The Blue Jays have vastly improved their scouting and drafting in recent seasons, but it used to be an area of weakness for the club. 2007 in particular was a tough year, as they held 5 first round picks and received very little in return, while also missing on several stars including Braves’ first baseman, Freddie Freeman.
Since the Blue Jays are playing a home and home set with the Atlanta Braves this week, I got to wondering when Freddie Freeman may have been drafted, and who the Blue Jays selected before him.
Freeman was taken by the Braves in the 2nd round of the amateur draft, and has turned into a franchise player. He’s currently slashing .343/.452/.738 with 14 home runs and 25 RBI. Pretty staggering numbers considering we’re only in the middle of May. And no, I didn’t make a typo on the slugging percentage either.
There are 29 other teams in baseball that wish they would have taken him as well, so before anyone thinks I’m solely calling out the Blue Jays here, that’s not the case. Drafts are almost always a crapshoot, especially in baseball as evidenced by Freeman slipping into the 2nd round. The first baseman has been one of the more underrated talents in the game for several years now, and may be finally getting the attention he deserves thanks to his ludicrous early production.
But back to the Blue Jays and their 2017 draft picks. The draft was highlighted by David Price at 1st overall (Rays), Mike Moustakas (3rd-Royals), Matt Wieters (5th- Orioles), Madison Bumgarner (10-Giants), and many more. The first pick for the Blue Jays was at #16, and they chose 3rd baseman Kevin Ahrens, who now plays in the Independent Atlantic League.
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The also had a 2nd pick in the 1st round, which they used to select catcher J.P. Arencibia at #21. Arencibia was an fan favourite in his first few seasons and showed great potential early in his career, but ultimately struggled and lost the starting gig in Toronto. He is now retired from playing and has begun a career in broadcasting.
The Jays actually had 3 more picks in the sandwich round, and hit on at least one of them. Brett Cecil was taken at #38 and provided plenty of production throughout his time in Toronto. He of course began his career as a starter and even won 15 games in 2010, before flourishing in a bullpen role.
At #45 the Blue Jays selected Justin Jackson, a shortstop who showed great promise at the time as well. Like Ahrens, Jackson is also playing Independent League baseball and trying to work his way back into an opportunity. Also of note, the Chicago Cubs selected Josh Donaldson with the #48 pick, another star in the first round that slipped by the Jays. Lastly the Blue Jays made Canadian right-hander Trystan Magnuson the #56 pick, who hasn’t played since 2013.
I should reiterate again that the Blue Jays weren’t the only ones who missed on Freeman, as he wasn’t taken until the 78th overall pick that year. Literally every team had a chance to get him prior to the Braves’ selection, it just especially stings when you look back at how little the Jays received from 5 picks in that first round.
Other notables from the 2nd round include Jordan Zimmerman (2nd- #3), Giancarlo Stanton (2nd- #12), of course Mr. Freeman. The Blue Jays chose a couple more you could be forgiven for forgetting in second baseman John Tolisano at #21, and outfielder Eric Eiland at #25.
To be fair, it isn’t always about drafting the best players either, as there are many variables to consider including current organizational depth charts, signing bonuses, the player’s willingness to skip school in favour of the minor league system, etc, so it’s not as simple as “they missed so many stars that year!”.
That said, 2007 turned out to be a really rough draft for the Blue Jays, and one they would take mulligan on if given the chance. What else did I learn? It’s not always fun looking back.