First pick Washington brings athleticism
High school speedster chosen with 30th overall selection
ST. PETERSBURG -- According to Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison, LeVon Washington has been on the Rays' radar for two years.
Speed is what the Rays liked most about Washington. So at approximately 8:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, the Rays used the 30th pick of the First-Year Player Draft to select the athletic middle infielder/center fielder from Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida.
"My initial reaction [to being drafted by the Rays], I was jumping up and down and broke two of my necklaces," said Washington, who explained he wears three necklaces with crosses on them. Washington also told reporters during a conference call he "pretty much" planned to sign with the Rays quickly.
Washington, 17, recently worked out for the Rays in St. Petersburg and validated everything the Rays already thought about the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, who hits left-handed and throws right-handed.
"Our area [scout] did a tremendous job getting to know him," said Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "We feel like he is a premium athlete. And we feel like he's going to play in the middle and be an impact player offensively as well."
In addition to Washington's speed, Harrison said the Rays like his bat and called him "an advanced young hitter." He hit .400 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 85 at-bats during his senior year. And, again, he is fast.
How fast is Washington?
"Real fast," Harrison said. "... He's one of the top runners in the Draft. It's a tool that makes a difference for him."
But is he Carl Crawford fast? Harrison smiled at that one.
"No, there are not a lot of those guys running around out there," Harrison said. "But it's really good speed."
Washington played DH and center field throughout his senior season due to a labrum problem in his right shoulder that was surgically repaired in the fall. In addition, he has committed to the University of Florida, should he opt not to play professionally right away.
However, the Rays feel they can sign Washington, which they would like to do quickly to get him into uniform for their Gulf Coast League team. As for the shoulder, if he signs it's likely he'll begin slowly at DH while the team monitors the progress of his shoulder.
"It's a rehab process," Harrison said. "We didn't go into this blind. Our medical team looks at all this stuff and prepares us. They're ready to take on the challenge. It's just a matter of time and getting him back to full speed."
When asked to compare himself to a Major League player Washington answered, "Jose Reyes."
Drafting with the 30th pick is the latest the Rays have selected since 1998, the team's third Draft, when they didn't have a selection until pick No. 132. The Rays lost their first three picks that year as compensation to the Giants and White Sox for signing free agents Roberto Hernandez, Wilson Alvarez, and Dave Martinez. Since then the Rays had always selected higher than eighth until Tuesday's selection.
But don't think that drafting 30th means the player won't become an impact player as the following Major League greats were selected with the 30th pick of the Draft: Mike Schmidt, SS, Phillies, 1971; David Wells, LHP, Toronto, 1982; Chris Sabo, 3B, Cincinnati, 1983; Jerry Reuss, LHP, St. Louis, 1967; and Travis Fryman, SS, Detroit, 1987.
Current Major Leaguers selected with the 30th pick include: Jack Cust, OF, Oakland (1987) and Noah Lowry, RHP, San Francisco, (2001).
Eight of the Rays' last 10 No. 1 picks have played in the Major Leagues.
The Rays have participated in the Draft since 1996 and historically have not been opposed to drafting high school players with their first pick, selecting the following players in the first round: Paul Wilder, 1996, OF, Cary (High School), N.C.; Jason Standridge, 1997, RHP, Hewitt Trussville (HS), Ala.; Josh Hamilton, 1999, Athens Drive (HS), N.C.; Rocco Baldelli, 2000, OF, Bishop Hendricksen (HS), R.I.; B.J. Upton, 2002, SS, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Chesapeake, Va.; Delmon Young, 2003, RF, Camarillo (HS), Calif.; and Tim Beckham, 2008, SS, Griffin (HS), Ga.
The deadline for signing Draft picks is Aug. 17.
Kenneth Diekroeger, SS, Menlo School (Calf.): Diekroeger is an athletic, power-hitting shortstop with nice size (6-2, 190 pounds). He hit .586 with four home runs and 20 RBIs during his senior season, which was cut short when he suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament while sliding into second base. He has committed to play baseball at Stanford and has said unless he's a high pick and is offered a substantial bonus he will not sign to play professionally. Nevertheless, the Rays like him a lot and feel they have established enough of a relationship with him to have a chance at signing him.
Todd Glaesmann, OF, Midway High School, Waco, Texas: Has good size (6-4, 200) and is athletic; he also played quarterback and receiver on the football team. He has above-average speed -- despite breaking his ankle during the football season -- with quality baseball instincts. While he's played mostly center field, he is projected to be a right fielder despite having an average throwing arm. He has committed to Texas A&M University.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.