As the final phase of the 2017 MLB draft preview coverage, over the next week and a half leading into June 12th, we'll look at how the draft board shapes up for the Blue Jays in terms of likely options and targets for the pair of first round picks as well as the second round pick. We'll kick off with college pitchers (1st round options today, second round tomorrow), move to college hitters, then the same sequence for high school players.
Each piece will spotlight 8-12 players expected to go in the general range of the Blue Jays pick, depending on the strength of the class and the Jays' tendencies, skipping over the elite prospects where barring the completely unforeseen, there's virtually no chance of them dropping to either of the Jays first round picks in the 20s.
If the Jays want to go with college pitching, there's plenty of options who figure to go in the second half of the first round or slightly beyond, and indeed a lot of the names here have been linked to the Jays in various mock drafts. There's a fairly significant gap after the three elite college arms (Kyle Wright, Brendan McKay, J.B. Bukauskas) and the rest of the pack
Below is an overview table of the players profiles with background info, rankings from from a handful of sources to give a sense of perceived value, as well as 2017 and career D1 stats (from The Baseball Cube). Keep in mind that context really matters with the numbers, there's big differences between conferences.
Alex Faedo (video)
Faedo is unlikely to make to the 22nd overall pick, but the list has to start somewhere and it always seems like there's a college pitcher who slides. In fact, Dakota Hudson led this list last year and did exactly that, and there's a few nagging things about Faedo that make it possible he does.
Faedo established himself as a college ace last year, and was in the conversation for the 1-1 pick. He's got good fastball velocity, but his slider is one of the best pitches much less breaking balls in the draft and is his bread and butter. Why could he slide? He's been a little underwhelming his junior season, with his stuff not quite as electric. He had minor surgery on both knees last fall, which may be the cause of that, but is a concern as well.
Griffin Canning (video)
Canning was mocked to the Jays by Perfect Game, though I think there's a good chance he'll already be off the board, so was profiled here. Snippet:
Canning is a polished college performer, with a 2.34 ERA in 111.1 innings in 2017 with a 134/30 K/BB. He has four pitches that should be usable in the pro ranks, a strikethrower with good command, so most project him as a mid rotation type starter.
David Peterson (video)
Peterson was a top 100 prospect out of high school, and only ended up at Oregon thanks to a broken leg playing basketball that wiped out his senior year. He's really put things together in 2017, with 140 strikeouts against just 15 walks in 100.1 innings. I watched two of his starts this year. The first, in late March, he was simply electric, striking out 17 against a quality SEC lineup in Mississippi State (he struck out 20 in another game in late April). He spotted his fastball, and piled up swinging strikes on his slider. The second, in May, he looked very, very ordinary against Oregon State. Somewhere between those extremes lies the truth.
Stuff wise, his fastball is usually in the low-90s (that second start, it was mostly high-80s), with two breaking balls and a changeup. The slider is the best breaking ball, potentially a plus secondary weapon. The stuff is plenty good, but he's not a power power and relies on having good command as well.
Seth Romero (video)
Romero is easily the biggest wildcard here. On one hand, you've got a lefty who can sit in the lower/mid 90s and touch higher, with a good slider as his main secondary weapon. He's got an ideal starter's frame, solid command, and a decent and developing changeup. He's been a frontline college pitcher since his freshman year, so you have a track record of performance. On paper, that's a potential top 10 pick, which is where he was being discussed a couple months ago.
But...makeup, makeup, makeup. Romero was suspended to start his sophomore year, apparently for a lack of conditioning. Not good, but not the end of the world. Then in April he missed a weekend start for violating team rules, followed by an indefinite suspension for "multiple violations of university and athletic department policy". After missing a month, he was reinstated...and then kicked off the team a few days later, apparently involved in a fight at practice. So who knows where he goes. Five years ago, I'd think he would have been strongly considered by the Jays. Today, not so.
Tanner Houck (video)
Houck has already been discussed a couple times, as a former Jays draftee three years and having been mocked to the Jays in the most recent product from Baseball America (the logic of which I questioned and John Manuel said yesterday he didn't really like it compared to previous ones)
Alex Lange (video)
Baseball America has mocked Lange to the Jays a couple times, he was profiled here. A snippet:
Lange burst upon the scene with a dominant freshman season, going 12-0 with a 1.97 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 114...has a big fastball and a wicked curveball, but lacks a usable third pitch. If he didn't work out as a starter, he would have the potential to be a wipeout high leverage reliever.
Nate Pearson (video)
Perfect Game mocked Pearson to the Jays. He's got some real helium, having thrown a bullpen earlier this week in which he was throwing triple digits and some scouts had him as high as 102 MPH. That kind of velo doesn't grow on trees, and at this it's increasingly likely he doesn't even make to the Jays.
The drawback is the secondary stuff lags behind, especially compared to other college pitchers. Part of the attraction of drafting college pitchers is that they can be evaluated in significant measure on their present abilities, that is what they already are as opposed to what they could become with development. But Pearson will need development, so drafting him is betting that your development staff can do that.
Baseball America had a good profile of Pearson earlier this year.
Here are five more pitchers that could be in play at the back of the first round (who would likely be a bit of a reach of the Jays), but who will very likely be gone before the Jays pick again the second round.
- Brendon Little, LHP, State College of Florida (JC): Lefties who ran run their fastballs into the mid/upper 90s with a power curveball are coveted, and he also performed very well in the Cape Cod League last summer. However, his command comes and goes and coupled with questions about his delivery raise doubts about whether he's a starter long term.
- Wil Crowe, RHP, South Carolina: Mocked to the Jays by Baseball America in their first entry, so he was profiled here.
- Clarke Schmidt, RHP, South Carolina: Had Tommy John surgery in April after a very strong start on the heels of a breakout sophomore year. He'd otherwise have been in play at least in the middle of the first round, and still could go in the first round, like Erick Fedde a couple years ago if the right team wants to be opportunistic. Under AA, he'd certainly be in play; the new regime, less likely.
- Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford: A draft-eligible sophomore who was highly ranked coming out of high school in 2015 and had an excellent freshman season at Stanford (2.48 ERA, 76/26 K/BB in 83.1 innings). His selling points are the potential for three average or better pitches with plus command. He`s a wild card, because he suffered a stress fracture in his back earlier this year and hasn't pitched despite being medically cleared. Reading between the lines, that suggests he's got a deal with a team that didn't want him being seen and nabbed earlier. Could it be the Jays?
- Luke Heimlich, LHP, Oregon State: A lefty who's shot up draft boards thanks to a ridiculous junior year (0.87 ERA, 114/20 K/BB in 103.1 innings). His velocity has increased from the high-80s into the lower-90s, but his calling card is still command and pitchability. Similar Oregon State pitchers have a pretty good track record in pro ball (Matt Boyd, Andrew Moore), so he wouldn't necessarily be a reach at the back of the first round.