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The Tampa Bay Devil Rays know exactly who they want to select with the No. 1 pick in the baseball draft.

Their top choice is Vanderbilt left-hander David Price. And Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters. And California high school third baseman Josh Vitters.

"I wish we had the first three picks in the draft,'' Devil Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "I'd like to have all three of these guys.''

And so would every other major league team. All three are considered can't-miss prospects in a draft filled with outstanding talent.

"I think it's deep,'' said Kansas City scouting director Deric Ladnier, whose team selects second Thursday. "There are probably more high school players as a pool, quality high school players, than there are college players.''

Baseball fans will be able to watch the first round of the draft on television for the first time this year. The opening round will be broadcast on ESPN2 from the event's site at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., and the network will provide analysis of other picks from subsequent rounds. In previous years, the draft was held exclusively by conference call.

Tampa Bay will pick No. 1 overall for the third time in franchise history, and first since selecting outfielder Delmon Young in 2003. Unfortunately for the Devil Rays, they can take only one of the three players they covet.

"The biggest thing for us is we're going to take who we believe to be the best player in the country,'' said Andrew Friedman, the Devil Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "From that, we're going to try to sign him and get him into our system and get our player development folks on the same page and try to accomplish the things that we want them to accomplish.''

The Royals will pick after the Devil Rays, marking the third straight year they've had one of the first two selections.

"We're just looking at the best player,'' said Ladnier, echoing Tampa Bay's strategy. "We just want to take the best player we feel like is the best fit, the best talent, and go from there.''

The Chicago Cubs pick third, followed by Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco to round out the first 10 selections.

Price has made scouts drool since his freshman year at Vanderbilt and he was the best pitcher in the nation this season as a junior. Many believe Tampa Bay will take the dominant 6-foot-5, 215-pound lefty with the first pick, and the Devil Rays certainly sound as though they'd like to have him in their rotation.

"We just think that he has everything we're looking for in a front-line major league starter,'' Harrison said. "He's big, he's strong, he's athletic, he's left-handed. He has two-plus pitches and we believe that the changeup is not far behind.''

Price went 11-1 this year, with the only loss coming Monday when he gave up a winning home run in relief against Michigan in a regional final - three days after striking out 17 against Austin Peay. He was the ace of the team ranked No. 1 in the country most of the year, and led Division I with 194 strikeouts.

"His character is unquestioned by those people who have been around him,'' Harrison said.

If taken No. 1, Price would be just the fourth left-hander selected with the first pick - and first since the New York Yankees took Brien Taylor in 1991.

There could be as many as nine lefties selected in the first round, which would top the record of seven set three years ago. Others who could go in the first 30 picks include: Missouri State's Ross Detwiler, Clemson's Daniel Moskos, Rice's Joe Savery and Arkansas' Nick Schmidt.

If the Devil Rays decide for a position player, Wieters might be their guy. The 6-foot-5 switch-hitting catcher is considered an outstanding defender behind the plate with a strong, accurate arm.

"We think he has all the capabilities of being an everyday major league catcher with middle or close to middle of the lineup offensive production,'' Harrison said. "We like his bat and his power.''

Vitters also excites teams with his compact, powerful swing. He hit .360 with nine HRs and 29 RBIs for Cypress High School - despite missing two weeks with pneumonia.

"We feel as a group that this guy is going to hit and is going to hit with power,'' Harrison said. "He's going to be a middle of the lineup major league ballplayer. I think he's going to move along at a pretty good clip, too.''

Other players who could go early include: New Jersey high school right-hander Rick Porcello, Lewis-Clark State third baseman Beau Mills, California high school infielder Mike Moustakas, Canadian righty Phillippe Aumont and North Carolina State right-hander Andrew Brackman.

Kansas City took right-hander Luke Hochevar with the first pick last year. This year's event begins at 2 p.m. Thursday and lasts 50 rounds through Friday.

AP Sports Writers Fred Goodall in Tampa and Doug Tucker in Kansas City contributed to this report.


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