Blue Jays MLB Draft Update

With the MLB draft less than a month away, Crosscheckers and Scouting Directors are criss-crossing the country, getting more detailed looks at players recommended by Area Scouts.

Auburn’s Casey Mize has had a dazzling spring, and while he’s not the consensus #1 pick, he should be headed to the Tigers.

With their first pick at #12, the Blue Jays have been linked to several players.  Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline has South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan going to Toronto with that choice.  McClanahan was viewed earlier this spring as a possible first overall pick, but his stock has dipped to due to command problems.  A 2016 Tommy John patient, McClanahan has added strength during his collegiate career, and has lit up radar guns across the south, hitting 100, and sitting 92-98 with movement.  McClanahan throws a change which projects as a plus pitch, and a slider that is inconsistent.  He’s fanned an impressive 15.1/9 this year, but has also walked 5.3/9.  The development of that third pitch will determine whether his future lies in a starting rotation or a bullpen.

Baseball America published their latest mock draft yesterday, and they have the Blue Jays taking South Alabama OF Travis Swaggerty.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders was on hand to watch Swaggery recently.  BA describes him as having five tools, and he’s put together a proven track record in the Sun Belt Conference.  Swaggerty is also young for his draft class (he won’t turn 21 until August), which the Blue Jays put a premium on as an indicator of the likelihood of future success .

ESPN’s Keith Law has the Blue Jays selecting Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert.  Long and lanky with a bowling ball fastball that has heavy sinking action, Gilbert is Nate Pearson-sized, who is described as athletic, with clean mechanics.  Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison has had an inconsistent spring, but is still seem by some as one of the top southpaws in the draft.

The Blue Jays have been linked to a couple of high schoolers with their first pick.  Florida  OF Connor Scott, Georgia RHP Ethan Hankins (who was viewed as a possible 1-1 pick before a minor shoulder issue intervened earlier this spring), Arizona 3B Nolan Gorman, and from their backyard, Mississauga’s Noah Naylor, whose stock has risen this spring have all been linked at one time or another to Toronto.  Naylor certainly has the bloodlines, but if past history is any indication, the Blue Jays will shy away from all of these players with their first pick.  Five of their first six selections (and 13 of their first 14) were college players, and that as much as anything indicates that they’ll lean in that direction.

 

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MLB Draft Update from a Blue Jays Perspective

As the MLB draft approaches next month, there is consensus among scouts that this is a strong draft class, but no one player has emerged as a true #1 candidate.

Blue Jays Amateur Scouting Director was understandably tight-lipped about who and where the Blue Jays are concentrating their scouting efforts on, and wouldn’t say how this class compares to last year’s:

(It’s) hard to comment on the overall strength of this class relative to others but there does seems to be some quality depth in a number of areas.

As far as the Blue Jays are concerned, a number of names, including Mississippl LHP Ryan Rolison, Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert, Duke OF Griffin Conine, and South Alabama OF Travis Swaggerty have been rumoured to be on Toronto’s radar.  In addition, some internet sources have suggested that Florida HS OF Connor Scott, Arizona HS 3B Nolan Gorman, and Tennessee LHP Ryan Weathers have been scouted heavily by the Blue Jays.

It’s hard to know exactly who the Blue Jays are considering with their first pick, 12th overall, but if past history is any indication, it will likely be a college player.  They have also shown a preference for MLB bloodlines, which would seem to point to Conine, but his stock has fallen considerably this spring – he’s fallen out of the first round at MLB Pipeline.  He’s looking more and more like a 2nd or 3rd round pick, which also could have him being selected by Toronto, given their past selections of players whose stock has fallen.

Jeff Ellis, who does a thorough job of evaluating draft prospects at 247sports.com, suggests that South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan, who was looking like a possible #1 pick six weeks ago, could wind up available at #12.  Ellis points out both the pros and cons of selecting McClanahan:

His size will be a concern, but his fastball looks like a potential plus-plus offering. His changeup is another weapon and his slider has improved as well. McClanahan is an undersized arm, from a small school, with two years of eligibility, a history of arm troubles, and past issues with command. I state all of this just to show that, in spite of all those concerns, he is in the running for a high selection. This speaks to his ceiling and the general rarity of finding left-handed pitchers with his ceiling and profile.

Baseball America suggests Florida 3B Jonathan India, who has quietly been climbing the rankings, would be a good fit for Toronto:

When the season began, it would have seemed silly to project Florida third baseman Jonathan India among the top 15 picks in the draft. However, with just over a month until the draft, India has been among the best hitters in the SEC and has also given scouts a few games at shortstop—though he’s unlikely to play the position as a pro.

The SEC is the most competitive conference in college baseball, and success there is often a good predictor of the same in pro ball.

Given his bloodlines, Weathers is an interesting candidate, although as a high schooler, he’s likely out of the Blue Jays comfort zone with a first overall pick.  There have been rumours that Toronto has also heavily been scouting Gorman and California HS SS Brice Turang.

Jonathan Mayo at MLB Pipeline has Toronto selecting Rolison, a choice that makes more and more sense.  He’s had an up-and-down spring, and Ellis outlines why:

He does get hit a lot and combined with his walk rate means that a lot of runners have reached base. This is part of the reason he has not lasted long into his starts this year his average is under six innings per start, which is not ideal for a player who is looking at upper first round draft positioning. In the end, he is still a lefty who hits 96 and has two well-developed secondary offerings. The ceiling is that of a number two with a relatively high floor.

MLB Draft Preview: Ryan Rolison

Rolison
247sports.com

The Blue Jays have taken a college Pitcher with their first round choice in each of the past three seasons, and could take another this June.

Missouri State RHP Jon Harris was selected with the 28th overall pick in 2015.  A year later, Pitt righty T.J. Zeuch was chosen 21st, and last year’s pick, Nate Pearson, was chosen 28th, the 2nd of two 1st rounders the Blue Jays had in 2017.

Ole Miss LHP Ryan Rolison, a draft-eligible sophomore, may become the fourth successive first round collegiate arm taken by the team if he’s still on the board at #12.

Rolison does not light up the radar guns, sitting 91-94, but he demonstrates a four-pitch mix with plenty of movement and pitchability that generates a lot of swings and misses. As a freshman, he averaged better than a K per inning in the tough Southeastern Conference, and he’s ahead of that pace so far this year.  His curve is the pitch most often noted in scouting reports.

Rolison was a 2nd Team High School All-American in 2016, and was ranked as the top Pitching prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America last summer.  He started in the bullpen as a freshman, but quickly worked his way into Ole Miss’ rotation.

Working from the 1st Base side of the rubber, Rolison has a clean arm action, and a slight hesitation in his wind up.  Rolison has a three-quarters delivery, but he varies his arm slot on some pitches.  His front foot lands directly in line with home plate. Rolison’s fastball has  good movement to both sides of the plate, but his command of it is described as fringy at the moment.  He throws an 81-82 slider with good tilt and depth, and his curve has been described as a wipeout pitch.  His change is a work in progress, and probably will be a focus in his first year of pro ball.

Rolison has the frame (6’3″/200) and mix of pitches to fit a starter’s profile.  He’s worked his way up many draft boards, and there’s a possibility he won’t be available when it comes time for the Blue Jays to pick.  As Jeff Ellis of Scout.com pointed out earlier, Rolison’s July birthday makes him one of the younger players in his draft class, and the Blue Jays are one of a growing number of clubs who use that as part of their criteria in evaluating an amateur player.  If hasn’t been selected, he would be the top college arm available, and could be a likely Blue Jays first round pick.

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.

 

 

 

Early – Very – Look at the 2018 MLB Draft

NC State vs. Kentucky Lexington Regional
Cameron Mills Radio photo by Hunter Mitchell

Amateur scouts representing all MLB teams have been involved in meetings for the past few weeks in preparation for the June draft, and the Blue Jays are no exception.

With the 12th overall pick, the Blue Jays have a chance to land a player who could have an impact on the team in three to five years.

There is a Blue Jays connection with the player ranked the top draft prospect in RHP

Brady Singer, who the team took in the 2nd round of 2015.  The Florida high schooler opted to go the collegiate route, and as a consolation prize, they landed Bo Bichette with the comp pick the following year.

RHP Ethan Hankins had a strong showing with Team USA in the World U18s at Thunder Bay last year, and is a solid #2 – he may even become the first prep righty ever taken first overall.

Between now and June, of course, players will move up and down the Blue Jays draft board, but here are some names that are ranked in the neighbourhood of Toronto’s first round pick:

  1. OF Tristan Pompey Kentucky 

   The younger brother of the Blue Jays’ own Dalton has seen his stock rise considerably since first suiting up for the Wildcats three seasons ago.  The Mississauga native is currently ranked 21st by Baseball America.  And a report by veteran scout Ted Lekas of 2080baseball. com offered a glowing, toolsy assessment after watching Pompey in the Cape Cod League last summer:

Well-proportioned, athletic body with width to his shoulder and hips; five-tool player; open stance that closes at contact; quick bat; plus bat speed with a good trigger, gets bat through the hitting zone with quick hands and wrists; feel for the barrel; strength, loft and leverage to his swing; plus power potential; above-average runner out of the box and double-plus runner underway with good running stride; plus defensive actions seen in right field with good routes, jumps, and reads; plus range, glides to the ball; above-average arm with good carry; potential first-round tools for the 2018 MLB Draft who should hold down center field for the Wildcats; should be one of the top players in the SEC.

Given his current ranking, it would be a bit of a reach for the Blue Jays take him, but he does fit the profile of a high makeup, athletic, polished college player that they have shown a preference for in the early rounds.  A pre-season All -American, a good spring could raise his profile considerably.

2.  LHP Ryan Rolison Mississippi

If Pompey fits the Blue Jays’ bill for a first round pick, Rolison matches up with it even better.  A draft-eligible sophomore, Rollison was ranked the 3rd-best prospect in the Cape League last summer (Pompey was 6th).  Teddy Cahill of BA gave this evaluation:

Rolison combines good size–a listed 6-foot-3, 200 pounds–with premium stuff from the left side. His fastball sits 91-94 mph, and he pairs it with a wipeout curveball. Both pitches generate swings and misses, and he also mixes in a useful changeup and slider. He fills up the strike zone and had success pitching inside to righthanded batters. Rolison will be a draft-eligible sophomore in next year’s draft and is on track to be the first first-rounder from Ole Miss since Drew Pomeranz was picked fifth overall in 2010.

3.  RHP Logan Gilbert, Stetson

Gilbert was the Cape’s 4th best prospect, who features premium velocity from a loose, easy delivery.  At 6’5″/195, he gets good downward movement on his pitches, and has considerable projection remaining.  MLB Pipeline’s report:

Gilbert is coming into his own, with room to grow into his prototypical pitcher’s body. He’ll throw his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, touching 97 mph. He has the chance to have at least three above-average to plus pitches, as his newer slider and changeup both have the chance to be outstanding offerings, while the curve might be a touch behind. A position player in high school, Gilbert is a solid athlete who fields his position and repeats his delivery well, which should lead to solid command.

 


There are several high school players ranked around the 12 spot – Wisconsin high school OF Jarred Kelenic gets the nod on MLB Pipeline, while BA has Florida prep SS Nander De Sedas.  It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Blue Jays could select one of these two, but recent history (a total of 3 prep picks in the first 10 rounds over the past two years) suggests a college player is more likely.