Aspiring Jays: Draft Speculation

Mike Stobe

This week, Aspiring Jays looks at who the Blue Jays might target in the MLB first-year player draft, less than a week from now.

Before we get down to business (if you can call speculating a business), I'd like to link you to a great fanpost by Super Bass Hallways on the same subject. In that post, SBH identified three high school players the Jays have been linked to, as well as three other high profile potential draft picks not specifically linked to the Jays. As draft day gets closer, the amount of players linked to the Jays is only getting larger. One prospect we can probably write off, however, is Sean Manaea, who seems likely to drop, possibly out of the first round entirely, due to injury. As a client of Scott Boras, the chances of the Blue Jays drafting Manaea seemed slim in the first place, as the Blue Jays seem to avoid Boras clients carefully. Also likely out of the mix are Jonathan Gray, Mark Appel, Kris Bryant, Kohl Stewart and Colin Moran, since they seem very unlike to drop to the number 10 pick for the Jays.

Two more players seem unlikely to drop to the Blue Jays: Braden Shipley and Clint Frazier. However, surprising stuff happens in drafts all the time, so we might as well talk about them a little bit. Shipley is a college pitcher who was converted from the shortstop position only recently, but has managed to shoot up draft boards with his premium velocity and great changeup. The biggest question mark seems to be his breaking ball. For Shipley to fall to the Jays, the Marlins, Red Sox and Royals all have to pass on him, which seems very unlikely. A little bit less unlikely to fall to the Jays is Clint Frazier, an advanced high school outfielder with a very powerful bat. There seem to be few huge question marks to Frazier's game, despite the fact that he's not the tallest. The biggest question is whether Frazier will even drop to the Jays' pick, which could happen if the Marlins let both Frazier and Shipley through, and the Red Sox go for Shipley instead of Frazier. It seems more likely that the Marlins pick Shipley and the Red Sox pick Frazier, but you never know.

Assuming Frazier and Shipley are off the board, that leaves the Jays with a lot of potential picks. However, while there will be many players the Jays are considering, many have a lot more question marks attached than the top 7 players already mentioned. Austin Meadows is a toolsy outfielder with great power potential, but also quite likely to move to left field and his ability to make consistent contact has been doubted by some. The Jays love their draft picks to play premium defensive positions (center field, shortstop, catcher), so Meadows might not be the slam dunk pick some fans think it should be. Considering this love for premium defenders, it's no surprise the Jays are being linked with both the best defensive high school catcher and the best true shortstop from the prep class, which are Reese McGuire and J.P. Crawford, respectively. Their upside is hampered by the lack of true star potential people see in their bats, so that's something that could give the Jays pause. Reese McGuire is also heavily linked to the Pirates (who pick at number 9), so he could very well be off the board when the Jays pick.

The Blue Jays have had some success picking and developing high school pitchers under Alex Anthopoulos (Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino), so it shouldn't be too surprising to find them linked to left-handed pitcher (and outfielder) Trey Ball in many mock drafts. Ball is athletic and very projectable, and seems to have good offspeed offering in addition to a fastball that is getting faster. The question here is of course if the projectability will turn into actual improvements in stuff, or if the fastball will be inadequate at the higher levels. If the Jays go with a college pitcher instead, Ryne Stanek might be someone they look at, though his results are very unimpressive for someone with Stanek's "stuff". Alex Gonzalez, another college pitcher, has risen late, but seems unlikely to make it to the top of the draft. A more likely late riser the Jays could be considering is Phil Bickford, a high school pitcher who has greatly improved his fastball velocity, to a point where it can now sit in the mid-90s with control. Bickford's secondary stuff seems to need work, however, so he's yet another potential pick with significant question marks. One demographic we've not touched on at all are college position players. The crop for college position players seems very weak, and the Jays have not drafted many college hitters since Anthopoulos took over. Hunter Renfroe (tools) and D.J. Peterson (performance) could go in this part of the draft, but the Jays don't seem to be their likely destination.

With all those question marks surrounding their potential picks, is it possible the Jays spring a surprise? I'll quote yesterday's draft chat with Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel here:

Comment from Bret: Saw a rumor, from Jim Callis, that Hunter Harvey (who is expected to sign cheap) is a new name connected to the Blue Jays. Keith Law also said today that the Jays aren't enamored with any of their options. Could you see them going the discount route with Harvey to save up for the later rounds? Would Harvey be too big of a reach at #10?

Kiley McDaniel: I've said all spring Harvey is a solid mid first rounder for me and will be an easy sign in that range and will get pushed up. Scouting directors keep suggesting him to me as possible fits in high picks as when a club doesn't like their options, they'll pocket some cash for later. Will take a bit longer to see how boards/rumors shake out for clubs to know if they like/don't like what's there, but this definitely passes the smell test for me. Could be a great move depending on how steep the discount is, especially since Trey Ball could be the guy the Jays end up with if McGuire & Meadows go in front of them and I'm not on him that high at all. I'd take DJ Peterson but sounds like Jays aren't nuts about him.

This is very interesting, and we have seen the Jays go for signability before. Last year, the Blue Jays drafted the cheapest possible college seniors in rounds 4 through 10, to save money for their other picks. Potentially, the Jays could grab Hunter Harvey, save a lot of money, and go over slot on a lot of other picks. If they feel the quality isn't there, why not go for quantity? Harvey is a decent gamble himself too, as he's got "a fastball that has life and sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked as high as 97" and "boasts a plus curveball, in the mid-to-upper 70s, which has excellent spin and has the potential to become a plus-plus pitch" according to this scouting report at The Crawfish Boxes. The biggest knock on Harvey is that he's not been exposed to good competition. A big gamble then, but possibly a cheap one, considering Harvey hasn't committed to a school but instead declared his intention to go professional.

Who do you want the Jays to pick 10th overall, and who do you think they will pick?This week, Aspiring Jays looks at who the Blue Jays might target in the MLB first-year player draft, less than a week from now.

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