Having outlined the drafts from 2010-2015 in the last segment, let's turn to looking at tendencies over that time that potentially could be useful in understanding what to expect this year (with the caveat that the changes at the top of the front office could very well change the strategies/tendencies of the past half decade).
I did a similar exercise last year, so in large measure this piece will be updating and extending that analysis, albeit without comparison to the Riccardi era and some of the other background.
1. Draft spending concentrated on high school players
From 2010-15, the Blue Jays have spent $31.6-million in known bonuses on high school players, of about 64% of their total spending. The spend by year is shown below:
This is despite the fact they've signed only 59 high school players, or 31% of the total signed players. Of course, that's skewed by players drafted to fill rosters on the 3rd day of the draft mostly in rounds 20 to 40. Looking at draftees who signed for at least $100,000, 53 of the 82 were out of high school, 65% which is in line with the overall spend.
2. Pitching, pitching, pitching
There's a similar slant in spending looking at pitching versus position players. The Blue Jays have spent $31.2-million on bonuses to pitchers, or 63% of the total. It's varied between high school and college, but every year it's been at least 55%, as high as 75%, and usually in the 60-65% range:
In terms of total players signed, 53% have been position players, though 47 of 82 (57%) bonuses above $100,000 have been pitchers.
3. Premium college pitching at the top
In the last six drafts, the Blue Jays have taken four college pitchers with first round picks: Deck McGuire (2010), Marcus Stroman (2012), Jeff Hoffman (2014), Jon Harris (2015). As aggressive as they've been elsewhere, when it comes to really high picks, the Jays seem to like more polished, proven pitchers. The breakdown is two come from the ACC, with the other two from mid-major schools.
In fact, the Blue Jays have only given 13 bonuses of $100,000 or more to college pitchers, and 7 of more than $250,000. The $8.8-million in bonuses of those first rounders account for 75% of the $13.8-million spent on college pitching. The three other significant bonuses (Asher Wojciechowski, Sam Dyson, and John Stilson) were all before the slotting system kicked in.
On the subject of smaller but significant bonuses to college pitching, a more minor trend is drafting those type of pitchers out of the University of Florida later on the second day: Anthony DeSclafani (2011, 6th, $235,000), Justin Shafer (2014, 8th, $125,000), and Danny Young (2015, 8th, $100,000). This is interesting especially because UF is a powerhouse when it comes to recruiting power arms, often more than they can really use and some of the slower developing pitchers don't get many opportunities and can be overlooked
4. Spreading around the money for high school pitching
While the spending on college pitching has been extremely top heavy, the reverse is true of high school pitching. From 2010-15, the Jays have out 27 bonuses of $250,000 or more to high school pitchers, but just 4 got bonuses of $1-million or more (Dan Norris and Kevin Comer in 2011, Matt Smoral in 2012, and Sean Reid-Foley in 2014).
Typically, the Blue Jays will select multiple projectable arms in the round 2-5 range, but not the really premium draftees who command bonuses over $1,000,000. Sometimes this may be due to players falling (Clinton Hollon, Reid-Foley), players who stuff spikes late and/or who still need a lot of development on the command and secondary fronts.
5. Tools, tools, tools with raw high school hitters
The Blue Jays have invested significantly in high school players, accounting for about 26% of their total spending. Unlike the last couple sections where there's been a strong spend trend, it's been a little bit of everything here: 3 bonuses over $1-million, another 11 over $250,000 and a further 10 of $100,000 or more. The common factor is going for raw players with a lot of upside, but a lot of risk. Also, they've tended to go for outfielders, with almost nothing spent on infielders.
6. Resurgence of interest in college position players?
From 2010-13, the Jays virtually ignored college hitters in the draft, spending under $1,000,000 in known bonuses (~1%) and just one bonus of $250,000 (Andy Burns). In 2014, that jumped to $3.0-million (32%), but was almost entirely attributable to Max Pentecost. But last year, the Jays allocated 16% of their spending here, including two players over $250,000.
It will be interesting if this continues to be the case, especially as the only premium international position player signing from 2015-17 will be Junior Vlad. This is where the Jays had brought premium position players into the system previously. One thing to note here is the Jays seem to prefer players who played in and did well in the wood bat Cape Cod league.
7. A little junior college spending
The Blue Jays have consistently give out a couple bonuses of $100,000+ to junior college draftees ("Other" on the charts in the first couple sections). It's never even got to 10% of the the total spend, but consistent in the 3-7% range.
8. Going off the board on the second day
Since the slotting system started with the 2012 draft, the Blue Jays have frequently drafted lesser known players in round 3 to 10. This is not simply referring here to the strategy of drafting college seniors and signing them for peanuts to create slot room, which almost every team does to some extent.
For example, last year after taking Justin Maese and Carl Wise in the 3rd and 4th rounds (both above the consensus rankings, but not off the board), Blue Jays took Jose Espada from a Puerto Rico high school. It was so far off the board that the draft insiders on the broadcast had nothing on him. Then they came right back in the 6th round taking JC Cardenas from Division II Barry University, again way off the board.
In 2013, the Jays did something similar. They took Hollon in the 2nd round, despite arm problems that caused him to drop and eventually required Tommy John surgery. Patrick Murphy in the 3rd round hasn't even pitched his senior year of high school due to Tommy John surgery. In the 5th round, they went to an Illinois community college for Dan Lietz, and in the 7th a known but under the radar Conner Greene. In 2014, they played it much more up the middle, but still took Grayson Huffman in the 6th round from Grayson College, a community college in Texas.
To be clear, this is not a criticism. To the extent that they've had one of the larger scouting staffs in MLB, it makes sense to use them to unearth hidden gems overlooked by others. But it's something to bear in mind in the second day - the Jays have been more likely to go off the board than to go after higher profile college players like many teams do.
In the next couple segments this week, we'll pivot to looking at how Cleveland drafted and their tendencies/strategies, both when Mark Shapiro was directly in control as GM (2002-10) and more recently when he was president.