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2017 MLB Draft Preview: The ones that got away

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For previous entries of BBB's 2017 draft preview, see the 2017 Draft Storystream

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In recent years, it has been common for Blue Jays fans to see college players chosen in the first round, and sometimes near the very top, who had been drafted by the Blue Jays but did not sign and went onto college. Some notables would include Kris Bryant (2010), Aaron Nola (2010), Tyler Beede (2011), Luke Weaver (2011), Andrew Suarez (2011), Eric Lauer (2013), Dane Dunning (2013), and Phil Bickford. There figures to be at least another name added in 2017.

In 2010-11, this volume of talent could be attributed to an aggressive drafting approach to rebuild the farm system, and since 2012 a major impetus is teams drafting harder-to-sign players after round 10 as back-up plans in case deals fall through and they unexpectedly have more slot money. Every year, these players become points of intrigue as to who will sign and who doesn't, so it's interesting to look back and see how the players have actually develop.

Below are updates on unsigned 2014 high school draftees, with the top names first and then in the order selected in 2014.

Tanner Houck (12th round)

Houck was a classic projection play as a 6'5" RHP from Illinois, who was rated 458th overall by Perfect Game. His fastball velocity jumped, and he was an impact pitcher in the SEC from his freshman year, posting a 3.49 ERA. He was even better in 2016, with a 2.99 ERA and his velocity reaching into the upper 90s. He was selected to the USA collegiate national team, and was talked about as a potential 1-1 pick.

The primary knock against him coming into this year was having a potential reliever profile, as he hasn't developed a true third pitch and command/consistency remains an issue. His junior year was inconsistent, and his last start in the SEC tournament was bad, which has lowered his stock this spring. Baseball America currently ranks him 25th, and MLB Pipeline has him 18th, meaning he could be in play for the Jays.

Zach Pop (23rd round)

The Jays made a serious run at signing Pop in the run-up to the deadline, apparently offering more than $500,000 but he elected to go to Kentucky (where he plays with Tristan Pompey). He's got a huge arm with electric fastball velocity, into the upper 90s. Developing his slider as a secondary weapon and command have been issues, so he's worked out of the bullpen and projects a reliever. That raw potential still has him ranked highly, 83rd overall by MLB Pipeline and 171st by Baseball America.

Michael Papierski (16th round)

Papierski was a consensus top 500 prospect as a catcher out of high school in Illinois, ranked as high as 194th by MLB Pipeline. Hewas not able to seize or hold the regular catching job for LSU over his first two seasons, struggling to produce offensively. Before this year, he dropped switch hitting, and though he got off to a slow start he has come on really strong the last half of the year in SEC play including added power. As such, it wouldn't be surprising to see shoot up draft boards and be drafted on the second day (rounds 3-10).

Drew Lugbauer (21st round)

Lugbauer worked his way into the Michigan lineup as a freshman in 2015 and been a starter at third base since. He took a big step forward with the bat last year, hitting .299/.389/.489, and built on that in 2017 with a similar line but a little more pop (11 home runs).

Jake Latz (11th round)

Things have certainly not worked out as expected for Latz, who had offers to sign as high as $900,000. Part of a heralded recruiting class for LSU, elbow troubles caused him to miss his entire freshman year and a portion of 2016 as well, though he pitched in some important games in May/June. He then decided to transfer to Kent State, which meant sitting out all of last year. So he's barely pitched in game action the last three years. Surely some team would take a flyer if he wanted to sign, or stay in school as a redshirt junior in 2018 for Kent State.

Keith Weisenberg (38th round)

Weisenberg was a consensus top-100 talent in the 2014 draft, but had a rock solid commitment to Stanford, so this was basically just a courtesy pick. Unfortunately, his baseball career never really got on track, throwing only about 65 innings total out of the bullpen with pedestrian results. He probably returns for his senior year to at least finish out his education.

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In addition, there are three unsigned players from the 2014 draft already in the pro ranks:

  • Zach Zehner (7th round): a college junior who elected to return to school, he was selected by the Yankees in 2015 and is in AA this year with a .299/.372/.415 line
  • Todd Isaacs (22nd round): selected by Cleveland out of junior college in 2015, he's currently in the Midwest League. A speedy CF, he's got a high strikeout rate though has shown some promise offensively
  • Chris Murphy (29th round): drafted by Houston in 2015, he made it to high-A late last year but is hasn't made any significant impact

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Finally, a quick look ahead to unsigned 2015 picks who will figure into next year's draft:

  • Brady Singer (2nd round) is the headliner here. He had a decent freshman year for the Florida Gators, coming on strong at the end and then spending a month in the Cape Cod League where he was electric and one of the top prospects. That lead to some early 1-1 buzz, but some see him potentially as a reliever. He entered UF's weekend rotation this year and has been good if not great, at times dominating but getting hit around a fair bit too
  • Marrick Crouse (11th round) hasn't harnessed his stuff at USC, walking 39 in 55 innings this year. If things click, he could take a big step forward. HIs younger brother Hans will likely be a first round pick this year with some of the premium high school fastball velocity.
  • Randy Labaut (37th round) made some starts for the University of Arizona, but ultimately underwhelmed with a 4.75 ERA and 22/22 K/BB ratio in 30 innings