FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek had to wait through three stressful hours of the Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday night.
But a day later, Stanek had come to grips with his unexpected slide.
"It’s a little disappointing to slide," Stanek said. "But where I fell to is a good spot. I can't really complain."
Stanek, who was finally selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 29th pick in the first round, spoke about his draft experience Friday morning. He entered the draft rated as a top 15 prospect by most prognosticators, but watched from his apartment as pitcher after pitcher were selected ahead of him through most of the first round.
Stanek finally became the 13th pitcher taken in the draft. He also was the eighth college pitcher pulled off the board, falling behind a group that included Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales, Florida’s Jonathon Crawford and Oral Roberts’ Alex Gonzalez.
"There is the competitor in me that’s like, ‘I am as good or better than some people,'" Stanek said of the other pitchers selected ahead of him Thursday. "But it's what the organizations chose and wanted and I have to go out there and prove why I belong and why I should have been taken early. But it's up to me now."
Stanek was selected 70 picks higher than in 2010, when the Seattle Mariners took him in the third round with the 99th pick. He turned down an $800,000 signing bonus to attend Arkansas, where he earned All-America honors in 2013 after going 10-2 with a 1.39 ERA. Stanek allowed one or fewer earned runs in 13 of 16 starts.
The move to play college baseball for three seasons will prove to be a wise one financially despite Thursday's unexpected slide. The slot value for the 29th pick calls for a $1.758 million signing bonus, according to Baseball America.
"I made an investment in myself coming to school and playing here, and it feels good to see a pretty nice return on that investment," Stanek said.
Stanek — who left Fayetteville early Wednesday to watch his younger brother play in a tournament — said he's still waiting to find out where he'll be assigned within Tampa Bays’ minor league system.
The Rays have a reputation for developing young pitchers into MLB talent, which is good news for the right-hander. The list of success stories includes former Vanderbilt pitcher David Price and James Shields, who is now with Kansas City.
Tampa Bay scouting director R.J. Harrison told RaysBaseball.com the organization couldn’t pinpoint the reason Stanek slipped in the draft. But Harrison said he made one final call to Arkansas pitcher coach Dave Jorn, who assured him Stanek’s “best days are ahead of him.” So the Rays made the selection Friday night.
"It's happened this way the last three years for us," Harrison told RaysBaseball.com. "We've had guys that have fallen to us. We were talking about it the other day. You have to be ready for anything that might happen. So we were prepared for this."
Stanek spoke with Tampa Bay officials shortly after being selected and said the franchise believes he can move through the system fast.
Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay’s executive vice president of baseball operations, told RaysBaseball.com the Rays don’t exactly “fast-track” prospects. But he believes Stanek is a pitcher who has a chance to “move a little faster than some of our high school guys” because of his experiences at the college level.
"They feel like I will be able to contribute pretty quickly and help their team win," Stanek said Friday. “They felt like I was an advanced college arm so I should be able to move pretty quickly. So that's a good thing.”