Mock Drafts are like Christmas music in stores and on the radio: every year, they seem to appear even earlier than the year before.
With that it mind, it’s always good to unwrap the stocking stuffer that is Baseball America‘s first look at the 2019 draft.
Scouting Directors right now are looking over the reports their regional scouts have filed over the past year (or more), adding to their own notes, and making travel plans for next spring. Scouts themselves are getting to know draft prospects and their parents, as well as making their own plans for getting around their assigned areas once the baseball season starts in the south and slowly makes its way north. Blue Jays Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders said a lot of the work that is being done now is preparation for the New Year:
This time of year is a lot of preparation leading up to the spring. Rounding out staffing, lots of reading and talking about players with all members of our staff, various meetings (some small group meetings in the fall followed by full staff meetings in Toronto in January), and generally looking forward to February on planning. Starting to plan out schedules etc. starting to ask ourselves what type of questions we have on players going into the spring, what we’re hoping to see/answer leading up to the draft, things like that. Our scouts while not watching games everyday are out meeting with players, getting to know them better off the field and doing similar preparation for the busy spring. In many ways the work we do now will best position us to be successful when things really get busy soon.
Much can change in draft rankings between now and the beginning of June, and one look no farther than the Blue Jays own Griffin Conine for proof of that. Coming off winning the Cape Cod League top prospect honours heading into his draft season less than a year ago, a so-so (for him) season dropped Conine from just outside of the Top 10 to the 2nd round, 52nd overall.
To date, the consensus on the top two picks includes Oregon State C Adley Rutschman, and Texas HS SS Bobby Witt, Jr. While the Blue Jays love both middle infielders and sons of former MLBers, it’s hard to see Witt dropping to them when they make their first pick at #11.
If past history is any indication, though, the Blue Jays will be strongly considering an up-the-middle player. Their last two first rounders have been Short Stops, as well as their top positional IFAs over that time span. And BA suggests that the team will continue that trend, and has Auburn SS Will Holland tabbed as the best fit for the Blue Jays:
The Blue Jays have selected shortstops with their first picks in each of the last two drafts, and that should be a position of strength for the 2019 class. Holland has solid power for his size and plus running ability, and he’s coming off of a strong sophomore season in which he hit .313/.406/.530 with 12 home runs at Auburn. He also had a loud summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .341/.431/.432 in 13 games before leaving with a wrist injury.
Holland has highlight-reel defensive ability, and the tools to stick at SS. At the plate, he has an aggressive approach, but shows a good feel for the barrel. His tools are still in the process of refinement, according to reports.
Alternatively, with the team aware that the quality of their starting pitching prospects drops off after Sean Reid-Foley, Nate Pearson, and Eric Pardinho, they may focus on starters in the upper rounds. High School arms are not likely to be selected high with this risk-averse management group, so Kentucky LHP Zach Thompson, who BA ranks one slot below Holland, might make sense:
Thompson profiles as a mid-rotation starter, if healthy, and looked good for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team this summer. With a strong junior campaign and improved strike-throwing, Thompson could take advantage of a subpar college pitching crop.
Over at baseball-farm.com, they have ranked West Virginia RHP Alex Manoah at #11. The 6’6″/270 Manoah is described as a, “mammoth human with monster stuff.” His FB touches 98, and he shows two secondaries that show some promise. Think Nate Pearson maybe with a little less velo. Manoah worked mostly out of West Virgina’s pen his first two seasons, but was one of the best starters in the Cape League this summer, where he was named the 4th best prospect (right behind Holland).
It’s far too early to start pegging players to teams, but it’s an interesting exercise to see which players might fit with the Blue Jays’ recent tendencies. Of course, they confounded most prognosticators’ forecasts by picking Texas HS SS Jordan Groshans last June, a selection that seems to have been a good one.