Late-night deliberations often stretched into the wee hours of the morning, until Tampa Bay settled on Tim Beckham as the No. 1 pick in the baseball draft.

Then, the Rays didn't waver.

"As the process went on, getting a chance to spend time with him, to see that this is truly who he was _ because when you watch this guy play, there's this enthusiasm and there's this advanced feel to play the game for a young player, and then when you get around him as a person, it seals the deal," Rays director of scouting R. J. Harrison said Thursday.

"We talk about high-ceiling players all the time," he added. "This kid's already a really good player, and we think that he's only going to get better."

Tampa Bay has never won more than 70 games in a season, however a decade of selecting high in the draft has helped the club build a talented young team that has one of the most improved records in the majors this season.

While there's always pressure to get the No. 1 pick right, the Rays imposed some extra heat on themselves this years because they're hoping it will be a long time before they're in a position to go first again.

They selected Beckham, who hit .482 with six homers and 41 RBIs as a senior at Griffin, Ga., High School, over Florida State catcher Buster Posey. The next step is to sign him and get him into the team's minor league system.

"Developmentally speaking, to get a high school guy out and playing this year is critical. With a college guy, they've played a much bigger schedule and in most cases a lot of summer ball as well, so it's not as important to us," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.

The Rays aren't concerned about signability.

Beckham said he's eager to get to work, and that's encouraging news for the team, which didn't sign last year's No. 1 pick, pitcher David Price, until Aug, 15 _ too late for the left-hander to play in the minors.

"Obviously, you always prefer it, but it wouldn't be as important to us if we would have taken a college guy if it would have dragged until August," Friedman said. "In this case, it was refreshing for us to hear how much Tim wanted to get out and play this year and didn't want this process to run until August. That said, we still have to sit down and find an overlap, but we're confident we'll do so."

With the second pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates chose sweet-swinging Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer went third to the Kansas City Royals, and the Baltimore Orioles took top college pitching prospect Brian Matusz out of San Diego with the fourth pick.

The 18-year-old Beckham is the third high school shortstop taken No. 1 overall in the last five drafts, joining Justin Upton (Arizona, 2005) and Matt Bush (San Diego, 2004).

"It means everything in the world. I've worked hard the last three or four years, me and my brothers and my dad," Beckham said. "This means all the hard work paid off. I hope to become an All-Star and after that I want to become a Hall of Famer."

Tampa Bay whittled its list of candidates for the top pick to five, then trimmed it to two _ Beckham and Posey, a converted shortstop who developed into one of college baseball's top offensive and defensive catchers over the past year.

The Rays called Posey a few hours before the draft to inform him that they were going to select Beckham. The Florida State star, hitting a Division I-leading .468 heading into this week's NCAA super regionals, wound up going to the San Francisco Giants with the fifth pick.

The Florida Marlins, picking sixth, took California high school catcher Kyle Skipworth, whom many consider the top prep prospect at his position since Joe Mauer was selected No. 1 overall by Minnesota seven years ago.

Rounding out the top 10, the Cincinnati Reds took Miami slugger Yonder Alonso seventh, the Chicago White Sox picked Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham (no relation to Tim) eighth, the Washington Nationals tabbed Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow and the Houston Astros selected Stanford catcher Jason Castro.

Beckham is excited about joining a team that has young rising stars Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria and said, ideally, he'd like to make it to the majors in two or three years.

The Rays aren't putting a timetable on it.

"I think it's unfair," Friedman said. "We've got a tremendous group on the player-development side and we're anxious to get him signed and working with those guys as quickly as possible, because we feel like the sooner he signs and gets out with our staff, the quicker he can get to the major leagues. When that is, we'll continue to evaluate it."