Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays Draft 2019: Part I – The Strategy

SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: Starting pitcher AFL West All-Star, Nate Pearson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a warm-up pitch during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: Starting pitcher AFL West All-Star, Nate Pearson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a warm-up pitch during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Before making their picks in the upcoming 2019 amateur draft, the Toronto Blue 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 3rd-5th First-Year Player draft.  Parts II (the Mocks) and III (the Dark Horses) will be published over the next few days.

The Blue Jays have picks #11 and #52 (among others) in the upcoming draft.  Before choosing which players to draft, there are a number of strategic questions that they should be asking themselves.

There are the usual questions that apply to every draft.  Should the team draft for positions of need, or be position-blind and just choose the “best player”?  Expressed differently, should the Jays (for example) eschew catchers if they believe their system to be strong in that position?  How much weight should they place on injuries?  On signability?  On general athleticism?  On “baseball smarts”? On work ethic?

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?

Many writers believe that the 2019 draft has 4-6 top players, followed by a second tier of 10+ players who are comparable.  It is unlikely that an Adley Rutschman or Bobby Witt Jr. will fall to the Jays and the 11th pick (though not impossible – Matthew Liberatore, the #2 ranked prospect, fell to #16 in the 2018 draft), so Toronto will likely be choosing from this group of lesser (but still valuable) talents.  If there is little to differentiate between this second tier, would it make sense for the Jays to choose a player willing to accept a below-slot deal, to free up money for later rounds?

This strategy has a flipside, that could also potentially benefit the Jays.  If the teams drafting ahead of Toronto are considering this same below-slot strategy, a top talent asking for full slot and more could drop to the Jays at #11.  Would Toronto be prepared to go over slot for one exceptional prospect, even knowing that doing so would limit them for the remainder of the draft?

Helium and lead

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In every draft, there are players who come out of nowhere, climbing the rankings based on excellent current performance.  For the last two years, the Jays have drafted such “helium” performers in Jordan Groshans and Nate Pearson.  The argument goes that these young players (particularly the high schoolers) are developing so quickly that it is dangerous to put weight on past performance, even as recent as a year ago.

Last month’s performance trumps last year’s.    But there is danger in putting too much weight on a small sample size, however positive.  Would the Jays be willing to roll the dice again, possibly on a player like Jack Leiter (son of Mark Leiter)  whose stock has risen to the point that he is now considered a first-round talent?

And on the flipside – what about players who were previously considered top talents, but who have some negative that could impact on their draft position?  As for example – Kameron Misner, an OF from Missouri, was considered an up-and-coming talent in 2017 with top 10 potential.  But he was injured in 2018, playing only 34 games.

He is back in 2019 and has a .293 / .454 / .508 line so far in a small sample size in 2019.  It is unlikely that Misner will be a top pick in 2019, given his missed 2018.  But would Misner sign at #11 for, say, #20 slot (which is where Baseball America projects him to be drafted)?  That would save the Jays $1.3 million, which is roughly the slot for their #52 pick.

High school vs college

Team Shapkins have said that they want to build a farm system pipeline that produces MLB talent on a consistent basis.  To that end, they have drafted high school players – like Jordan Groshans last year, who is not expected to contribute at the MLB level until 2022.  But the Jays’ situation is now different.  With Vladdy already in the majors, and players like Bo Bichette, Nate Pearson, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. close on his heels, the Jays’ window of contention may be coming sooner than some expect.

Might a college player, who could reach the majors more quickly, be a better fit for a Jays team who hopes to be a legitimate contender in 2021 or earlier? And even if so, should that consideration influence the long-term plan of keeping the pipeline filled?

Next. Blue Jays: Montoyo is charming even when trying to be mad. dark

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, based on the Jays’ recent track record, it is probably safe to say that it will be an interesting and unpredictable draft!

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