Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and his Draft Gurus
Dec 9, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talks with reporters during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
ALEX ANTHOPOULOS AND HIS DRAFT GURUS
Alex Anthopoulos has led the Jays through a half-decade’s worth of drafts. Most of you are probably thinking how that sounds like too many, and that it seems like yesterday that he made his draft debut and selected Deck McGuire with his first draft pick ever as a GM. Thankfully, that wasn’t the most memorable selection of his tenure. His draft gurus are led by Andrew Tinnish and include Jim Beattie, Ed Lynch, and Sal Butera. They are his trusted inner circle when it comes to scouting issues. As we get set to ramp up our thoughts of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft, we want to rewind through past drafts and take a look at whether he and his beloved draft gurus have been out drafting others, achieving average results, or under-performing as a whole.
When he took the reigns, Alex Anthopoulos had just been part of the team that drafted newly anointed Jays ace Drew Hutchison, and followed was had been a long line of past Jays draft successes. We’ll kick things off with an Alex Anthopoulos quote about Jays strategy. He was quoted as saying:
"“Instead of trying to go toe-to-toe and dollar-for-dollar in terms of player acquisition and so on – and I think one day we may be able to do that with the fan base here and the upside of the market – where we stand today, let’s go toe-to-toe with staffing, let’s go toe-to-toe in terms of employees. If we can get the best scouts, the best player development people that can come in here, the results from the players side that we’re going to see from a development and talent aquisition standpoint, whether it’s trade or drafting, should lead to great results up in Toronto.”"
What did it result in? Well, as Gerry of Batter’s Box stated, it led to an “increase the size of the amateur scouting ranks from 28 to 54”, quite a jump in numbers and something that put the Jays ahead of any other MLB team at the time. I laid out what the resulting positions were in this post and updated it in 2011, both of which lay out which areas were covered, which areas were not, and the change of focus – mainly a greater attention to Latin America. After looking at the current scouting department, since 2010, one aspect I noticed is that the Jays have increased the number of International scouts from 8 to 13, and have reduced the number of scouts in Canada from 4 to 2.
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Not only did the Jays hire more scouts, but their scouts didn’t have to travel as much, they got raises, and they got to spend more time with their families. All of these things were meant to make things great for their scouts, right? Nobody really knows, however, of all of the scouting department members present when Anthopoulos had finished his first draft, only a quarter remain. Some of the ones who have remained have been promoted which does indicate loyalty, but when only one International scout remains through five years, questions do come up.
I’m sure the intent of all changes made to the scouting department were aimed at attracting the very best scouts in MLB, and to have them perform on a high level. But, when Alex Anthopoulos and his tight knit draft gurus fail to retain so many of the people they hired in 2010 it’s either a failure to hire the right people to begin with, or an indication that something is not quite right in their scouting ranks. That being said, it certainly didn’t hurt their performances, as they have consistently drafted well through the years.
Let’s kick things off with a review of their drafts so far under the guidance of Alex Anthopoulos.
Pre-2010 season minors system rankings by BA:
Then came what I coin, the Wonder Year. So many have pointed to this draft as one of the best ever for the Jays, and who can blame them when so many have made it to The Show or are very close to it. The Jays really did their homework that year and came out big winners. This was only possible after Alex Anthopoulos signed and let go Marco Scutaro (Sanchez), Rod Barajas (Wojciechowski), and had a compensation pick for failing to sign James Paxton (Syndergaard). Let’s see the list – so far:
- Aaron Sanchez (1s rd, 34th overall) TOR
- Noah Syndergaard (1s rd, 38th overall) NYM
- Justin Nicolino (2nd rd, 80th overall) MIA
- Sam Dyson (4th rd, 126th overall) MIA
- Sean Nolin (6th rd, 186th overall) OAK
- Dalton Pompey (16th rd, 486th overall) TOR
- Kris Bryant (unsigned) (18th rd, 546th overall) CHC
To come out of one draft with that much MLB worthy talent is outstanding. We all know the Kris Bryant story and how the Jays didn’t sign him – boy would they love to turn back the clock for that decision, but he’s not the only loss from that list. The Jays eventually traded away some serious talent, and although the Jays successfully drafted 7 MLB worthy talents, only 2 remain with the club.
Some people do question how good the draft would have been for the Jays if they didn’t have 7 picks before the end of the second round. The compensation picks definitely boosted the haul for the Jays, so was this an extremely well scouted and drafted list of players for the Jays, or was it mostly a result of having so many early picks due to compensation rules? What puts this theory to rest is who the Jays nabbed in the later rounds, players such as Dalton Pompey and Kris Bryant, who were excellent well-scouted players. With everything accounted for, you have to hand the Jays a high grade for this draft. What did the experts think?
Pre-2011 season minors system rankings by BA:
What we wanted to see going into the 2011 draft was whether or not all of those extra picks were the only reason he Jays were able to draft so much great talent. Fans were already enjoying the fact that the Jays had signed the majority of their picks, unlike in 2009 when they missed out on James Paxton. In my opinion, the scouting department went beyond expectations during this draft year, selecting the following prominent prospects and/or MLB players:
- Tyler Beede (unsigned) (1st rd, 21st overall) SF
- Daniel Norris (2nd rd, 74th overall) TOR
- Anthony DeSclafani (6th rd, 199th overall) CIN
- Luke Weaver (unsigned) (19th rd, 589th overall) STL
- Aaron Nola (unsigned) (22nd rd, 679th overall) PHI
- Kevin Pillar (32nd rd, 979th overall) TOR
Within this draft, the Jays had much fewer compensation picks (5) and the four 1s compensation picks have not made much of a move since being drafted. Some, particularly Dwight Smith Jr still have promise and a chance to make it, but the climb is steep. What was more impressive about this draft was the number of late round impact picks and the obviously great selection of Daniel Norris in the 2nd rd.
Anthopoulos had invested in a bigger, better scouting department and after only two drafts, the Jays had identified a whopping 13 MLB worthy talents! Yet, the Jays wound up trading 4 of the MLB talents identified in the 2010-2011 drafts, allowing one to leave through waivers (Sam Dyson), and did not sign 4 of them, leaving them with 4 of a possible 13 in the system. Could this eventually be an issue for those working so hard in the scouting departments? After all, what the scouts saw was a first rounder left unsigned and later on many other great talents allowed to walk. Could you feel their pain?
Their draft was still an excellent one, minus the unsigned player. You can only knock the unsigned pick so much anyhow, since the Jays knew it would lead to another high pick in 2012 and that pick wound up being yet another great Jays pick, Marcus Stroman. The Jays also signed international players, such as Roberto Osuna, Jesus Tinoco, Jesus Gonzalez, Dawel Lugo, and Jairo Labourt. A great haul considering the future Osuna has with the team and the potential of Lugo and Labourt. The international scouting department had done a great job thus far under Alex Anthopoulos.