Continuing with the draft coverage, today let’s talk about risk.
Risk is something prevalent throughout the draft, as there is no player void of it. Some carry more or less, but the idea of a sure thing is a myth. There are varying degrees of risk based on different aspects of the player. Sometimes it’s purely performance wise—can a toolsy shortstop become a solid performer, will this crafty lefty have enough stuff to reach the bigs, etc—and other times it’s a little more serious. Perhaps a player is a signability risk, or maybe the player has a checkered medical history.
Back in 2009, the Rays had what I dubbed the Medicine Ball draft. It felt like every pick had suffered an injury that deflated his stock. Tommy had the chance to ask Andrew Friedman about it, and here was the result:
TR: We couldn’t help but notice the drafting of multiple players coming of various injuries in this draft. Was that a market inefficiency?
AF: It was not a deliberate focus of ours in this draft. That said, we have a lot of confidence in our medical team, both in terms of their involvement in the draft process and their ability to take care of our players once we sign them. The work that our scouts do is equally important in making sure we select players who are dedicated to getting and staying healthy.
If there is a player in this draft with a plummeting stock because of injury, it’s probably Matt Purke. Selected by the Rangers 14th overall in the 2009 draft, Purke failed to sign, opting instead to pitch collegiately at TCU. A draft-eligible sophomore, Purke had a fantastic freshman season, striking out 142 batters in 116 1/3 innings pitched while only walking 34 (a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 4.0). It was a good enough season for Baseball America to rank Purke as the third-best draft prospect entering the season, behind Anthony Rendon and Gerit Cole.
But Purke’s road to redrafting has been bumpy over this last quarter mile. A velocity loss blamed upon a dead arm raised flags and buried his likelihood to go within the top half of round one. In BA’s latest mock, they had him going one pick before the Rays first, to the Nationals, so it’s not insane to think he might be present with the Rays on the click, and maybe it’s not insane to think he might be a Rays pick.
When healthy, Purke stands around 6-foot-4 and still has some room to fill out. His fastball was clocked in the 92-94 MPH range, and his slider was the knockout pitch of choice. There is reason to think his stuff isn’t quite as good as before, but that’s something the Rays would have to look at along with his health and makeup.
Of course, this post isn’t necessarily about Purke, he is but an example. The point is that the Rays can afford to gamble a bit more with a few of their picks than a team who has only a first-round pick or two.