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Jays Draft Review: Sign 8 Players Taken in First 4 Rounds of 2011 Draft

 When Alex Anthopoulos spoke to the media and stated that he was happy with the way the 2011 draft wound up for the Toronto Blue Jays, I completely understood why. Not only did the Jays add 8 players taken in the first 4 rounds of the 2011 draft to their already top-notch minors system, but they also added a few players selected later that were projected to be first round or sandwich pick talents. Getting those players under contract has resulted in what I would call a phenomely successful draft class for the Jays, this despite not coming to an agreement with their first round pick, Tyler Beede.

Before I get into my thoughts on the draft, I’ll recap the players signed to contracts where the reported amount of the bonus is known (rd taken in brackets):

  • Jacob Anderson (1S) $990,000
  • Joe Musgrove (1S) $500,000
  • Dwight Smith Jr (1S) $800,000
  • Kevin Comer (1S) $1,650,000
  • Daniel Norris (2) $2,000,000
  • Jeremy Grabryszwski (2) $575,000
  • John Stilson (3) $500,000
  • Thomas Robson (4) $375,000
  • Christian Lopes (7) $800,000
  • Mark Biggs (8) $600,000
  • Matt Dean (13) $737,500

Overall, the amounts of bonuses we know the Jays gave out is approximately $9.8 million. However, if we assume that Anthony DeSclafani (6), Andrew Burns (11), Jonathon Berti (18), and Brady Dragmire (17) got $500K, $300K, $200K, and 200K respectively, and that the remainder of the draft picks signed got a minimum of $50K, the Jays spent $11.7675 million as a minimum in this draft year. If it’s a decent approximation, this makes it the second year in a row that the Jays exceed the $11 million mark after they spent $11.594 million in 2010 and they would come close to – if not exceed - the amount that the Nationals paid out that season ($11.927) despite having to sign Bryce Harper to a massive deal. Whether or not the Jays exceed what the Nationals spent in 2010, they will undoubtedly once again be in the top 5-7 spending teams in MLB when it comes to draft bonuses.

The best Tweets of the night, as the bonuses came in, included one by Wonderthought which was sent to @DanielNorris18 and stated “When Daniel Norris throws a baseball at the sea, it parts.” In case you are unaware of why the reference was made, Norris is a very religiously conscious individual, which makes the parting of the Red Sea reference more clever. Before I signed off of Twitter last night, I predicted, through the deductive reasoning I based on “Tweet-ittude”, that both Norris and Comer would sign, while Beede would walk, and I was not disappointed.

However, I’d like to look at this year’s draft as a huge positive for many reasons, and here they are in no certain order:

  • In 2010, the Jays signed 35 players of 54. This year, a similar number with 35 of 55!
  • In 2010, the Jays were the 3rd highest spending team in the draft. This year, they should be close to that again.
  • In 2010, the Jays really focused on pitching and its highest ceilinged pitchers. In 2011, they also focused on pitching, but also added some of the best bats in the class in Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith Jr, Matt Dean, and Christian Lopes. To me, this was extremely important so that the Jays could ensure the pitching was supported in the future by some excellent position players. Reportedly, Anderson has huge power potential, Dean was the best 3B prep bat, Lopes may have been the best SS in the class, and Smith can simply do it all with tremendous talent. The hitters drafted in 2010 were not nearly as impressive as any of these guys and I don’t believe any of them can challenge these 4 players talent and potential wise. Perhaps Dickie Thon and Marcus Knecht could challenge them, but that’s about it.
  • In 2010, the Jays landed the just mentioned Knecht, a native of Toronto, as a prominent Canadian draft pick. In 2011, the Jays also took a prominent Canadian pick in Thomas Robson who definitely has the potential to make it to The Show. They also added and signed Justin Atkinson and Eric Brown who both hail from British Columbia.
  • When we objectively look at the top 9 picks the Jays made within the first 4 rounds of the draft, and realize that 3 others belonged in the 1S or 2nd rounds (Matt Dean, Christian Lopes, and Mark Biggs), we get the realistic view that missing out on 1 within that group isn’t a big deal in the least, particularly when the Jays will be compensated with a similar pick in 2012 (the 22nd pick overall). In truth, the Jays added 11 players worthy of top 4 round selections in this draft, and that’s quite a haul for any team to add in one draft class.
  • I’d also like to point out that there are a few players that are really opening up some eyes after being drafted in the late rounds of the 2011 draft. OF Eric Arce (19) (.286/.450/.639 with 12 HRs in 133 ABs), SP David Rollins (21) (4-0 with 1.71 ERA and only 3 BB in 35 IP, 29 Ks), and 2B Jonathon Berti (21) (.319/.407/.410 with 7 extra base hits and 16 SB in 144 ABs) in particular have really come out of the gates very strong. Arce had been projected as a top 4 rd pick until he got into trouble, so he very well may make good on that promise, which would provide the Jays with 12 players worthy of top 4 round selections in this draft. Meanwhile, the 44th rd pick, RP Colby Broussard, has a 1.85 ERA with 6 saves, 8 BB, and 16 Ks in the GCL. The point is that there could be a lot of gems in this draft class for the Jays, and they are not all going to come from the top of the board.

Already Loaded With Pitching Talent

I don’t like to point this out since it may sound a little odd, but there are only so many spots to go around in the Jays minors system, and there are only so many spots in the big league rotation/roster to be had. Alex Anthopoulos likes to talk about “waves” of talent to come aboard year after year in order to provide the Jays with chances at championships. Well, if we look at the way things currently look across the system – including the majors – we get the following view of possible impact pitching:

When you look down that list, and see a very young rotation, you realize that there are few spots available in the near future. Then you see a preliminary potential ace filled rotation of 5 of the following pitchers: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, and Adonys Cardona for the 2015 season, and then have to conside how you’ll work guys like Aaron Sanchez, Joel Carreno, Nestor Molina, and others into the mix, you get a sense of where I’m headed with this. The Jays are actually served fairly well in getting the 22nd overall pick in 2012 so that they can have yet another “wave” of talent with 2 first round picks from the 2012 class, as well as their usual few sandwich picks. If the Jays decide to use these picks for…say…a few College bats that are very close to major league ready, all of the sudden you’ve got a mix of extremely talented pitching coming up the ranks and the bats in the lineup to support them. If they decide to grab more pitching, because you never have enough pitching, they have the ammunition usually required to go out there and grab whatever it is they’re missing on the trade market.

The New Wave

If we “project” where the best starting pitchers of the 2011 class to be the following: Daniel Norris, Kevin Comer, Jeremy Gabryszwski, Thomas Robson, Anthony DeSclafani, and Mark Biggs, then the Jays have just added yet another “wave” of talent set to take over down the pipe line. Of the 6 pitchers, 5 are out of High School, which tells us that the majority of these guys will take over spots with the GCL and Bluefield Jays. Meanwhile, the others move up the ranks, and the waves coordinate one behind the other to provide the Jays with an enviable amount of pitching talent down the pipe.

Added to the International Signings

Oh, and I’m not done yet. We also have to remember that ealier this year, the Jays also signed some international free agents. The aformentioned Osman Gutierrez (16) was signed by the Jays for $210K, Dawel Lugo (16) – a first round talent to be sure – was signed for $1.3 million, SS/OF Wilmer Beccera, RHP Manuel Cardoba, and OF Jesus Gonzalez. All of these players add to the work the Jays have done in the draft and provide them with more top 4 type talents in the organization. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I consider the possibility that Alex Anthopoulos and his scouting team now work in this fashion: if you’re not a top 4 round type talent, you really have to impress us to make any of our minors clubs, because we’re going to fill those teams with so much talent that you won’t get much in the way of playing time if your talent isn’t up to par.

When added to the $3.5 million they spent on Adonys Cardona and Gabriel Cenas and the $10 million given to Adeiny Hechavarria, it’s evident that the Jays will continue to be part of the top 6 spending teams in the international market.

Wait a minute….let’s review. Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays are within the top 3 spending teams of both drafts he has managed, and are also within the top 6 international market spending teams. What does that result in? A massive amount of talent coming up the minors system, the likes of which Jays fans have never witnessed.

Later Tyler Beede!

After knowing this, I’m supposed to be “sad” or “angry” that Tyler Beede decided to do what 99.9% of people in his position couldn’t bring themselves to do: say no to $2.5 million? I don’t think so. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and will say this: in 3 years, at some point in time, Tyler Beede and his father Walter will both regret not taking the bonus money from the Jays. Not only will the Jays be competing for championships every year at that point, but he’ll get drafted by a team that certainly won’t be a “contender”, if he actually makes good on his promise as a pitcher. If he doesn’t make good on his promise as a pitcher, or gets injured – always a big possibility for pitchers – he may wind up with half a million dollars or less. I look at what Vanderbilt’s Grayson Garvin got after a fairly successful career there, $370K, and I think to myself that Beede could possibly wind up in the very same spot.

If Beede is attending Vanderbilt because he truly wanted to get the College experience and doesn’t really care about becoming a pro, then he made the right choice. However, if he made the decision based on his belief that he would get Gerrit Cole type money in 2014, he is likely in for a reality shock. A lot can happen between now and then. Slotting systems could change, and likely will, injuries could occur, or he could find himself being less effective against better hitting.

Finally, Tyler stated that he and his father placed the value of a Vanderbilt education at more than $2.5 million. What? Really? I’m fairly certain that $2.5 million would more than cover the costs of the education, and that the Jays were more than willing to cover those costs as they have done with numerous other picks. Don’t go around making things up Tyler, just say it as it is: you didn’t want to be a pro, you wanted more money, and you couldn’t care less about becoming a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher. That package of thoughts has me somewhat happy that he didn’t sign, and very hopeful that the Jays will find similar – if not better – talent in the 2012 draft with the 22nd overall pick.

I believe his not signing with the Jays was a huge mistake on his part, but that it won’t affect the Jays negatively at all if they use the 2012 pick effectively.

Final Draft Thoughts

When you add three first round pitching talents (Norris, Comer, and Stilson), the best 3B prep of the draft (Dean), and a top 3 SS prospect of the draft (Lopes) in one draft class, you know you’ve done extremely well. Add in the rest of the potential that the Jays invested in this year and you’ve got a very successful draft class overall. The Jays stuck to their game plan by not throwing money at Beede and also sent a message to future Jays draft picks. The message is this: yes, we have money to spend, but once we place a value on you as a draft pick, we are not budging. Take it, or leave it, that’s what we’re offering you. Not only was that important in Beede’s case in order to ensure the Jays got fair value if they signed him, but it’s so very important that the expectations are set by this precedent.

The Jays were able to play hard ball with Beede for one simply reason: they had added enough top 1-4 rd talent throughout the draft to ensure that it was going to be a successful draft, with or without Beede included. I’ve counted up to 12 players in this draft that could feasibly be viewed as top 4 rd talents for the Jays. That’s 3 picks per round on average for the first 4 rounds folks. If the Jays and their fans can’t call that, and the money it took to get them signed, a successful draft year, I’d be stunned.

Alex Anthopoulos and Andrew Tinnish did an exemplarary job in the 2011 draft. They gave the Jays plenty of talent to work with, invested plenty to make sure the Jays are within the top teams in terms of talent added, and they have now set a precedent that should affect future draft years positively. Whether a hard slotting system goes into place or not, the Jays will not over-value draft picks, and that’s a great thing for the franchise. With some cash “saved” from this class after not signing Beede, I could envision the Jays spending a little more on the international market in the future. With guys like Yu Darvish and other set to enter that market, every penny counts!

When the Jays completed their 2011 draft, Jim Callis of BA and others proclaimed that they had been one of the most aggressive teams in selecting “hard to sign” players. Well, they signed 5 of the 6 hardest to sign players from the class (Smith, Norris, Comer, Dean, and Lopes), so how can I not grade this draft accordingly?

Draft Grade: A

- MG

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