Toronto Scores Big With Impressive Draft Haul

Editors Note: This is a special guest post from Marc Hulet. Marc is a senior writer at FanGraphs.com where he covers MLB Prospects, including his annual Top 10 scouting reports for all 30 clubs. You can email him at marc.hulet@fangraphs.com or follow him on Twitter at @marchulet.

After reading various Jays blogs around the Internet and hearing fans speak out on the radio, it's hard to believe that Toronto just pulled off one of the most successful amateur drafts of 2011. On quick reflection, and after years of covering the MLB Amateur Draft, I would probably rank their draft in the Top 5-7 range out of 30 teams.

Fans need to remember that Toronto had multiple supplementary picks as a result of free agent compensation. As such, the club had two options: 1) Go big, or 2) Play it safe. Toronto chose to roll the dice and took very, very talented players - many of whom fell in the draft and became available because other teams either deemed them unattainable or available for a cost that outweighed their potential value. Tampa Bay was a club that also had numerous draft picks but took much safer selections, for the most part. The Rays organization signed more players than Toronto, but the Jays came away with (arguably) higher-ceiling talent.

By drafting the best player available, the organization opened itself up to failure. A team can only control so much. If a player and his adviser decide to throw out a ridiculous number and won’t budge, there is very little that you can do if you hope to maintain any sense of bargaining power in future drafts; advisers will catch on pretty quickly if you cave in every high-pressure situation. In the Tyler Beede situation, the player, his family, and their adviser put a huge price tag on his education. Only six of the Top 7 players drafted in 2011 received as much or more than what Beede was asking for; Arizona’s Trevor Bauer only received a bonus of $3.4 million as the third overall selection, and many considered him the best pitcher in the draft with all things considered.

Let's have a look at some of the players that Toronto originally drafted back in June. According to Baseball America and *entering* the 2011 high school and college seasons, here are rankings from the Top 100 lists for both college and high school prospects:

College Top 100:

9. John Stilson (actually selected 108th overall by Toronto)
69. Austin Nolan (949th)
74. Andy Burns (349th)
78. Anthony DeSclafani (199th)
82. Johnny Coy (1,369th)

High School Top 100:

2. Daniel Norris (74th)
19. Tyler Beede (21st)
30. Dwight Smith Jr. (53rd)
35. Kevin Comer (57th)
38. Andrew Suarez (289th)
43. Christian Lopes (229th)
60. Matt Dean (409th)
64. Jerrick Suiter (1,069th)
69. Cody Glenn (469th)
70. Jacob Anderson (35th)
72. Thomas Robson (139th)
75. Cole Wiper (439th)
91. John Norwood (379th)
92. Aaron Nola (679th)

If you crunch the numbers quickly, Toronto drafted 14% of the top, available prep talent in North America, as ranked by BA and entering the 2011 season. That is huge. Also look at how much value these players had (based on their pre-ranking) compared to where Toronto drafted them.

Now let's look at where the Top 200 Draft Prospects, according to Baseball America, fell after their 2011 seasons and shortly before the draft.

16. Daniel Norris (signed)
23. John Stilson (signed)
35. Tyler Beede
49. Dwight Smith Jr. (signed)
54. Matt Dean (signed)
90. Joe Musgrove (signed)
102. Kevin Comer (signed)
155. Andrew Suarez
157. Jacob Anderson (signed)
163. Aaron Nola
180. Christian Lopes (signed)
192. Cole Wiper

Say what you will about Toronto's inability to lock up Beede, but the club actually signed two players ranked higher than the right-hander shortly before Draft Day - and keep in mind that these rankings are made by the No. 1 prospect and draft publication in North America. Both Norris and Stilson slid in the draft but it had nothing to do with their talent levels. For Norris, he floated a high price tag prior to the draft - even higher than Beede's. Stilson injured his shoulder and the initial prognosis pointed towards surgery.

Toronto signed eight of the 12 best prospects it drafted in 2011. The club still signed seven players in the first three rounds, where many other teams signed between two to four draft picks.

The Top 10 picks that got away:

1. Tyler Beede, RHP, prep
At the time of his selection, Beede admitted it would come down to money. That's actually a refreshing admission and one I respect him for, regardless of how things played out. In reality, it did come down to money with the Vanderbilt recruit looking for $3.5 million to forgo his college commitment. Vandy lost more than 50% of its pitching staff so there will be some rebuilding to be done and Beede should be front and centre in that effort. You have to be a very strong person to turn down $2.4 million and the opportunity to chase a life-long dream.

2. Andrew Suarez, LHP, prep
Committed to the University of Miami, Suarez has been on the amateur scene a long time and he'll look to sharpen his repertoire with an eye to becoming a first round talent for 2014.

3. Aaron Nola, RHP, prep
Nola was known to be an almost impossible sign. He is committed to Louisiana State University where he'll spend the 2011-12 season playing with his older brother.

4. Cole Wiper, RHP, prep
A talented prospect already, Wiper could blossom with the aid of college-level coaches and more time on the diamond; prep prospects in the Northwest have less development time than those in warmer climates like Florida and California where the sport can be played year-round.

5. Jerrick Suiter, RHP, prep
An excellent athlete, Suiter excels as basketball and football, as well as baseball. With more of a focus on baseball at Texas Christian University, the right-hander could develop into a first or second round talent for 2014.

6. Austin Nola, SS, college
Nola will return to LSU for his senior season and team with brother Aaron. The elder Nola should be one of the first senior players taken in the 2012 draft.

7. Andrew Chin, LHP, prep
The cards were stacked against the Jays on this one. Chin is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which hurt his value, and he also holds a scholarship to a very good academic school in Boston College. The club reportedly offered him $250,000, which wasn't enough.

8. John Norwood, OF, prep
The speedy Norwood will join Beede at Vanderbilt University; he projects to be a No. 1 or 2 hole hitter with modest power.

9. Richard Prigatano, 1B, prep
A late prep bloomer, Prigatano will look to continue his development at Long Beach State University. Because he bats from the right side, the prospect's bat will really have to play up for him to become a difference maker at the MLB level.

10. Joel Seddon, RHP, prep
Seddon made some headlines shortly after the draft when one media report had him turning down a $1 million contract. Those rumors were never confirmed (and seem misplaced) and he will head off to the University of South Carolina.

The Top 10 picks that signed:

1. Daniel Norris, LHP, prep
The consensus top prep southpaw in the draft, Norris was a first-round talent that slid due to signability concerns. He also has a great head on his shoulders and has the potential to develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter.

2. Kevin Comer, RHP, prep
Comer is a bit of a wildcard because he comes from a cooler climate where there is less opportunity to showcase your stuff. He has a solid repertoire, though, and projects to be a future No. 2 or 3 starter. Like Beede and Norwood, he was committed to Vanderbilt.

3. Matt Dean, 3B, prep
Perhaps the top prep third base prospect in the draft (although I’m also a fan of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Goeddel), Dean had a bit of a down senior year but had an excellent reputation as a top prospect entering the 2011 season. He is another player with a good head on his shoulders. 

4. Dwight Smith Jr., OF, prep
The son of a former big leaguer of the same name, Smith Jr. may outgrow center field and have to move to right field down the road. However, he had one of the most advanced prep bats in the draft. The big question with him is how much power he’ll eventually hit for as he fills out.

5. John Stilson, RHP, college
Had he been healthy, Stilson probably would have been chosen in the Top 10 picks (not rounds). He has an electric repertoire and could be a fast-moving, high-leverage reliever even if shoulder woes do not allow him to remain in the starting rotation where he flashes the ceiling of a No. 1or 2 starter.

6. Jacob Anderson, OF, prep
Anderson has outstanding power potential, which he displayed by homering in his first pro game. He slid down some teams’ draft lists this spring because he played mostly first base out of team necessity. Anderson projects to be a solid defensive outfielder in either center field or right field 

7. Christian Lopes, SS, prep
Like Andrew Suarez, Lopes is a player that’s been on scouts’ radars for a long time but he hasn’t seen his develop take a huge jump as quickly as some expected it to. He should move to second base as a pro.

8. Mark Biggs, RHP, prep
Biggs is a pitcher who should have been taken much earlier in the draft but he suffered a fractured vertebra in his back while lifting weights. He projects to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter with a fastball that can touch 93-94 mph.

9. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, college
Mainly a reliever in college, DeSclafani has a fastball that can touch 96 mph but he’s never put up great numbers, in part because his heater lacks movement and in part because he lacks command. Perhaps pro coaching can help unlock his abilities.

10. Joe Musgrove, RHP, prep
A big, strong pitcher, Musgrove is just coming into his own and could be a big mover if things start to click. He usually works in the 88-92 mph range but has been hitting 95-96 mph with more regularity. He may not be a huge strikeout pitcher as he tends to pitch to contact and induce a ton of ground ball outs.


The Sleepers:

1. Jorge Vega-Rosado, SS, junior college
Just 19, the player who prefers to be known as Chino Vega has shown one of the more advanced bats on the Gulf Coast League team. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling but could develop into an offensive-minded second baseman or a solid utility player.

2. Eric Arce, LF, prep*
After spurning Toronto in the ’10 draft to go to school, Arce left college early in his first year and once again became eligible for the draft. A former catcher, his value takes a hit because he’s moved to the left field but he leads the Gulf Coast League in home runs despite his 5’9’’ frame.

3. Jon Berti, 2B, college
Berti has been one of the best players on the Vancouver squad, showing a well rounded game by hitting for average, stealing bases and playing solid defense at a new position. The only thing that’s really lacking in his game is power.

4. Taylor Cole, RHP, college
Cole lost valuable development time by spending two years on a Mormon Mission but he once flashed a mid-90s fastball. With full-time coaching, Toronto is hoping he’ll find that heat once again.

5. Kevin Pillar, OF, college
An outstanding defensive player in college, Pillar’s bat has really heated up in the last month of pro ball. If he can continue to improve, he could develop into a solid fourth outfielder.

6. Derrick Loveless, OF, prep
A solid all-around player, he currently flashes line-drive power but should develop a solid home-run stroke as he matures as a hitter. Loveless can also run a little bit and has a strong arm for right field.

 


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