The Blue Jays are in a “sweet position” to grab a premium college Pitcher or Outfielder with the 12th pick in June’s draft, according to a noted amateur talent evaluator.
Jeff Ellis, the lead MLB draft analyst at Scout.com (you can read his most recent mock draft here), feels that given the preferences shown by the Blue Jays over the past two drafts, it’s more than likely that their top choice will come from the draft’s deep pool of arms or Outfielders. After last year’s draft, Blue Jays Director of Amateur Scouting Steve Sanders did agree that the longer track records of college players fits their draft preferences better than high schoolers, at least when it comes to their top picks.
Ellis feels this year’s draft may top the previous several years when it comes to depth:
I think we’re seeing more depth than in the past few years, which is surprising, because with the pool system I think we’re seeing less elite talent make it to the college ranks but I think college coaching on the whole has improved significantly, so we’re seeing more players get developed properly
The players that seem to fit the Blue Jays and their past history, according to Ellis, are Travis Swaggerty of South Alabama, Griffin Conine of Duke, and the Greater Toronto Area’s own Tristan Pompey of Kentucky in the Outfield, while Pitchers Ryan Rolison of Mississippi, Jackson Kowar of Florida, and Logan Gilbert of Stetson appear to have the right mix of skills and potential availability for the Blue Jays to consider. Over the next week, we’ll profile each one of these players in more detail.
Baseball America released their Top 300 draft prospects last week, and had Florida HS Pitcher/Catcher Mason Denaburg ranked #12. BA’s list, however, is not a mock, and it would be unlikely that the Blue Jays would select Denaburg, both given their aversion to prep players at the top of the draft, and the depth of Catching prospects they currently have in their system.
Ellis liked the Blue Jays draft last year, for the most part:
They took more players from my big board than any other team. They would often take guys one or two spots ahead of where I had them, so I like the players they took, but I didn’t love where they took them.
One thing that’s interesting about Conine, Rolison, and Swaggerty is that they’re young compared to the rest of their class. The former pair doesn’t turn 20 until July 11th, while Swaggerty doesn’t until August. More and more teams, according to Ellis, are using age relative to draft class:
When you look at a lot of guys in the minor this probably no better indicator of when a player is significantly younger than the level he’s at and he’s finding success there – you have that extra time for development, and some teams just really buy into this.
Ellis feels that there’s enough depth in this draft that the Blue Jays will probably be able to land a premium talent in the second round (with the 52nd pick). With their second pick last year, Toronto stepped out of their college-player mode, and picked California two-way player Hagen Danner. Danner was not that much of a reach, though as Ellis pointed out, “Danner fits with their approach because he was a Little League World Series hero and he’s been on their track record forever.”
As the draft progresses, Ellis suggests that the Blue Jays will be on the lookout for players with good track records whose stock has fallen this year. Ryan Noda was thought to be at least a 3rd round pick last year, but a mediocre college season dropped him to the 15th round. Noda, of course, tore up the Appalachian League, flirting with .400 until the final weeks of the season.
The Blue Jays value production, and the above names have proven histories in that regard. After doing a decent job of restocking their system over the past two drafts, the Blue Jays have a chance to add some potential impact talent to their prospect base this year.