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2018 MLB Draft: Tampa Rays select Matthew Liberatore with the 16th overall pick

The Rays may have grabbed the steal of the draft with one of the better high school pitchers in the draft class.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With the 16th overall pick in the draft, the Rays have selected left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore from Mountain Ridge High School out of Glendale, Arizona. In mock drafts, Liberatore was projected to go 9th by ESPN and 7th by Baseball America.

Regarded as the top southpaw in the draft, Liberatore comes to pro ball after having one of the most decorated careers as a prep player. The 18-year-old was named Gatorade Arizona Baseball Player of the Year and a Rawlings Perfect Game First Team All-American this spring after posting an 8-1 record with a 0.93 ERA, and 104 strikeouts in 60 13 innings pitched. He was an Underclass All-American in both 2016 and 2017, and was selected to play in both the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park and the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field during the summer of 2017. He also led Team USA’s 18U team to a gold medal at the World Cup in Canada last summer, throwing 12 shutout innings while striking out 13.

What has separated Liberatore from the rest of the prep players in the field is his arsenal of pitches, which he can use at anytime to get batters out. His fastball is not as fast as others in the draft, but has a curveball, slider and changeup that can end up being above average as he keeps developing them. There is concern that Liberatore will have a big drop-off when he faces professionals on a routine basis, but the Rays feel confident that he will be able to adjust and become a key prospect for their future.

Get a look at Liberatore on the mound here: