Jays Draft Aggressively, Draft 19 High School Players in Top 22 Picks

It may not be exactly how I drew it up prior to the draft, but it’s exactly the kind of draft Jays fans deserve. The Jays finally seem set to put their money where their mouths are, and aggressively bid on some of the hardest to sign players the draft had to offer. Andrew Tinnish, his team, and Alex Anthopoulos all deserve a ton of credit for doing their homework and getting about as much talent as you can expect on board.

There are a ton of points to love about this draft. The Jays landed the top Canadian available in the draft, got a ton of pitching talent that will go very well with the haul they brought in in 2010, and they also landed some very talented players in between and late in the draft. Of all of their picks thus far, 19 of 22 are High School players, showing you just how young they went in this draft. I’m not sure if it’s a record of any sort, but it’s definitely worth noting that the Jays got a ton younger through this draft. There’s no doubt that if the Jays are successful in signing the majority of these picks, they’ll have no problem in getting the next wave of talent ready to help out the 2010 class.

Before we get into the cost of signing all of these picks, I thought it would be interesting to point out how talented this class is.

Baseball America put out its Top 200 prospect list before the draft began, and the Jays landed 9 of the top 157, and 5 of their top 54.

  • LHP Daniel Norris (16)
  • RHP John Stilson (23)
  • RHP Tyler Beede (35)
  • OF Dwight Smith Jr (49)
  • 3B Matt Dean (54)
  • Joe Musgrove (90)
  • Kevin Comer (102)
  • Andrew Suarez (155)
  • Jacob Anderson (157)

Knowing just how many HS players the Jays selected, I thought it would also be important to highlight the rankings of the HS players amongst themselves, giving us a better idea of the talent within their grouping. Nathan Rode completed that list in November of 2010 and had the following 9 Jays draftees included:

  • #2 Daniel Norris
  • #19 Tyler Beede
  • #30 Dwight Smith Jr
  • #35 Kevin Comer
  • #38 Andrew Suarez
  • #43 Christian Lopes
  • #60 Matt Dean
  • #70 Jacob Anderson
  • #72 Tom Robson

That’s 9 of the top 72 HS players as ranked by Rode in the pre-season. It doesn’t prove anything, other than the fact that the Jays definitely put the majority of their ammunition in young and very talented players.

The “Steals of the Draft” for the Jays

In my mind, there are 4 steals of the draft for the Jays and 1 bonus pick.

  • Steal #1: Daniel Norris. If they can sign him away from his College commitment, the Jays will have landed a top 20 pick with their 74th pick overall. Getting the top prep lefty in any draft is a great thing, but getting him this late is just plain robbery.  The Rockies had to take Tyler Matzek 11th overall in 2009, just for comparison’s sake. In the meantime the Jays were able to land much more affordable picks, including 2 outfielders (1 with power, 1 with 4 tools) and 3 great arms instead of taking Norris with their first pick. When you consider that no analyst or expert would have faulted the Jays for taking Norris 21st overall, you learn all you need to know about how great this pick was for them.
  • Steal #2: John Stilson. Injuries tend to make pitchers drop faster than a lead weight. When you’re talking a labrum injury, it gets even worse. However, what the “scare” does for the Jays is make Stilson very affordable to sign. From all reports I’ve heard this the pick, including a direct Tweet from John Manuel, the injury was way overblown and will not require any surgery. Pre-draft, BA had Stilson ranked as the 23rd best talent on the board. The Jays landed him with the 108th pick. Yet another robbery for the Jays. It’s riskier, but everything I’ve read about him says that he could move Chris Sale quick if moved to the pen and could definitely be a force in the pen as early as 2012. Add all of the great starters also expected to make debuts in 2012 for the Jays, and Stilson could help take the Jays to a new level.
  • Steal #3: Matt Dean. Think of Dean the same way as you thought of Kris Bryant in 2010. The Jays will make every effort to sign him, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. He had 10 doubles, a triple, 10 HRs and 16 SBs in 2010 in just 84 ABs. He hits for power, shows some speed, and has a great arm for 3B. Some people have compared him to a very young David Wright in terms of potential. If the Jays sign this much talent after selecting him 409th overall, I will be ecstatic. Highway robbery!
  • Steal #4: Christian Lopes. He is classified as one of the best infielders in this draft and has potential to become a potent offensive 2B. His defensive abilities have improved, he has some pop, has some speed, and you don’t need to look any further than this Baseball Beginning article to get very excited about the Jays drafting this great talent. Just in case you don’t read this article, it points out that some compare him to Christian Colon, but John Kilma points out that he likes Lopes more than Colon. If Kilma’s right, that makes Lopes better than the player selected 4th overall in the 2010 draft by the Royals….talk about a steal at #229 for the Jays!!! However, I will caution that Lopes has had a hard time making good on hype from 2010, and has thus dropped down in the draft. Still, the talent is there, and if the Jays can develop him the right way, he could be a star in The Show in the future. Just an extra note about Lopes, he played for Edison HS – the same team Jeff Kent played for before the Jays drafted him out of the University of California. Could Lopes be their next great 2B, or will Dickie Thon or another player have something to say about that?
  • Bonus Pick: Thomas Robson. Let me get this right. The Jays will soon have the best Canadian player in all of MLB playing for them in Brett Lawrie, and they can now boast to have one of the best young arms to come out of the country since Erik Bedard? Talk about a marketing dream. If Robson can develop into a viable starter – or even a dominant reliever – the Jays will have lots of marketing ammunition to draw fans in from across the country. Add in some success in the standings, and the product on the field should do the rest of the job. Not only is Robson Canadian, but he truly does have great stuff, a great pitcher’s build, and a lot of potential overall. Don’t sell him short, that’s all I’m saying here. As the only Canadian franchise in MLB, this was an important pick and the beginning of a trend that I see continuing under the watch of Alex Anthopoulos.

Now, having said all of that and having pointed out my 4 steals and my 1 bonus thus far, I also have to point out that signing all of these guys could cost the Jays as much as $7-8 million. That’s a lot of money to sign 5 HS players….and it would definitely result in a new record for the Jays in terms of draft spending. In fact, it may wind up adding up to 3 years of drafting under JP Ricciardi’s watch!!

There are some expected costs associated with these great picks, some of which have been rumored about publicly. Here are some of the biggest “cases” from those drafted thus far:

  • Daniel Norris: asking for approximately $4 million.
  • Tyler Beede: after sending teams letters to say he wasn’t interested in signing, and getting picked in the 1st rd, it’ll cost the Jays at least as much as what Deck McGuire signed for in 2010, or $2 million plus, to get him signed.
  • John Stilson: although he’ll take a discount due to the injury concerns, Stilson could still cost the Jays over $1 million.
  • Dwight Smith Jr.: I’m not sure what it’ll take to sign him, but $750,000 – $1 million seems about right.
  • Matt Dean: he could wind up being another $750,000 – $1 million signing.
  • Jacob Anderson, Kevin Comer, Andrew Suarez, Christian Lopes, and Joe Musgrove will likely all cost $600,000 – $800,000.

Add all of those figures up, and you’ve got up to $13 million listed above if all of them sign for those totals. These are not set in stone by any means, I could be way off, but if Norris really does get his $3-4 million, this could turn out to be a historic amount of money spent by the Jays. Their total could hit anywhere between $15-20 million by the time everyone is signed – IF everyone is signed, of course. It could very well be that the Jays already know they’ll let 2-3 fall through the cracks if they refuse to sign at decent prices.

No matter how you want to look at it, the Jays have had a tremendous draft in 2011. They’ve taken some of the best talents on the board, particularly when it pertains to HS players, and you have to believe that at least a few of these will turn into big time MLB players.

I, for one, can’t wait to start seeing the signings role in. If the Jays can get their top 20-25 picks under contract, they’ll have had one of the most productive drafts of any MLB team this season.

Of all of the Jays picks taken so far, which one is your “steal of the draft” for the Jays?

Which Jays pick do you see as their "Steal of the Draft"?

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- MG

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