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!


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

  • FenixL

    Wow. No sign of Josh Bell. Arguably the best prep bat in the class, great power potential from both sides of the plate. He doesnt play a premium defensive position but if you are putting CJ Cron a 1st/DH at number 1 i have no idea how you can leave Bell off this list

    • Mat Germain

      I only listed those who I believed would be available at #21. There are many other hitters in the draft class that will be chosen before Cron, by no means was I saying he was the best. Bell is projected to go anywhere from #8 to #15. As you said, he’s the best prep bat, so do you really think the Jays will get a chance to grab him? Extremely doubtful.

      Rendon, Starling, Lindor, Springer, and Bell will most likely all be gone by the time the Jays draft, so I omitted those from my rankings. Obviously, if one falls through the cracks, look for them to fall ahead of those I listed above.

      • fenixl

        Yet you put baez in this top 5? I’m not trying to knock you or anything like that, but baez also has been looked to go between 10-20 I would say there is as good a chance that baez is gone as bell is gone. I realized that you were trying to be realistic but everything I’ve read about the draft has had Bell in the 15-20 range. Right where the jays are drafting. He as garnered a lot of hype recently and may be picked before 21, but I think if you put baez on the list you have to put bell.

        Plus there has been some signability concerns with bell that has been pushing him down mock drafts as of late, I think he’s a great fit in Toronto and that we would be lucky to have the opportunity to draft him. Having said that I believe there is a fair chance he is there at 21

  • Shockey12

    No Jackie Bradley Jr?

    • Mat Germain

      Beware of the injury prone players, particularly when they’re young and already having tendon/ligament problems in their wrists.

      Bradley Jr plays great D, has a canon of an arm, and should steal lots of bases, but his power is seriously in doubt, he was having a hard time even before he got injured and I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the Jays. He’s very talented, no doubt about it, but I put him behind the others listed above at this point.

  • Dave

    I agree with you that these are prob the top 5 guys the Jays will realistically be looking at. As much as I want the Jays to grab Bell he could very easily be gone way before he gets to us because this draft is very heavy in pitching, so clubs know that they have to grab there hitters early since they can say with confidence with the sheer amount of pitching in this draft that a good pitcher will still be avaiable with their next pick.

    Again I agree, Wong-Baez are the only hitters I see the Jays considering from your five, but I still think Derek Fisher is still a very good hitting prospect and is defensively better then Bell and could be more of a rightfielder instead of a LF/DH type like Bell seems to be.

    While I could take Cron with the 35 pick, I think with the 21 it would be a reach for a DH type, but thats just me.

  • Dave

    That said, I would die if we got Wong at 21 and Derek Fisher at 35.

  • grouchy

    why do you keep referring to hill’s 2012 option? there is no 1 year option, it’s 2 years

    • Mat Germain

      I didn’t say 1 year option, I said if they do pick up his 2012 option. You are correct, the 2013 option would also be included.

  • Matt

    I normally hate the idea of drafting for need, I very much preach “take the best player available”.

    Saying that, I love the idea of taking Wong at #21. I’ve read maybe half a dozen scouting reports on him and they all say he’s going to be an impact bat and a quick mover in the system and he’s playing a position where the farm is weak so it just seems to fit perfectly to me. Taking more pitching seems wrong, as does a catcher or outfielder as the system is stacked in all these positions.

    Originally he was projected to go around number 30 or so and I wondered whether he’d be available at #35 but I doubt it now, every mock draft I’ve seen has him going mid to late 20′s.

    Agree with Dave, taking a DH type with your first pick seems a bit of a reach, you can pick up those veteran guys easily and pretty cheaply nearly every year as a FA, no need to waste a high pick on them.

    Looking forward to 2013 I can see a very nicely balanced line-up

    1. Gose (L)
    2. Escobar/Hechavarria (R)
    3. Free Agent DH (L)
    4. Bautista (R)
    5. Lind (L)
    6. Lawrie (R)
    7. Snider/Thames/A.N.Other (L)
    8. Wong (L)
    9. Arencibia/D’Arnaud/A.N.Other (R)

    • Mat Germain

      You contradict yourself. If you want the best bat, Cron is by far the better option than Wong. He would be the Mike Stanton of the Blue Jays, just for comparison’s sake. That kind of bat doesn’t come around often and is non-existent after him in this draft.

      You provide a good lineup above, but one that lacks a little in the way of power when you consider other powers in the AL East. Obviously that depends on who that Free Agent DH becomes. If it’s Price Fielder, then all is well. But my favored lineup would be as follows if the Jays do grab Cron and have him in the lineup in 2013.

      1. CF Gose (L)
      2. 3B Lawrie (R)
      3. RF Bautista (R)
      4. 1B/DH Lind (L)
      5. 1B/DH Cron (R)
      6. 2B Hill/Escobar (R)
      7. LF Snider / Thames (L)
      8. C Arencibia / d’Arnaud (R)
      9. SS Hechavarria (R)

      I like Lawrie and his grit/speed/power in the 2-hole, I like the speed spread through the lineup, I like the power spread through the lineup, and there is a good LHB/RHB balance. I still think the Jays will need to decide between keeping Hill or Escobar around, and I believe that keeping Escobar will make more sense due to the fact that the Jays can reap the benefits of some draft picks if Hill is healthy enough for the remainder of the season.

      Letting him go would save them $16 million over 2 years, would give them 1 or 2 draft picks within the first 2 rounds, and would allow the Jays to use an all Cuban middle infield by shifting Escbar to 2B. His bat would play well there. I’m not saying it’ll happen that way, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it does. Some of that will depend on how well Hechavarria’s bat develops in 2011.

      Would I mind if the Jays pass on Cron to grab Wong? Definitely not, he’s a very high quality player. Does he help replace Bautista when his power diminishes within the next 3-4 years? Not nearly as much as what Cron would do for the Jays. For the Jays to dominate in the AL East, they need POWER!!! You don’t have to look any further than the struggles the Jays have had to support JBau in the lineup. Without his obscene performance, the Jays could have been Minnesota Twins bad thus far in 2011.

      In my opinion, the Jays need a bat like Cron’s in the system. Although I love Michael McDade and his potential, he’s the closest thing the Jays have to a power hitter with MLB potential and his power rates as 55-60 on the 20/80 scale.

      That’s just my take on it.

      • Matt

        You read my mind – Prince Fielder was exactly who I had in mind there. Failing him, if AA decides that 7 years $160M is too much of a risk (and god knows that’s an easy argument to make) then a stop-gap player like Johnny Damon or Matsui can be picked up to provide cheap hitting.

        The reason I shied away from Cron was that it’s much easier to pick up Matsui (say) to cover DH for a year or two than it is to pick up a veteran 2B for the same reason.

        Wong hasn’t got the bat that Cron has but overall he gives much more to the team and it’s how I would go. You’re right though, it isn’t taking the best player but is taking an extremely good player who fits the organisation better.

        I also thought about hitting Lawrie second but thought that his slightly higher power than Escobar fit better at 6 but either way works. In your line-up you have four young players in a row at 8, 9, 1 & 2 and that would concern me a bit.

  • John

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you need to look too much at regression for the college kids from 2010-2011. I believe there was a major change in the alumninum bats used which has taken away a lot of “cheap” jamshot hits and fly-out home runs that guys would have got in 2010 (this really says a lot about Cron, who despite the change in bats has improved his monstrous slg and nearly kept up the homers).

    • John

      A little backup for my point – http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2011/05/13/new-bats-changing-balance-of-power.html

      “In Division I, batting average was down to .279 from .301, home runs were down to 0.47 per game from 0.85 and scoring was down to 5.63 runs per game from 6.98. Shutouts rose to 444 from 277.

      Ohio State coach Greg Beals knew the game would change drastically once he saw the players using the bats during practice last fall.

      “You had to change the way you play baseball,” Beals said. “The thing I like about it is the game is based on pitching and defense with these bats. You can no longer sit back and wait for the three-run homer to be a successful team. You have to go from first to third on a hit. Speed is even more important. You have to do the little things well”

  • lolwut

    Josh Bell should be included on this list as he ranked right around where the Jays are picking. I’ve seen few mock drafts at 21 and sometimes a few spots give or take.

    If there is any hitter I want in the 1st round, it’s him. We need that fantastic bat with tremendous power in the minors if Snider doesn’t live up to his potential which is what it’s looking like at this point.

  • gabriel

    Late to the party, but I’m curious at the omission of Mahtook, who is ranked in the early 20s both by BA and MLB’s Mayo. Like Cron, his power has held up really well with the switch over to the new college bats. I also wouldn’t be shocked if Blake Swihart drops to us at 21 due to signability. One of Bell, Swihart and Mahtook should be available, and they are all usually ranked ahead of the 5 mentioned.

  • Dave

    I really don’t think you should include Mahtook. The chances he’s there for us to pick i would say are slim. A power hitting outfielder who has maintained his power with the new bats and has one of the best seasons in College this year while being extremely signable is a very attractive commodity for this teams with unprotected picks early on.

    Blake Swihart is a very interesting idea though. He should hit for average and a bit of power (no Cron power) but does his lack of a position phase us ? We don’t need him as a catcher so … outfield ? If you believe in the bat then why not he should be one of the best.

    I agree with lolwut, Bell is the bat I want, but the more and more I read about him the less I think he will be avaiable. Every system would instantly be better for having him and he should be a real blue chip prospect.

    Bell’s the man, Wong is still a solid choice, Baez would work to, Swihart I wouldn’t hate, but I also think Derek Fisher would be a solid choice but id wonder if he would have been there at 35 for us.