Welcome to edition eight of the 2012 Draft Class retrospective, a regular installment this off-season, looking, in descending order, at the Jays 2012 draft class and how they fared this season. This being the first draft under the new agreement whereby teams were penalized for going over their allotted bonus pool, most picks who signed, did so early, and therefore were able to make their pro debuts much quicker than in years past. For the previous editions, check out 40-36 , 35-31 , 30-26 , 25-21 , 20-16 , 15-11 , 10-6 and 5-CA3.
I won’t be trying to rank these prospects in any particular order. Am sure we’ll see numerous efforts at prospect rankings over the winter. These pieces will simply be a quick breakdown of where the player played, how they did, where they may land in 2013, etc..
The final four have arrived. With the Jays having two picks in the first round and two more compensation picks, the four picks below bring quite a bit of value to the table. As we have discussed previously, with some creative drafting from rounds four through ten, the Jays were able to get all these upper end picks signed. Ideally they would have all made their pro debuts as well, but injuries derailed 2012 for two of them and a third had his season cut short by a PED suspension. It was only the last on the list, and first pick for the Jays that had an uninterrupted season, moving through three levels in ’12, setting himself up for a potentially big season in 2013. Roll on spring!
Mitch Nay - Compensation Round – 58 Overall – Signed June 11th – I’ve complained a lot about the availability of injury information when discussing minor league players in the Jays system but now I’m starting to doubt my own ability to seek the knowledge out. Here’s what we know. As per this piece, Mitch was hoping to sign and get his pro debut under way as quickly as possible. However, he didn’t have a pro at bat in 2012, so between the draft and the opening of the rookie leagues something happened. I also obtained the instructional league roster which doesn’t include Mitchell, insinuating he was still injured through September. What was wrong? I don’t really know. Colleague Kyle breaks down Nay’s tools as per his positional primer series. Kyle sees a Bluefield assignment in 2013. If there are no lingering effects of the mystery injury then I agree, however if something is amiss, then Nay will repeat (if that is correct term) the GCL so that the Jays can keep a closer eye on his progress.
Matthew Smoral – Compensation Round – 50 Overall – Signed June 18th – The good news, we know why Smoral missed the 2012 season. The bad news, Smoral missed the 2012 season with a foot injury that cost him a good chunk of his senior year. Smoral, who would have gone first round, if not for the injury, was paid like a first rounder, signing for two million, a million over slot. A bit of a risky strategy on behalf of the Blue Jays, but one they are willing to take when you look at Smoral’s projectability. Standing 6’8″ and weighing 220 pounds, Matt’s fastball sits in the low 90s, complemented with a slider that ‘shows plus potential’ as per Kiley McDaniel’s report from instructs. The fact that Smoral was throwing is already good news. The development of a change up will determine whether Smoral sticks as starter or eventually moves to the ‘pen in a shutdown role. Obviously, given his age, and potential, the Jays will give him as long as possible to work on a third offering. Similar to Nay, a Bluefield assignment will begin 2013 with all Vancouver Canadians fans (myself first amongst them) praying to the baseball gods to see him at the Nat by late July/early August.
Marcus Stroman – 1st Round – 22 Overall – Signed July 3rd – A compensation for not signing first round pick Tyler Beede in 2011, Stroman was widely tipped as being the first 2012 draftee to see time in the majors. He may very well have been on his way after brief stops in Vancouver and New Hampshire, however, a fifty game suspension after testing positive for a banned stimulant put paid to those ideas. This makes it difficult to predict how the Jays will treat Stroman in 2013. He started at Duke, and the Jays have always looked to have their pitching prospects start until they prove that is not the correct path. With his smaller frame and wipeout slider, a bullpen role may be more suitable. That would see him back in New Hampshire once the suspension is over, before seeing time in Buffalo and possibly Toronto by July/August depending on injuries, effectiveness, etc. I’ve heard whisperings that this is the route Toronto will take, getting Stroman some big league experience, before possibly transitioning him to the rotation as per Chris Sale in Chicago. As per this report from instructs, anyone with four potential plus pitches and a ‘clean and natural’ delivery, should really get a look as a starter.
There’s no doubting Stroman’s ability to strike out hitters, with 11.91 and 9 K/9 ratios at Vancouver and N.H. respectively. It will be his ability to limit the free passes that dictates how quickly he makes his move next season. After limiting the walks to 2.38/9 in Vancouver it spiked up to 6.75/9 with the Fisher Cats. Improving his control will be his primary goal once he gets going next season.
(Update: AA did a live Q&A over at the Toronto Sun today and in response to a question about Stroman, Anthopoulos confirms that he will be stretched out as a starter in Dunedin when his suspension is over. Good news really. He also points out that he can be transitioned back to the pen if things don’t work out. Smart.)
D.J. Davis – 1st Round – 17 Overall – Signed June 11th – And we arrive at number 1. The Jays top pick in 2012 was also their most aggressively promoted, seeing time over three levels in 2012. The bulk of the season was in the Gulf Coast League where Davis’ numbers were ok, not great, but the GCL is notoriously tough on hitters. A twelve game stint in Bluefield was, hopefully, more indicative of what is to come as DJ’s strike out rate dropped while OBP, Slugging, and ISO all saw significant increases. With Vancouver looking like they were going to get into the Northwest League playoffs, Davis was promoted for the last five games of the season. I saw him a few times at the Nat and honestly, at times, he looked a bit over-matched by the older pitchers in what is predominantly college aged league. That being said, it wasn’t hard to see what the Jays like about him. He has quick hands and gap power, which will play well given his plus speed. His wheels also make up for some rawness in the field, as he does get some late breaks on the ball. That will improve with experience. As per this scouting report, the only true weakness is arm strength, but given he is a pure center fielder, that won’t be too much of a detriment.
Most of the stuff I’ve been reading see an aggressive Lansing assignment in 2013. If he is successful in the Midwest League as a 19/20 year old then the Jays will have something special on their hands. If he struggles out of the gate, then a demotion to Vancouver once their season opens won’t be the end of the world given his age. Either way, there will be a lot of Jays prospect watchers keeping a close eye on Davis during 2013.