Imagine, for a moment, how good Blue Jays amateur scouting director Shane Farrell feels.
In the last six months, Farrell has ascended to a premium position in one of the more progressive front offices in the game, been handed a career-defining opportunity in the form of a pandemic-shortened draft, and had a player who many observers felt was the best all-around player in that lottery fall into his lap with the 5th overall pick.
Not a bad first half-calendar year on the job.
We’ll leave the detailed analysis of how the Blue Jays drafted compared to other organizations, but the consensus seems to be that while they may not have topped all other clubs, the team did extremely well, especially with their first two choices.
There’s not much more that we can add to Vanderbilt SS/2B/OF Austin Martin. It would have been nice to have seen him take more reps at short this spring, but there is no doubt about his bat or his athleticism, and if not for the pandemic, we might have seen him in Toronto as early as next year. The Blue Jays can now take their time with Martin, and perhaps consider a switch to the outfield, and maybe work on getting a bit more loft in his swing. It’s easy to envision Martin in a competitive Toronto lineup two years from now.
Florida State RHP CJ Van Eyk was a potential helium guy heading into the 2020 collegiate season, a player who could’ve worked his way into the back end of the first round if he’d had an opportunity to make more starts. RHP Trent Palmer has a profile that suggests a reliever, which would add to the depth Toronto is assembling in that area. RHP Nick Frasso from Loyola Marymount is one of those types that fell off the radar somewhat due to injury concerns, but he has the build of a starter. Louisville OF Zach Britton, the final pick of the draft, has numbers and reports that suggest a comp to AA OF Brock Lundquist, who was one of the hottest hitters during the second half of 2018 in the Florida State League, but struggled at the plate with New Hampshire last year.
Overall, you would have to give this draft a decent grade on the selection of Martin alone, but there’s some potential with the three pitchers they selected, and maybe a swing adjustment might help Britton tap into his power.
Some selected highlights from scouting reports:
While there are questions about his future defensive home, Martin’s offensive resume is as impressive as any in the country, with the ability to hit for high average, draw plenty of walks and be a disruptive runner on the basepaths.
The best pure hitter in the 2020 Draft, Martin has tremendous feel for the barrel and makes consistent hard contact with a short, quick right-handed stroke. He’s not overly physical and may not have more than average raw power, but his hitting ability allows him to tap into every bit of it. He controls the strike zone extremely well and uses the entire field, exhibiting no weaknesses at the plate.
The draft’s “best overall prospect due to his combination of performance, athleticism and all-around quickness”
Keith Law, ESPN
He has modest power and nobody can really be sure where he fits defensively because he struggled throwing to first early this year and we never got an extended look at him in center field. But he has arguably the best approach in the draft, high-end bat-to-ball skills, and his swing has lovely natural loft that, in concert with the approach, ensures he’ll hit for power even though he’s not sending anything to space.
Van Eyk flashes three plus pitches at times, but rarely all at the same time, and his control comes and goes, but there’smid-rotation upside here if it all comes together.
Van Eyk gets things done with a solid three-pitch mix, including a fastball in the 90-95 mph range, a sharp, 78-80 mph downer curveball and an 81-84 mph changeup with sinking action that fools hitters on both sides. All three of those pitches are solid-average or better. Van Eyk can also spin a slider, but the pitch has less depth and less swing-and-miss potential than his curve. Van Eyk’s operation is clean, with a loose, fluid arm that comes from a deliberate windup with very little coil or torque in his lower half, some hooking action in the back and an easy, balanced finish. Everything about the operation screams starter, but Van Eyk’s stuff isn’t quite as explosive as the top-end pitchers in the class, which could make him more of a late first- or second-round pick.
Doesn’t have the prototypical pitcher body, but some scouts feel he has a chance to stick in a rotation because an ability to keep his velocity, and his three pitch mix. Has a fastball that sits 91-96 with good sink, and is backed up by a pair of decent secondary pitches.
He was getting plenty of scouting attention for his early season performance after running his fastball up to 97 mph last summer in the Cape Cod League. On the Cape, Palmer appeared in seven games as a reliever and posted a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings with 21 strikeouts and eight walks. Palmer threw much better strikes this spring than he previously did as a reliever with Jacksonville in 2018 and 2019, and scouts think of him firmly as a top 200 prospect because of his improvement.
Frasso is one of the most athletic pitchers in the 2020 draft class. He was a high school basketball standout capable of throwing down emphatic dunks, and he still has a basketball build at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds with room to fill out. Frasso still has a relatively fresh arm due to his two-sport background. His 92-95 mph fastball plays up with both a high spin rate and plus extension, and his high-spin slider gives him a second potential plus offering, although it is inconsistent. His changeup is rudimentary but flashes average potential…….. Frasso checks a lot of analytical boxes with his spin rates and extension, while traditional scouts love his athleticism and projection.
His power has been more doubles than over-the-fence in his time in the ACC, though he did hit five home runs in 28 games with a wood bat last summer in the Cape Cod League. It’s possible with a few swing adjustments Britton could be geared for more home run juice. Defensively, Britton fits best in left field, where he’s a fringy runner with an arm that ranges from a 45- to 50-grade tool. He’s caught in the past….(and) during his time in the Cape and scouts don’t think he’s a good receiver behind the plate.