MLB Draft 2015: An Early Look at the Blue Jays’ First Pick

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The MLB first-year player draft will be held on June 8-10 this year.  The Jays would have had the 18th overall pick, but lost it when they signed Russell Martin.  However, they acquired a compensatory pick (number 29 overall) when the White Sox signed Melky Cabrera.

With the draft less than a month away, the speculation is in full swing.  Who will the Jays take with that pick?

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Will any of the very-good-but-injured pitchers fall to 29th, and even if they do, will the Jays be willing to spin the Jeff Hoffman roulette wheel once again?  Brady Aiken was drafted #1 in 2014, and could be a beast if healthy – but his thinner than average UCL might impact on his recovery from

Tommy John

surgery and having turned down $5 million in 2014 his 2015 demands might be extortionate.  Duke’s Mike Matuella, who also underwent Tommy John surgery, was at one point being discussed as a potential first-overall pick.  Kolby Allard might be the top high school pitcher in the draft, but a stress reaction in his back has shelved him for most of the upcoming season. Nathan Kirby is arguably the top collegiate lefty, and is the least severely injured of this group, but his strained lat means he won’t pitch again this season.

To get an idea of the consensus, I looked at a number of websites with mock MLB drafts.  Many of them stopped at pick #26, the end of the first round.  Some other had predictions, but they were several months old.  But I found 11 sites whose predictions were less than one month old and who had a prediction for the Jays’ 29th overall pick.  Their picks were as follows:

Of these 11 picks, three players were chosen twice:  Richie Martin, Cornelius Randolph and Demi Orimoloye.   So let’s talk about those three.  All grades shown below are from Baseball America.

Richie Martin   Hit: 50 | Power: 35 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50

Florida shortstop Richie Martin opened eyes last summer in the Cape Cod league, slashing  .364/.432/.469 and finishing first in the league in hits and runs scored and second in batting average.  He credits his success to an improved mental game, which he gained by reading The Inner Game of Tennis.  Richie is a good athlete with above-average speed, and is expected to stay at shortstop.  There is some question about whether his Cape Cod performance is sustainable, but so far in 2015 in NCAA play he is slashing a more than respectable .296/.400/.437.  At 20 years old, Martin may be only 2-3 years away from MLB play, which could be a good fit for replacing Jose Reyes.

Cornelius Randolph   Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50

Randolph is a 17 year old high school senior from Georgia.  He currently plays SS, but is expected to move to 3B.  He is unusual for a high schooler in that he not only has an advanced natural hit tool with above-average bat speed but also an unusually mature mental game.  He already shows patience and excellent pitch recognition, has quality swings against breaking balls (even from lefties) and uses the entire field.   At 17 he is still a work in progress, but he has impact-hitter upside, and batting from the left side of the plate is a plus.

Demi Orimoloye   Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

Demi is big: only 18 years old, but already 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.  He has all the raw tools – power and bat speed at the plate and speed and arm strength in the field.   Demi is still relatively unpolished, even by 18-year-old standards, but he is working hard to refine his skills.  He has been described as the kind of physique and raw talent that “scouts like to dream on“, similar in many ways to Vlad Guerrero Junior.   With his natural athleticism, Demi has the potential to be an above-average defender, possibly in CF but more likely in RF.  And did I mention that he is Canadian, playing his high school ball in Orleans, Ontario?

There is also a chance that a much higher rated player could drop to the Jays at 29th.  MLBTR recently made the observation that “since the draft lacks much top talent, one possibility is that many teams will draft second-round-type players in the first round and save money against their bonus pools for later picks in the draft.”  Could a player like James Kaprielian (RHP, UCLA) slip to 29th?

The bottom line?  The 2015 draft class is relatively weak in terms of top-tier talent.  But players of that calibre would not have been available to the Jays with the 29th pick anyway.  The players who should be available will have questions and flaws, but many will also have significant upside.  Even without a high pick, the Jays might do very well.

Next: Toronto Blue Jays look to stop skid against surging Angels

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