Sorry for being a bit tardy with this review, dear readers. Life comes at you fast sometimes, and last week was Formula One-like.
Only the hardiest of prospect hunters could really offer an evaluation of the Blue Jays picks on Days Two and Three. It’s during that time that teams look to scoop up players who may have slipped through the draft cracks; it’s also time that they also look to building rosters at their short season affiliates for the Day One guys to play with. At the same time, as Director of Amateur Scouting Steve Sanders told us last year, every player they select had someone who believed in them enough to convince the team to draft them. That’s how you come up with a Kevin Pillar in the 32nd round, a Danny Barnes in the 35th, and Chavez Young in the 39th.
A quick review of several sources suggests that the Blue Jays had a decent draft, particularly on the first day. Selecting Texas prep teammates Jordan Groshans and Adam Kloffenstein may have been a bit of a coup, but there were other picks that observers centered out. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline feels that Florida HS SS Addison Barger, taken in the 6th round, ” has a strong arm and the potential for at least average tools across the board.” Carlos Collazo of Baseball America is even more sold on Barger’s ceiling, saying he “has solid tools across the board, impressive bat speed and a high baseball IQ.”
Over at Fangraphs, Eric Longehagen and Kylie McDaniel were enthused about 8th rounder Joey Murray, he of the deceptive delivery and high K totals, predicting that he, “could turn into a Yusmeiro Petit type who makes fringe stuff work due to an invisiball.”
Our good friend Jeff Ellis, who probably knows as much about the draft pool as any scouting director, listed a couple of names that jumped out at him, starting with Murray’s Kent State teammate, RHP Austin Havekost. Ellis says that Havekost is, “a player I had seen a bunch, good velocity and size.” At 6’4″/220, he throws in the low 90s and can hit 95, and seems to profile as a back end of the bullpen guy. Havekost also has what BA calls a “sharp” split-change and a slider, and that, “He pounds the strike zone with both offspeed offerings and pitches with above-average control.”
There are many stories about Wake Forest 3B John Aiello, who the Blue Jays took in the 14th round. A legendary high school slugger, Aiello hit 20 HR as a sophomore, but had a poor draft year season. That sounds like a similar scenario to Ryan Noda, who was taken in the 15th round last year, and after being named the Appy League MVP last year, has started to heat up for Lansing. As Ellis puts it, Aiello has, “Big power, but horrible pitch recognition.”
Toronto selected a number of middle infielders, and Ellis singled out 20th round pick Vinnie Capra from Richmond, who he says, “is undersized and from a small school, but was really good back to back years in Atlantic 10, type of guy who makes a ton of sense as a day 3 gamble. There are reasons he is there, but also are reasons he could find success.”
Finally, Ellis mentioned 30th round pick Cobi Johnson from Florida State, son of the Blue Jays bullpen coach and longtime minor league instructor. Ellis says of Johnson:
I thought he would be drafted out of high school as a first rounder. Turns 23 this year, struggled in college but did miss bats the last two years. Maybe hope he can straightened out and turn into a reliever.
There are likely several other names that stood out to others, but these are several intriguing players who are worth a follow. We won’t know, of course, how successful this draft will be for several years, and we don’t know how many of these players will reach MLB, but it will probably only be a handful. The fun is in watching their development, and seeing how far they can go. The draft is more than an educated guess, but not a lot more. Teams can follow players for several years, get to know them, and analyze the growing mountain of data that’s coming from college programs, but ultimately no one can predict a player’s maturity, and their ability to overcome adversity. Many wash out at short season, but if a player reaches full season ball and manages to stick around for at least a season there, you have to consider that a small victory for the prospect, and a small success for the team.