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Harrison Says Rays Eyed Kline All Along For Second Round

Posted Jun 7, 2007 by Aaron Knox

Updated Jun 7, 2007 at 10:22 PM

With their second-round pick Thursday, the Devil Rays chose another Southeastern Conference starting pitcher, Will Kline of Ole Miss. Even though Kline didn’t show up on many pre-draft prospect lists, Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said late Thursday that the team had its collective eye on Kline right from the start.

“Will Kline is a guy that we really had targeted for that pick,” said Harrison, who added that Kline resembles current Rays ace James Shields physically. Kline’s low profile might be attributed to the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery after his senior year of high school and only now is regaining full strength. He’s 7-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 17 starts for the Rebels, who are still active in the NCAA Tournament.

The Rays went pitcher again in the third round, this time grabbing Simi Valley (Calif.) right-hander Nicholas Barnese, a 6-foot-2, 170-pounder whose fastball Harrison said is above average. “He’s a good projection kid,” said Harrison, who praised Barnese’s breaking ball and said he has a developing changeup.

In keeping with the theme of the day, the Rays chose another pitcher in the fourth round, Texas A&M lefty David Newmann. While Newmann had 98 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings and 17 starts for the Aggies, Harrison said the organization projects him more as a reliever than as a starter in the majors. Newmann (11-1, 2.98 ERA), like Kline, has undergone Tommy John surgery, which cost him his 2006 season.

Finally, with the 155th overall pick, the Rays chose a position player, high school CF Dustin Biell. Biell has committed to Washington State.

Interestingly, the Rays didn’t make the move toward position players they hinted they’d make when Harrison and GM Andrew Friedman met reporters last week to talk draft strategy. They seemed to expect the question when asked about all the pitching selections. (Friedman even joked that if no one had asked Harrison late Thursday about it, he would ask it himself before the end of the conference call.)

“I think it was a little bit the way the draft set up for us,” Harrison said, “but also we signed five draft-and-follow position players last week. Certainly, we want to continue to replenish our position players, but we didn’t want to force guys that we didn’t think were better prospects than the pitchers we took.”

Look for the Rays to try to go heavy on position players in the 6th-15th rounds or so. After that, it’ll be the usual case of taking whichever player’s highest on the board at the time.

In addition to spending Friday finishing up the draft, Friedman will begin negotiations in earnest with the representative for No. 1 pick David Price, Nashville, Tenn. agent Bo McKinnis. Friedman said he and McKinnis had only a “cursory” conversation prior to Friday and that the framework for a contract is not yet in place.


Reader Comments

Por (Tyler Marsh) on June 07, 2007 (Suggest removal)

There is no way in the world that Kline was the best player available.  He was a signability pick and to say otherwise is a lie.  Someone didn’t want to pay a second round pick, so they worked out a pre-draft deal.  You can only work those out if no other team is targeting that player that high.  He’s low profile because his fastball and breaking pitch are below average and his change-up is just average.  Reading scouting reports, looking at his numbers and watching his scouting video is wholly unimpressive.  I have no issues with the other players drafted, but I just don’t understand not taking the best talent available in the 2nd round.  Especially considering we have the lowest payroll in the league.

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Por (Mark Litt) on June 08, 2007 (Suggest removal)

I agree with Tyler. Why do the Rays consistently draft pitchers who have had previous arm injuries?

Have they learned nothing from Niemann and Townsend?

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Por (Tyler Marsh) on June 08, 2007 (Suggest removal)

It’s not the injuries that annoy me so much as his lack of upside.  I’ve seen one positive scouting report on him and all that said he’s got a good make-up and can be a good pen arm.  Unless he’s a quick to the big leagues guy like a Huston Street (which he doesn’t seem to be), then drafting guys that are either destined to be relievers without true closer potential early in the draft is a bad idea.
Most relievers are failed starters anyway and we’ve got a lot of guys that are close to ML ready and when our high ceiling talent like Price is ready, then guys like Hammel, Howell, ect. will be shifted to the pen, improving it greatly.  It’s the reasons the Blue Jays pen is so strong.  Failed starters are anchoring their pen.

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