The draft is less than a month away. Area Scouts have long since submitted their list of hopefuls, and cross checkers and other senior front office officials from all organizations are criss-crossing the country as teams begin the process of compiling their draft boards.
A couple of things have become abundantly clear: this draft crop is one of the weakest in terms of high level college arms and high school bats, and the consensus 1st overall pick will be Oregon State C Adley Rutschman.
Rutschman is so highly regarded that some feel he will become a Top 10 prospect as soon as 2020. And for Blue Jays fans, that has to offer some solace. While the Marlins are looking more and more like a lock for the top pick next year, the Blue Jays will have a very high pick, and with that might come a player who could move quickly, or one day be an important piece of a contending team.
We also know a bit about the Blue Jays preferences, based on previous drafts. They like bloodlines, up-the-middle players, and players who are young for their draft class. Blue Jays Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders took college SS Logan Warmoth with their first pick in 2017, and another SS in Texas high schooler Jordan Groshans last year. Maybe Warmoth will turn things around, but his pro career has fallen short of expectations after a good start with Vancouver; Groshans has advanced to full season ball already, and looks very much like a one-day big leaguer. As (bad) luck would have it, both are on the IL at the moment.
There are mocks, and there are mocks, but there are three that are usually very reliable. The staff at Baseball America are very connected with the industry, and tend to know which teams have been scouting which players extensively. MLB Pipeline features Jim Callis, who has covered the draft and prospects for 30 years. Fangraphs can always be counted on to be well plugged into the industry buzz. Jeff Ellis of 247sports.com may not be as well known, but few people outside of the high profile media have as many contacts and as much knowledge as he does.
BA has reports that the Blue Jays have been heavily scouting both college and high school bats, and projects them to pick Nevada-Las Vegas SS Bryson Stott, who they tab as the top college player at his position in his class.
The left-handed hitting Stott was a sparkplug atop UNLV’s batting order last year, and had a breakout season after a strong summer league showing. As a result, in a report from almost a year ago, 2080 Baseball’s Nick Faleris suggests his power is more of the gap type:
Stott doesn’t show much in the way of over-the-fence pop yet, but there is easily enough power to rack-up extra base hits and the young shortstop can drive the ball opposite field with enough authority that he should be able to produce some more long-ball damage as he continues to mature.
Stott has posted similar numbers to last year’s with the added bonus in the pop he-s shown – 10 HRs, .638 Slugging%. Defensively, he’s projected to stay at Short.
They also say the Jays have been following Washington HS OF Corbin Carroll, whose lack of size has put some teams off, but not, apparently, Toronto. Texas HS 3B Brett Baty is also a player they’ve reportedly had multiple looks at.
MLB Pipeline says that while the Blue Jays have been hot on the trail of several college arms, they agree with the selection of Stott.
Fangraphs likes RHP Jackson Rutledge, from Juco power San Jacinto, and says that the Jays have been in on Rutledge and Kentucky LHP Zack Thompson, although both have health concerns. For Thompson it’s his elbow, and for Rutledge it’s the fact that he had hip labrum surgery last year. Carlos Collazo of BA says Rutledge jumped from 95 on their preseason list to a guy scouts were talking about as a day one pick:
Rutledge is throwing his fastball in the upper 90s and holding that velocity deep into his outings. His walks are down, and some scouts even go as far as projecting all four of his pitches—including his newly developed slider—as plus. Through 11 starts he had recorded a 1.02 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 70. 2 innings.
Rutledge is an attention-to-detail guy who has vastly changed his diet, and is meticulous about his pre- and post-game warm up/cool down regiment. He’s a semi-finalist for the College Spikes Award, given annually to the best amateur player in the U.S. Rutledge is only the fourth junior college player to reach that stage. Stott was named as a semi-finalist this week as well.
Ellis is big on West Virginia RHP Alex Manoah, a Nate Pearson-sized starter who led the Cape League in Ks last year. MLB Pipeline, BA, and Fangraphs all have Manoah going to the Giants. The only concern is that right now he’s a fastball/slider Pitcher, but with the former ticking up at 97, that could buy some development time for his secondaries.
The draft will be held June 3rd-5th.