First and foremost, Happy Draft Day! At some point this afternoon Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will make two very important picks for the organization in short order. I’ve been doing a weekly series (2012, 2011, 2010) recapping Anthopoulos’ hits and misses from his first three years in charge of the board. Unfortunately there have been more hits than misses, but the one success was predicated on having an extra pick after failing to sign their first rounder the year before. And that is why today’s draft is so important. Not only do the Jays have two picks, they are two high picks, at 9 and 11, in what is considered a pretty deep draft. My feeling is that AA needs to hit on both.
Before discussing last year’s draft, and why it was a huge miss for Toronto, let’s take a look at one more mock draft for 2014. The good folks at Scouting Baseball throw out a ton of names but eventually settle on shortstop Trea Turner at 9 and right-handed pitcher Touki Toussant at 11, even mentioning a rumour that the Jays already have an agreement in place with Touki. McDaniel, the author of the piece, says that Jeff Hoffman, the top tier talent that has already undergone Tommy John surgery will fall no further than the Jays if he gets there at all. Which means that most of the mock drafts I’ve seen are actually pretty consistent, with Turner, Touki, and Hoffman the most mentioned names.
Which, of course, the cynic in me, means we’ll get two totally different players. The cynicism, whether warranted or not, has a lot to do with last year’s draft. Nobody had the Jays taking Californian righty Phil Bickford. He did fit the Jays mold, being tall (6’4″) and projectable. Most analysts did say it was a reach though and for whatever reason (we’ll list a few possible ones below, but are pure speculation) Bickford chose to go to Cal-State Fullerton over pro ball.
The Jays were pretty tight-lipped on why Bickford chose not to sign, only confirming that an offer was made. Speculation at the time had one of two scenarios. Either the Jays offered close to the slot value of US$2,921,400 but Bickford wanted more or Toronto saw something in the medicals they didn’t like. Subsequently offering under slot. Which was obviously rejected.
If you have been reading sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi of late, it’s hard not to let a few doubts creep in about the validity of the above. Twice in recent weeks, Shi has specifically mentioned that the Jays may not have the same draft budget as they had in recent years. It’s an odd statement given fact the amount the Jays have is capped as per the slotting system. Sure, they may try to stick as close to their pool amount as possible to save a few bucks (teams can go over their pool, up to a point, before forfeiting future picks) but would they be willing to punt one of the first rounders to save that slot money? Is that what they did last year? With Rogers having pulled the budgetary rug out from under management’s feet this off-season it’s a lot easier to think along those lines.
And if the Jays fail (again) to sign one of their first rounders this year, personally, I think it will stink of Rogers being blinded to the long term benefits that young, controllable talent bring while swimming in the gold their free content makes them.
Anthopoulos does his best to dispel any doubts, in his usual evasive fashion in this piece (which I’m also linking for the excellent table mapping out how much the Jays have to spend per pick) saying ‘that the payroll for the Major League roster and the Draft are two separate things.’ I’d like to believe this, I really would. But too many doubts have crept in.
In an ideal world, the Jays pick the two best players still on the board and sign them quickly, getting them to Dunedin and into game action as soon as possible.
The recent play of the Jays has papered over many of the cracks however I wouldn’t say Anthopoulos is standing on concrete. This is a big day, he needs a win. A massive one.
And, in case you were keeping score. 2013 was a loss, making AA 1 for 4 in first rounds thus far. A second hit in five trips makes for a pretty decent day at the dish, let’s hope AA knocks it out.