After more than an hour of listening to the blathering MLB Network analysts, about how this and this guy is a "baseball player" (really, who'd have thought?), the suspense almost killed some of our members when the Nationals grabbed Lucas Giolito with the 16th pick, just one pick ahead of the Blue Jays at 17. With many Jays fans hoping for the highly rated right-hander to fall to Toronto, the disappointment was audible. Or readable, in case you weren't near any hardcore Jays fans. With the very next pick, Toronto selected:
D.J. Davis, outfielder from Stone High School, Mississippi
Davis is a 6' foot tall outfielder with blazing speed, possibly the best in the draft (Buxton could rival him). Davis shot up draft boards late with some good performances at the plate. Baseball America states that only his arm is not a potentially plus tool at this point, which is obviously high praise. Davis will most likely need a lot of development time, but the upside is very high. There's also a good chance that the Blue Jays will try to sign Davis for less money than is the standard for picks this high, instead saving some to use on later round picks. Davis is only committed to a junior college, so he's expected to be an easy sign. Slot for this pick is 2 million dollars.
The Davis pick wasn't much of a surprise, since he had been linked to the Jays in mock drafts for a while now. I didn't think it would actually happen, since mock drafts rarely get anything right after the first few picks, but this one did happen, and it's easy to see why. The Jays obviously believe Davis can be an elite center fielder in time, while they can also probably save some money from their bonus pool to go over slot in later rounds. The Jays probably feel that the strength of this year's draft is more in its depth than in its strength at the top. After too many minutes of useless MLB Network "analysis", the Jays got to pick with 22nd overall pick, which they used on:
Marcus Stroman, right-handed pitcher from Duke University
Stroman was projected to go much earlier than 22nd, but it's obvious what made him slide: his height, or lack thereof, as he's listed at 5'9 but probably smaller in reality. If he had a typical pitcher's build, I do not doubt Stroman would've been a top 10 pick. The guy has good velocity, sitting 92-94 mph, which he can maintain into the late innings. His best offspeed pitch is a very good slider (though some call it a curve), and he has also added a changeup and a cutter this year, giving him a diverse enough arsenal to start. Stroman may not be tall, but he's very athletic and plays a good shortstop, which means he could add a little bit of value by providing good defense on the mound as well.
Stroman's college stats are simply fantastic. He K'd 136 batters in 98 innings this year, allowing 26 walks and pitching to a 2.39 ERA despite a .392 BABIP. He allowed 5 home runs though, after allowing only 1 the previous year (in 64 innings). Stroman's strikeout rate comfortably beats the other college arms in the class, including Gausman, Zimmer and Appel, as well as last year's Gerrit Cole. His K-rate is in the same neighbourhood as lefties Chris Sale, Danny Hultzen and Drew Pomeranz, and of the righties only Trevor Bauer has him beat. And, going back further, yes, Stephen Strasburg, too. But it should be clear that Stroman's statistical performance is that of a rare, elite arm, one that could make even some top 10 teams regret their picks down the road.
After the first round proper had come to an end, the sandwich round started. Everyone was pleased to see that the time between picks was reduced from 5 minutes to one minute, which was truly a relief. The names that were most often shouted (read: typed in capital letters) as options for the 50th pick by members of this site were high school lefties Hunter Virant and Matt Smoral. We were plenty excited when Pat Hentgen announced that the Jays had picked:
Matt Smoral, left-handed pitcher from Solon High School, Ohio
Smoral stands 6'8 tall, offering plenty of projectability thanks to his frame and easy delivery. He already sits in the low-90s with his fastball, which is plenty for a lefty, and he gets good movement on the fastball. He also has a changeup and a slider, both of which get high marks from some scouts and lower marks from others. Smoral was highly rated and likely would've gone in the top 30 if not top 20 until his season ended prematurely due to a stress fracture in his right foot. Now, he's a signability risk, with a strong commitment to the University of North Carolina. If the Jays plan on saving money in the first round, they'll surely need some extra here, because Smoral likely won't come cheap.
The 58th pick turned out to be:
Mitch Nay, third baseman from Hamilton High School, Arizona
Nay was a guy whose power was highly rated, but whose ability to make contact was doubted. After making some adjustments late in the season he got on fire, and it's likely the Jays think that his performance late on was more indicative of his true talent. Along with the power, the 6'3 third baseman seems to have a good arm, which could mean he moves to RF if third base doesn't work out. His Arizona State commitment doesn't seem especially strong, so signability could have been a factor with this pick. The Jays might need some extra money to sign their 60th pick, which is:
Tyler Gonzales, right-handed pitcher from Madison High School, Texas
Gonzales is neither a short nor a tall pitcher, standing 6'2 tall. He's got good velocity already, which picked up late in the year to as high as 97, with a power slider as his best pitch. He's pretty raw though, with spotty command and effort in his delivery. Like Stroman, Gonzales could go on to play shortstop at the college level, and it's this athleticism on the mound that General Manager Alex Anthopoulos announced the Jays would be looking for more. With a tough college commitment, it's far from certain that the Jays will be able to sign Gonzales, but if they do, they've got yet another high upside arm in the system.
It's hard to predict what route the Jays will take in the later rounds. Will they switch to college players soon, or will they try to get high school guys with lesser commitments? Or will they simply alternate big risks with cheaper guys? It's hard to put a finger on, especially since this is the first ever draft with the new rules. Some interesting names that could be signable left on the board include(lefty hitting third baseman), Nolan Fontana (college shortstop), Alec Rash (projectable right-hander), Christian Walker (college 1b), D'vone McClure and Fernelys Sanchez (toolsy outfielders), Brett Phillips (speedy of with power arm), Sam Selman (raw college lhp with good stuff), Tom Murphy (college catcher), Patrick Kivlehan (college 3b, didn't play baseball for 4 years then came back and raked). After taking one Arizona State commit already (Mitch Nay), could the Jays go for a second in Kieran Lovegrove, Ryan Burr (a personal favorite) or Ryan Kellogg (an Ontario native)?
Draft starts again at Noon EST, be there!