The first night of the draft has come and gone, and unlike in previous years, the selections on night one have a massive impact on day two. Teams are working within strict draft budgets, so if you went over slot on picks early, you may need to target cheaper players on day two. If you went for signability on day one, the reverse is true.
While nobody outside of the front office knows the exact type of demands these players have, from my perspective, the Blue Jays appeared to work right around slot on night one. Toronto’s budget allowed for them to spend a smidge over 6.5 million on their five selections. D.J. Davis, the first pick at 17th overall, seems like an under slot guy to me. Most draft outlets had him ranked as around the 30th best talent, with some mocks linking Davis to Toronto’s 22nd overall pick. I can’t imagine it will take the full 2 million to sign Davis –- somewhere between 1.5 and 1.8 seems more reasonable -– so the Blue Jays have a bit of extra money floating around for later picks. Marcus Stroman, the 22nd overall pick, seems more like a straight slot guy. He was rated much higher than he was drafted, but as a college reliever, his options are limited. It’s doubtful he would walk away from 1.8 million, as if he returned to college to get drafted as a four year senior, he would be lucky to be taken in the first round at all, and his leverage would evaporate.
Things get a little trickier in the supplemental first round. The Blue Jays made three selections, two of which seem like they could be expensive. Toronto took Matt Smoral 50th overall, and he might be difficult to squeeze into the budget. Smoral is an elite talent, and was consistently ranked in the first round prior to suffering a broken foot in April. Slot at 50th overall is only 1 million, and the Blue Jays will need to cowboy up a lot more than that if they hope to see Smoral pass on his strong UNC commitment. The front office obviously recognized that, as they appeared to be looking under slot at 58th overall. The team drafted Mitch Nay, a third baseman from an Arizona high school, who most outlets had a 2nd or 3rd round grade on -– Baseball America ranked him as the 101st best talent. The Blue Jays closed out the supplemental first round, selecting another high school pitcher in Tyler Gonzales. Like Smoral, Gonzales appears to be an over slot pick, as Baseball America ranked him as the 45th best talent.
In hindsight, no one should be surprised by the Blue Jays strategy last night, as it follows a well established trend that has been in place since Alex Anthopoulos took over. Take a safe pitcher in the first round (Stroman), target high upside pitchers in the supplemental round (Smoral, Gonzales). As I mentioned earlier, the Blue Jays appear to have spent right around their allotted 6.5 million for those five selections, which allows the team to work on day two without short-handing themselves. With that in mind, here are a few players I feel would be good day two targets (in no particular order):
RHP Duane Underwood, Pope HS (Georgia), Baseball America #104
I was pushing the Underwood pick a lot in the Jays Journal draft chat last night, and I will continue to do so until he finds his home this afternoon. Underwood is an athletic right handed pitcher -– something the Blue Jays appear to love -– who features a power fastball that can touch 98 mph and an impressive changeup. The detractors are his erratic command and velocity -– at times he dips into the 80’s -– as well as his curveball. The curve is really soft and inconsistent, and has a long way to go to become an out pitch. Underwood is still young at 17, but is committed to Georgia.
RHP Walker Buehler, Clay HS (Kentucky), Baseball America #50
Buehler is one of the better talents remaining, and could be snatched up before the Blue Jays even have a chance to pick in the second round. The right hander has a ton of projection on his 6-foot-2, 160 pound frame, and some people see the potential for three plus pitches in his fastball, curveball, and changeup. Adding muscle will be important, as Buehler has shown a tendency to wear down from even a high school workload, and professional ball is a step above. He has a commitment to Vanderbilt, and simply may not be signable in the third round and beyond. Buehler?
RHP R.J. Alvarez, Junior, Florida Atlantic, Baseball America #78
With all these high upside prep selections, the Blue Jays will eventually need to take some safe (cheap) college picks, and Alvarez fits that bill. He bounced between starting and relieving in college, but the bullpen appears to be his long term home. Alvarez is a power pitcher, as his fastball sits 92-97 mph. He keeps hitters off balance with a hard, late biting slider that he throws in the low to mid 80’s. His experience in the rotation helps him in relief, as Alvarez has shown the capability to pitch multiple innings without losing much in terms of stuff – similar to current Blue Jay Luis Perez.
C Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen HS (Texas), Baseball America #47
The Blue Jays have drafted and signed a total of two catchers since Alex Anthopolous took over, and they were 25th and 34th round picks. It may be time to buck that trend, as Mathisen is one of the best high school catchers in the draft. He’s a four tool catcher, and the fifth tool -– his speed –- really isn’t that bad. While the offensive upside is nice, Mathisen’s real value to teams might come from his ability to handle a pitching staff. He’s still new to catching, but he shows a lot of leadership with his pitchers, much like Toronto’s current starting catcher J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays have so much young pitching in the minors that a catcher like Mathisen to guide them along almost makes too much sense.
LHP Hunter Virant, Camarillo HS (California), Baseball America #53
Like Smoral and Gonzales in the supplemental round, Virant could be a bit expensive, so the Blue Jays will have to make room in their budget should they select the left hander. He’s very projectible, and his athleticism creates a very smooth delivery. Virant’s best pitches are his fastball and changeup, and both could be at least above average. He also features a slider and curveball, but neither projects as more than average at this point. Virant will need to make improvements to his breaking stuff is he wants to succeed on the next level, whether it be college (where he is committed to UCLA) or professional ball.
Other players to look for:
3B Trey Williams, Valencia HS (California)
1B Adam Walker, Junior, Jacksonville
RHP Jake Barrett, Junior, Arizona State
LHP Alex Wood, Junior, Georgia