5:15pm: The signing’s now official, the Rays tweeted.
3:45pm: The Rays will sign first-round right-hander Nick Bitsko, per Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. He’ll earn $3MM, an increase over the $2.83MM slot value of the 24th overall selection.
Bitsko is an 18-year-old right-hander from Pennsylvania who graduated high school a year early in order to enter the 2020 draft class. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel recently profiled Bitsko, writing that a good deal of scouts regarded him as the highest-upside hurler available in the draft. As McDaniel explained then, Bitsko’s a hard thrower with excellent spin rates, though the coronavirus led to the cancellation of his final high school season and stopped teams from getting extensive looks at him in person. Bitsko did, however, impress clubs by posting workouts on social media and interacting via Zoom. In fact, according to Rays scout Zach Clark, Bitsko’s Zoom call with the team was among the reasons they took him.
“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.’ ”
Shortly after profiling Bitsko, McDaniel ranked him as the 15th-best prospect in the 2020 class. MLB.com (14) FanGraphs (16), Keith Law of The Athletic (18) and Baseball America (19) placed Bitsko in a similar vicinity before the draft.