5:03pm: The Rays have officially announced Varga’s signing.
4:49pm: The Rays have reached an agreement with second-round selection Cameron Varga on an over-slot $1.1MM bonus plus $200K in scholarship money, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (on Twitter). The assigned value for Varga’s No. 60 slot had been $943K, according to Baseball America.
Varga ranked 47th among draft prospects according MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, and Baseball America had him ranked 60th overall on their pre-draft Top 500. ESPN’s Keith Law has been semi-critical of the Varga pick to this point and didn’t include the high school right-hander from Ohio in his Top 100. (Law expressed concerns over his shoulder and velocity, calling him a “lottery ticket” that gives the Rays a chance at “stealing” a first-round talent in his review of each AL team’s draft.)
Callis and Mayo praised the UNC commit’s easy 90-95 mph fastball and said that his power curveball has a chance to be a plus pitch in the future. Varga also shows some feel for a changeup, per the MLB.com duo, though he battled biceps tendinitis last year and is among the oldest players in the high school class (he’ll turn 20 this summer and is behind due to transferring schools across the country). BA notes that while his fastball and curveball are both enticing, he struggles to maintain his velocity in the middle innings of starts and will at times settle in at 89-91 mph. He was originally a shortstop — one of the “top underclass shortstops in the country” according to BA — but has gravitated toward pitching.
The Rays have already agreed to terms with their top pick — Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie (younger brother of the White Sox’ Conor Gillaspie). Gillaspie received the full slot bonus, but Tampa can recoup some of the excess spending on Varga due to the fact that they selected and signed three college seniors toward the back end of the first 10 rounds, none of whom should command full slot value. The Rays were allotted $5.8484MM to spend on the draft this season, according to BA’s J.J. Cooper.