A Look at Some Vancouver Canadians

cobi johnson.jpeg
Cobi Johnson – Vancouver Province photo

A couple of days spent watching video of Vancouver’s series at Hillsboro and Eugene from this past summer have revealed some insights, first of which is that it would be nice if the C’s games were streamed on milb.com as well.  Vancouver had an agreement With Shaw, a western cable giant, to telecast several live games for Canadian viewers west of Sault Ste Marie, ON (and on YouTube for the rest of us) over the past few years, but that partnership appears to have dissolved – Sportsnet bought the rights this fall, and six C’s games will air on their Pacific channel next year.  Lansing came on board last year, joining the other Blue Jays full season affiliates.  It’s your turn, Vancouver.

Some observations on several players:

Otto Lopez

If you like three true outcomes guys, then Lopez is not for you.  If you do have a preference, however, for a guy who can play multiple positions, get on base, and show a high baseball IQ on both sides of the ball, the Dominican 2016 late sign is for you.

Scroll down to read more in a previous post.  He needs to get stronger and add some loft to his swing, but he does a lot of little things really well.

Jake Brodt

Don’t judge college players by their first year in pro ball; for most it’s a grind.

And for this 9th round pick out of Santa Clara, that’s incredibly true.  He hit .154 over his last ten games, and fanned in almost half of his ABs.  Even though the Blue Jays are very conscious about their prospect’s workloads at the lower levels, Brodt was clearly gassed by season’s end.

Brodt fanned on pitches at a rate at(18.6%) which one would expect from a player of his bat-first (.338/.375/.532) profile in his final college season (as a 4th year Senior with little bargaining power, Brodt signed for a $5K bonus), but he did not show an ability to work the count.  Brodt posted a 35% K rate, and walked only at a 2% clip.

Those numbers would not be good indicators of future success, but there are some silver linings to the Brodt cloud.  He collected 15 Doubles despite playing in only 47 games – his swing appeared a little flat (a 40% FB rate would back that up), and it’s easy to project some increased power with some adjustments, because the bat speed is definitely there.  Brodt hunts the fastball, and is vulnerable at this point to off speed pitches.  Brodt is not the lumbering type of 1st Basemen – he runs reasonably well for his 6’4″/220 size, and is a decent fielder.

Lansing will be his destination next year.  With several players of his type (Ryan Noda, Chad Spanberger, Kacy Clemens) ahead of him, he likely will spend the season there.

McGregory Contreras

The toolsy-but-raw label has stuck with Contreras since he signed with the Blue Jays in 2015.  The team has brought him along slowly for his first three pro seasons, although Baseball America saw enough of him to rank Contreras their 19th top prospect, citing what Managers in the Appy League called “sneaky power.”

His numbers at Vancouver were not as eye-popping (he did lead the C’s with 8 Home Runs), as the pitching at the higher level exposed him somewhat.   Contreras uses a toe gather as his timing mechanism, but then descends into a swing that can get long, with his bat getting into prime barrel zone late. His pitch recognition (9 walks vs 69 strikeouts) has to improve for him to advance. Described as a fringy outfielder, he showed good range and reactions to flyballs in a limited sample of viewing.

We’ll see Contreras at Lansing next year, where playing every day in full season may help accelerate his development.

Jose Espada

Much has been expected of the RHP, who the Blue Jays took in the 6th round of the 2015 out of Puerto Rico.  A solid pro debut in the GCL seemed to prophesize a quick trip up the ladder for Espada.

Such has not been the case.  Espada repeated Vancouver this year, and despite some promising signs (a 10.7 K/9, which led all NWL Pitchers, and a 14% whiff rate), Espada fell short of expectations in his third pro season.

On the surface, it’s hard to understand why.  Espada has a smooth, clean delivery, and is usually around the strike zone.  In one of the streamed starts I saw, he may have shown his issues in the first inning.  After giving up three successive walks to start the game (missing the strike zone badly), C’s Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski came out to calm Espada down.  Big Jim’s pep talk appeared to walk, as Espada induced a weak one-hopper to the next hitter, which he promptly jumped on and threw home to force the runner from 3rd, then C Yorman Rodriguez fired to 1st to complete the DP (on which Brodt made a nice scoop).  With Espada an out away from getting out of the jam, he threw the next pitch down the middle to a hitter who swung and missed at a 23.5% rate – Hillsboro 1B Francis Martinez – who smacked it into RF for a two-run Double.  Yes, this was only one inning, but it suggests maybe some focus issues, and the fact that when Espada misses, it was usually in the strike zone (a 45% FB rate adds to this possibility).  Espada does get tremendous movement on his two-seamer, but perhaps he’s yet to command it.

It’s possible to see Espada being next year in Lansing, but he may be passed by one of the Pitchers from the lower levels next spring, and start the year in Extended.

Tanner Kirwer

It’s always great to see a Canadian moving up the ladder in the Jays system.

A 20th round pick last year, Kirwer’s pro debut season ended after 25 games when he was hit in the face with a pitch, breaking three bones.

Kirwer has plus speed, which shows in the field and on the bases.  He tied for the NWL lead in steals with 28, was a mid-season All- Star, and he may be one of the fastest players in the organization.  Kirwer also has a swing-and-miss (14.1%) element to his game, and has more of a ground ball swing.  And a 6.5% walk rate doesn’t allow Kirwer to take advantage of that speed.  Working the count (Kirwer saw 3.5 pitchers per AB last year), along with making harder and more consistent contact will be what he needs to focus on to continue to progress.

On defence, Kirwer covers a great deal of territory.  It should be fun watching him cover the CF expanse in Lansing next year.

Griffin Conine

Conine injured himself crashing into the RF fence at Hillsboro in the first game, and didn’t appear the rest of the series.  He missed 8 games, and struggled for the rest of the month of August (.211/.265/.342).

His bona fides are clear:  son of a Major Leaguer, former Cape Cod League top prospect.  So we’re not going to read too much into a first pro season that was underwhelming.  His .873 OPS July is probably a closer approximation of his ultimate value.

The dark cloud on Conine’s horizon is the 50 game suspension he will have to serve as a result of testing positive for Ritalin, a banned substance under MLB protocols.  To his credit, Conine owned this ban, and pledged to make amends for it.

His 2019 season will begin in late May, likely in Dunedin.  We will have a better estimation of his future by this time next year.  2018 has been a write-off for him.

Nick Podkul

His numbers (.222/.347/.364) may not have told an impressive story, but there are some parallels that could be drawn between this 7th round pick from Notre Dame and a guy from the same school who went in the 5th round in 2016 by the name of Cavan Biggio.

Podkul hit .323 over his last ten games, and showed some bat speed in the process.  Like Biggio, it may be a matter of adjusting the swing to produce some more loft.  Podkul can get on base, and he can play 2nd and 3rd.  It’s a stretch to put Podkul in the same class as Biggio, but he hit some rockets in the Hillsboro series.

Podkul should start next season in Lansing.

Randy Pondler 

The gangly southpaw from Nicaragua was the Appy Pitcher of the Year in 2017.   Moving up to Vancouver this year, though, his lack of one outstanding pitch became apparent.  He still posted decent numbers (2.90 ERA, 47% GB rate), but he pitched to contact, and did not miss a lot of bats.

Pondler does not light up the radar gun, but he commands the strike zone.  In the start he made against Hillsboro, hitters seemed to know he was going to throw strikes, and were aggressive early in the count, racking up some hard contact.  He pairs his fastball with a curve with decent shape, but it’s a pitch he seemed to leave up in the zone.  His change-up is somewhere between dependable and show-me.  At 22, there’s not a lot of room left for projecting that fastball.

Pondler shoud start next season in Lansing.

Cobi Johnson

Low level minor league relievers are truly the forgotten men of baseball.  Only a handful progress to the bigs, and that’s why I’ll save writing about some of the decent bullpen arms Vancouver had like Joeys Pulido and Murray until another time.

The C’s did feature a Closer who very much profiles like a back of the pen power arm in the future in Cobi Johnson, son of the now former Blue Jays Coach.

Johnson was lights out for Vancouver, going a perfect 10-10 in Saves, fanning 35 in 26 innings.  The only question about Johnson would seem to be how he lasted until the 30th round of the draft last June.  Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of 2017, and a shutdown for the final three weeks of his final college season may have been the culprit.

Johnson sits 93-94 with his fastball, and has a 12-6 hammer of a curve.  He also adds a mid-80s slider and decent change to go with it.  At 6’4″/230, he has the build of a fireballing reliever.  NWL hitters really didn’t much of a chance against him.

Johnson should skip Lansing for Dunedin next season.

2018 Vancouver Canadians Pitches Per Plate Appearance

PA Pitches Pitches/PA
Brett Wright 83 367 4.42
Vinny Capra 163 660 4.05
Griffin Conine 230 924 4.02
Hunter Steinmetz 93 368 3.96
Nick Podkul 197 773 3.92
Brandon Polizzi 157 608 3.87
Christopher Bec 191 736 3.85
Jake Brodt 176 674 3.83
Reilly Johnson 61 229 3.75
Sterling Guzman 190 694 3.65
Otto Lopez 206 748 3.63
Mc Gregory Contreras 233 829 3.56
Bryan Lizardo 144 500 3.47
Tanner Kirwer 247 843 3.41
Jesus Navarro 30 102 3.40
Jesus Severino 161 521 3.24
Yorman Rodriguez 184 567 3.08
Freddy Rodriguez 28 86 3.07
Owen Spiwak 13 36 2.77
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Conine Releases Statement Regarding PED Suspension

Blue Jays prospect Griffin Conine, the 52nd player chosen in last June’s draft released a statement in view of the 50 game ban he received for a positive performance-enhancing drug this week via Twitter:

While minor league drug PED suspensions have become somewhat commonplace (90 this year, to date), the Blue Jays are particularly sensitive about the issue.  Pitchers Thomas Pannone and Joel Espinal received suspensions earlier this year, and 7 connected with the team’s Dominican complex were found to be in violation last fall.

Conine tested positive for Ritalinic Acid, more commonly known as Ritalin, which is used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperacitivty Disorder (ADHD).  Ritalin helps to produce dopamine in the brain, and can help improve cognition and working memory, with a simultaneous impact on impulse control.  Because it’s technically a stimulant, Ritalin is banned by both WADA and the USADA, as it is believed to improve endurance and strength.

Athletes who require such medications can apply for a therapeutic use exemption, so that they can continue its use.  This past season, 116 MLB players received such an exemption.  The use of ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall is highly suspect in some circles. 

MiLB players are specifically warned about banned substances, and information is available in every clubhouse.  Conine, to his credit, did not deny using Ritalin, and will not appeal the suspension.  It’s always interesting to see which players are caught using PEDs.  It rarely seems to be the elite prospects – with his draft status, Conine could be seen as one, but his draft stock tumbled over the course of this spring, as he went from Cape Cod top prospect in 2017 and seemingly sure-fire top 10 or 15 choice this year to the middle of the 2nd round.  Did he take the meds in order to get back on top of his game, or does Conine have a medical condition that’s legitimately helped by a recognized drug?  Either way, he had to have known that it was a banned substance – players are responsible for everything they put into their bodies.

It’s hard to say where Conine would have started 2019.  Dunedin is the preferred next step in the progression for college draftees who played in Vancouver, although his line (.243/.314/.430) suggests that some time in Lansing might be the tonic to restore his confidence.  He’s set his development back somewhat – 50 games will take him into the end of May/beginning of June before he can resume his career.

Blue Jays Instructional League Roster Announced

The Blue Jays have released their 2018 Instructional League roster.2018 Toronto Blue Jays Rookie Camp and Game Rep Roster-page-001

What’s often interesting about these rosters are some of the names who appear on it:

-Jol Concepcion and Naswell Paulino were both considered up-and-coming arms in the system before both were suspended for PED use last fall;

-Pitcher Luke Gillingham, who was taken in the 37th round in 2016 out of the US Naval Academy.  Gillingham pitched at Bluefield that year, but has been serving us commitment to the Navy since then;

-Reliever Kelyn Jose has a triple digit fastball, but little command.  Injuries limited him to 2 GCL innings this year;

-Nate Pearson, whose 2018 consisted of 1.1 innings.  Some thought he would be recovered from an arm fracture in time to take part in the Arizona Fall League, but the team has opted for caution with their top Pitching prospect.

Annnnnd……no sooner had we hit the publish button then this Tweet appeared:

 

-two-way player Andy McGuire, who filled roles on the mound and as a position player at Blufield has been invited as a Pitcher;

-Franciso Rios was once a promising starter at the lower levels, but was converted to relief and missed time due to injury this year;

-SS Hugo Cardona, who also missed 2018 due to a PED ban after a promising rookie season;

-top July 2nd IFA signing SS Orelvis Martinez, who adds to the up-the-middle depth the organization is building;

-2018 2nd rounder Griffin Conine, who had something of an up-and-down first pro season with Vancouver.

The schedule below shows a shorter camp for Toronto players than those from other teams who train in the area:

2018 Game Schedule-page-001

Blue Jays Last 10 Prospect Hot Sheet

These are the top performers in the Blue Jays minor league system over the past ten days.

1.  Grffin Conine, Vancouver OF

The 2nd round pick in June’s draft needed a short period to acclimate to pro ball, and he’s been on a tear ever since.  Conine blasted 3 Home Runs over the past 10, and posted an OPS of 1.236.

The 2017 Cape Cod Summer League top prospect, Conine’s stock saw him slip out of the first round this year as he attempted to sell out for more power.  His downgrade and bloodlines were a perfect match for the Blue Jays.  Perhaps as a pro he’s now settled into a routine, and might be tapping into his projected power.

2.  Eric Pardinho, Bluefield P

The top-ranked 2017 international free agent has not disappointed in his pro debut.  Playing in the Appalachian League against players 2 and 3 years older, Pardinho tossed a gem in his third start, allowing only 1 hit over 5 scoreless innings while fanning 9.

The plan for Pardinho is to gradually increase his pitch count – he’s at 65 pitches at the moment.  Whether or not that means a promotion to Vancouver later this summer remains to be seen, but the fans of Bluefield may have a season to remember this year, and Pardinho will probably be a huge part of that.

3.  Tanner Kirwer, Vancouver OF

The Sherwood Park, AB native, a 20th round pick last year, was just beginning to hit his stride with Bluefield last July when he was hit by a pitch, ending his season.

Shipped out to Vancouver this year, Kirwer is starting to show the power/speed combo the Blue Jays saw when they selected him, posting a 1.192 OPS ans swiping 5 bases in 6 attempts.

4.  Yennsy Diaz, Dunedin P

The hard-throwing right hander has not missed a beat since being promoted to Dunedin last month, fanning 13 in 12 innings over his last 2 starts, posting a tidy 2.25 ERA.

What is becoming impressive about Diaz is how he keeps his mid 90s velocity deep into games; he’s also starting to pitch to contact more, allowing him to do so.

5.  Harold Ramirez, New Hampshire OF

Something of a forgotten man since being acquired from the Pirates in 2016, Ramirez repeated AA this year, but his bat seems to finally be on track after he slashed .394/.447/.727 with a trio of long balls over the last ten.

With that outburst, Ramirez has brought his average for the season over .300, and has helped to offset the absence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr in the Fisher Cats’ lineup.

 

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.

 

 

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.