ST. PETERSBURG, FL—The Tampa Bay Rays have signed catcher Nick Ciuffo (SHOO-fo), their first round selection from the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and the No. 21 pick overall. He will report to Port Charlotte, Fla., to play for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays who start their regular season today.
Ciuffo, 18, is the first catcher ever taken by the Rays with their first overall pick. He was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 overall prospect in the draft, No. 2 catcher, No. 1 out of the state of South Carolina and No. 11 among high school players. He was also ranked as the No. 23 overall prospect by MLB.com.
As a senior at Lexington (S.C.) High School, he led his team to a state championship (AAAA) and was named the 2013 South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year after hitting .468 with five home runs, 33 RBI, a .723 slugging percentage and .562 on-base percentage. He was also named a 2013 Rawlings Preseason All-American and a 2012 Under Armour All-American. In 123 career high school games, he hit .401 with 11 home runs and 93 RBI.
Ciuffo is the first high school catcher from the state of South Carolina ever taken in the first round of the draft. The only other catcher in draft history selected in the first round out of South Carolina was Landon Powell, selected by Oakland in 2004 at No. 24 overall out of the University of South Carolina. Ciuffo had previously committed to play at the University of South Carolina, which offered him a scholarship at the age of 14 before he had ever played a varsity game. He played youth baseball with Taylor Guerrieri, the Rays first overall pick in 2011 (No. 24 overall).