On the second day of the 2021 MLB Draft, the Blue Jays spent two of their earlier picks on draftees from the high schools ranks, one pitcher and one position player. Both are Floridians, albeit from opposite ends of the peninsula, and both are 2002 birth years making them on the older end of age spectrum for the draft class.
With their fifth round pick, the Jays selected RHP Irv Carter 152nd overall from Calvary Christian Academy, a baseball powerhouse in southeastern Florida near Ft. Lauderdale (not be confused with Calvary Christian HS, another Florida powerhouse in the Tampa area where Roy Halladay helped out as coach). He combined with 15th overall pick Andrew Painter for a formidable 1-2 punch at the front of their pitching rotation.
The 6’4”/210 righty ranked 118th on MLB Pipeline list and 125th by Perfect Game was committed to the University of Miami, but has already indicated an intention to sign, with some chance it’ll come in over the $350,300 slot value for the pick. Like third rounder Ricky Tiedemann, he’s a classic projection play, possessing already promising aw tools with a fastball into the mid-90s, the ability to spin a slider and some feel to flash a quality changeup. But what teams are relying and betting on is further gains to come, in addition to improving consistency. He’s also lauded for a highly competitive nature.
Carter is just the third high school pitcher selected in the top 10 rounds since Shapiro/Atkins took over, following Adam Kloffenstein in the 3rd round of 2018 and Kendall Williams in the 2nd round of 2019.
With their 7th round pick, the Jays selected outfielder Jaden Rudd 212nd overall from A. Crawford Moseley HS up in the Florida panhandle, the only position player drafted in the top 10 rounds. The Notre Dame commit was a little more under the radar, ranking 353rd on Perfect Game’s draft list but not on the Baseball America 500, though clearly the Jays are much higher on him.
[Russ ]is lauded for his pure hit tool. He can hit to all fields but impressively and consistently hit extra base hits to the opposite field gap. The left-handed hitter had a monster summer.
It also noted that was also up to the low 90s on the mound from the left side, so there should be a good outfield arm in there too. Baseball America notes a profile of baseball skills over raw tools (to the extent that applies to high schoolers), so this seems like a bet on an underappreciated ability to hit.
The Jays have had some good success in recent years mining talent from the Florida high school ranks in this tier of the draft, namely infielder Addison Barger signed at slot in the 6th round of the 2019 draft (off to a nice start with Dunedin), and RHP Josh Winckowski signed for $200,000 as a 15th rounder in 2016 (traded this past offseason in the Steven Matz deal before being flipped to Boston and now having a nice season for AA Portland).
As noted above, one similarity is that with October and August 2002 birthdays, both turn 19 soon putting them on the older end of high schoolers. In fact by contrast, third rounder Tiedemann is actually two days younger than Rudd despite being selected from the juco ranks and graduating a year earlier. It’s less so for pitchers, but it’s a factor that has been increasingly emphasized in many teams draft models for position players.
There’s good reason for this shift, given historical research indicating older draftees who might have matured physically were poorer investment than younger players. But I’ve started to wonder if it’s perhaps now being overcorrected for, similar to how “Moneyball teams” focusing on once undervalued college draftee closed the inefficiency and perhaps to the point of creating one on the opposite direction (remember the mid-2000s Jays drafts). Perhaps that is creating opportunities in the opposite direction with older high players who are being overlooked by many teams, something that might particularly apply in the case of Rudd.