Did you know that the draft is less than 10 days away? Starting next Monday, June 8 from Secaucus, New Jersey and running through June 10, over 1200 players will have their names called. That also means that I am majorly delinquent in my commitment to do some in-depth draft preview, though happily some of the slack has been picked up already. But over the coming week, I hope to add some interesting perspective on the Jays and the draft, from high-level analysis to some potential targets, to some retrospective thoughts as well.
We'll start today by reviewing the existing organization depth by positional groups to get an idea of where the organization is strong and weak, with the major caveat that this will not have much impact on what the Jays do. Moreso than any other sport, the MLB draft is about taking the best player available due to the time it takes for prospects to develop, especially when your first pick is 29th overall and it's virtually impossible to know who will be taken above.
For each positional grouping, we'll focus on the top 8-12 prospects (more for RHP), and roughly ranking them on a chart according to both their potential MLB upside, as well their experience (using this as a proxy for risk). In some cases, I might deviate from the actual level they're at, especially for recent promotions. It'll look something like this:
Finally, I didn't strictly use rookie status in determining who gets included. I've also included younger MLB players with less than roughly a year of service, as this gives a better idea of depth. In the cases of some prospects in rookie ball about whom not much is known other than their signing bonuses, I often defaulted to an upside of "average regular".
The Jays are pretty well off at catcher. There's obviously a big blank spot in the upper left, as the Jays don't have an elite MLB-ready catching prospect, but they have Russell Martin through 2019. AJ Jimenez remains in the equation as a back-up type option, with Max Pentecost as looming as a future regular if all goes well. There's also a few interesting options in the lower minors in Danny Jansen and Michael De La Cruz, but they've both got a long way to go.
Note: Devon Travis should be on here too, but I forgot him and it's too much to redo. He's obviously MLB level, and I'd put him around average regular to above average regular.
This is an organization weakness, especially when it comes to having decent MLB ready options in the event of injury. They've invested a lot of money in the international market, and have plenty of interesting higher upside guys, but all carry a lot of risk and are far off. There's some potential role players who are closer.
Interestingly, it's a banner year for college shortstops, and if the Jays were looking to try and draft for need, this would be the place to look. In their mock drafts, Baseball America has been linking the Jays to University of Florida SS Richie Martin.
Like at catcher, there's really no elite MLB ready prospects in the system and it's not that big an issue with Josh Donaldson controlled through 2018 and Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Smoak and potentially Jose Bautista options at 1B/DH. And with a hitter friendly park, it shouldn't be too difficult to attract a free agent to fill a hole if one occurred there. Rowdy Tellez has done nothing but hit so far in his minor league career, and is coming on really strong in May. He could potentially move a lot more quickly than expected. This likely won't be a focus in the upcoming draft, since players generally either move to 3B from other middle infield position, or 1B/DH when they can mash but can't handle another position. It puts a ton of pressure on the bat if a prospect is limited to 1B/DH at draft time.
This is an interesting, and fairly well-rounded mix if prospects. Dalton Pompey obviously has some big league time, though that was probably overly aggressive. Dwight Smith Jr doesn't have the same ceiling, but has a well rounded skill set and could potentially contribute later this year. Further down are very toolsy, very risky high ceiling talents in Anthony Alford and DJ Davis. Both are off to hot starts, but they remain lottery cards. In the early rounds, the Jays generally target toolsy HS outfielders, an approach that has worked well. Don't look for them to take a college outfielder very high, the early they have done in the Anthopoulos era is Zach Zehner last year -- and he didn't even sign!
Left Handed Pitchers
Now we're into one of the strengths of the system, in that they've pretty much got it all. Elite, MLB ready prospect? Check, Daniel Norris (though he's not a finished product). Lower ceiling but more polished starter? Check, Matt Boyd, off to a great start in AA this year. Relief options? Rob Rasmussen is interesting, and Chad Girodo profiles as a left on left guy. Then then there's a whole bunch of higher ceiling guys just hitting full season ball in Jairo Labourt, Matt Smoral, Jake Brentz, and Ryan Borucki. And don't be surprised if the Jays add to their riches if there's a guy they really like.
Right Handed Pitchers
If the LHP prospects were an embarrassment of riches, I'm not sure what to call the collection of RHP prospects and young players. You've really got it all, and there's other interesting guys I didn't include for space purposes. The only thing lacking is MLB ready starting options beyond the guys currently in the rotation. This is where a Kendall Graveman would come in, but...Josh Donaldson, Josh Donaldson, JOsh Donaldson. I've included Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro separately as starters and relievers, since the Jays dramatically accelerated their timelines in bringing them up.
The Jays have invested a lot in high school pitching, and it appears to be an organizational strength in terms of developing pitchers. There are a lot of interesting high school pitchers who look like they may still be on the board at 29, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Jays go that direction and add to their stable of arms. They could also gamble on Michael Matuella if he's still available, knowing that even if he never amounted to anything it wouldn't leave them vulnerable to a shortage of pitchers.