Great Expectations, We Had the Greatest Expectations: June Amateur Draft Preview

Hi everyone.  Checking in from sunny Des Moines, Iowa, which is nicer than you'd think. 

Anyway, I thought this was a good opportunity to take an early look at the upcoming draft, which is June 7-9.  For a team like the Jays, who aren't likely to pony up for Sabathia or Teixiera-like massive free agent superstar contracts, drafting elite talent is absolutely essential to success, particularly in the brutal AL East.  Historically, the Jays have been excellent at drafting and developing very fine major-league caliber players but perhaps haven't been as successful at drafting and developing true superstar-type talent in recent years (though that, too, appears to be changing). 

This June, Alex Anthopolous will have his first turn at the helm.  But let's not oversell that - Anthopolous has always been heavily involved in the draft - typically, GMs (and JP Ricciardi was no exception) only personally get involved in the very early rounds of the draft. This year, the Jays pick 11th, 34th, 38th, and 41st overall within the first round (including the first comp round) and Anthopolous will surely be heavily involved in those choices.

This draft is significant for another reason - the Jays have a golden opportunity to flood their system with talent.  To use a Ricciardi-ism, they have a "boatload" of picks (10 picks in the first 4 rounds, 8 in the first 100 picks, in fact) coming from free agent compensation and from the team's failure to sign a number of high-round picks last year.  Everything points to a big draft for the Jays.  Motivated, smart GM?  Check.  Lots of picks?  Check.  Plenty of money devoted to signing players?  Check.  Willingness to go over slot?  Check.  Commitment to draft best available talent?  Check. It should be very fun. 

Each of those things is very important, and each plays into the others.  A team can draft better talent than would otherwise be available in any given position by being willing to go over slot (MLB's recommended signing bonus for a given draft position).  But then of course you have to have the money to sign all that talent.  I've always subscribed to the theory that the team should draft best available talent without giving much thought to current organizational need at any particular position (i.e. don't draft a 3B who isn't the best available talent just because the Jays might not have a long-term solution there currently in the system).  The best thing to do is get a mix of high-ceiling talent and more projectible talent.  The Jays have been excellent at getting major league contributors (particularly on the mound) in the middle rounds and later (Marcum, Janssen, Litsch, Rzepczynski, etc) and have a lot of depth in their system in starting pitching so arguably they should be confident in their talent evaluation and shoot for someone with ace potential if they are drafting a pitcher in the 1st round.

This draft Q&A over at the great site the Hardball Times will get you started.  And SB Nation has its own great site devoted to the draft, MLB Bonus Baby, has more draft coverage than you will ever want or need.  It's a must read as the draft grows nearer.   

Title from the Gaslight Anthem song "Great Expectations"

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