The Rays announced that they have signed first-round draft pick Garrett Whitley (Twitter link). The high school outfielder from New York will receive the full slot value of $2,962,100 that comes with the 13th overall selection, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Scouting director R.J. Harrison made the following comment on the team’s top pick (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times):
“Garrett has all the tools we look for in a young prospect, both physically and mentally. He has the tools to play center field and hit in the middle of a lineup, and has the potential to impact the game with his legs, bat and glove. On top of that, Garrett is an intelligent young man with a great mental foundation for playing our game. We are very excited to welcome him to the organization and get him started on his professional journey.”
Whitley ranked as the seventh-best prospect in this year’s draft class in the eyes of Baseball America. ESPN’s Keith Law, meanwhile, ranked him 11th. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs rated Whitley as the draft’s No. 15 prospect, and he placed 17th on the Top 20 of MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis.
Whitley’s draft stock took a step forward after he made adjustments based on input from pro scouts at last year’s Area Code Games, per BA’s report. As of right now, the only one of his tools that doesn’t project to be above average is his arm, but he takes “gazelle-like strides” in center thanks to plus speed and projects to hit for power. McDaniel calls Whitley a “linebacker-looking athlete” that can play center and has power, though he notes some questions about consistent contact. Law feels he has more upside than fellow first-rounders Kyle Tucker and Trenton Clark but less certainty due to concerns around his hit tool, and MLB.com feels that he has average-or-better tools across the board with an advanced approach at the plate. Whitley had been committed to Wake Forest.