Blue Jays Draft 2018: Part I – Strategy

MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. /

In making their picks in the upcoming 2018 draft, the Jays will need to ask themselves some strategic questions.

This is the first in a three-part series about the Blue Jays and the upcoming June 4th First Year Player draft.  Parts II (the Mocks) and III (the Dark Horses) are available in the links provided.

The Blue Jays have picks #12 and #52 (among others) in the upcoming June 4th draft.  Before choosing which players to draft, they should be considering a number of strategic questions.

There are the usual questions that apply to every draft.  Does the team prefer college players, who are further developed and (hopefully!) closer to The Show, or high schoolers who are more raw but often with higher ceilings?  Should the team draft for positions of need, or be position-blind and just choose the “best player”?  How much weight to place on injuries?  On signability?  On general athleticism?

These considerations are all valid, and all apply this year as they do every year.  But there are some other strategic decisions that are particularly relevant this year.

Spend or sprinkle?

"“There’s one player that will be first on all 30 draft boards,” said one scouting director. “And the second player will be totally different on all 30 boards.”  Baseball America"

The 2018 drat is unusual in that there is a pretty-much-consensus #1 pick (Casey Mize) but considerable question about numbers 2-20, and a particularly strong group of potential draftees in the 20-50 range.  This has led many prognosticators to predict that teams drafting 2-15 may not take the top player on their boards but rather strike deals for below-slot bonuses.  This way, they will have extra money for hard signings in later rounds.

So imagine that a top talent – like a Travis Swaggerty, a power hitting OF from South Alabama – slips to the Jays at 12, but says that he will only sign for full slot (and perhaps more)?  Should the Jays thank their lucky stars to get a top-5 talent at #12, despite the price, or should they target a less expensive player at a below-slot price, and hope to use the money saved for their #52 pick?  And if they “go cheap”, will there be a good enough players available at #52 (or enough good-but-expensive players in lower rounds) to make the strategy worthwhile?

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Helium and lead

In every draft, there are players who come out of nowhere, climbing the rankings based on excellent current performance.  Last year, the Jays drafted a “helium” performer in Nate Pearson (which, so far, has turned out pretty good despite his recent injury).  But there is danger in putting too much weight on a small sample size, however positive.  Would the jays consider a player like Johnathan India, a 3B from Florida, who has been crazy hot all spring despite not even being considered a first round talent as recently as a year ago?

And on the converse – what about players who were previously considered top talents, but who have had a disappointing 2018?  The same question as India, but in reverse – how much weight do you place on a small sample size when it is negative?  For example, Brice Turang (SS) was projected to be the #1 pick in 2018 as recently as a year ago.  His 2018 has not been terrible – just not up to the sky-high expectations his previous performance has engendered.  Would he be worth a #12 pick now, and would he sign for #12 money?


Teams are always looking for an “edge” in drafting – a factor that other teams have not fully appreciated that they can exploit.  Could pedigree (i.e. major league athletes in the family) be such a factor for the Jays?  Players like Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Kacy Clemens, and Cavan Biggio are looking (ahem) “rather good” so far.  If it is true that scouts do not rank prospects in a simple list but rather group them into “tiers”, could bloodlines be a tie-breaker with the Jays in 2018?  Players like Canadian Noah Naylor (brother of Josh Naylor), Brice Turang (son of Brian Turang), Ryan Weathers (son of David Weathers),  and Kumar Rocker (son of NFL tackle and coach Tracy Rocker) are all expected to be drafted in the first round.

The bottom line

There are many factors for the Jays to consider in the upcoming draft.  It is not as simple as just picking the next player on the BA list.  But if it is true that a team with a stronger minor league system can afford to take more risks, we might well be in for an interesting draft!

Next: Which "dead contract" has gotta go?