With the 136th overall pick in the fifth and final round of the 2020 MLB Draft, the Blue Jays selected outfielder Zach Britton from the University of Louisville — no relation to the relief ace who famously was left standing in the Baltimore bullpen waiting for the save opportunity that never came when Edwin Encarnacion walked off the Orioles’s season in the 2016 wild card game.
That might be particularly a propos considering that this is likely a pick that will bank some pool dollars compared to slot for Austin Martin at the top of the draft, who only landed in the Jays’s lap when the Orioles unexpected passed on him.
While not the classic “senior sign” slot saver/org guy, Britton was drafted well ahead of where he’d otherwise have ended up in a normal draft, that is, more in rounds 7-10 or on the third day and signing for $125,000 or so.
A reasonably high profile recruit out of high school (Louisville’s fifth best rated recruit to make it to campus), Britton hit .239/.400/.375 in 115 PA of sporadic playing time, his OBP boosted by drawing 10 HBPs in addition to 15 walks. That improved to .288/.368/.470 with 5 home runs over 155 PA in closer to everyday playing time in 2019.
that time was split between several positions, including behind behind the plate which was his primary position coming out of high school. He transitioned out from behind the plate to essentially full time outfield, and his bat has taken off coincident with that. Last summer he got into 28 games with Orleans, his production holding up with a wood bat to the tune of .286/.358/.500 in 110 PA. The power coming along was notable, but then so was a 27% strikeout rate.
In his abbreviated 2020 junior season, Britton’s production jumped again to .322/.446/.542 against reasonable largely non-conference opponents. So perhaps he was breaking out and would have pushed himself higher in the draft. That said, it remains a tough profile — a corner outfielder with modest power and without plus speed. But the Jays seem to see something they like in the adjustments he’s made, and perhaps he’ll hit his way up the chain.