Brady Aiken: Worth the risk?

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We all know the story of Brady Aiken. He was the first overall pick of the Houston Astros in last year’s draft and was offered a multi-million dollar contract which he in turn declined in hopes of proving the doubters wrong about his alleged elbow problems.

As the story goes, Aiken was unfortunately wrong. He worked hard in the offseason, (the hardest ever he says) but after a mere 12 pitches into his IMG Academy debut, he felt a pull in his elbow which he later unearthed was a torn UCL. He needed Tommy John.

According to Aiken, the surgery was a success and has a rehab program in place to get back to his number one form. But he’s not out of the woods just yet.

As per Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, teams still no definitive answer to Aiken’s long-term health as a number one starter. Unconventionally, teams interested in selecting Aiken in Monday’s draft have been asked by the his camp to submit a request to view his medical information so to avoid potential media driven narratives that may hamper his draft status. According to McDaniel’s sources, a number of teams have taken a flyer on his status and still have no formative idea of their approach to such an unorthodox situation.

But are the Blue Jays one of these teams? Should they be?

Undeniably the answer should be yes. According to McDaniel, Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh and countless other draft experts, Aiken could go anywhere from the 10th pick to the 60th pick in the first two rounds. The Jays hold the 29th pick of the draft, right in the middle of Aiken’s prophesied draft outlook.

The reason the Jays– and basically every other team with picks between 10-infinity– should take a flyer on Aiken is that this year’s draft is reportedly among the worst in years. There is no consensus number one pick. No Bryce Harper. No Stephen Strasberg. No Brady Aiken (like) potential outside of, well, the man himself.

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However, Aiken would have to do a couple things for the Jays, or any team likely, to be seriously interested in selecting him Monday afternoon. First, he would have to demonstrably prove that his elbow is as good as he claims it to be.  It may be too soon to tell as he had surgery only a couple of months ago but I’m certain there are experts out there more qualified to produce an opinion on the stability of the young phenom’s elbow than this writer.

The second thing Aiken would have to do, that hasn’t publicly been addressed by his camp, is take a financial haircut. With the 29th pick, the Jays have $1.944 million allotted for them to spend.

Given his refusal to ink a deal worth likely more than that cap last year, it’s impossible to predict what he thinks his monetary value is worth today. On one hand, he’s still a bright young pitcher, a lefty even, with the potential to become one of Major League Baseball’s premier aces for years to come. At the same time, he may never pitch a game in professional baseball, never mind the big leagues.

The positive thing is the Jays do have some experience with this. Just last year the Jays selected recent Tommy John recipient Jeff Hoffman who recently began his Jays career in High-A Dunedin. Obviously, no TJ is created/cut equal, everyone is different, and it appears, from reports, that Aiken’s situation is much less straightforward than his potential Blue Jay predecessor’s was last year.

If the Jays can move forward with some comfort level on the two previously mentioned clauses, maybe it’s worth taking an option on the young southpaw potential ace.

With an already weak draft and a late first round pick, the Jays just might be better off taking the chance with something rather than trying to extract blood from the stone that is the 2015 draft class.