In their 42-year history, the Blue Jays have drafted 70 players in the first round (this total includes supplemental picks).
Roya Halladay, who was announced as one of this year’s Hall of Fame entrants earlier this week, was the best of those first rounders the team ever made, and it’s not particularly close.
The Colorado high schooler was taken with the 17th overall pick in 1995, and signed for $895K. Baseball America‘s draft report was much more succinct than what they now offer:
Halladay is 6-foot-5 with an average fastball and good arm action, and looks to go in the second round.
Blue Jays scout Tim Wilken, who shared his Halladay scouting report with mlb.com in the wake of Hallday’s passing, caught a Hallday start (along with 24 other MLB scouts) in April of his draft year. He gave the tall right hander a glowing assessment:
In his report, Wilken gave Halladay an overall score of 95 out of 100. Under “Abilities,” Wilken wrote: “V. quick arm, loose and flexible delivery. Plus to plus plus FB with good running life with leverage to his delivery. Good rotation and spin to knuckle CB. Very coordinated delivery and repats (sic) his delivery good. Competes well with good feel. Very good finish to delivery.”
The grades Wilken gave were in spite of some concerns about Halladay’s arm action:
“There was controversy about Roy having a one-piece arm action, which is like a vertical arm without a bend in it,” Wilken said. “I thought there was enough movement or bend in his arm where he could manipulate — he had a knuckle curve at the time. People didn’t know how to grade a knuckle curve because not many people had thrown it.”
BA had much more to say after naming Halladay the Blue Jays top prospect following the 1998 season:
Background: Blue Jays scout Bus Campbell worked extensively with Halladay during his amateur days in Colorado, creating a relationship that resulted in Halladay using part of his signing bonus to buy Campbell a satellite television system. That was in 1995; now fast forward to 1998. Sidelined for a month with a right shoulder strain, Halladay returned to one-hit Charlotte on July 20. He spent the full season at Triple-A Syracuse, then opened a few eyes by becoming the third-youngest starter in Blue Jays history. His second start turned into a no-hit bid against the Tigers on the season’s final day. The bid ended with a two-out, pinch-hit homer by Bobby Higginson. Halladay continued to prove his value with a strong effort in the Arizona Fall League. Strengths: Halladay has a prototype pitcher’s body. He’s tall, lanky and flexible–and has plenty of stamina. He once finished third in the Colorado state cross country finals as a senior at Arvada West High. Halladay puts minimal strain on his arm. His fastball is solidly in the mid-90s, and he has the endurance to maintain his velocity into the late innings. He has developed more downward movement on his fastball, which allows him to get more ground balls. The Blue Jays initially took away the knuckle-curve that Campbell taught him in high school, but in the middle of this season allowed him to start throwing it again. It was the pitch he used for five of his eight strikeouts in the one-hitter against Detroit. He has developed a hard-biting slider that may be his best pitch. Weaknesses: Halladay just needs a little refinement to be a legitimate big league, front-of-the-rotation pitcher. He has a tendency to open up and show the hitter his arm a little too quick. And he needs to throw his changeup more often. The Future: After nearly two full seasons at Triple-A, Halladay’s future is now. He will be a member of the major league rotation on Opening Day.
Dave Stieb – the franchise career leader in Wins, WAR, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, Shutouts, and Complete Games, may be the best draft choice the team ever made, but none of the players – which include 34 Pitchers – matched the feats Halladay accomplished in a Blue Jays uniform. Halladay ranks 2nd to Stieb in many categories, and is the team’s all-time leader in Win Probability Added.
One could argue that when we’re talking Blue Jays 1st round picks, a volume containing the most successful ones would be on the slim side. Until Ed Sprague, drafted in 1988, made his MLB debut in 1991, only two other Blue Jays 1st rounders -1978 pick Lloyd Moseby, and John Cerrutti, taken in 1981 – had reached the bigs. Shawn Green (1991), and Vernon Wells (1997) were the most successful picks after Halladay. Sprague remains the only 1st rounder to be part of a Blue Jays World Series championship.
There has been much gnashing of teeth over Halladay’s family’s decision not to have him adorned with any particular logo on his plaque.
For some Blue Jays fans (the vast majority of whom won’t get to Cooperstown), the fact that the family didn’t want either logo was a slap. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Yes, many of us have fond memories of Halladay in a Jays uniform. During the JP Ricciardi era, when ownership had a laser focus on the bottom line, he was often about the only reason to watch the team.
But the Phillies gave Doc a shot at the post season after a career spent in the second division with the Blue Jays.
In this day and age of few players spending their careers with one team, it’s a surprise that more HoF entrants don’t adopt this policy. There certainly is precedent – the winningest Pitcher of the past 50 years (Greg Maddux) opted not to have a logo on his plaque.
We’ll all be a quarter of a century older if/when Vladimir Guerrero Jr joins his Father at Cooperstown, but the likelihood of him spending his whole career with the Jays seems slight, given modern baseball economics. If he helps the Blue Jays to a World Series title during his Toronto tenure, that would trump whatever logo (if any) he wants on his plaque.
Doc was a dependable Pitcher who is to be admired for his work ethic and his ability to command his pitches and set up hitters. He was a Picasso on the mound, and I prefer to celebrate his career than worry about what logo he’ll wear. His 2010 season may have finished short of a World Series ring, but his perfect game and playoff no-hitter that season were magical, and with the Jays going nowhere at the time, it was wonderful to see Halladay get his share of the spotlight.