The Blue Jays hold the 21st, 57th, and 66th picks in the first two rounds of the 2016 MLB Draft
New Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro has been debated as a poor drafter dating back his time with the Cleveland Indians. Jim Scott detailed the many faults of Shapiro’s drafts shortly after his hiring was announced. It wasn’t even close. Regardless of methodology, the players Shapiro selected in the draft just did not perform as well as other organizations.
This article will try to play devil’s advocate to try and explain why Shapiro might have this draft record. By no means is this to try and debate his past drafts have been good or average, but rather look at “why” they may have panned out the way they have as he, general manager Ross Atkins, and assistant GM Tony LaCava approach the MLB Draft beginning June 9th.
Argument #1: He could not spend as freely in the draft as the Jays
This is the biggest argument one can make. Of his last 15 first round picks, the average overall selection was 18.8. He paid only $1.85 million on average for each of these signings. It’s also worth noting 66.6% of his most recent 15 first round selections were college players, which typically are inexpensive in comparison to their younger counterparts. The Indians have drafted safe, signing every pick since 2001.
If you look at the Blue Jays, they paid 1.425M for an average 36.1 selection, having not signed two of their first round picks since 2011. They also selected 33.3% college players with their first round pick.
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To put this into perspective, let’s look at the case of Daniel Norris. The year before the draft was capped in 2011, Norris was selected out of high school 74th overall (in the second round) and paid a 2M signing bonus. He was rumoured to be asking for 4.9M. Ten out of the last 15 first round draft picks made by Cleveland signed for less than this 2nd round pick made by the Jays.
One could argue that Shapiro set the draft budgets, but it is still clear that we might not be comparing apples to apples.
Of course, one could argue he just prefers college players, but that does not seem the case.
Since the draft slot system came into effect in 2012, effectively capping the draft, Shapiro has deviated from his previous strategy of college players. It seems to have allowed him the freedom to go after higher ranking high school players, as he has now selected 50% of the first round high school players since the system came into effect. He also selected three high school players in 2012 for the first five picks for the first time since 2001. Depending on what you classify Brady Aiken as (he basically took a gap year after HS), he selected three high school players in every draft since 2012, with 2015 being the only gray area (Aiken).
Argument #2: He just got plain unlucky
Luck has a large part to play in the draft.
Since 2003, the Indians have, on average, outranked the Jays with their farm system by 2.5 spots. That could just be attributed to player development, but it is worth noting nonetheless.
They aren’t really “reaching” in the draft as the players they acquire via the rule 4 draft are highly rated and touted by other third party scouts before, during and after the draft.
Argument #3: He got fewer good chances in the draft as the Jays
I’ll keep this one simple:
The Blue Jays had 26 first round picks between 2006 and 2014, compared the the Indians who had 10.
In conclusion, there are many reasons to believe the future isn’t nearly as bleak as it may sound. Shapiro hasn’t had a lot of chances, and may have been restricted by payroll in the past. This article’s purpose was not to justify, but rather to explain. The best thing to do is to keep an open mind going forward.