Draft 2014: Rays draft 1B Casey Gillaspie No. 20

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays went for power with their first pick of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft when they selected Casey Gillaspie, a switch-hitting junior first baseman from Wichita State, at No. 20.

Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said Gillaspie "sticks out," noting that there were three college sluggers in the Draft who stood above the rest, and "we got one of them."

"And he's a switch-hitter," Harrison said. "It's probably more of a natural loft stroke from the left side. And more of a direct swing from the right side. This is a really strong man. This is not a kid we're waiting for strength to catch up. He's 6-foot-5, 240 [pounds] and he's some kind of put together. ... He's made the way you want a big leaguer to be made."

Gillaspie sounded pleased to be selected by the Rays.

"I'm so thankful for the opportunity to play for the Rays' organization," Gillaspie said. "I'm so happy about it. I'm ready to get going. I can't say thank you enough to the organization for picking me in the first round. Just overwhelmed with happiness and just so thankful for the opportunity."

With the 60th overall pick of the Draft, the Rays selected Cameron Varga, a right-handed pitcher from Cincinnati (Ohio) Hills Christian Academy. Their final selection of the first day was Brent Honeywell with the 72nd overall pick. He is a right-handed pitcher from Walters State.

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m.

Lacking offensive talent in their farm system, the Rays couldn't resist the strapping slugger when they made their first pick. In addition to being equipped with the bat, Gillaspie is said to be capable at first base.

Gillaspie is projected to move quickly through the Minor Leagues en route to his ultimate destination as a middle-of-the-order hitter in the Majors.

While many have projected Gillaspie to have a quick ascent to the big leagues, he sounded humble when asked about his chances to do so.

"I haven't really thought about it too much, moving through the ranks and everything," Gillaspie said. "I'm going to work hard and hopefully move through the ranks fairly quickly."

Gillapsie hit .389 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs this season for the Shockers. He also had a .682 slugging percentage and a .520 on-base percentage.

Gillaspie's father, Mark, is a former All-American outfielder at Mississippi State and he played professionally, reach Triple-A. He encouraged Casey to become a switch-hitter at the age of 8. Meanwhile, the first baseman's brother, Conor, was a third baseman for the Shockers and was picked 37th overall by the Giants in 2008. He currently plays for the White Sox.

"His father played up at Triple-A," Harrison said. "It's a baseball family. He can draw off his brother's experience. I just think it's a real good baseball family."

Gillaspie called it a "big advantage" to have a brother who had been in his position.

"He's kind of gotten me through this whole Draft process," Gillaspie said. "He told me to enjoy it. I'm thankful to have him. He's been through it all. I just take his advice to enjoy the process and have fun."

When asked if he had fun on Draft day, Gillaspie allowed that it was "a little nerve-racking."

He confessed that he did not know a lot about the Rays.

"I watch them, usually on the MLB Network, when David Price is pitching," Gillaspie said. "I don't know much. I'm hoping I can get in there and make an impact on the organization and help them win ballgames whatever way I can."

Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 Draft, is the last Rays first-rounder to reach the Major Leagues.

Because of his brother, Gillaspie has been around Major League hitters and has seen them take batting practice, so he did not take the bait when asked if he could hang with the big boys.

"Those guys are big league hitters," Gillaspie said. "There's no other way around it. They're up there for a reason, and I can't really compare myself, because they're so good. I'm going to try and work my way up there. Whatever I need to do, I'm going to do. ... Those big league hitters, you know, I can't take anything away from them, because they're very good. I hope someday to be up there with them."

Harrison noted that Gillaspie was "ready to go" as far as signing with the Rays.

"So as soon as we can get the logistics together, we'll get him taken care of, get him signed and get him out there playing," Harrison said.

When asked how important it is for Gillaspie to sign as quickly as possible, Harrison didn't mince words.

"I think it's really important," Harrison said. "The sooner he gets out playing, the sooner he can get here."

Rays nab record-setting righty in second round

Draft Report: Cameron Varga, HS Pitcher

ST. PETERSBURG -- With the 60th overall pick of the Draft, the Rays selected Cameron Varga, a right-handed pitcher from Cincinnati (Ohio) Hills Christian Academy.

"Well-built strong right-handed pitcher out of the Cincinnati area," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "Power fastball, power breaking ball, an advanced ability to pitch. Just a good young power pitching prospect."

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m.

2014 Draft Central

Varga, who stands 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, set a national high school record by striking out 33 consecutive batters, which broke the previous record of 22 set in 1973.

Varga, 19, was named the Gatorade Ohio Baseball Player of the Year after going 9-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 126 strikeouts and five walks this season.

"I think the competition is a little ... it's one of those private school leagues," Harrison said. "[But] this guy's got good stuff."

Varga throws a 90-95 mph fastball with good life and an easy delivery. His curveball and changeup are said to have potential.

Varga experienced trouble with biceps tendinitis last summer, and he will turn 20 in August, which made him one of the oldest players among the high school prospects.

Neither of those facts proved to be concerns to the Rays.

"The age is a reality," Harrison said. "He's a year old for a high school kid. The arm situation, they chose to rest a summer. We've had our medical staff go through it all, and we've gotten ... they're good with the situation the way it is."

With their first pick (No. 20 overall), the Rays selected Casey Gillaspie, a switch-hitting junior first baseman from Wichita State.

Their final selection of the first day was Brent Honeywell with the 72nd overall pick. He is a right-handed pitcher from Walters State.

JuCo star Honeywell goes to Rays at No. 72

ST. PETERSBURG -- With their final selection of the first day of the 2014 Draft, the Rays used the 72nd selection to pick right-hander Brent Honeywell from Walters State.

"Brent Honeywell is a lean, wiry-body kid," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "Fast arm. Live arm. He actually throws a screwball.

"I thought he was going to be a gimmick guy when I heard about him and actually came into our workout the other day. He has a really good ability to do a lot of things with the ball. Good breaking ball, changeup. He's an interesting character."

Honeywell, 19, is a graduate of Franklin County High School in Carnesville, Ga. He went 11-3 with a 2.81 ERA this year in his freshman season at Walters State.

2014 Draft Central

He struck out 102 batters while walking just 15 in 83 1/3 innings. He allowed just 71 hits and 26 earned runs.

On Tuesday morning, Walters was named a National Junior College Athletic Association Second Team All-American.

With their first pick, the Rays selected Casey Gillaspie, a switch-hitting junior first baseman from Wichita State, at No. 20.

With the 60th overall pick of the Draft, the Rays selected Cameron Varga, a right-handed pitcher from Cincinnati (Ohio) Hills Christian Academy.