Blue Jays Draft Recap

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.

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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.