ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Tampa Bay Rays Communications) — The Tampa Bay Rays have signed left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore, the No. 16 overall selection from the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He will join the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays.
Liberatore, 18, went 8-1 with a 0.93 ERA (60.1-IP, 8-ER) and 104 strikeouts as a senior at Mountain Ridge (Ariz.) High School and was Arizona’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. He was named a first team Rawlings/Perfect Game All-American for this past season, and helped lead Mountain Ridge to the Class 6A state championship game. Last summer, he pitched 12 scoreless innings for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team and recorded the win in their gold medal game over Korea.
“As an organization, we believe that Matthew has the physical and mental ability to develop into a top-end starting pitching prospect,” said Rays Director of Amateur Scouting Rob Metzler. “Through hard work to this point in his career, Matthew has shown an advanced ability to compete with an impressive repertoire of pitches and an arm action and delivery built for sustained success. On top of his physical ability, he is a young man with strong character and a great mental foundation for playing baseball. We believe these ingredients will continue to flourish in our system. We are thrilled that we were able to complete a deal so quickly after the draft in order to get Matthew started on his professional journey.”
Liberatore was ranked as the No. 2 overall player in this year’s draft by Baseball America and was ranked No. 3 by ESPN’s Keith Law and No. 4 by MLB.com. The Rays selected him higher than any other high school pitcher in club history, and he became the fourth high school pitcher selected by the Rays in the first round following Jason Standridge (No. 31) in 1997, Taylor Guerrieri (No. 24) in 2011 and Blake Snell (No. 52) in 2011. Only five pitchers have ever been drafted higher by the Rays: Dewon Brazelton (No. 3) in 2001, Jeff Niemann (No. 4) in 2004, Wade Townsend (No. 8) in 2005, David Price (No. 1) in 2007 and Brendan McKay (No. 4) in 2017.
Liberatore was one of five selections made by the Rays on the first day of the draft, along with left-handed pitcher Shane McClanahan (University of South Florida), center fielder Nick Schnell (Roncalli High School), shortstop Tyler Frank (Florida Atlantic University) and center fielder and right-handed pitcher Tanner Dodson (University of California).