. He currently has a mid 90’s fastball that has touched 97 in small doses. Scouts rave about his mound presence and his ability to command the strike zone. Fresh out of high school, Liberatore shows a plus slider and an average curveball and changeup. The ceiling his high and he is projected to be a frontline starter who you can build a franchise around. He’s currently assigned to the GCL Rays in the Rookie Gulf Coast League and made his pro debut on July 6th going 1.2 IP, giving up one hit, two walks and a strikeout.

1st round (C) – Shane McClanahan, LHP

Another southpaw from The University of South Florida, McClanahan was drafted by the Mets in the 26th round of the 2015 draft. The decision to attend college has paid of nicely for him. He has a fastball that ranges from 97-100 with a plus changeup and average slider. Walks have been an issue, but he still possesses a high strike out rate. McClanahan projects to be a dominant bullpen arm and lefty specialist.

1st round (C) – Nick Schnell, OF

The first position player taken by the Rays is a quick CF who can track down just about anything hit in the OF. Scouts say he also has the arm to play RF if needed. The lefty bat stands 6’3″ and weighs 180. So, the gap power and ability to hit the ball to all fields can turn into home run power as the frame fills out. Schnell has the potential to be an everyday starter at the MLB level. Schnell is also playing with the GCL Rays, hitting only .194 (7-36) in his first 10 games.

2nd round – Tyler Frank, SS

Frank is a 6’0, 185 pound, right handed bat from Florida Atlantic University. As a sophomore he logged every inning of every game at SS. However, he could make the move to second base if he wants to see an every day big league role. He displays above average plate discipline, gap power and some pop that will boost his potential. He seems to project as a bench utility player with everyday starter potential. Frank is with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Short Season-A) and sports a .294 batting average and .917 OPS after his first 19 games, with 2 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R and 1 SB.

CBB – Tanner Dodson, OF

The switch hitting OF from The University of California is also known for his 98 mph FB and plus slider. Dodson is a 2-way player who projects as a better pitcher than hitter. He hits for average and plays an athletic CF but his 11 saves during his junior season make him a prime high leverage bullpen arm in the future. Dodson is also currently playing for Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League. The OF is 13-51 (.255) with 6 RBI and 3 SB in his first 13 games.

3rd round – Ford Proctor, IF

Proctor is a lefty hitter that played SS for Rice University. He stands 6’1″ and just a few pounds below the 200 mark. He shows good athleticism that could land him a super utility role as his pro career develops. His everyday position, if he stays put at one would be second base. He is known for being an advanced hitter with a great plate approach. He is selective at the plate and rarely swings out of the zone. However, the defense remains a question mark and could prevent him from being an everyday starter. Proctor is with Hudson Valley as well, hitting .194 (13-67) in his first 18 games.

4th round – Grant Witherspoon, OF

Witherspoon is said to be Tulane’s best OF prospect in 20 years. He stands 6’3″ and has the upside to reach double digits in home runs and swiped bags. In the tools category, he shows average or better across the table. His average power can be slightly overlooked with his good hard contact rate. His current projection looks to be a quality OF depth option with spot starts with little to zero drop off from the every day starter. Witherspoon is starting off in the Rookie Appalachian League for the Princeton Rays. He sports a .230 average (14-61) with 9 RBI, 4 SB and 22 strikeouts in his first 16 games.

5th round – Taj Bradley, RHP

Bradley was discovered when scouts showed up to one of his high school games to scout one of his teammates. They left the game watching right handed pitcher now take precedence over his Redan High School teammate. At 6’2″, he started the 2018 season as a position player but quickly developed into a pitcher. He currently reaches 88-91 mph with some sink to his FB. As his strength grows, so will the heat on his best pitch. Bradley is still 17 years of age, so it would not be surprising to see him spend a couple years in rookie ball. Projections show a back end of rotation potential to long relief. It all is based on his developing 12-6 curve and other secondary pitches. Bradley is pitching for the GCL Rays and has given up 5 ER and 6 hits in his first 3 games (3.2 IP) at the Rookie level.

6th round – Miller Hogan, RHP

Hogan spent his collegiate career pitching for St. Louis University. He is a 6’2″ right hander that was drafted by the Brewers in last years 2017 draft. He throws a changeup and curveball but his plus pitches are his 4 seam and 2 seam. With the latter being his best pitch. A bullpen role seems to be his outlook, but it would not come as a surprise to see him in the middle of a rotation one day. Hogan is with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Short Season-A) and has a 4.91 ERA after 3 games and 7.1 IP, but does have a nice 10:3 K:BB ratio.

7th round – Joe Ryan, RHP

Ryan transferred to Division 2 California State University Stanislaus to finish out his senior year of college. This turned on out to be a good move for him as he led all the NCAA divisions (1,2,3) with 127 strike outs. He also sported a 1.65 ERA in the 98.1 innings of work. He is a 6’1″ right hander that has a mid 90’s FB that will touch 98 and is complimented with a plus curveball. Look for Ryan to serve as a quality BP arm if he can make it to the big league level. Ryan has looked good for Hudson Valley so far. In 4 games he has a 1.04 ERA after 8.2 IP, giving up 7 hits, 1 ER, 5 BB and 9 K.


Featured image of Matthew Liberatore – via Bryan Green on Twitter

I'm Aaron Schuck, covering all things about the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system. I currently live in Monticello, GA where I teach high school and coach basketball. Even though I coach basketball, please do not let that fool you that I'm only a basketball guy. My love for baseball is very strong. I will watch or attend a baseball game over a basketball game any day of the week. My goal is to provide our readers with interesting and informative information that involves everything in the Rays minor league system. Give me a follow on Twitter @bbbaseball101 and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments or ideas on the Rays.

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