ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays picked two-sport star Coty Blanchard out of Jacksonville State with their 15th-round selection (No. 458 overall) in the First-Year Player Draft.
Tampa Bay drafted Blanchard, who just finished his junior season, as a second baseman, but he played shortstop for the Gamecocks' baseball team and started at quarterback for their football team. He now faces an interesting choice: go pro in baseball, or stay in school for his senior football season and another chance to improve his Draft stock?
The Alabama native possesses obvious athleticism, as evidenced by his work on the gridiron -- he threw for two touchdowns and the winning two-point conversion in Jacksonville State's big upset over Mississippi in 2010 -- but also solid baseball tools as well. He posted a .305/.402/.482 batting line and stole 15 bases as a junior, and scouts believe he could potentially play all three outfield spots in the Majors.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Blanchard was invited to Tropicana Field for a workout at the end of May, according to The Anniston Star. He has played all four infield positions in college and worked in the corner-outfield spots in the Cape Cod League last summer.
Blanchard controls the bat well and hits the ball where it is pitched, spraying line drives all over the field. He does not have much home run power, but with his speed and ability to make contact, he should at least have gap power. He is a solid runner with a strong, if not always accurate, arm and has shown natural baseball instincts, particularly at shortstop.
He was drafted out of high school by the Orioles in the 41st round of the 2010 Draft but ultimately signed on to play football and baseball at Jacksonville State. The question facing the Rays is whether they will have any better luck luring him out of school and into their farm system.
"I think he wants to play baseball," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said.