As the year winds to an end, and with still no Blue Jays news, I thought it would be opportune to look back on the 2016 draft class. While it's only six months later, given that it was an eclectic mix of player profiles and a fairly significant departure from recent Blue Jays drafts, I thought it would be interesting to review the picks in light of new information since draft day.
RHP T.J. Zeuch (1st round, $2,175,000)
Given that he only made 10 starts totaling about 70 innings in his college season, I was little disappointed that the Jays didn't let him run a little more. After one GCL game, he made his way to Vancouver in mid-July, only pitching 3 inning outings of 30-50 pitches. In August, things were loosened up some, and he did ramp up to 5 innings outings of up to 70 pitches.
For Vancouver, his performance was solid if unremarkable, a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings with 22 strikeouts against 5 walks. He was generally sitting in the low-90s, touching maybe a little higher. His two starts in Lansing were much more interesting. The headline 9.00 ERA is ugly, but he struck out 14 in just 8 innings, while missing 23 bats (30% of swings). If he can miss a significant number of bats going forward, his stock could rise quite a bit.
2017 outlook: start back in Lansing, and if things go well a mid-season promotion to Dunedin.
SS/IF Bo Bichette (2nd round, $1,100,000)
Bichette had first round buzz this spring, so in some quarters it was already considered a coup when the Jays got him 66th overall, signing moderately overslot (58th/59th). Then he went out and absolutely destroyed the GCL (.427/.451/.732) until being sidelined for a month after an appendectomy which was apparently the only thing that could slow him down this summer.
That leaves his stock way up, even though his ultimate positional outlook remains unsettled. His value to begin with was in his bat, and if he hits a position will be found for him, but he should be able to stay on the infield, either at second or third base.
2017: He went up to Lansing for the end of season Crosstown Showdown/HR Derby, and there was buzz about him starting 2017 there. Given how he mashed, it would make sense to challenge him, and if it's too much then he can go down to short season.
OF J.B. Woodman (2nd round, $975,000)
Woodman shot up draft boards late, as he had a huge power surge in the second half of the season and into the SEC tournament. The big question was whether he'd make enough contact for the power to play, with Keith Law in particular being down on the pick for this reason.
He was assigned to Vancouver with a late season promotion to Lansing, and performed exactly to profile. He was productive at the plate, hitting .297/.391/.445 with big power (25 extra base hits in 261 PA) but striking out at an alarming rate (33% of the time). Unless he cuts down on that strikeout rate, it's hard to see him being a viable player, so for that reason I'd consider his value down.
2017 outlook: similar to Zeuch, should start in Lansing and possibly move up mid-season.
OF Joshua Palacios (4th round, $438,100)
Palacios had a really nice debut for a higher upside college player, starting in the GCL before moving to Vancouver and following Woodman to Lansing. He hit .330/.397/.426, striking out just 12% of the time. Considering that he had never faced this level of competition in junior college or last year prior to being injured, this was a major positive.
RHP Travis Hosterman (11th round, $400,000)
There's not much to say here, as Hosterman basically just got his feet wet in the GCL as is the case for most high school draftees. Not that it means much, but he posted a 4.91 ERA with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts in 18.1 innings over eight outings of mostly 2-3 innings. He did show a fly ball profile, generating a strong amount of popups.
2017 outlook: the base case would be an assignment to Bluefield
2B Cavan Biggio (5th round, $300,000)
Biggio's debut was a little underwhelming considering his background in the ACC, hitting just .273/.371/.349. His plate discipline was excellent, 12% walks against 12.5% strikeouts, but he didn't actually hit that much and with little power (which is far more important, particularly in evaluating experiences collegians). Defensively, he underwhelmed as well.
OF D.J. Daniels (6th round, $300,000)
Daniels was an off-the-board selection, and had a rough pro debut in the GCL, hitting .100/.175/.125 with a 37% strikeout rate. This is far from definitive of course, but it's not a good sign when a draftee struggles this badly and this "lottery ticket" bet on raw tools would be trending down.
RHP Zach Jackson (3rd round, $275,000)
After an up-and-down 2016 season for Arkansas, Jackson fell to the Jays, with the deal reported at $540,000 but ultimately signing for $275,000 after a delay with would suggest an issue with medicals. Jackson went to Vancouver in mid-July, with solid results posting a 3.57 ERA in 17.2 innings. Both the strikeouts and walks were high, as 23 and 12 respectively. His velocity was generally in the low-90s, which is lower than where he was in his dominant 2015 season for Arkansas.
2017 outlook: the big question is the development path, as a starter or as a reliever where if he reprised his 2015 form he could fast-track to the majors as a dominant bullpen arm.
RHP Kyle Weatherly (8th round, $250,000)
Weatherly had a nice debut, a 4.06 ERA in 37.2 innings with 33 strikeouts and 9 walks. That includes his first couple appearances where he got roughed up, after those he had a 2.38 ERA in 34 innings. The only issue is that he didn't appear after mid-August, I believe due to an injury. Hopefully it was nothing serious, in which case he should move up to Lansing and this pick is looking upwards.
OF Chavez Young (39th round, $200,000)
Young was a surprise signing at the deadline, perhaps due to the freed up slot room when Zach Jackson came way under slot. He's a classic lottery ticket, and appears well worth the opportunity cost. He had a solid debut in the GCL, hitting .274/.346/.438 in 81 PA. On the plus side, he showed some nice power, on the negative side he struck out 32% of the time. He remains a pure lottery ticket.
2017 outlook: hopefully moves up to Bluefield, but could start in the GCL again to further refine skills.
RHP Andy Ravel (8th round, $186,900)
Ravel debuted in Vancouver, piggybacking with Mike Ellenbest. The early results are very underwhelming, with a 5.12 ERA in 31.2 innings, just 18 strikeouts despite having the advantage of not seeing batters more than onc eor twice. He missed very, very few bats which is not a great sign.
RHP Nick Hartman (9th round, $163,100)
Hartman was an unheralded name, profiling purely as a reliever, so my assumption was this was a pick to save some slot money for spend elsewhere. He signed for full slot, and frankly I don't really understand drafting a pure reliever at full slot, especially some of the names who were still on the board who signed for less money.
He was assigned to Vancouver, pitching 24 innings in 19 games with a decent 3.00 ERA, and a mediocre 7 walks against 17 strikeouts. He did touch 94-95 with his fastball on stadium guns both in Vancouver and in Eugene. As a debut, it was fine and I'd say his outlook is unchanged. But it still leaves me questioning the pick.
2017 outlook: he should move up to Lansing's bullpen in 2017
OF Dominic Abbadessa (23rd round, $150,000)
Another pleasant surprising signing, Abbadessa only played 14 games in the GCL, with a .192/.252/.192 line in just 26 PA. Again, there's little to take away here.
LHP Kirby Snead (10th round, $125,000)
Similar to Hartman, a reliever/LOOGY all the way, and I don't really understand paying almost full slot for that profile. At least the Jays were aggressive with him, sending him to Lansing where he pitched in the mid/high 90s. He was tough on lefties (9 hits, a walk and 10K in 13 innings) and got hammered by righties (22 hits in 12.1 innings, 7K). Still down on this one.
RHP Josh Winckowski (15th round, $125,000)
As with Hosterman, Winchowski made a few appearances in the GCL and there's few inferences to be made. He pitched 13.2 innings in five games, 4.61 ERA with 13 strikeouts against 4 walks. He did have a very strong ground ball profile at 71%. We'll only learn about this pick over the coming years.
Taking stock on the weekend of the draft, I had mixed feelings about the 2016 draft. Six months later, overall I'd think the value of the draft class is higher, based on the number of $100-200K signings the Jays were able to make, the strong debuts by Bichette and Palacios, and decent debuts from most others.