Could the Jays go with a dark horse candidate (or two!) with their first-round picks in the 2017 amateur draft?
This article is the third of three on the subject of the Blue Jays’ 2017 draft. In the first, I discussed the strategic questions that Toronto management should consider. In the second, I reviewed the players identified on the various mock draft sites as potential Jays’ candidates.
In this final article, I will identify some of the “dark horse” candidates with whom the Jays might surprise us on June 12th.
Tristan Beck (RHP, 6’4″ 160lbs, Stanford, 20 years old)
At 20 years old, Tristan Rainbow Beck is already a pitcher rather than a hurler. As Baseball America notes:
"When he’s at his best, Beck throws four pitches that have ranged from above-average to plus, with a low-90s fastball, two breaking balls and a changeup that looked outstanding in short looks in the fall"
Beck is also a quick worker, with a repeatable motion and above-average plate command. And at 160 lbs, most scouts believe that his 90-93 (which has touched 96) mph fastball still has potential for improvement.
Beck is so good, in fact, that in Minor League Ball’s early (August 2016) 2017 draft projection, they had Beck listed as #4 – ahead of Greene and McKay. But Beck suffered a stress fracture in his back in early 2017, causing him to miss the opening part of the 2017 Stanford season. Beck is a draft-eligible sophomore, which gives him plenty of negotiating leverage and leads many scouts to believe that he will only sign if drafted in the first round (with something close to a first round slot bonus).
Could the Jays look past the back injury and the physique see a potential future top-of-the-rotation starter?
Sam Carlson (RHP, 6’4″ 208 lbs, Burnsville HS, 18 years old)
John Sickels provides an excellent summary of what makes Sam such an intriguing prospect:
"We start with his fastball, which improved from 87-89 last spring to 90-93 over the summer to 91-95 (with reported peaks at 96-97) this year. The fastball isn’t straight and has impressive action low in the strike zone, yet he’s also able to command the pitch and hit his spots. He may not be done growing and it’s possible there’s another tick left on the heater.His secondary pitches are quite advanced especially given his background. His change-up is ahead of his slider but both flash plus. He repeats his mechanics well, throws strikes, has a mature mound presence, and is a strong overall athlete."
Could the Jays play it safe with a high-floor pitcher who still has #2 starter upside?
Nick Allen (SS, 5’9″ [?] 165lbs [?], Francis Parker HS, 18 years old)
Let’s start with the elephant (mouse?) on the table. Nick is small. While Perfect Game lists him at 5’9″ and 165 lbs, Baseball America says 5’8″ and 155lbs. Back in the days of “big and strong“, that would have been enough to disqualify Nick without further discussion. But things have changed, and there are a few middlin’-fair smaller players in the league. Like Jose Altuve (5’6″), Adam Eaton (5’8″), Mookie Betts (5’9″) and Dustin Pedroia (5’9″) – not to mention some guy who pitches north of the border. Personally (with apologies to Marcus) I would take a good big player over a good small one. But I would take a great small player over a good big one every time.
But his size is not the only thing that is unusual about Nick. His defense is even more remarkable. It is very rare for scouts to say that a high school player can almost certainly stay at shortstop – the vast majority of high school SS end up at other positions. In Nick’s case, the scouts are not only confident that he can stick, but they are already describing him as a future gold glove candidate. He is holy-cow-Batman good. And his bat is no slouch either. As Perfect Game puts it:
"Right handed hitter, gets to his front side early with a contact oriented swing, handles the barrel well and will flash surprising pull pop when squared up, line drive approach. 6.73 runner, speed plays up in all regards, base running instincts match his defensive instincts"
Most people believe that Nick is unlikely to ever become a power threat. Most, that is, except Nick
"While Belovsky alluded to Allen “understanding who he is” and hopefully growing into a “top of the order guy who can set the table for those run producers,” Allen is almost defiant about stressing that he is more than just a slap hitter.“A lot of people don’t know this, but I can drive the ball,” Allen said. “It is going to start coming in the games. When I take my BP, I am not just out there trying to loop the ball into the outfield. I think I am more of a guy who can generate a lot of back spin and drive the ball to all fields.”"
Could the Jays gamble on a player who likely has a Darwin Barney floor, but – just maybe – a Dustin Pedroia ceiling? And is there potential for a below-slot bonus if they do?
The bottom line
There are several players who seem like good fits for the Jays on the 12th. But the Jays could easily surprise us all. As a great philosopher once said “In baseball, you don’t know nothing” – and that is what makes it fun!