Blue Jays Select a Pair of Bats in MLB Draft

The Blue Jays, who have shown a preference for middle infielders and pitchers with their top picks in the most recent drafts, added to their growing stable of Short Stops by selecting Texas HS slugger Jordan Groshans with their first pick, 12th overall.

Most mock drafts had the bat-first Groshans in the 30s, but the Blue Jays valued his offensive skills.  “We just feel Jordan has a lot of the attributes we look for both in his swing, his combination of contact, of power, plate discipline,” Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders told Sportsnet. “He’s got a great feel and approach in the box, he’s able to drive the ball to all fields and we’re confident that his offensive ability will certainly transfer with wood at the next level.”

Toronto has been following Groshans extensively last summer on the showcase circuit, and continued to keep close tabs on him this spring.  Reports suggest that he will moved to 3B eventually, but his bat will play.  Baseball America‘s draft report:

A 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop, Groshans has quick bat speed and plus raw power and he showed the ability to square up elite pitching on the summer showcase circuit in 2017. He hit 90-plus mph velocity hard all over the field in multiple events, including a home run against a 95-mph fastball from New York righthander Lineras Torres Jr. in the Perfect Game All-American Classic. Over the summer, Groshans used a big leg kick to get start his load and when he was on time it didn’t hinder him, instead helping him generate more power. But there were instances where Groshans would get out on his front side and fly open early, leaving some scouts to question whether the big leg kick would create more timing issues as he advanced against better pitching. This spring, Groshans has quieted the leg kick and improved his balance and hand path to the ball, attempting to lift the ball less frequently and has been hitting lasers the entire season. He’s also added around 10 pounds of muscle while maintaining his lean body. Groshans has an above-average arm and he’s shown good defensive actions at a number of infield positions, though most scouts believe he will eventually move to third base with a chance to be an above-average defender as he continues to fill out his frame.

With a commitment to join his brother at Kansas, there is some risk to this pick, but along with tools and makeup, the Blue Jays have heavily scouted his signability.  The slot value for the 12th pick is $4.2 million, or almost half of the Blue Jays’ assigned value for the first ten rounds.  The Blue Jays will likely sign lower picks to smaller bonuses to elevate what they offer Groshans, who won’t improve his draft position by going to college.

In short, expect Groshans to sign well in advance of the July 15th deadline, but he will be one of the last players to affix his name to a contract.  Groshans will begin his pro career in the Gulf Coast League, and if a position switch is in the offing he may spend some time there.  Vancouver may be a late-season destination.

 

Duke OF Griffin Conine was originally thought of as a first round pick, but an inconsistent spring caused his stock to drop.  The Blue Jays covet players in that type of situation, and his blood lines only help his cause in the eyes of the organization.  The consensus seems to be that Conine sold out and went for more power as he came under more intense scrutiny from scouts this year.  As a pro, there’s a good chance that the Cape Cod League’s 2017 Top Prospect rediscovers his stroke.

2080baseball.com’s report on the son of Mr Marlin:

Athletic right fielder with plus bat and power potential; good, sound approach at the plate from a slight open stance; good balance; plus bat speed with quick hands and quick wrists; plus barrel control, barrels up balls and projects as a plus hitter; present strength; loft and leverage to all fields, projects to plus power; below-average run; did not produce home-to-first run time; above-average arm strength (55) with good carry; average defensive actions; tools to be above-average major league regular contributor.

Conine could prove to be a steal.  Like Groshans, he may be one of the last draftees to sign, but expect him to head northwest to patrol RF for the Vancouver Canadians shortly after he does.  C’s fans should be excited – Conine may be the best bat to join the team since they became a Blue Jays affiliate.

 

 

Advertisements

MLB Draft Preview: Griffin Conine

We’ve learned several things about the early round draft preferences of the Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins regime over the course of the last two years:

-this is a group that values production – numbers matter, particularly those with some strong context.

-character matters; the Blue Jays scouts spend a lot of time (years, in some cases) getting to know potential draftees and their make-up.

-track record is important:  players who have had sustained success at high levels of the game are easier to project into the future.  Under Shapiro, Cleveland was a very risk-averse team in the early rounds, and that trend has carried over.  To be fair, the Blue Jays haven’t drafted a high schooler in the 1st round since 2012. Still, the Blue Jays took only 5 prep players (and only 1 Pitcher) with their first 25 picks.  So, track record translates to collegiate players.

And there’s one more component that the Blue Jays value – genetics.   On the excellent At the Letters podcast, GM Atkins told hosts Nicholson-Smith and Zwelling that the Blue Jays place a lot of importance on players with “windshields” – players who were passengers on their Dads’ trip through the Major Leagues.

When you watch a person (ie. your Dad) become star right in front of you, you realize they’re not much different from you, and it makes it more real.  It’s one of the reasons why pedigree has value in the game – if you watch your Dad, and learn what it takes to become a great player…..it’s not intimidating.  Often times players that are extremely talented that haven’t had that exposure come into an environment where all of a sudden (a player thinks) everyone’s as good as me or better…..can quickly demotivate (a player).

With that in mind, and given the success that prospects named Guerrero and Bichette have had,  a very logical pick for the Blue Jays in the 12th spot is Duke OF Griffin Conine, son of former MLBer Jeff, also known as Mr Marlin.

Conine certainly checks the boxes for Toronto.  After a slow to start to his career at Duke, he had a breakout season last year, posting a .971 OPS.  Conine didn’t stop hitting when the college season ended, as he was named the Cape Cod League’s top pro prospect.  Conine was named a preseason NCAA D-1 All American prior to the 2018 campaign.  Not considered a top prospect as a high school senior, Conine’s work ethic has no doubt helped his prospect status climb to the point where he has to be considered one of the top three college OF prospects heading into June’s draft.  And then there’s his Dad, a 17-year Major Leaguer who has a pair of World Series rings.  In retirement, Jeff started taking part in triathlons, and had been serving as a Special Assistant to Marlins President David Samson before leaving the organization last fall, after incoming head honcho Derek Jeter offered him a less role with the team.

Jeff Ellis of Scouting Baseball and I had a lengthy chat about players the Blue Jays might be heavily scouting in advance of the draft, and Conine’s name was a part of that discussion.  In his most recent mock draft, Ellis has Conine going to the Jays:

Conine shares a birthday with Ryan Rolison, making him one of the younger juniors in this class. He has a long track record of performance and bloodlines that will make him move up boards. He is unlikely to be a star, but I see a player who should be worth 3 to 4 wins for many years. He is a complete player and the youth and relative safety make him a perfect fit for the Jays.

Maybe that’s not a ringing endorsement or a prediction of future first division stardom, but Conine would indeed be a very good fit with the Jays.  He can play all three Outfield positions, although his speed is not his greatest asset, and RF appears to be the best spot for him.  Because of his high OBP skills, Conine led off for his Cape Cod team last summer.  Conine works the count well, but he does tend to have some swing-and-miss because of his power – he had a 25% K rate last year.  Conine gets significant torque and loft with his swing, but he gets good plate coverage, and uses the whole field.  I did not come across this in any reports, but his bloodlines probably suggest a high Baseball IQ.

Veteran scout Ted Lekas of 2080baseball.com gave this analysis after seeing Conine last summer:

Athletic right fielder with plus bat and power potential; good, sound approach at the plate from a slight open stance; good balance; plus bat speed with quick hands and quick wrists; plus barrel control, barrels up balls and projects as a plus hitter; present strength; loft and leverage to all fields, projects to plus power; below-average run; did not produce home-to-first run time;  above-average arm strength (55) with good carry; average defensive actions; tools to be above-average major league regular contributor.

The reports all seem to project Conine as Logan Warmoth with more power potential.  If the Blue Jays select him, the fans in Vancouver are in for a treat this summer.  Of the players I’ve seen so far this college season (a small sample, admittedly), he’s the most impressive.

MLB Draft Preview #2 (From a Blue Jays Perspective)

tristan-pompey-2017-abr
Tristan Pompey – The K Zone photo

The Blue Jays are in a “sweet position” to grab a premium college Pitcher or Outfielder with the 12th pick in June’s draft, according to a noted amateur talent evaluator.

Jeff Ellis, the lead MLB draft analyst at Scout.com (you can read his most recent mock draft here), feels that given the preferences shown by the Blue Jays over the past two drafts, it’s more than likely that their top choice will come from the draft’s deep pool of arms or Outfielders.  After last year’s draft, Blue Jays Director of Amateur Scouting Steve Sanders did agree that the longer track records of college players fits their draft preferences better than high schoolers, at least when it comes to their top picks.

Ellis feels this year’s draft may top the previous several years when it comes to depth:

I think we’re seeing more depth than in the past few years, which is surprising, because with the pool system I think we’re seeing less elite talent make it to the college ranks but I think college coaching on the whole has improved significantly, so we’re seeing more players get developed properly

The players that seem to fit the Blue Jays and their past history, according to Ellis, are Travis Swaggerty of South Alabama, Griffin Conine of Duke, and the Greater Toronto Area’s own Tristan Pompey of Kentucky in the Outfield, while Pitchers Ryan Rolison of Mississippi, Jackson Kowar of Florida, and Logan Gilbert of Stetson appear to have the right mix of skills and potential availability for the Blue Jays to consider.  Over the next week, we’ll profile each one of these players in more detail.

Baseball America released their Top 300 draft prospects last week, and had Florida HS Pitcher/Catcher Mason Denaburg ranked #12.  BA’s list, however, is not a mock, and it would be unlikely that the Blue Jays would select Denaburg, both given their aversion to prep players at the top of the draft, and the depth of Catching prospects they currently have in their system.

Ellis liked the Blue Jays draft last year, for the most part:

They took more players from my big board than any other team. They would often take guys one or two spots ahead of where I had them, so I like the players they took, but I didn’t love where they took them.

One thing that’s interesting about Conine, Rolison, and Swaggerty is that they’re young compared to the rest of their class.  The former pair doesn’t turn 20 until July 11th, while Swaggerty doesn’t until August.  More and more teams, according to Ellis, are using age relative to draft class:

When you look at a lot of guys in the minor this probably no better indicator of  when a player is significantly younger than the level he’s at and he’s finding success there – you have that extra time for development, and some teams just really buy into this.

Ellis feels that there’s enough depth in this draft that the Blue Jays will probably be able to land a premium talent in the second round (with the 52nd pick).  With their second pick last year,  Toronto stepped out of their college-player mode, and picked California two-way player Hagen Danner.  Danner was not that much of a reach, though as Ellis pointed out, “Danner fits with their approach because he was a Little League World Series hero and he’s been on their track record forever.”

As the draft progresses, Ellis suggests that the Blue Jays will be on the lookout for players with good track records whose stock has fallen this year.  Ryan Noda was thought to be at least a 3rd round pick last year, but a mediocre college season dropped him to the 15th round.  Noda, of course, tore up the Appalachian League, flirting with .400 until the final weeks of the season.

The Blue Jays value production, and the above names have proven histories in that regard.  After doing a decent job of restocking their system over the past two drafts, the Blue Jays have a chance to add some potential impact talent to their prospect base this year.