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"I wish," Tyler Goeddel chuckled when I asked him if his Baseball Reference Bullpen Page was accurate in listing him at 190 pounds.
For the record, Goeddel says he is now "about 178, 180", but for him every pound mattered last spring when during his senior year at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, CA, he missed a month of the baseball season and lost about 15 pounds due to a bout of mononucleosis.
Already tall and lanky at 6'4", the weight loss and the time off of the field had Goeddel thinking that the illness might have cost him the opportunity to start his pro career right out of high school.
"It happened right in the middle of the season, Goeddel said. "Especially being scouted and stuff, I thought that since I had mono, I had no chance of getting drafted where I needed to get drafted to play professionally. A couple of teams like the Rays stuck with me and it ended up working out. I'm thankful for that."
Goeddel is a classic case of being "projectable", a scouting term that is used to describe young players who have an array of baseball tools, but also have the ability to grow physically and become more powerful and productive in the future.
Goeddel himself cites strengthening his body as one of his main focuses and knows that he is a little behind physically compared to a lot of other players his age.
"I'm a pretty good runner for my size. I feel like I can throw pretty well, field a little bit and hit. Definitely the thing I need to work on is strength and weight. I'm a lot lighter and less physically mature than a lot of the players out here. That's the biggest difference for me right now."
But toolsy and projectable amateurs like Goeddel are exactly the kind of players that the Rays target in the draft according to Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Pilliere, a former scout for the Texas Rangers.
It's also, says Piliere, why they are so successful at drafting.
"I like picks like the Tyler Goeddel pick," Pilliere told me in an interview last month. "I think he is a guy who could really pan out to be an impact-type hitter and at a premium position. Those are the types of picks that separate the teams that are good at drafting and teams that aren't so good at drafting. Mahtook picks are obvious, but guys like Goeddel and Granden Goetzman, they are a little more outside the box. They are taking chances with these tools guys. But that's what's going to pay off for them and that's what they need to keep depth in their system."
|Goeddel developed a reputation for playing well at high school showcase events like the ones put on on by Perfect Game.|
Goeddel, who was the 41st-overall pick last year and had committed to UCLA prior to the draft, says that the decision to sign was not an easy one, but that the Rays candor during negotiations eventually won him over.
"Leading up to the draft, my plan was to go to college. I knew if I was given the right opportunity, that I would definitely pursue pro ball. On draft day the Rays picked me a little earlier than I anticipated and were very trustworthy in our talks. We were able to negotiate. They are a great organization, so that helped the process. They convinced me that it was the right time to start pro ball basically."
Goeddel also credits his brother Erik, who was drafted in the 24th round by the New York Mets in 2010, for helping advise him on the tough decision he had to make last summer.
"We discussed the pros and cons of pro ball and he told me about it and what it was like and what to expect. I think that actually helped a lot. It's good to have someone like that in your family that you can talk to."
Older brother Erik is not the only family member to have influenced Goeddel. He cites his father David, a pioneer in the biotechnology field who used genetic engineering to create synthetic human insulin and was known among his peers to have a legendary work ethic, as a key influence in his life.
"He's really hard-working. I think that's one of the things he taught me the most - to work hard and be yourself. It's helped a lot with him being in the family pushing me every day and making sure I work and don't take anything for granted."
As hard-working and gifted as Goeddel is, as he participates in his first spring training in Port Charlotte he knows that there may be a few bumps in the road.
"Getting used to the pitching is probably the most difficult thing I'll have to overcome, because I haven't had much experience yet. I think I'll be able to deal with it and hopefully produce in spring training."
Pilliere also thinks that Goeddel will make the adjustment quickly and praised his hitting as already being pretty advanced.
"He's already showing a lot of really good things with his hit-tool and I think he's going to be a guy that's going to hit pretty quickly as a pro," Pilliere said.
He then went on to say that Goeddel is a player in the system that should be on people's radar in the coming years.
"Every young player that age has some ups and downs, but there is no doubt that with that combination of athleticism and hit-tool that I think this time next year we are going to be talking about him a whole lot more."
Goeddel has been splitting time between third base and shortstop at workouts during last year's Instructional League and this year's Winter Development Program, but knows that his future position has not yet been fully determined.
"We'll see how that goes and what they decide to do from here on out," he said when asked about his future position. "They drafted a lot of shortstops - a lot of athletes. We'll see what they decide to do."
A couple of the shortstops that Goeddel is referring to are Jake Hager and Johnny Eierman. The three have all become good friends and they helped each other out and compared notes this off-season on how to prepare for their first spring training.
"Me, Jake Hager and Johnny Eierman - we all keep in contact with each other. We ask each other when we're starting to hit, when we're getting ready for spring training. It's good to compare yourself to them and see what they are doing to get ready for the season and see what you need to do. It's always good to have those people around you."
Goeddel has only been in Port Charlotte for a little over a week, but already he is impressed by the Rays coaching staff, what he has learned and - and perhaps most importantly - the players he works out out with.
"It's been great so far. I feel like the coaches do a really good job of teaching the game to a degree that you've never learned before."
"Every player out here is very talented. It just helps you to be a better player. That's what you want to do out here - prove yourself and prove that you can play with the best of the best. It's just been really fun so far."
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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