Toronto Blue Jays Draft 2019: Part Two – The Mocks

SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 5: Commissioner Allan H. Bud Selig at the podium during the MLB First-Year Player Draft at the MLB Network Studio on June 5, 2014 in Secacucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 5: Commissioner Allan H. Bud Selig at the podium during the MLB First-Year Player Draft at the MLB Network Studio on June 5, 2014 in Secacucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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The mock draft sites have a clear favourite for the Jays to draft with their #11 overall pick, but there are several other options.

This is the second in a three-part series about the Blue Jays and the upcoming First-Year Player draft.  Part I (Strategy) can be seen here, and Part III (the Dark Horses) will be published in a few days.

Every year, in the weeks (and months!) leading up to the draft, a number of websites publish mock drafts, in which they try to predict which players will be taken by which teams.  The predictions are rarely dead-on (in 2018, not one of the thirteen mock drafts correctly predicted that the Jays would take Jordan Groshans.  The mock favourite for the Jays in 2018 was Ryan Rolison, who was ultimately taken 22nd by Colorado).

So what do the 2019 mocks say?

The fifteen 2019 mocks have a clear favourite.  Four of them predict that the Jays will take Alek Manoah, a college RHP from West Virginia.  Two other players are predicted twice: Corbin Carroll, a speedy high school centre fielder, and Zack Thompson, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Kentucky.

(Though, in the interest of full disclosure, fangraphs did not explicitly say that the Jays would take Thompson.  They only predicted the first 10 picks but mentioned Zack as the first of the next group.  So I have allocated him to the Jays at pick #11) 

Let’s have a look at these three players.

Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia University. 

Manoah is an interesting fit for the Jays at multiple levels.  First, because he is good.  He is big (6’7″ and 270 pounds) and uses that strength to his advantage, with a fastball that sits 94-97 and is graded 60/65 by fangraphs (which means that it is a 60 right now, with a projected 65 upside). Alek’s slider is also rated 60/65.  His change-up is still a work in progress and his command needs work, but that is not unusual for a 21-year-old.  Manoah has a 1.89 ERA in 90 innings in 2019, with a 2.18 BB/9 and a 12.0 K/9.

He’s is a good example of the kind of “helium” player that the Jays have targeted in past years.  In 2018, he had a 4.00 ERA, a 4.67 BB/9 and a 10.0 K/9 at WVU.  However, he had a strong run in the Cape Cod league, and coming into 2019 the keys to his future success were said to be pitching late into games and improving his control.  A 2.18 BB/9 and an average of seven innings per start over his first 13 starts have elevated him to a potential top-10 pick.  Baseball America noted that, in one 2019 start:

"Against Texas Tech, Manoah was truly dominant, holding the potent Red Raiders’ offense to four hits and no walks in a 125-pitch shutout. His 120th pitch was a fastball clocked at 97 mph. In all, 105 of his 125 pitches were strikes and he was in complete control of his arsenal, spotting his fastball to both sides of the plate and mixing in his late-breaking slider and an occasional changeup."

And finally, Manoah has the “bloodlines” that the Jays appreciate.  His older brother, Erik, was drafted by the New York Mets in the 13th round of the 2014 MLB draft and currently plays in the Los Angeles Angels organization.

Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS

There was a time when a player 5’9″ (some say 5’10”) and 165 pounds would be greatly downgraded on draft boards purely because of his size.  Then players like Mookie Betts (5’9″), Jose Altuve (5’6″) and, yes, Marcus Stroman (5’8″) demonstrated that it was possible to be shorter than average but still {ahem} play “above average”.  Carroll is already considered to have 70-grade speed (!) and a 60-grade arm, and is projected to be a 60-grade fielder and to remain at centre field.

There is less consensus on his hit tool.  Baseball America is impressed with his bat, saying:

"Carroll established himself as one of the best pure bats in the class over the summer after dominating at the plate in every high-profile event he attended. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound outfielder has a quick, balanced swing and a terrific feel for the barrel, as well as a keen understanding of the strike zone and a patient approach in the lefthanded batter’s box. Carroll is more than willing to take a walk and then cause havoc on the bases as a plus runner."

But Fangraphs rates his current hit tool as a 25/60 and his game power as a 20/50 with a negative perception of his frame (body), and do not see him as a top-10 pick.  Not that surprising for an 18-year-old, and not inconsistent with their evaluation of other players (they give Bobby Witt Jr. a 20/40 and 20/55) but it highlights the risk of drafting a high school player who is still growing and developing.

Still, Carroll’s upside is impressive – he has been compared to Jacoby Ellsbury and to Andrew Benintendi.

Zack Thompson, LHP, University of Kentucky

Fangraphs “the Board” identifies 48 pitchers who are expected to be taken ~early in the upcoming June draft.  Most of them have one or two pitches that are good now, with the potential to get more.  Only one pitcher on the list has four pitches all graded 50 or better right now.

Meet Zack Thompson, a 21-year-old lefty from the Wildcats.  So far in 2019, he has a 2.08 ERA, 13.0 K/9, 3.46 BB/9 and is averaging 6.5 innings per start.   His fastball sits 92-96, touching 97 and he has an 82-84 mph, high-spin rate slider.    And he did this in the SEC:

"Thompson has bumped his game this spring, punching out 102 in just 71.2 innings while holding opponents to a .179 average – all while navigating a brutal SEC schedule. The lefty boasts a plus fastball backed up by a slider, curve and change that can all show as at least above-average offerings."

The biggest questions on Thompson going into 2019 were his health (he only pitched 31 innings in 2018 due to an elbow injury) and his walk rate (4.88 in 2018).  So far, at least, he appears to have answered both questions.

Most scouts project Thompson as a mid-rotation starter with a high floor, as he does not possess a holy-cow-Batman pitch like Nate Pearson‘s fastball.  He might be closer to the majors than most pitchers in the draft, which could be a factor if the Jays hope to be serious contenders in 2022.

Next. Rowdy Tellez has been keeping up to Justin Smoak. dark

The bottom line

No prospect is a guarantee, and each of the players linked to the Jays comes with question marks.  But there is all-star level upside in a Carroll or Manoah, and if Thompson turned into a 4-ERA, 200-innings #3, I would be more than happy.

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