Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rays first pick looks familiar

So the Rays used their first pick in the first round of Tuesday's baseball draft to take a speedster who can play center field and shortstop. Well, that's a surprise.

Before the draft, scouting director R.J. Harrison said they favor "middle of the diamond" players, and vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman said they would go the "best player available" route.

LeVon Washington from Buchholz High in Gainesville fits both those categories.

He's considered one of the fastest players in the draft, something which sets him apart from most of the other top talents, Harrison said.

The Rays like athletic players. That's why the roster is filled with Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura.

They like them fast, too. Every so often manager Joe Maddon touts the speed of catcher Dioner Navarro. Whatever.

Washington is recovering from surgery on his right shoulder that cut into his high school season and forced him to DH more often than he played center field. The Rays don't have a problem with that. Harrison said Washington will DH for the Gulf Coast League Rays until his shoulder heals. Then it's off to center field and maybe even shortstop.

Washington fancies himself a shortstop. He compared himself to the Mets Jose Reyes.

The Rays will give Washington some time at short, even though that's where Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft plays.

It will be several years before either Beckham or Washington reach the big club. Who knows how the Rays roster will look then. CC will be gone. Maybe even B.J.

Beckham might emerge as an outfielder. Washington could come up as a shortstop.

We don't know what to expect with draft picks, no matter how high they were taken in the draft.

But we know this: Should Beckham and Washington make it to the Trop (if the Rays still play there), they will bring a familiar look ... athletic and fast.

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