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2018 Draft Preview: Organizational LHP Depth

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2014 MLB Draft Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

As outlined yesterday, the first chunk of the 2017 draft coverage will be taking stock of the system as it exists now, starting today with left-handed pitching. More so than other sports, MLB teams usually draft the best player on their board regardless of positional need due to the longer timelines in development, so this exercise doesn’t have a lot of direct relevance in terms of illuminating where the Jays may focus.

As in past years, this will be done by displaying players on a chart for each grouping according to both major league upside and experience level (a rough proxy for risk). This is not an exact science, so take the positioning with a grain of salt, but it looks something like this:

pitchingdepthtemplate

Keep in mind that “reasonable upside” is not the same as likely or base case projection, and most players at the lower levels won’t come anywhere close it. Basically, if the player’s development goes well, this is what he could become. And conversely, it’s not an absolute ceiling either and there is potential for upside surprise. This was exemplified most dramatically with Aaron Sanchez two years ago, but looking over last year’s rating Ryan Tepera has really taken a step forward in terms of command and consistency.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m including not only players with rookie eligibility, but also internally developed players contributing or established at the major league level with years of control remaining to give a better sense of the total organizational depth. As a general rule of thumb, I’ve kept players included last year for comparative purposes even if they wouldn’t otherwise be in the top tier of prospects.

2018 LHP revised

With the caveat that overall pitching depth is far more significant than breaking it into handedness, the organizationa; lefthanded pitching remains far below a few years ago when it was headlined by Dan Norris, with the likes of Matt Boyd and a deep bench of high ceiling arms as a supporting cast.

Update 5/9: I originally omitted Thomas Pannone, acquired at the 2017 trade deadline, who is a significant arm that profiles as a back of the rotation pitcher (if not top of mind right now with the suspension).

The last couple drafts have not brought a major influx of LHPs into the system, though they did add Zach Logue in the top 10 rounds last year. He’s an interesting college arm who’s starting for now and could maybe stick as a backend arm, but probably profiles in the bullpen. Travis Hosterman was the intriguing HS arm from 2016, but missed all of last year so we’ll see if he can get back on track this year.

Ryan Borucki is clearly the headliner here, having been healthy for two straight years and had a rapid ascent last year. He’s scuffled some in AAA this year, but touches the mid-90s with three quality pitches and thus profiles as a solid starter. Angel Perdomo is the next best arm despite missing the second half of last year into 2018 with a UCL that was rehabbed. The raw stuff is still there, but his future is likely in relief and at 24 the time for that may be sooner than later. Randy Pondler was a surprise as the Appy League Pitcher of the Year, though notably didn’t get a full season assignment.

Then it’s relief arms, the first group being the guys on the cusp of the bigs. Tim Mayza has a big arm and can pile up the strikeouts, but gets hit pretty hard due to fringey command. Matt Dermody and Sam Moll have some big league time but appear to be mostly depth options. University of Florida draftees Danny Young and Kirby Snead keep performing without huge stuff, and potentially successors to Aaron Loup as LOOGY types. Travis Bergen appears to finally be healthy and has flashed some interesting potential.

Don’t Totally Sleep on: At the end of the day, they’re all lower draft picks who are older relievers and haven’t been assigned to full season ball so they don’t make the cut for the chart; but Jordan Barrett, Matt Gunter, and Marcus Reyes were strong performers in their debuts last year. Kelyn Jose throws really hard

Removed from last year: Shane Dawson, Chad Girodo, Alonzo Gonzalez (all released); Wilfri Aleton (lack of advancement)