The Toronto Blue Jays will receive two qualifying offer compensatory picks in 2022. How might they best use them?
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The Jays extended qualifying offers to Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien this offseason (likely two of the easiest decisions Team Shapkins ever had to make!). Both players declined and ultimately signed elsewhere (Robbie in Seattle, Marcus in Texas). As a result, the Blue Jays will receive two compensatory draft picks in the 2022 draft. I won’t go into the whole convoluted process here, but these two picks should be between the Comp Round B and the third round – say in the #70-75 overall range.
So what could Toronto do with with these two picks?
Option #1 – “the best player available”
The Jays could just use these picks like any other draft pick, taking whatever player is on the top of their list when this pick comes. Generally speaking, the success rate of picks in this range has been low, but there have been exceptions. Andrelton Simmons was taken #70 in 2010, and Dan Haren, Ray Lankford, David Cone, and Greg Nettles all had 30+ fWAR careers after being drafted #71-75.
Just for fun: in MLB.com’s way-early top 100 prospects rating for 2022, prospect #70 is Gavin Kilen, a 17-year old SS from Wisconsin about whom MLB says:
One of the best contact hitters among 2022 prepsters, Kilen didn’t strike out a single time at the Area Code Games last August. He has outstanding hand-eye coordination, feel for the barrel and a quick left-handed stroke built for hitting line drives, though scouts would like to see him add some muscle and drive the ball more consistently. He projects to hit 12-15 homers per season but presently hits too many ground balls.
A huge prospect for the 2020 draft, Mederos had a ton of interest in that draft, though his signability pushed teams away. He’s got a big fastball up in to the upper 90s, as well as an impressive breaking ball that anchors the Oklahoma State rotation after transferring from the University of Miami. Mederos has first round upside and a super-athletic body that player development staffs can really dream on.
Either of those players could be an intriguing add to the Toronto farm system.
Option #2 – roll the dice
Remember in 2012 when the Jays drafted Anthony Alford #112 overall? Alfie was projected to be a first-round talent, but his first love was football (and, to his credit, he did not hide that). The Jays ran the risk that Alford would never play professional baseball. But they felt that their system was strong enough to take the gamble, because if Alfie *did* work out he could have all-star level upside.
The 2022 Jays can clearly not afford to gamble with *all* of their draft picks – particularly given Team Shapkin’s oft-repeated view that it is crucial to maintain a consistent prospect pipeline. But might these two additional picks give the Jays the luxury to take a gamble? As for example – in the 2021 draft, Will Taylor was ranked MLB.com’s #20 prospect overall, but he was not taken until pick #554 (and did not sign), because
An argument can be made that baseball is Taylor’s third-best sport — and he’s still talented enough on the diamond to go in the top three rounds in the 2021 Draft. He accounted for 32 touchdowns while quarterbacking Dutch Fork HS (Irmo, S.C.) to the South Carolina 5-A state title last fall and is committed to play slot receiver (as well as the outfield) for Clemson if he doesn’t turn pro. He also won state wrestling championships in the 152-pound weight class as a freshman and the 160-pound class as a sophomore.
If a player like Will were available at #70-ish in the 2022 draft, would an Alford-style gamble be in the cards?
Option #3 – show me the money!
In the 2018 draft, Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter were projected as first-round talents. But both indicated that they would require an above-slot bonus (something in the $3 million range) to sign. As a result, neither did end up signing. Jack ended up being drafted #2 overall in 2021, and Kumar went #10. Imagine if the Jays had been able to sign one of them in 2018! A similar story, but with a happier ending, happened in 2021 when the #21 ranked player, Bubba Chandler, dropped to #72 (!) because he demanded an over-slot $3 million signing bonus.
Suppose the Jays look at their two comp picks not necessarily as picks but rather as a combined $1.7 million-ish of additional slot money. For the right player, might the Jays be willing to punt those two rounds (by signing players for below-slot amounts) and use the funds freed up for a Leiter-ish hard sign? Something similar to what they did in 2020 when Austin Martin fell to them at #5 but demanded a $7 million signing bonus?
Alternatively, rather than using these funds to enhance their #23 overall pick, the Jays could try to pull a Bubba. Sign a first-round talent with their #23 pick, then try to sign a second top-rated talent in the later rounds. As for example – when Kumar Rocker failed to sign with the Mets in 2021, he became eligible for the 2022 draft. But given the health concerns, and given that he chose to not return to Vanderbilt, his stock has fallen – he is ranked #28 on one list and #31 by MLB. A #28-ish pick comes with a slot value of roughly $2.5 million. That might not be enough for a player who was on the verge of signing for $6 million in 2021. If Kumar were to slip out of the first round, might the Jays be willing to offer mid-first-round money with one of their comp picks? After all,
The weaponry is well-chronicled. A fastball that has been up to 98 but more often sits 92-95. A wide breaking ball with tremendous depth has been graded as high as plus-plus by evaluators in the past. A cutter that flashes above average and a changeup that is below average more often than not. Rocker has the making of a big league starting pitcher with at least three pitches in his arsenal. There’s some concern over his medicals after reports surfaced that he failed his physical with the Mets post-draft. Rocker’s pitching elbow will be a point of emphasis for scouts as evaluators try to determine where he fits inside this years class.
The bottom line
Having two additional draft picks creates opportunities for the Jays. Their final decision on how to use them will likely have to be opportunistic, depending on how the draft shakes out. But if nothing else, these two picks should make for a far more interesting draft day! And if rumours about the new CBA permitting trading of draft picks come to fruition, and the Jays take advantage, this multi-pick fun could become the new normal.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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