Rays get consensus ‘steals’ in McClanahan, Liberatore
The Tampa Bay Rays came into the first day of the 2018 MLB Draft with five picks, tied with Kansas City for the most on the draft’s first night. At the end of the night, the Rays were among the most talked-about teams of the draft’s opening, having landed a couple of prized prospects in Matthew Liberatore and Shane McClanahan. The Rays also picked up high school outfielder Nick Schnell, Florida Atlantic shortstop Tyler Frank, and California pitcher Tanner Dodson.
McClanahan, just two years removed from Tommy John Surgery, was the star of the USF rotation this past season and was projected even before the season started to be a big pick in the MLB draft. The lefty has the physical attributes to be an impact player in Major League Baseball, with a fastball that threatens 100 miles per hour. He’s also a local pick as a Bulls product, already among the top players in USF baseball history despite being limited by recovery from surgery in 2017 and up and down in terms of effectiveness in 2018. A tall, well-built lefthanded pitcher can be hard to pass up. He struck out 120 batters in 76.1 innings in 2018, beyond stellar numbers.
Nick Schnell is an ideal prospect in the outfield. As he’s coming out of high school, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of growth required, but the possibilities are nearly endless. Schnell is said to have five-tool potential, which is nearly impossible to pass up, even in a draft where the traditional “board” went out the window quickly.
Between Liberatore slipping and a number of others, players that were projected to go very high went much later in the first round if they were picked in the first at all. This is not so much a scouting issue as an abundance of resources; the MLB Draft is loaded with so many players on both the high school and college level that it becomes hard to get a consensus anywhere along the line. On Monday night, it appeared that teams valued aspects of baseball that few expected them to.
Tyler Frank was playing against the Florida Gators as part of the NCAA Tournament while he was picked by the Rays in the second round of the draft. The FAU shortstop walked and scored a run in the playoff game, by the way. Frank might be a bit of a project in the field, as an error-prone shortstop, but his bat is more than capable of providing a spark.
Dodson is a newly-converted pitcher, having been a position player for most of his life. In fact, Tanner Dodson won a batting title on the Cape Cod League, the kind of pedigree that typically makes a player a high draft pick as a potential hitter, but he was selected instead as a pitcher. It’s a strong arm, with high upside and very low wear and tear given the lack of time spent pitching.
The MLB Draft continues on Tuesday afternoon, the second of three days. While the top talent has been picked, there is plenty left to go around. Many major contributors on the big league level were selected in the middle and later rounds of the draft. With a talent pool as deep as baseball’s, there is always great talent out there to be found.
Only time will tell, however, which teams identified that talent well.