The upcoming draft is the sixth since Alex Anthopoulos took over as GM, which heralded a new commitment to building through the draft: in his first five years, the Jays have spent about $45-million US signing draft picks, compared to only $33-million in the eight drafts under J.P. Riccardi. That's more double the spending per draft, and considering the significant inflation in baseball, the current regime has allocated a lot more resources.
It's also the fourth draft with the hard spending restrictions introduced in the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well as far more limited opportunities to accumulate extra picks. This has meant that the Jays have spent almost as much in their first two drafts ($22-million) as in the last three ($23-million). And had they signed their first round pick in 2011 rather than carrying it over to 2012, it would have been more like 55:45.
These changes have resulted in an increased focus not just on how much money is spent, but how the money is spent in order to maximize the value of the scarce draft dollars. Spending more on high school players with leverage means less spending elsewhere, and spending more on pitching means spending less on position players. So let's take a closer look at how the Jays have spent their money, and how that's differed fro the past.
In the last five years, the Jays have signed 158 players, compared to 263 in the Riccardi years (33 per year), so the rate is unchanged. But the breakdown is quite different:
In total, the Jays have gone from 11% high school signees to 36% high school signees, a threefold increase. That's meant cutting back from almost 80% college players to just over 50%. Of course, that's not the best way of looking at it, since few signed prospects are impact prospects. Instead, we can look at how they've allocated dollars:
It follows the same general pattern, but even more extreme. Most notably, the Jays have invested 40% of their draft dollars in high school pitching, which is not only a huge turnaround from the previous era, but well above MLB average. There have been huge cutbacks on the college side, both pitchers and hitters.
We can also look at how the money has been invested from draft to draft (million of dollars):
Since the overall spending has widely varied, in terms of allocating resources it's more more useful to put it in percentage terms:
Prior to drafting Max Pentecost last year and signing him for almost $3-million, the Jays had spent less than $1-million on college position players, a negligible amount of their overall spending. But this is one signing, and a catcher at that, so I'm doubtful this is part of a longer trend. This is part of the reason I'm skeptical of the Jays taking a player like Richie Martin, a college SS who Baseball America has linked to the Jays. With one exception, they've simply shown very little interest.
They've spent some decent money on college pitching, but the majority of that has been when they've had picks in the top half of the first round: Deck McGuire in 2010, Jeff Hoffman in 2014. Other than that, they've given some decent bonuses to pitchers who fell due to major injuries (John Stilson and Sam Dyson, arguably Hoffman fits here too), but they haven't spent much money. They've found some nice value picks in college seniors, such as Matt Boyd and Kendall Graveman.
The Jays had been pretty consistent when it came to high school position players, devoting between 25% and 38% of their budget from 2010 to 2013 to this area. In 2014, it was squeezed out by taking Hoffman and Pentecost, with the Jays just landing a couple of prep hitters in Lane Thomas and Matt Morgan. They've spread the dollars around the field, except for the most part for the middle infield. They've been aggressive there internationally, but if they'e tying up their bonus pool with Vlad Guerrero Jr, an OF, maybe they'll look to spent some money on a high school infielder.
Finally, there's high school pitching, where the Jays have spent and spent and spent. This too was somewhat crowded out last year, but the Jays still landed two significant signees in Sean Reid-Foley and Nick Wells. It will be interesting to see what happens this year. On one hand, it would be unsurprising to see them play to type and draft a bunch of prep pitchers. On the other hand, the system has been so built up in arms they may look to fill holes elsewhere. My guess would be the former.
If the past is prologue, then next week will feature another high school heavy draft. Last year the Jays broke from form a little bit, especially spending so much on a college hitter. We'll see if they throw fans another curve this year.