Nick Bitsko was originally slated to be part of the 2021 draft class, so when the young righty took some extra courses to graduate high school after his junior year and thus become eligible for the 2020 draft, the Rays didn’t have a ton of fresh information available, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays were limited to a three-inning showcase last August, “plus a 50-pitch March bullpen session at a small indoor facility and an hour-long Zoom call last week,” yet were still impressed enough to make Bitsko the 24th overall pick, just days before Bitsko’s 18th birthday.
Working largely off limited video from Bitsko’s high school games, some throwing-session footage posted by Bitsko himself online, and cellphone footage shot by scout Zach Clark during the bullpen session, the Rays became comfortable in the right-hander’s ability. Clark is still the only Rays employee to speak to Bitsko or his parents in person, as Bitsko’s next meeting with team officials came during the online conversation. “I think the Zoom call sent it over the top for our guys,” Clark said. “Listen to Nick talk about pitching, preparation, what he’s done in the past, you’re like, ’Man, it’s really hard to believe you’re talking to a 17-year-old.’ ”
More from around baseball…
- Of the Yankees’ three veteran impending free agent starters, Masahiro Tanaka is “the favorite to return” to the Bronx in 2021, George A. King III of the New York Post opines. Tanaka will turn 32 in November, though James Paxton shares almost the exact same birthday and will carry a much more checkered injury history into the open market, while J.A. Happ turns 38 in October and is coming off a rough 2019 season. Of course, there’s nothing stopping the Yankees from re-signing only one of these hurlers, and there’s also nothing to say that New York couldn’t let all three walk. The latter scenario seems less likely, however, as that would leave the team with quite a young and unproven rotation mix behind Gerrit Cole, unless the Yankees acquired another veteran starter.
- Fangraphs’ David Laurila recently caught up with Daniel Moskos, the fourth overall pick of the 2007 draft and currently the pitching coach for the Yankees’ A-ball affiliate in Charleston. Despite his lofty draft status, Moskos’ MLB career consisted of only 24 1/3 innings for the Pirates in 2011 before elbow problems and a Tommy John surgery took their toll. After bouncing around the minors, the Mexican League, and independent ball, Moskos followed the lead of several pitchers in recent years by visiting the Driveline facility to try and get his career on track. As it turned out, it led to a career change entirely, as Moskos retired in order to take a job as coach and trainer at Driveline. That position led to a lot of interest from other organizations about coaching roles, leading to Moskos being hired by the Yankees last November.
- While teams are now eligible to begin signing undrafted free agents, some notable players who weren’t selected have opted to go back to school rather than take a $20K offer. The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino reports (Twitter link) that right-hander Tommy Mace will return to Florida for his senior year, which isn’t surprising given that Mace was a consensus top-75 prospect as per this year’s draft projections. (The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked Mace as the 46th-best player in the class, with Fangraphs not far behind in placing Mace 47th.) As Tolentino notes, another good year from Mace could make him in the top-15 range for the 2021 draft.
- Infielder Darren Baker will also forego a free agent contract and return to Cal next season, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Baker, the son of Astros manager Dusty Baker, was rated 184th in Baseball America’s draft prospect rankings.