Blue Jays: Anthopoulos drafts misjudged position players
By Mat Germain
During his tenure as the Toronto Blue Jays GM, Alex Anthopoulos oversaw many drafts with a scouting department he invested heavily in. While he enjoyed success in drafting high-quality pitchers, he missed the boat entirely when it came to drafting position players.
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You won’t find a bigger admirer of Alex Anthopoulos around than me. I’ve been adamant that he’s a brilliant GM and had a way of talking other GMs into making deals that they may never make with other teams. He understood, after a learning curve, that adding character guys and the best possible at all positions was key to building a team, and did he ever deliver on that one. Turning prospects into all-stars is no easy feat, but he did it thinking that Rogers – the wealthiest owners in all of MLB – would step up and re-sign the majority of the investments he acquired.
As much as I love to praise Alex Anthopoulos, he had one huge weakness: drafting and signing position players.
When we look closely at all of the drafts and international signings conducted under his leadership, we see impact pitcher after impact pitcher. What we don’t see are impact bats.
Here’s a list of what the “All-Anthopoulos Pitchers Team” would look like if they hadn’t traded any of their picks or international signings:
- Marcus Stroman
- Noah Syndergaard
- Daniel Norris
- Anthony DeSclafani
- Kendall Graveman
- Justin Nicolino
- Sean Nolin
- Matt Boyd
- Sam Dyson
- Aaron Sanchez
- Roberto Osuna
Meanwhile, here’s a list of what the “All-Anthopoulos Hitters Team” would look like if they hadn’t traded any of their picks or international signings:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of both Pillar and Pompey, but how are they the only impactful bats you acquire over a 6-year period? We may be able to add Anthony Alford to that list soon, and Franklin Barreto may be the only impactful international bat they added, but overall that may be the worst bat drafting and international signing record in all of MLB.
The list of busts is long and evident. They include guys like Jacob Anderson (2011 sandwich rd pick) who has yet to make it out of the Appy league, Mitch Nay (2012 sandwich rd pick) who continues to under-perform, and 2012 first rd pick D.J. Davis who is still getting his feet wet for a second full season in Lansing. Davis was selected 1 pick ahead of Corey Seager and 2 picks ahead of Michael Wacha. That’s one I know the Jays would love to have back.
I won’t use the St-Louis Cardinals as an example because that’s just not fair. They’re the best in baseball at all drafting needs. But, if we use the division rival Boston Red Sox as a comparison, they’ve drafted and signed the following bats over the same span despite selecting later than the Jays during most drafts:
While the Red Sox didn’t draft nearly as well when it comes to pitching, they definitely built their roster from within instead of trading for high-caliber pitchers.
RESULTS vs NOW WHAT vs MARK SHAPIRO DRAFTS
What you can’t argue with in the case of Alex Anthopoulos is results. He got the Jays to 2 games from the World Series because he recognized that pitching was at such a premium that he was able to trade pitching hopes for super-star position players. So, he used his high-end pitching drafts to build up a deficiency that existed in his drafts: bats.
The problem, in the eye of someone like Mark Shapiro, is that he took it so far that he robbed the franchise a shot at having a dominant and affordable rotation for years to come. If he had omitted the David Price and Troy Tulowitzki acquisitions, the Jays would be looking at a 2016 rotation that includes Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris, R.A. Dickey, Jeff Hoffman, and Drew Hutchison. All-in-all a great young rotation at a very affordable cost with few miles on their arms. Instead, they’re left to outbid other teams for top arms in order to capitalize on the last season they have Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista signed at an affordable price.
That’s not a fun position for Mark Shapiro and the Toronto Blue Jays to find themselves in, particularly when Rogers seems to be indicating they want to minimize costs and do not want to invest that much money into the team. It’s the reason he reportedly “scolded” Alex Anthopoulos about trading away so many high-end prospects. I’m not sure how that holds water since he’s the GM who once traded Chris Archer – his only decent draft pick from the 2006 draft – to the Rays in return for Mark DeRosa.
Oct 3, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcherChris Archer
(22) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports
In fact, I want you all to look through his 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 drafts (his last 6 in the GM role). Now ask yourself, aside from Lonnie Chisenhall and Zach Putnam, have you heard of any of these guys having an impact in MLB? That’s 6 long years of darkness in Cleveland. And if we go all of the way back to 2000, the highlights include Jeremy Guthrie, Jensen Lewis, Tony Sipp, Drew Pomeranz, ex-Jays Brian Tallet and Aaron Laffey, and Luke Scott. Of course, he subsequently traded Scott for Jeriome Robertson. Who? Right.
Mark Shapiro scolding Alex Anthopoulos on dealing prospects is like someone who just declared bankruptcy telling the banks how to make money. Keep your comments to yourself, Mark. The drafts under Anthopoulos were 100 times better than what we can anticipate with Shapiro meddling and were the reason he had assets to deal.
Actually, maybe that’s why Mark Shapiro was so angry about him dealing that many top end prospects – he couldn’t draft any himself!! Now it all makes sense. Sort of like how angry I would be if someone sold their Tesla since I can’t afford one. All I know is that tough draft days are ahead for the Blue Jays. In all honesty, I’m very afraid for this franchise’s chances with him at the helm and “involved” in baseball decisions. Very afraid. You can read a decent article about his draft work here.
ARMS vs BATS BALANCE
You can make an argument that over his tenure, Alex Anthopoulos provided the Jays with some of the best pitching drafts and signings of any GM over a 6 year period. What you can’t do, however, is place him anywhere but close to the very bottom of the league when it comes to drafting and signing bats. He either ignored the importance of balancing these priorities or decided to go all-in on the pitching side of the game. That would have been fine, had he held on to more than a trio of them over his tenure.
The truth is that while Alex Anthopoulos and his group were geniuses when it came to selecting pitchers, their drafts and international signings misjudged position players. I’m not sure what to expect from the Mark Shapiro led drafts and signings, but I can tell you one thing, I sincerely hope they’re a little more balanced than what we saw under Alex Anthopoulos. Pitching still needs to be the Blue Jays priority because of its volatility and importance to winning, but hitting needs to be a part of the equation as well.
I will always love Alex Anthopoulos and his tenure with the Blue Jays, but will also have learned that a GM needs to balance his needs so that he doesn’t fall into the trap Alex found himself in. He forced himself to deal many of his well-scouted pitchers to improve hitters because he ignored the need to draft and sign them effectively. Still, it’s probably much better than what we’ll experience if Mark Shapiro has a hand in the drafts.