This article is the first of three discussing the options available to the Blue Jays in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11
The Blue Jays will have a solid draft position in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft, starting with the 21st, 57th and 66th overall picks. 2016 promises to be an interesting draft, with a number of high-upside, high-risk high school players (particularly pitchers and outfielders).
This article is the first in a series of three. In it, I will discuss the “philosophical” questions surrounding a draft strategy. In the second article, I will analyze the mock drafts, identifying and discussing three of the most recommended candidates for the Jays at #21. In the final article, I will discuss a few of the “dark horse” candidates who have been discussed as possibilities for the Jays’ first pick.
Talent vs makeup
The bulk of our time will be spent on learning what makes a player, what motivates a player, what drives a player, ultimately how important baseball is to them, and how well they’re going to fit into our culture and environment. Where there are opportunities to create more of that for our system, we’ll always look to do that … Ross Atkins
When asked about their drafting strategy, most major league executives will say that they choose the “best player available“. Many people interpret this to mean the player with the most talent.
Of course, life is not that simple.
While talent is a primary factor in determining who to draft, it is far from being the only one. Injury history, salary demands, reputation off the field, signability, team needs and strengths are just a few of the other relevant factors.
Without question, intangibles are important. That said, managers need to remember that these are young men, who are prone to young man mistakes. While character is important, teams need to be careful not to assume that poor decisions or attitudes shown by a teenager can not be corrected.
Would the Jays be justified in gambling on a player with “issues”, whether with the 21st pick or the 57th/66th?
High school vs. college
In general, other than the first few picks, high school players offer greater upside but with greater risk and with a longer time to contribute. Ideally, a team’s minor league system should have a balance between players with short and long timelines. Some writers, including Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, have speculated that “a factor to consider this year [for the Jays] is that the club’s prospect base is in the lower-levels of the farm system and with a gap at the upper levels, drafting some college players, who tend to advance quicker, might make some sense as a way to balance the organization.”
That said, the 2016 draft has been described as one with an unusually high level of high-school talent. As Keith Law has said, there are more high-schoolers who are worthy of a first round pick than there are first round slots open. He suggests that several of these arms could fall to later rounds, but still expect close to first-round money. Many writers (including this one) believe that the key to draft success is to take what the draft gives you, rather than going in with a fixed idea of what you want.
Should the Jays target later-stage players, to rebalance their farm system, or should they take advantage of a high-school heavy 2016 draft?
More from Blue Jays Draft
- Blue Jays 2022 Draft: Who did Toronto Land in Round Two?
- Blue Jays 2022 Draft: 1st round, 23rd overall, LHP Brandon Barriera
- Blue Jays 2022 Draft Watch: Outfield draft prospects to consider
- Blue Jays 2022 Draft Watch: Top Canadian Pitching Prospects
- Blue Jays 2022 Draft Watch: Canadian Ryan Leitch, Marshall University
Player strengths vs. team strengths
The Jays have had considerable success in drafting and developing pitchers over the last few years. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Brett Cecil, Roberto Osuna – I would even add Daniel Norris to that list, even though he has not yet proven himself at the major league level. They have not, however, been as successful with position players – their last 8 non-pitcher first rounders were Max Pentecost, D.J. Davis, Mitch Nay, Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith, David Cooper, Kevin Ahrens, and J. P. Arencibia.
It is possible that the Jays’ higher level of success with pitchers is just luck, or the random effect of a small sample size. But it is also possible that the Jays’ ability to identify and develop pitchers is higher than their ability with other players. If the latter is true, would it behoove the Jays to place a greater emphasis on pitching, at least in the early rounds, with a view to filling their position player needs through trades (Donaldson, Travis, Tulowitzki, Saunders), free-agent signings (Martin, Barney) and trade waivers (Smoak, Colabello … oh yes, and JB and EE)?
If the Jays believe that they are stronger developing pitchers than position players, should they let that influence their draft strategy?
The bottom line
In business, it is a fundamental principle of risk management that a company should establish its objectives and risk appetite before making a decision on how to manage risks. The Jays should be asking the questions above (and many others!) before entering the 2016 draft.