The Blue Jays are among the worst teams in MLB this season. While it’s been tough to watch, the pay off is they will get a very high pick in next year’s draft.
Going through a roster rebuild in baseball is a lot different than the other three major sports in North America. In basketball, football, and hockey it’s common for rookies to enter the league and make an immediate impact in their first season as professionals.
That same effect doesn’t happen in baseball, as pretty much everyone needs to minor league seasoning before heading to the big leagues. We saw it with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. over the last few years despite being one of the most coveted minor league hitters in baseball history, and the same has happened to guys like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and pretty much any other star across the league right now.
That might be one of the big reasons that teams don’t “tank” quite as obviously as they might in other sports. Sure, having the highest draft picks gives you a better chance of selecting a future big leaguer, but baseball is arguably the toughest sport to build a roster through the draft, which is why tanking isn’t really something we see in the game.
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That said, the Blue Jays are headed for that type of direction this season whether that’s the intentional plan or not, and they’re going to have a pretty good draft pick for June of 2020. They ended up with the 11th pick in the 2019 draft and they used it to sign Alek Manoah. While Monoah projects to be a very solid selection just outside the top-10, there’s a good chance the Blue Jays could be picking in the top five next year. In fact, if the draft happened as of this writing, the Blue Jays would be selecting 3rd overall.
If there’s a silver lining to the struggles of the 2019 campaign beyond the valuable experience gained by their young roster, it may be looking at some of the top players that could be available in next year’s draft.
There are no guarantees that these kids will be ranked or viewed in the same way a year from now, but there are a few highly-projected talents that could fit in well in the long-term future in Toronto.
If the Blue Jays find a way to end up with the #1 pick, right now there’s a lot of chatter about a right-hander by the name of Emerson Handcock out of Georgia. He’s already throwing 98 mph and Jim Callis of MLB.com had this to say about him:
"“If Hancock were eligible as a sophomore this June, he would have been the first pitcher selected.”"
Of course, the Blue Jays are going to have a tough time wrestling away the title of futility away from the Orioles and/or Kansas City Royals this year, so it’s possible they end up with a pick somewhere between 2-5, or who knows, maybe they end up doing better than that. However, in this case losing isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
Another interesting name is Spencer Torkelson, a first baseman who is a highly touted hitter and is widely seen as one of the first picks off the board. He’s already hit 47 home runs over two seasons in college, and broke the rookie record at Arizona State, formerly held by Barry Bonds.
According to Callis’ early 2020 Mock Draft, he has the Blue Jays with the 3rd overall pick, coming after the first two names I’ve mentioned have been selected. At third, he sees the Blue Jays taking a third baseman by the name of Austin Martin out of Vanderbilt. He’s seen as a potential plus-hitter for power and average, and someone that may be able to move around the infield.
The player that interests me the most right now is Pete Crow-Armstrong, a high school outfielder from Los Angeles. At just 18 years old, it would be a while before he would be able to climb the ladder to the big leagues, but he projects to have exceptional speed, with plus hitting and defence. Sound like something the Blue Jays could use?
There are plenty of others who could enter the top 10, or even the top five in next year’s draft, which would put them on the Blue Jays’ radar in the first round. Callis has two pitchers (Asa Lacey, J.T. Ginn), two outfielders (Garrett Mitchell, Dylan Crews), a shortstop (Casey Martin) and a catcher (Patrick Bailey) rounding out his top 10, while others like ESPN’s David Schoenfield mention potential selections like RHP Cole Wilcox, 1B/3B Blaze Jordan, or RHP Jordan Kelley.
Each of the names I’ve mentioned and more will be worth monitoring as the Blue Jays prepare for next year’s draft. Obviously that won’t be on their immediate radar after they just completed this year’s process earlier this month, but for a team with the long-term in mind, scouting and being prepared for next June will be very important. There could be some excellent players available, especially if they end up in the top three where they are now.