The Toronto Blue Jays made a number of high-risk, high reward selections during the 2013 MLB Draft, and only time will tell if those risks pan out. One of those high risks, selecting Phil Bickford with the team’s first pick (10th overall), already fizzled out, as the team and Bickford failed to come to a contract agreement.
Still, there is at least one draft choice that appears to be paying some immediate dividends, and he was not a high-risk maneuver at all; first baseman L.B. Dantzler.
Selected in the 14th round with the 415th overall selection, Dantzler came out of a strong baseball school at the University of South Carolina. In two seasons for the Game Cocks, he hit a solid .289 with 25 home runs, 101 RBI, and 31 doubles over 130 games and 477 plate appearances.
However, what the Blue Jays saw in him as a draft choice and what they got out of him were probably two very different things.
Some prospects can struggle a bit making the jump to professional baseball, but college players tend to have a bit of a leg up, at least in terms of current development. They may lack the overall upside that an 18-year-old does, but the transition can be a bit easier.
Dantzler made that look like an understatement. A little less than three weeks after the draft, the Blue Jays came to an agreement on a contract with Dantzler and immediately assigned him to the GCL Blue Jays. The 5’11″ first baseman made just one appearance in the Rookie League, collecting a single and an RBI in 4 plate appearances.
However, Dantzler would make his headway upon getting promoted to Vancouver. In 59 games for the Canadians, the 22-year-old hit .302 with a .889 OPS, collecting 9 home runs, 20 doubles, and 35 RBI in 265 plate appearances. He also showed solid patience at the plate, walking 30 times while striking out 47.
Dantzler was rewarded for his solid season with the Northwest League Most Valuable Player award, and helped to lead the Canadians to the their third consecutive league title earlier this week.
What the future holds for Dantzler is unclear, but one thing is certain. If he can put together solid campaigns like the one he did in Vancouver, his path through the Blue Jays Minor League system is nearly unblocked. Outside of Rowdy Tellez, the Blue Jays system is nearly bereft of talent at first base, so Dantzler’s quick start is encouraging.
Of course, we have a full winter to wait and see if he can carry that forward, but at least we caught a glimpse of hope at the position.