Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and his Draft Gurus
Sep 15, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (54) pitches during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Pre-2012 season minors system rankings by BA:
Heading into the 2012 draft, everyone was wondering if not signing Tyler Beede was going to be a huge issue for the Jays and whether they would regret it. At the time, I personally thought he was missing out on an opportunity and jeopardizing his career to get an education he could have paid for with his signing bonus. However, things turned out alright for Beede and he’s now in San Francisco’s system pitching for their HiA San Jose club. Well, with the non-signings of Paxton (2009) and Beede (2011) fresh in the mind of fans and media, here’s what the Jays got in the 2012 draft in terms of MLB talent or potential MLB talent:
- D.J. Davis (1st rd, 17th overall) TOR
- Marcus Stroman (1st rd, 22nd overall) TOR *compensation for not signing Beede
- Matt Smoral (1s rd, 50th overall) TOR
- Mitch Nay (1s rd, 58th overall) TOR
- Anthony Alford (3rd rd, 112th overall) TOR
Fans breathed a sigh of relief when the Jays signed all of their top picks, and recognized that the Beede non-signing was not as big a deal as most expected due to the compensation selection during this draft. However, this is the first draft year where the Jays did not draft, identify, or target MLB talent after the 3rd round (so far). Also, aside from Stroman, none of these guys have moved very fast. You can attribute this to the club identifying high school players (23 of 44 picks) instead of concentrating on College players.
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Was this a change in strategy done on purpose, or just their board being what it was as players were selected? Only the Jays brass know, but this is the first draft under Alex Anthopoulos that didn’t produce more than one guaranteed MLB player or pitcher. So, unlike previous years, the Jays wound up keeping all of their top draft talents, and used some of their international talent in later trades instead of drafted players.
The Jays signed three tremendous international players in 2012, Franklin Barreto, Richard Urena, and Miguel Castro – the current closer for the Jays at only 20 years of age. All of these players have bright futures and could be impactful players in MLB within 2-3 years. The international department just kept on trucking, although Barreto was recently used to get Josh Donaldson this offseason, a necessary and key piece for Oakland in that deal.
Again, this brings us back to Alex Anthopoulos and his draft gurus being able to draft and scout players effectively so that they can be attractive enough for the Jays to nab top-flight products from other MLB clubs. In this case, the Jays may not have had the pieces needed to grab what is arguably the best, possibly second best, third basemen in all of MLB. That is the true value of an enhanced and more capable scouting department. They bring you the tools to manage the team on a different level than other teams.
The investment in the scouting department was already paying dividends and it seemed that by this point in AA’s tenure, there was always going to be 2-3 MLB talent players coming out of each draft. That’s impressive.
Pre-2013 season minors system rankings by BA:
Although I applaud the aggressive moves that were made as a fan that wants to see the Jays win now, I can also understand how all of these deals would frustrate a scouting department that was hoping to see waves of talent travel through Toronto’s system in very much the same way that we see it being done in St-Louis and elsewhere.
Heading into the 2013 draft, the Jays not only hoped for a bigger haul than in 2012 to replenish their system and get themselves set for years of success. What they wound up selecting in the draft – again, many of these players need time to full develop, included the following prominent players:
- Phillip Bickford (unsigned) (1st rd, 10th overall) unsigned
- Clinton Hollon (2nd rd, 47th overall) TOR
- Matt Boyd (6th rd, 175th overall) TOR
- Kendall Graveman (7th rd, 205th overall) OAK
- Conner Greene (8th rd, 235th overall) TOR
- Rowdy Tellez (30th rd, 895th overall) TOR
Whenever a scouting department drafts and signs a player the caliber of Tellez that late in the draft, you have to applaud it. In truth, the selection was made knowing full well that signing some top picks may be hard to do (Bickford). The Boyd and Graveman selections were also outstanding. However, Jays fans and media were feeling down on the team – and rightfully so – because of the team’s continued inability to draft players in the first round that they would be able to sign.
This became a worrisome trend as of 2013, and something that has plagued Alex Anthopoulos in many drafts, whether advising or at the reins, the ability to sign top talents. The Jays were lucky in previous years that AA’s brilliant strategy of signing players to small contracts in order to get compensation picks, something that kept them selecting great players. But, at this point, rules were altered, and the margin of error was therefore much smaller. The rule changes magnify the importance of nailing down a great first round pick.
I’m not sure if the Jays recognized their error or just simply decided to change focus because of the lack of compensation, but they were extremely aggressive in getting players on the international side of things in 2013, in terms of numbers that is. They signed 14 players, including Yeltsin Gudino, Miguel Almonte, and Freddy Rodriguez.