Rays draft prep power with their first pick
Club selects Seattle high schooler Sale 17th overall
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays used the 17th pick of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft to select Josh Sale, a power-hitting outfielder from Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle. The Rays later took Justin O'Conner an infielder/catcher out of Cowan High School in Muncie, Ind., with the 31st pick and Drew Vettleson, an outfielder and switch-pitcher out of Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Wash., with the 42nd pick.
Sale "is a corner outfielder with tremendous power," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "He has a chance to be a middle-of-the-lineup-type bat. A kid that we've scouted for two years now. We feel good about him. He's a solid makeup kid -- tremendous work ethic. And a high school kid we think is advanced as far as his maturity level."
Sale stands 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and bats left-handed. Though he is said to be limited to corner-outfield spots, he has tremendous power potential. Baseball America projects Sale to be a .280 hitter with 30-homer power.
Sale hit .520 with five home runs, 20 RBIs and 27 walks his senior season in 2010. Last year, he hit .460 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs.
Given the fact that Sele does not have great speed or an overpowering arm, some have speculated that he could make a position change. Sale said the Rays have not spoken to him about where he will play.
"I know that they just came and watched me do my normal thing in right field," Sale said. "We haven't really spoken about extra positions. All I know is they liked what they saw, from what I got out of it. If that's true, that's great. If they're thinking of other ideas, we'll see what they have in mind."
"I think that he's going to be an average defensive player," Harrison said. "Look, he's not a gazelle. He's a power bat. He's going to be fine because of work ethic and everything like that. I don't have any issues with him.
Sale's first love was golf. He became a single-digit handicap player by the time he was 13 and dreamed of playing golf at Stanford. But his baseball skills began to blossom at the same time and eventually won out.
Other than Sale's immense power, his selectivity at the plate makes him a perfect fit for the Rays, an organization that preaches quality at-bats from the lowest levels of the Minor Leagues to the big club.
Being selective is "definitely something I've worked on," Sale said. "I think I've gotten pretty good at telling what's a ball and a strike. But in terms of swinging at a pitch I like and recognizing it, I go up there with a plan.
"What are you going up there looking for? Are you just going up there to hack or are you going up there with a plan on what you're definitely going to swing at? ... I go up there looking for a certain pitch and if it's not there I'm not going to swing, because the chances of me getting out go up a lot more if I don't look for my pitch. And I take that to heart a lot."
Baseball America had Sale rated as the 10th-best prospect, and ESPN's Keith Law had Sale in his top 10 of Draft-eligible prospects.
Sale has committed to play college baseball at Gonzaga, and while did not have a definite answer about whether he will sign with the Rays or go to school, but seemed to be leaning toward starting his pro career.
"I don't see myself going to school," Sale said. "Right now, I'm just thankful for the Tampa Bay Rays investing in me. And I'm extremely happy they did. It's been a non-stop celebration."
The deadline for signing players is Monday, Aug. 16.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.