By 2015, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and Amateur Scouting Director Brian Parker had perfected a series of strategies from previous drafts: look for long, lean, athletic Pitchers, roll the dice with high risk/high reward types, players from non-traditional markets, and don’t be afraid to load up on college seniors in the middle rounds and use the savings on tough late-round signs.
While the 2015 Blue Jays broke a 22 year playoff drought, it would be the last draft for the pair. Anthopoulos was gone at the end of the season when Mark Shapiro came in to take over operations; Parker’s 2016 draft was his final one with the club.
The Blue Jays had forfeited their 1st round pick, 19th over all, to the Pirates as compensation for signing free agent C Russell Martin. They did gain a supplemental 1st rounder (29th) for the loss of free agent Melky Cabrera. With that pick, Anthopoulos and Parker stepped out of the box they had established by selecting Missouri St RHP Jon Harris. Not a hard thrower, Harris fit the starter’s profile they liked, and he had the intangibles the Blue Jays value when they selected him in the late rounds as a high schooler four years earlier. At draft time, Harris profiled as a back of the rotation innings eater, but in his pro career to date he’s fallen short of expectations. He gave up a fair amount of contact in his first shot at AA in 2018, but he was reliable down the stretch in helping to lead New Hampshire to an Eastern League championship. Shoulder issues limited him to six starts last season, and with the starting depth the Blue Jays have assembled in the upper levels, he’s likely ticketed for a return to AA. Harris relies on all four of his pitchs, bu lacks a true out pitch, although he had made some velo gains prior to begin shelved last spring. Left unprotected last fall in advance of the Rule 5, he’s probably looking at his last shot with the organization this year.
It was with the second pick that the Blue Jays gave the dice a toss. They selected Florida prep RHP Brady Singer, a premium athlete with a college commitment. The Blue Jays and Singer’s reps negotiated all summer, but were unable to reach a contractual agreement by the then-August deadline. The Blue Jays declined to elaborate on why they were unable to sign Singer, but they were not willing to go beyond slot to persuade him . Reports suggested a medical issue was to blame, but Singer went on to a storied collegiate career with Florida. He was named college player of the year by Baseball America after his junior year, and earned a first round selection by the Royals. In college, he was basically a two-pitch Pitcher, but he’s added a change up, and was on the cusp of earning a big league job this spring.
Not all was lost by the failure to sign their second rounder. The following year, with the pick they received as compensation, they selected J.B. Woodman, a college OF who was seen as a safe pick. With their own choice in that round, Toronto selected Bo Bichette, a Florida HS SS who was viewed as a polarizing prospect because of his unorthodox stance and questions about his future position.
With their 3rd round pick, Toronto grabbed the dice once more, and selected Texas HS RHP Justin Maese. More known as a football player, Maese was from El Paso, not exactly a baseball scouting hotbed. Maese had a breakout 2017, but shoulder issues and a subsequent surgery have limited him to 5 innings over the past two years.
After that, the Blue Jays had only a few highlights. Jose Espada, a RHP from Puerto Rico, was thought by many to be a sleeper in the 5th round, but only reached full season play for the first time in 2019. LHP Travis Bergen (the only player from this Toronto class to have reached MLB) was selected in the 7th round, but spent much of 2019 with the Giants after having been chosen in the Rule 5 draft, but was returned to Toronto. Another lefty, Danny Young, was taken after Bergen, and was converted to a side-winder. Young was taken by the Indians in December in the minor league phase of the R5.
3 players stand out from the remainder of the Blue Jays’ 2015 selections:
-RHP Jackson McClelland, a 15th rounder from Pepperdine, routinely hits 100 with his FB, but command issues and a crowded bullpen situation likely mean more time at AAA (if he continues to refine his control, he might become the next player from this class to move up);
-LHP Tayler Saucedo (21st) has pitched well in both starting and relief roles. He’s a very fringe MLBer, but has done everyting the organization has asked of him;
-Georgia HS OF Reggie Pruitt was signed as an overslot 23rd rounder. A high risk/high reward type, Pruitt’s inconsistent approach has limited his development. He reached High A last season.
WAR is perhaps not the greatest metric to evaluate a draft class. The Astros lead MLB with over 25 Wins from this class, almost all of it provided by Alex Bregman. Only 7 clubs have accumulated less than Toronto’s -0.7 WAR (compiled by Bergen) from the 2015 draft. The Blue Jays biggest signing that year, of course, was Vladimir Guerrero Jr as an IFA. By adding Bichette, they acquired two potential 1st Division players in less than a year. But the 2015 draft, at least to this point, was not a high point in the careers of Anthopoulos and Parker.