DETROIT In the best-case scenario anyone the Tampa Bay Rays draft over the next three days is three, four years away from making the big leagues. So, with that in mind, how do they select players? Best player available? Need? “For us it's about lining up the board and lining up the players in terms of who we feel has the best chance to impact a major league team,” executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “That's really our thought process, and we try not to factor in anything about our organizational depth or anything we wish we had more of or think we have a surplus of, because surpluses can be fleeting.
“Deficiencies can change overnight. It's just one of those things. Maybe we're not smart enough to determine that. But I think the most dangerous thing is to get outside of the current draft you're analyzing.” The 40-round draft begins at 7 p.m. tonight with the first two rounds. The Rays have two first round picks – No. 21 and No. 29 (compensation from the Braves for signing B.J. Upton). They also have the 60th pick. ESPN baseball insider Keith Law's mock draft has the Rays taking Nick Ciuffo, a catcher from Lexington (South Carolina) High, at 21 and Hunter Dozier, a shortstop from Stephen F. Austin, at 29. The Rays could also use one of those picks on Cody Reed, a left-handed pitcher from Northwest Mississippi Community College, according to Law. Friedman maintains the draft is the life-blood of the organization, its way to stay competitive with the big market teams that can build teams around high-end free agents. Yet, the last Rays draft to produce a major league player was 2007 – David Price and Matt Moore. Some of that has to do with the patience the organization employs in player development. Some has to do with the misses every organization encounters. “In my position Andrew and ownership have never said, 'Hey, let's make sure this guy is a Major Leaguer,' and I know some (other scouting directors) work under those circumstances,” Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. “We try to take a look at the pool of applicants we're dealing with each year. And we stack them up by which guys we feel have the chance to have the greatest impact at the major league level. “Nowhere in there does the word safe come into play. We certainly aren't reckless. Safe is not really that good of a word in what I do. Nothing is safe. If you're taking the safe way, what you're saying is you're taking a lesser guy in a lot of cases. And there's no guarantee that guy's going to be a big leaguer.”