Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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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.