Blue Jays Draft 2016: Part III – the Dark Horses

Mar 10, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris (32), relief pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) and pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) in the dugout against the Minnesota Twins at a spring training game at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris (32), relief pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) and pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) in the dugout against the Minnesota Twins at a spring training game at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blue Jays might well surprise everyone with their first round pick in the upcoming 2016 First Year Player Draft

In the first article of this series, I talked about the “philosophical” decisions that the Jays needed to make before the 2016 draft.  In the second article, I discussed the mock drafts, and three of the players that were identified as likely targets for the Jays with their 21st overall first pick.  In today’s article, I will be discussing three of the less-likely-but-still-possible players that the Jays might select.

Kyle Funkhouser – RHP – 6’2″, 218 lbs, born 1994

Going into 2015, Kyle was coming off a 1.94 ERA with Louisville, with 122 strikeouts in 120 innings.  Baseball America projected him to go 8th overall to the White Sox as late as May, 2015.  But then the wheels started coming off.  Kyle struggled in his early 2015 season, with the result that he fell to 35th overall.  His agent – some fellow named Boras – insisted on top-10 money, regardless of his draft position.  Bottom line – Kyle refused an offer of ~$1.7 million and returned to college.

Kyle throws a low-to-mid 90s fastball with good sink, resulting in a high number of ground ball outs.  His slider is likely major-league ready, but his curveball still needs some work.  Still, he projects to be a solid mid-rotation innings-eater with some upside and with limited risk.  (Can you say Deck McGuire?)

The slot value for the 21st pick is roughly $2.3 million.  If the Jays gave Funk full slot, he (and Boras) would be able to save face for turning down the ~$2 million last year.  As a senior, his negotiating leverage is likely reduced (and Shapiro et al apparently do not have the same dislike of Boras that was seen in the previous regime).

On the other hand, Kyle has shown major red flags in 2016, with reduced velocity (89-91) and inconsistent command.  Baseball America ranks him at #60 overall, but notes his high upside if he could regain his lost form.

The 2016 draft is interesting in that there are a high number of high school arms who could legitimately be considered as first rounders – more such players than there are first round slots.  It is therefore highly possible that the Jays could draft a first-round talent at #57 or #66 if they could find the money to pay them.

Could the Jays target Funkhouser as a below-slot sign at #21, Boras notwithstanding, and use the savings for a dropping high school arm?

Joey Wentz – LHP – 6’5″, 209 lbs, born 1997

Wentz finished third in the High School Select Home Run Derby and second at the Under Armour Baseball Factory Home Run Derby in 2015 … but he is a better pitcher than he is a hitter.  Through his first 4 starts in 2016 (23 innings) he had allowed zero runs.  Also zero hits.  Joey has a 91-93 mph fastball with good movement (and downward angle), and has made good progress with his curve and changeup.  Most unusually, Wentz also has exceptional control – highly unusual for an 18-year-old lefty with his velocity.

Wentz is ranked #26 by minorleagueball, but Jim Callis recently said that he could go as high as 10-15.   Wentz is an extreme upside play – he has been focused on hitting for much of his high school baseball career, but he is a natural athlete and it is hard to argue with 23 no-hit innings.

On the other hand, Joey experienced a dead arm in 2015 and was forced to stop pitching.  When he returned in 2016, his velocity was reduced and teams are said to be waiting to see his medical records.  It is interesting that Keith Law ranks him 12th in talent, but does not anticipate that Joey will be drafted in the first 34 picks. Could Wentz be a candidate to drop to 57th? And would he be signable at that draft position, or would he demand top-15 money?

Should the Jays gamble on an extreme-upside arm, even with red flags?

More from Blue Jays Draft

Bo Bichette – 3B/OF – 6’0″, 200 lbs, born 1998

Is there a chance that the Jays could cross everyone up and sign a lesser-known player with #21 for below-slot money, using the savings to grab a high school arm or two at #57 and #66?  If so, Bo Bichette might be an intriguing option.

Bo is another high-risk, high-upside option.  His bat speed is excellent, and he has serious power, but his swing is ugly (with an exaggerated load) and there is a very real chance that he would not be able to adapt.  But he has all of the attitude and baseball smarts that Ross Atkins values so highly (Bo’s father is Dante Bichette, the 4x All-Star outfielder).  Bo played shortstop in high school, but will more likely end up in a corner infield or outfield position long term.

He is ranked #44 by Baseball America and FanGraphs, and #68 by minorleagueball, so he should (?) not expect to be a first round selection or desperately need first-round money (Dante made $40 million + in his career).  It is interesting that Keith Law, in his latest mock, predicted that the Jays would take Bichette with pick #21.

Will the Jays go off the board and take a lower-ranked player in whom they believe with #21?

The bottom line

The Blue Jays will have a lot of options with all of their early picks.  There is no clear consensus among baseball prognosticators as to which way they will be going.  Which should make for a fun draft!