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Blue Jays select RHP Zach Jackson in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB draft

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Not this Zach Jackson
Not this Zach Jackson
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With their first pick on the second day of the draft, the Blue Jays selected Zach Jackson, a right handed pitcher from the University of Arkansas with the 102nd overall pick. He's likely to be a reliever, but is a potential high leverage stud due to his hammer curve, which Perfect Game rated the best college curveball in the draft (quite correctly in my view in my view, for what little it's worth)

Here's what I write previewing some of the college pitchers who were second/third round options:

Jackson has fallen down draft boards this spring after being a dominant closer for Arkansas last spring, his 89 strikeouts in 60 innings anchoring their run to the College World Series. From the bullpen he has a mid 90s fastball that will touch the upper 90s, with his best pitch being a hammer curveball to putaway batters.

There's some thought that he could be a starter, and after struggling this spring in the bullpen he did make some starts to mixed results. There are questions about his mechanics as a starter beyond just how the stuff translates and whether his change-up can be good enough as a third pitch. Realistically, he's probably a reliever, but potentially a high leverage one which is not a bad outcome for a second round pick, though with substantial risk.

Blue Jays trivia: In 2004, they drafted a different Zach Jackson in the 1st round, who was traded for Lyle Overbay but was ultimately a bust.

Here's a story from Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball about Jackson dominating Missouri State (Jon Harris' team) exactly a year ago to send Arkansas to the College World Series.

A basic player comp would be that Jackson profiles as a right-handed Brett Cecil, who too was a college closer at the University of Maryland, and had a shot to start in pro ball.

It will be interesting to see which development path the Blue Jays take with Jackson. If they put him in the bullpen right away, he could be on a fast track to the big leagues. There would be no reason to start him below low-A, or even high-A, and he could get to AA by the end of the year and figure into the bullpen plans as early as next year. In fact, if he could find the form he had last year, it's not out of the question that if the Jays were in dire straits in the bullpen down the stretch, they could bring up him. That's highly speculative at this point though.

The other option would be to try him as a starting pitcher, in which case he likely is assigned to short season Vancouver. He did some starting this year, not more more successfully than his relieving, but last year he was used as a bullpen ace and had lengthy outings of up 5 innings. So he has had some success in being stretched out and when batters have multiple looks at him. This track would have a much longer development path, but could result in a mid rotation to backend starter.

Jackson is the first college pitcher chosen by the Blue Jays in the top 5 rounds since John Stilson in 2011, that is in the post-slot era. It's a little strange to see the Jays taking players like this, but assuming that there's nothing wrong with him, it's solid value. Had he had another year like last year, he probably goes in the top 50 picks.