Blue Jays Step Out of the Box with First 10 Draft Picks

Known throughout the industry as a risk-averse management group, the Blue Jays stepped out of their comfort zone somewhat when they selected 3 high schoolers among their first ten picks in the second day of MLB’s draft.

After selecting only a single prep player in each of the last two years, the Blue Jays selected Magnolia (TX) HS teammates SS Jordan Groshans and  RHP Adam Kloffenstein with their first and third picks.  Not content to stop there, they also chose Florida HS SS Addison Barger in the 6th round.

High schoolers represent something of a double-edged sword in the draft.  On the one hand, getting players into your system at a young age allows for them to develop under the eyes and guidance of professional instructors, and enhances the chances of them reaching the ample projection they have remaining.  On the other hand, projecting physical development is one thing; doing so with emotional development is another.  There is just no way of accurately forecasting if a player has the work ethic and character to reach their potential.  And always lurking in the background is the spectre of a college committment, which the player can turn to if negotiations don’t go as well as they and their advisor(s) had planned.

Screenshot 2018-06-06 at 8.20.40 AM

In order to move those negotiations along, Toronto did select three college seniors among those first ten picks, and their relative lack of bargaining leverage will probably allow the team to up their offers to the prep players.

A summary of the scouting reports on rounds 3-10:

Adam Kloffenstein

Regarded as one of the best HS players available on Day 2, there is quite a variety of opinion on the 6’5″/220 righty.

From Fangraphs:

Kloffenstein might be in the mid to late first round on some teams’ boards. What you think of him depends largely on when you went in to see him as, at times, he’s been 88-92 with a delivery scouts don’t like and, at others, into the mid-90s with great command and polished secondary stuff. He has size and is young for the class, so if teams who seek those things are also teams who saw Kloffenstein at his best, they might be on him late in the first round.

MLB.com

He kicked off the summer showcase circuit last June with a strong two-inning outing as the first pitcher to take the mound at the Perfect Game National, and he hasn’t let up since. Kloffenstein can work in the low 90s with heavy sink on his two-seam fastball and hit 96 mph with his four-seamer. He has advanced feel for a breaking ball, showing the ability to morph his sharp slider into a bigger-breaking curveball or a harder cutter. He also has a deceptive changeup with tumble that lacks consistency but also can be his best pitch at times. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Kloffenstein has a frame built for durability and also the room to add some more strength. He’s athletic and repeats his delivery well, allowing him to throw strikes. He’s a tough competitor who can get overly animated on the mound, but the only real knock against him is that he may difficult to sign away from Texas Christian.

Baseball America:

Kloffenstein is a strong, 6-foot-5 projectable righthander out of Magnolia (Texas) High, who showed an interesting package of starter traits over the summer and impressed scouts and scouting directors early this spring. He has a high, three-quarter slot and a quick arm, with a fastball in the low 90s. His breaking ball had a curveball shape over the summer and came across in the low 80s, but now looks more like a slider thanks to a mechanical tweak made by the Texas commit. This past year, Kloffenstien has shown a lot of progression, as he was always a big, physical presence but has now taken steps mentally and physically. He has cleaned up his body and holds his velocity deeper into starts, while also flashing a changeup in the mid-80s that induced several swings and misses over the summer.

There’s obviously a huge risk that Kloffenstein doesn’t sign, but the Blue Jays are hoping the appeal of playing with Groshans, as well as the above-slot offer they’ll likely make will convince him to sign.  With plenty of projection remaining, the team must feel that there is ample raw material to work with here.  Kloffenstein’s likely landing spot if he signs is the GCL.

Sean Wymer

From BA:

After serving as Texas Christian’s moment of truth reliever as a sophomore, Wymer moved into the Horned Frogs weekend rotation as a junior. Unfortunately for Wymer, he showed in his new role that he’s probably better suited as a reliever. Eventually, TCU moved the 6-foot-1 Wymer back into a multi-inning relief role as April turned to May. Pitching as a starter, his fastball tailed off from 93-95 mph he showed out of the bullpen and settled closer to 90-92 mph. Wymer’s high-70s, 12-to-6 curveball was still an above-average pitch as a starter, but it’s even sharper out of the bullpen. He started using his below-average changeup more in longer stints, but at his best, it’s his above-average control of his big breaking ball and an above-average fastball that could make him a useful reliever in pro ball.

The Blue Jays have a decision to make, but the signs seems to point to him being a back of the bullpen guy, adding him to a growing stable of power relievers.  Wymer should be on his way to Vancouver.

Chris Bec

The first 4th year senior chosen by Toronto, the U of Maine-Orono product is still new to Catching, but shows promise on both sides of the ball, according to BA:

A transfer from Miami-Dade JC to Maine prior to his junior season, Bec has a solid approach at the plate and decent bat speed. He slashed .315/.379/.539 as a senior in 2018, when he led Maine in hitting, finished second on the team in slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage. His batting average dropped 25 points from his junior to senior season, however, but it was mostly a result of selling out for more power. After hitting just one home run in 54 games in 2017, Bec hit eight home runs in 45 games in 2018. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Bec could potentially tap into average power, at best. He is a good athlete for his size, stealing 16 bases in 21 attempts in 2018. He’s relatively new to catching and still raw behind the plate, but he has above-average arm strength and threw out 27 potential base-stealers over the last two seasons.

Bec will have some value, much of it in the form of a reduced signing bonus.  Along with Griffin Conine, he should provide some pop in Vancouver’s everyday lineup.

Addison Barger.

Reading over the first few lines of Barger’s scouting report had me thinking of the Blue Jays’ first pick last year – and lo and behold, he shows up in the next-to-last sentence:

One of the best all-around players in the Tampa area, Barger has solid tools across the board but didn’t have a single plus tool until his arm strength improved this spring. It’s a 60-grade arm currently, but Barger gets the most out of the rest of his toolset as a sure-fielding shortstop with plus bat speed and feel to hit that gives him average raw power. Barger makes all the routine plays at shortstop and should do enough to stick at the position until someone with more tools comes along and pushes him to second base. He’s a smart player who understands the game and makes adjustments at a level that encourages scouts about his on-field makeup. There’s not a ton of upside with Barger because of his lack of any plus tool, but scouts have compared him to the Logan Warmoths of the world–someone who could end up at college and drastically improve his prospect status. A Florida commit, Barger has no real holes in his game and a hit tool that drives mid-90s velocity with regularity.

After a couple of years of concentrating on Pitching over the first two days of the draft, Barger sounds like another bat speed guy to go along with Groshans and Conine.  If he signs, the GCL will be where he starts his career.

Late word today is that Barger will forego his commitment to Florida in order to sign with Toronto.

Nick Podkul

Two years ago, the Blue Jays tapped a Notre Dame IF with their 5th round pick, and that didn’t turn out so bad, as Cavan Biggio’s power surge this year has turned a lot of heads.  BA’s report:

Podkul is a productive college second baseman with some power potential. He hit .312/.433/.525 this season with 33 walks compared to 32 strikeouts in 202 at-bats.

Podkul sounds like a similar player, with an ability to draw walks.  He’ll be headed to Vancouver once he signs.

Joey Murray

Murray has a fastball of only modest velocity, but he has a deceptive delivery that BA says is a “Favourite of scouts and coaches because of his ability to generate swings and misses with very modest velocity.”

Murray was one of the best Pitchers in all of college baseball this year, fanning 132 in 88 innings.  He’ll head to Vancouver, and might move quickly in the system in a relief role if he continues to miss bats as a pro.

Jake Brodt

Picture the stereotypical lumbering bat-first 1st Baseman, and you have an image of the 6’5″/230 Brodt.

One of those 4th year seniors, Brodt led Santa Clara in HRs with 15.  He’s described as adequate defensively, and will have in passport in hand when he reports to spring training, because he’ll be heading Northwest.

Cal Stevenson

The 5’9″/170 Senior from Arizona by way Nevada and Chabot (CA) JC, Stevenson is a ball hawk with a decent hit and on base tool.  He’ll patrol CF for Vancouver, most likely.

 

The choices the Blue Jays made on Day 2 help to put their Day 1 into perspective.  Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline feels that the only team that made better choices on the day was the Braves.  

All that remains for these players now is to sign, get to Florida for a physical and mini-camp, and for some, be sure to have their passport, because short season and rookie ball begin about a week and a half later.\

 

 

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