Jays Journal Draft Coverage: Jays Draft Preview, Pick #21 (Hitting)

Way back in February, I posted an article that spoke of the possible targets the Jays may go after if they select a pitcher with their 21st overall pick. It’s available here, and had Jed Bradley, Henry Owens, Anthony Meo, Tyler Anderson, and Jose Fernandez listed as the top 5 pitchers I thought could be available at 21 and who the Jays could be interested in selecting. Obviously, some (Bradley in particular) may be gone well before the 21st overall pick now that more playing time has come into play. I’ll be introducing other pitchers into my Top 12 Jays Draft Targets list, and dropping two from the list above for differing reasons. One has fallen out of favor, the other has gained way too much momentum to be there fore the Jays at 21.

Now we move on to the hitters. While I will argue that the Jays will continue to focus on pitching in the 2011 draft, there are some hitters in this draft class that will seriously tempt the Jays into taking a bat at #21 (or later in the sandwich picks). Here are my top 5 targets, based on talent, makeup, and of course – the person.

1 – C.J. Cron, 1B/DH, Utah: 6’4″ 230 lbs, RHB, from Phoenix Arizona

The Jays are not going to have Jose Bautista around forever, and they haven’t had a long-term answer at DH in their entire history. Cron, an All-American in 2010, is the answer to both of those worries, as he has the power and bat to make a very significant difference to the Jays lineup for years to come. His reported 80 power on the 20/80 scouting scale is exactly what the Jays need to help Bautista out in the lineup. As a very polished bat, he should move very quickly through the minors and has a relatively small amount of risk to his game if the Jays decide to pick him up. Why? Well, if they do select him, it will be to primarily act as the DH, so it cuts down on the emphasis being placed on his questionable defensive abilities.

His Stats with Utah are as follows:

  • 2009 – .337 AVG / 246 AB / 83 hits / 19 doubles / 1 triple / 11 HR / 58 RBI /14 BB / 31 SO / .375 OBP / .557 SLG
  • 2010 – .431 AVG / 197 AB / 85 hits / 16 doubles / 20 HR / 81 RBI / 17 BB / 23 SO / .487 OBP / .817 SLG
  • 2011 – .444 AVG / 187 AB / 83 hits / 25 doubles / 1 triple / 15 HR / 58 RBI / 29 BB / 20 SO / .522 OBP / .829 SLG

As you can see from the stats above, Cron has progressed extremely well as he has gained experience and has made significant strides over the 3 years. His AVG, power, and OBP have all improved by vast amounts, and he hits extremely well for a power hitter.

More than anything, Cron is a great humble person who puts the team first at all times. He’s been around baseball his entire life as his dad, Chris Cron, was able to crack the major league a few times. The Jays have a history of grabbing players that have deep baseball bloodlines, so Cron fits their profile in that sense.

Instead of paying obscene amounts of money in order to acquire a player like Prince Fielder, the Jays could look Cron’s way and could feasibly have him in their lineup as early as 2013. He would allow the Jays to score enough runs to support their great pitching depth, and would make the Jays a feared lineup in the AL East if he makes good on his overall set of skills. It’s a big if, but one that the Jays may be willing to bet on in order to keep the freight train rolling.

Here’s a great video and interview of Cron:

As much as I’d love to expect that Cron will be available at #21, there’s little doubt that many teams could take a long look at him well before we get there. Therefore, even though I’d like to make Cron a top hitting prediction for the Jays, and I’ve placed him at the top of this board only because he could fall to them, I still expect him to go a little sooner.

2 – Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii: 5’9″ 190 lbs, LHB, from Hilo Hawaii

Wong has everything a team could look for in a player. Great attitude, great talent, versatility, and tons of potential. Think of him as a Dustin Pedroia with more positional versatility and perhaps a little less power. He has already been drafted once, by the Twins in 2008 (16th rd), but was unsigned.

The best thing Wong did prior to this season was to turn down a spot on the Team USA roster. Why? Well, if he had accepted it, he would most likely have been used as a utility player. As much as it’s great to display your versatility, Wong needed to show MLB teams that he could stick at one position. In his case, that became 2B and he did extremely well at the position while playing in the Cape Cod league, where he earned MVP honors.

While playing in Hawaii in 2011, he slotted in the 3-hole in the lineup the vast majority of the time and led the team with 24 multi-hit games.

He’ll be 20 at the time of the draft, and will be turning 21 in October. With his bat’s polish and his ability, a start of his minors career in HiA or AA are likely, and he could move quickly if he competes well immediately.

His Stats in Hawaii:

  • 2009: .341 AVG / 77 hits / 21 doubles /11 HR / 52 RBI / 11 SB / 25 BB / 23 SO /.426 OBP / .452 SLG / .972 Fld%
  • 2010: .357 / 249 AB / 89 hits / 7 HR / 40 RBI / 19 SB / 36 BB / 20 SO
  • 2011: .375 AVG / 192 AB / 72 hits / 10 doubles / 3 triples / 6 HR / 49 RBI / 39 BB / 19 SO / 22 SB / 6 CS

You can read more about Wong here in an article, with links, from Baseball Beginnings. They also have a Q&A with Wong that tells you a lot about his personality and character, both of which seem to be outstanding.

I really believe that his makeup and tools are going to be extremely hard for the Jays to pass on in this draft. When you look forward to 2013 and imagine a possible lineup that includes Anthony Gose - Brett Lawrie - Jose Bautista – Adam Lind – J.P. Arencibia – and others, you get a sense that Wong’s grit and 2B play may work perfectly within that lineup. He has power, he has speed, and he has great makeup – all things the Jays want throughout their lineup.

With Aaron Hill’s days with the Jays possibly coming to an end after the 2013 season, grabbing Wong and grooming him as a potential replacement (to compete for that spot along with 2010 draftees Dickie Thon, Kellen Sweeney, and Shane Opitz), may make sense. He is much closer to being MLB ready than any of the 2010 draftees, and would be fairly nice insurance to have should something serious happen to Hill in 2012 (assuming the Jays pick up his 2012 option at the least).

I’m a big Wong fan, and believe he can definitely help make the Jays better. I won’t be disappointed in the least if the Jays forego grabbing a pitcher with the first pick and grab Wong instead. I’m not saying they will, but he does make sense.

3 – Javier Baez, SS, Florida: 6’1″ 205 lbs, RHB, from Jacksonville FLA

Although I’m listing 5 players on this list, the top 3 are really the only hitters I can really see the Jays grabbing at #21. The next 2 on my list simply don’t match the many arms that are available in terms of their possible impact on the franchise.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Francisco Lindor will be drafted well before the 21st pick, so Baez will become was is agreed by most to be the next best SS on the board. As the player with a potentially higher ceiling than most of the remaining bats on the board, I’ve listed him next on my list.

When people compare his abilities to Lindor’s, they tend to point to the immaturity of Baez in comparison, and the polish that Lindor has to his game defensively. In contrast, Baez is thought by many to eventually require a move to 3B and there are still questions about his overall makeup. Some scouts sour on his energetic outburst which they categorize as “not always positive” outbursts. There’s nothing wrong with be expressive, so long as it doesn’t become disruptive. I doubt that the Jays would shy away from him due to these doubts, but it does speak to just how closely people watch players.

One reason Baez shows immaturity is obvious, he’s young! Another not so obvious one is that he currently lacks parenting, as he has lived with his coach who has become his legal guardian. Although it’s extremely positive that he has found someone who is willing to take him under his wing, it can’t be easy for them to build a parent-child relationship so late in Javier’s life. Therefore, I think it’s appropriate to expect that a little maturity and experience will go a long way to putting some, if not most, of those doubts to rest.

John Sickels has Baez going to the Jays in this predictions post, but I fully believe that if both Wong and Baez are available at 21, they would lean towards Wong. I wouldn’t mind seing Baez in a Jays uniform by any means, as you can tell from his stats below that he is an excellent hitter full of potential. Any time you can get a projectable SS-3B that is well above and beyond the majority of his peers, it’s a good grab.

His Stats:

  • 2010: .463 AVG / 82 AB / 38 hits / 42 RBI / 9 doubles / 13 HR / 8 BB / 5 SO / .516 OBP / 1.049 SLG

Here’s some video of Baez:

4 – Levi Michael, SS-3B, North Carolina: 5’10″ 180 lbs, SHB, from Welcome N.C.

Although some people will try to see Michael as a SS, to me, he still has a lot of questions to answer about his future position. He could wind up a SS long-term, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at 2B since his bat would play up there. He has played a lot of his time in the minors as a 3B, as well as SS, with questions about his range being the mitigating factor as a SS.

The fact that he’s a switch-hitter, has developed patience at the plate, and has above-average speed all play into his favor. He’ll likely fit in well in the 2-hole of most lineups and shows enough pop to hit 20 HRs or more one day.

His stats are very impressive for either position, and are as follows:

  • 2009: 262 AB/ 76 hits / 15 doubles / 4 triples / 13 HRs / 26 BB / 56 SO / 5 SB / 4 CS / .290 AVG / .382 OBP / .527 SLG / .949 fld%
  • 2010: 214 AB / 74 hits / 14 doubles / 4 triples / 9 HRs / 44 BB / 26 SO / .346 AVG / .460 OBP / .575 SLG / .913 fld%
  • 2011: 196 AB / 61 hits / 12 doubles / 3 triples / 4 HRs / 45 BB / 32 SO / .311 AVG / .461 OBP / .464 SLG / .969 fld%

The one thing that gives me pause with Michael is that some of his stats regressed in 2011. However, his fielding percentage improved a ton, so you take the good with the bad I guess. Either way, he should do well enough to make an MLB team happy, although at this point I seriously think it will not be the Jays.

Here’s a video of Michael:

5 – Cory Spangenberg, 3B, Florida: 6’0″ 185 lbs, LHB, from PA

Cory isn’t the prototypical 3B since he is rated as having 70 speed on the 20/80 scouting scale. At the moment, he doesn’t profile as much of a power hitter, but that could change as he gets stronger and gets more experience/instruction. Since he lacks power and isn’t exactly smooth at 3B, most agree that a change in position may be in the cards. The best bets right now are on 2B, CF, or LF. He doesn’t have the strongest of arms, but he does have enough speed to play CF fairly well.

The bat is what is going to carry Cory through the minors and to the majors. His stats are as follows:

  • 2010: 235 AB / 87 hits / 14 doubles / 3 triples / 11 HR / 49 RBI / 14 BB / 45 SO / .370 AVG / .414 OBP / .596 SLG / .961 Fld%
  • 2011: 176 AB / 84 hits / 11 doubles / 3 triples / 5 HR / 32 RBI / 29 BB / .477 AVG / .553 OBP

The power numbers are not overly impressive on the surface, but the extra base hit count is exactly where it should be for young talented players. I believe that if the others above are taken before the Jays get to #21, they could be tempted with Cory’s potential. However, I would expect them to wait until the sandwich round before selecting him if he is in their plans. I believe the Jays will have pitching options that they are more attracted to than Cory with the 21st pick.

Here is a link to a video of Cory (and C.J. Cron) from MLB.com:

C.J.Cron and Cory Spangenberg

Hitting Overview

This is a pitching heavy draft, no doubt about it, so I can’t really expect to see the Jays draft a hitter with their first pick. That said, if Cron, Wong, or Baez are available at #21, it won’t be easy to pass any of them up – particularly when the Jays know that they can go into the sandwich round afterwards and select high-quality pitchers. Quality hitting, with low risk, may be harder to find at that point. So, although I expect the Jays to draft another pitcher with the 21st pick, it won’t surprise me in the least to see them target one of the top 3 on my list.

Starting tomorrow, I will be counting down my top 12 Jays draft targets. If I get some right, I will be ecstatic. Knowing I’ll get some, if not most or all, of the picks wrong, you should still be interested for two reasons: it makes the draft more interesting, and it provides you with in-depth knowledge of many of the draft picks you will see drafted in early June. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I’ll enjoy writing them!

-MG

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Tags: C.J. Cron Cory Spangenberg Javier Baez Kolten Wong Levi Michael

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