MLB Draft: Matthew Liberatore selected by Tampa Bay Rays

Photo: Billy Hardiman, Special for The Republic

MLB Draft: Matthew Liberatore selected by Tampa Bay Rays

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MLB Draft: Matthew Liberatore selected by Tampa Bay Rays

Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.) senior left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore was among the first high school players off the board Monday night.

Liberatore, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound flamethrower from Peoria, Ariz., was selected 16th in the first round of the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

MLB Draft: 12 high school seniors who could be selected in Round 1 | ALL-USA Watch: Best friends Matthew Liberatore, Nolan Gorman staying grounded for MLB Draft

Liberatore is committed to the University of Arizona, as is his good friend and fellow first-round phenom Nolan Gorman of Phoenix’s Sandra Day O’Connor. While Liberatore has a plus fastball, scouts also like his frame and his command of four different pitches.

“My expectations are never too high and never too low,” Liberatore recently told the Arizona Republic’s Richard Obert. “School is an option. I haven’t ruled anything out yet. I’m not expecting anything.”

The pay slots go from $8.1 million for the No. 1 pick to $2.3 million for the No. 30 pick, so chances of seeing the pair in Wildcats uniforms appear slim.

Wherever Liberatore suits up, he is sure to impress.

“Matthew Liberatore is a bulldog,” Sandra Day O’Connor coach Jeff Baumgartner told Obert. “Filthy four pitches and the kind of swagger to use it in any count. Best high school pitcher I have ever seen and I’m happy to see him graduate.”

As a senior, Liberatore was 8-1 with a 0.93 ERA, striking out 104 and walking just 25 in 60.1 innings in leading the Mountain Lions to the Class 6A state championship game. He earned Arizona Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year honors as a result.

His parents and a small circle of friends have helped him as he prepares for a major transition.

“The circle we keep is really small because of that,” Liberatore told Obert. “We stay humble, stay grounded and keep good people around us.”

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MLB Draft: Matthew Liberatore selected by Tampa Bay Rays
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