With two picks in the top 30 of 2017’s MLB Draft, who will the Toronto Blue Jays pursue? Jays From the Couch profiles some potential first round picks.
It’s that time of year again. The Toronto Blue Jays are scratching and clawing their way back into contention, the weather is warming up, and fans and evaluators alike are getting sense of what they have in their 2017 teams while
simultaneously preparing for the amateur draft. While the Anthopoulus Regime focused more on safe first round picks, often boring college pitchers in their day – the Shapiro and Atkins approach has been a bit different.
In 2016, the Blue Jays started with T.J. Zeuch – who contrary to what was just written, was a reasonably safe college pitcher pick. Later on they selected Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, players with MLB bloodlines – which seem to have worked out well so far. Will they Jays take that approach again? We don’t know, but it’s fun to speculate.
What follows is a few brief overviews of some names that may fall to the Blue Jays with picks 22 and 28. Every once in a while, a stud will fall to the end of the first round or a team will draft ahead of a player’s prospective rank. So for Toronto, it’s a strong possibility that none of the following names join the organization. Such is the nature of the beast that is the MLB Entry Draft. Also, there won’t be much a statistical discussion here, as there’s no translation between amateur and professional stats.
Keston Hiura (20) might not make it to the Blue Jays at No. 22, but it’s worth dreaming on. Hiura is a pure hitter, and some think his decent power will develop in time. He’s played 2B and CF for UC-Irvine, but due to an elbow injury, has been limited to DH in 2017. He’ll likely need Tommy John surgery, and this might drop his draft stock a bit. Long-term, scouts have him as a 2B or DH.
Although only 20 years old, he’s believed to be close to MLB-ready in terms of hitting ability. The one discouraging though in regards to Hiura is that he seems to be way too good of a fit for the Dodgers (who pick at No. 23, one after the Jays), growing up in Southern California and already having a relationship with the team physician, Dr. Neal Elattrache, who performed his PRP injection prior to the season.
Another Team-USA college star, Burger is one of the best power bats in the draft. Burger slugged 21 home runs with the Missouri State University Bears this spring, and he did so while playing a decent third base and showing off a plus-arm. With a name like Burger, he has a build to match: standing 6’2″ and a lumbering 220. His size and athleticism came up in Keith Law’s Friday chat session:
Do you think the Mets would take Jake Burger at 20? And do you think he’s too fat for third?
Keith Law, 1:31
I think he’d be on their list, but not necessarily their first choice, and he’s not fat, but he’s going to end up at 1b.
It seems like the Jays haven’t had a big 3B prospect in a while (Vlad Jr. is not a third baseman, despite wearing the costume in A-Ball), so he might fit well into their plans if he falls to No. 22.
Some have Canning going as high as 15 on Monday night, but it all depends on how the college pitchers fall from picks 10-30, which seems to be a toss-up. The UCLA Bruins Friday night starter stands 6’1″ and 180 pounds, leaving plenty of frame to grow into. His fastball routinely sits 90-95, and he’s not just a one-pitch guy, with a solid curve and a change-up to boot. It’s always nice to see a good change-up from a college pitcher, especially when it means less development time spent on adding extra pitches to an arsenal.
His funky delivery might be why he has some command issues within the zone, but it’s also interesting and adds a personality to the players, who’s majoring in Political Science at UCLA.
Houck has a big fastball, reaching back for 98 MPH on occasion. The corn-fed Midwesterner uses his 6’5″/220 pound frame to pump 90-93 consistently. At Missouri State, he’s used that fastball in conjunction with a sweeping slider and to a lesser extent – a change-up – to earn himself the respect of being a potential mid-to-late first round pick on Monday night. Houck might slip well into the depths of the first round, with most scouts considering him a power arm out of the bullpen rather than a starter long-term. Based on his size and secondary arsenal, this is probably a reasonable expectation, but might not be worthy of a No. 22 overall with plenty of similar arms available later on.
There’s no name I’ve seen tied to the Blue Jays in mock drafts more than Logan Warmoth, the NC State star entering the draft as a SS/1B. Warmoth strikes out a lot, but saw an increase in power this season as a Junior and hits at a very solid rate. He’s mostly an average fielder, and will probably develop as a shortstop before converting back to first base. He shouldn’t need too much development time in the minor leagues, so along with guys like Keston Hiura, he might be someone we see sooner rather than later.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) June 7, 2017
Alex Faedo is an interesting arm and seems like a logical fit for the Blue Jays, similar to their taking of T.J. Zeuch in the first round last season. Chances are Faedo won’t drop to the Jays at No. 22, with most mock drafts having him fall to around 10-15 only. He hasn’t been outstanding with Florida this season, so his stock may have dropped a bit. Still, the draft is often full if surprises and it’s hard to see Toronto passing on a successful southern college pitcher like Faedo, if he falls.
Leslie “Bubba” Thompson
Described by John Sickels of Minor League Ball, Thompson is an “Alabama high school sports legend.” Originally committed to Auburn (the alma mater of The King of The Jungle, Josh Donaldson) for football and baseball, Thompson now has an agreement with the University of Alabama for baseball only. That is until his draft stock rose considerably in 2017, potentially making Thompson a late first-round pick. As for tools, Thompson is graded out to have a 65-70 speed and a 60 arm and power as high as 50. High school players are tough to grade, but most believe Thompson’s athleticism can make him an MLB center fielder.
Nate Pearson is BIG. At only 20 years old, he’s 6’6″ and pushing the scales to 240 pounds. He uses his tremendous frame well, recently hitting 102 MPH on the gun, though it comes with some control issues. His path to the bigs might be fast-tracked as a reliever, which might mean he slips into the late first round or into the second. Pearson pitched at Central Florida (junior college) in 2016, and has plans to go to LSU this fall if he doesn’t sign. Of course, there’s this, from Keith Law’s chat on Friday:
Is Pearson’s stock getting too high for him to fall to the Cubs
Keith Law, 1:57
I have heard Nate Pearson has a deal in the 21-26 range
That could mean the Blue Jays at No. 22
No matter what, enjoy draft day.
These are just some of the options, and the Blue Jays could go in any number of directions. It’s fun to speculate on the Blue Jays of the near and distant future, and always enjoyable to see the look on the faces of these young men as they get the call they’ve been waiting for their whole lives. While the MLB draft lacks the urgency of the NHL, NBA or NFL, it’s baseball in it’s purest sense enjoyable nonetheless.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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