With the 57th overall pick that the Blue Jays received as compensation for not signing Brady Singer last year, the Blue Jays selected J.B. Woodman, an outfielder from Ole Miss. Woodman becomes the first college non-catching position player chosen by the Blue Jays in the top 3 rounds since Brian Pettway - also drafted out of Ole Miss - was chosen in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft. To the least, this is a little outside of the normal Blue Jays draft playbook.
MLB.com had him ranked 83rd, Perfect Game 110th, and Baseball America 119th. By that, Woodman would appear to be an overdraft, perhaps on an underslot deal (this is purely speculation) since this pick is only protected for one more year being a compensation pick.
Woodman was a very good prospect in 2013 draft pick out of high school in Florida, ranking as Perfect Game's 85th overall high school prospect and Baseball America's 135th ranked prospect. That would've made him a 4th-6th round pick if he were signable, but he wasn't and was picked in the last round and went on to Ole Miss. He broke into the starting lineup his freshman year, and produced at a solid if unspectacular level. Below is a summary of Woodman's collegiate career stats:
Last summer Woodman spent a significant amount of time in the Cape Cod League, and struggled mightily, leading the league in strikeouts with 51 (37%) and hitting .242/.292/.344. The Cape is considered one of premier tests of college prospects since it uses wood bats and features the top tier of college talent so the level of competition is overall very high. That's a serious strike against him.
Woodman had a breakout junior year, hitting .323/.412/.578 and leading the SEC in home runs with 14. One thing that sticks out is his strikeout rate, which at 21% for his Ole Miss career is quite high for a legitimate major league prospect.
What's even more significant is his production improved as the year went on, and he saved his best for conference play. Normally, prospects from the better conferences will feast on weak non-conference competition at the beginning of the year and in mid-week games, while dipping against the better conference competition. But in his 36 SEC games, at the bottom of the table, Woodman put up a better AVG and OBP, with reduced but still very good power.
MLB Pipeline's report included the following:
He's doing a much better job of recognizing offspeed pitches and making contact this spring. He employed more of a line-drive approach in the past but is driving the ball more consistently now and has the bat speed and strength for at least average power. His solid speed and instincts should allow Woodman to remain in center field, where his arm is stronger than most at the position. His quickness should enable him to steal a few bases but he needs to refine his technique.
So the fundamental question is: what's the more accurate reflection of J.B. Woodman's hitting ability? The 2015 Cape Cod League performance, or the 2016 SEC performance. The former is a better pure barometer, but the latter is more recent and possibly reflects genuine improvement. Sometimes baseball players just figure it out.
In his draft day chat, Keith Law was firmly on one side (question edited to just Woodman):
Drew: JB Woodman is drafted in the ___ round?
Klaw: 2nd. I’m not on [him]. Woodman has about a 3 hit tool.
A 3 hit tool means two standard deviations below MLB average, it mean his good power would not be playable, and even as a good defensive outfielder he'd maybe be a reserve outfielder. Interestingly, Law did accurately project where'd be go, and Frankie Piliere remarked in his draft day chat at D1Baseball that there was helium on him into the sandwich rounds between the first and second.
@ColeCren1222 he's a good athlete with some plus tools. But failing to hit with wood is a bad marker by historical standards.— keithlaw (@keithlaw) May 27, 2016
Quick reaction/commentary: This feels like a reach, and worse, a throwback to a bygone era of Blue Jay (and Cleveland) drafting. They're basically betting that his 2016 breakout is real, and that his Cape Cod league numbers are not closer to the truth.
Further reflection/sober second thought: I was probably a little quick to judgment, in that it's not as much as a reach as it initially seemed. Also, in my head he was more of a lumbering corner OF already, I got him confused with another Ole Miss slugger, Colby Bortles. This pick will basically come down to whether he hits or not, and there's reason to think he may have turned the corner. Ole Miss got eliminated last weekend, hopefully he signs quickly and gets 250 or so plate appearances that will help answer.
A few more videos:
Woodman hitting a couple of HR against LSU (the first is right at the beginning and the second at 1:15 of a 94 MPH fastball):
A big HR at the SEC tournament
A highlight montage