Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Blue Jays Draft Review, Part 1

I don't really know exactly what I'm going to be doing with this series, or how many pieces it will entail.  I'm probably just going to try and do a new post or two every day about a few years until the day of the actual draft this year, and then just be done with it.  I doubt I'll spend too much time looking over the last two or three drafts, since there are so few major leaguers from them and we have no idea who should have went where in hindsight.  What I am sure of is that there is going to be an awful lot of me shitting on JP Ricciardi's draft strategy, or at the very least, the poor job the Jays did at drafting and developing quality prospects during his regime.

I'd like to point out that there isn't really a whole lot of sense in looking back and saying stuff like "Ugh, I can't believe Toronto was so dumb taking Russ Adams [or whoever, depending on the year/round] when Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Joey Votto [or whoever] were still available," because I'm sure they looked at all of those guys and decided that Adams (in this particular example) was the best player available, especially when you consider the fact that Votto went in the 2nd round, and practically every team passed him by in the first round.  Having said that, I'm totally going to say stuff like "we drafted Russ Adams, but could have had Jon Lester instead."

2010 and 2011
These drafts saw the Jays load up on some high school pitchers, who, at this point, look like they should develop in to something.  Obviously, they won't all be superstars, but the fact that they went and got 6 arms in the first three rounds of '10, and 5 more in the first three rounds of '11 (not counting Tyler Beede, who didn't sign) makes it a lot more likely that they will get a few useful major league arms.  Obviously, allowing type-A and -B free agents to walk has earned them this type of a system, and trading pieces like Roy Halladay, Scott Rolen, etc. has helped.

Anyway, it appears that the 2009 draft isn't going to pan out, for the most part (with a few notable exceptions), mostly because we don't really hear a whole lot about it, since the 2010 and '11 picks (notably the pitchers) and Adeiny Hechavarria seem to get most of the attention.  There are definitely some nice pieces that came out of that draft though, so let's have a look.

First, I think we should mention that the Jays' 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall selections of this draft ended up not signing, which scored the Jays 3 extra picks in the 2010 draft, and that class was deep as fuck.  I'm sure this was intentional-- I wouldn't necessarily say that they picked guys that they knew they couldn't sign, but instead took guys, similar to what they did with Daniel Norris last year, that were going to be tough guys to sign.  They knew that if they didn't sign Paxton, Eliopoulos and Barrett, that they would get compensation picks for the 2010 draft, which landed them 3 guys who are all performing very well in the minors right now.  Obviously, getting a guy like Paxton (ranked as the #52 overall prospect by Baseball America) would have been nice, but Noah Syndergaard is the alternative.  The point remains, however, that when 3 of your top 4 picks don't sign, the chances of success from that particular draft class is diminished incredibly.

Second, and just because I'm going to do it with all the other years that we actually kind of know the results from, I'll include how many WAR came from each class.  Drew Hutchison is the only one from 2009 to see the bigs, and most of the '07 and '08 class either haven't seen the bigs yet, or have only played as rookies/September callups, which makes the WAR totals pretty deceiving and almost irrelevant.  This will be a better experiment once we get to the 2006 (and prior) draft.

2009: 52 players, -0.2 WAR 
Chad Jenkins (1st round-20th overall) was the first pick of the Jays in this draft.  He's currently in AA New Hampshire, and is there, I guess.  He's not exactly lighting it up, but minor league numbers don't really translate all that well to figuring out who's going to do what in the bigs, especially in the AL East.  He doesn't walk many, at least, but that's really about it.  Mike Trout was taken by the Angels 7 picks later.

Jake Marisnick (3-104) is one of the best prospects in the Jays' system.  He was taken as compensation for the Yankees' signing of AJ Burnett.  Scouts and writers just verbally blow Marisnick all the time (example, example 2, example 3), and it seems like a borderline consensus that Marisnick is some kind of 4.5-5 tool monster-in-training.  If, at any point, you feel angry with AJ Burnett for leaving, and I'm not sure why you would, since it was a perfectly reasonable thing for him to do and he sucks now, but uhhh... this guy is going to be really good.

Drew Hutchison (15-460) and Yan Gomes (10-310) both went in this draft, and are the only two members of this draft class to appear in the majors for the Jays.  Again, we're pretty early in to the lifespan of this draft class, so we'll obviously have to wait a little while to see how this one turns out, and a lot of the 2010 draftees are directly related to the Jays' inability to sign three guys from this draft, so the success of the 2009 draft is, in a way, tied directly to the success of the 2010 draft.

2008: 44 picks, -3.1 WAR
David Cooper (1-17) has had a pretty sexy minor league career, but seems like one of those guys who just won't ever do much of anything in the majors. He was the AAA MVP in 2011, and won himself a batting title as well, but did so while playing half of his games in an inflamed run environment.  To boot, he doesn't really have any defensive value.  He'll never be a star, but he might have a career in front of him as a AAAA guy, a bench player, or maybe a starter for Houston.  I'm more interested in the guy who was drafted by Milwaukee directly before him, who just happens to be the Blue Jays' starting 3rd baseman.  Brett Wallace was also a part of that draft.  Anthony Gose went 51st over

Tyler Pastornicky (5-159) was traded to Atlanta as part of the Yunel Escobar deal, and has been worth -1.3WAR so far this year for the Braves.  Pretty much no defensive skills when compared to other shortstops, and his bat is so bad that he pretty much has to stay at short to be serviceable.

Eric Thames (7-219) has had some time with the Jays over the last two years, and, to me at least, it seems like pitchers have pretty well figured him out.  He also looks like a baby deer out in left field.  Anything I`ve ever read about him projects him as a 4th outfielder/bench type going forward.  Thames gave us 95 games of -0.1WAR last year, and has been worth another -0.8WAR over 160 AB's this season, even though he's getting platooned against LHP.

Others include Evan Crawford, Danny Farquhar, and Michael Crouse.  Some early Blue Jay pick from that draft that haven't really panned out include Kenny Wilson (2-63), Andrew Liebel (3-95), and Mark Sobolewski (4-129).  Wilson is 22 and is in his third run of A-ball, Liebel is no longer in the Jays` system, and Sobolewski is struggling in AA.

2007: 35 picks, 4.2 WAR
Kevin Ahrens (1-16) was taken as compensation for the loss of Frank Catalanotto, and hasn't really done much. At 23, he's still in high-A, and has been nothing special, especially since it's his 4th try.  Could have had Jordan Zimmermann or Giancarlo Stanton, who both went in the 2nd round, but as a whole, this is a pretty weak draft class.

JP Arencibia (1-21) has settled in as the everyday catcher, providing some nice power, choppy on-base skills, and unspectacular defence behind the plate.  His defence actually looked pretty good early this season, and he can certainly still improve, but with Travis d'Arnaud waiting in the wings, I'm sluggish about his future as an everyday catcher going forward.  I doubt the Jays trade him, since it's hard to have too many catchers, especially given the attrition rate of catchers, and the way the Jays eased JP in to his current role.  His bat, doesn't play anywhere else (i.e. first base) unless his on-base skills improve, so we'll probably see JPA and d'Arnaud split time for a while, then maybe move JPA to a backup role, getting him some days at C and giving d'Arnaud half-days-off, where he can DH instead of being behind the plate.

Brett Cecil (1-38) was taken as compensation for the loss of Justin Speier.  He looked like he was going to be good-- 2 WAR over 172 innings in his first full season, as a 23 year old in 2010-- but he's lost some velocity and has no command within the strike zone, to the point where he needed to be demoted to AAA halfway through 2011.  He's currently in AA, and, unsurprisingly, has some decent numbers so far this year.  Having said that, I don't really know what kind of velocity or command that consists of, especially since he doesn't really have to worry about people smashing every belt-high fastball out of the park the way he would in the bigs. Travis d'Arnaud went one spot before Cecil.

Marc Rzepczynski (5-175) was drafted by the Jays, and offered up 1.9WAR in 176 inning for the Jays before being sent to St. Louis in the Colby Rasmus trade.

Other selections include Justin Jackson (1-45), who is hanging around AA and might be Mike Mccoy, Trystan Magnusson (1-56), who had a cup of coffee last season with Oakland before being re-acquired by the Jays, and Brad Mills (4-145) of 82MPH fastball fame.  Alan Farina (3-115), Mike McDade (6-205) might somehow make some kind of mark in the bigs yet, and then there's Darin Mastroianni (16-505) and Brad Emaus (11-355), who saw some big league time and were confirmed to be AAAA players.

Matt Moore (8-245) and Brandon Belt (11-348) were bargains in this one.

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