Blue Jays: The All Time Drafted and Developed Team
First Base: John Olerud
If Pat Borders was the prototype for slowly developing a player, John Olerud would be the exact opposite. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a player that had the same path to the majors as Olerud.
Olerud was drafted in 1986 out of high school in Washington, however, elected to go to Washington State University instead. In his first two years of NCAA baseball, Olerud absolutely dominated as both a pitcher and first baseman. In his second season in Washington, Olerud hit .464 with 23 home runs, while pitching to a record of 15-0 and a 2.49 ERA. He was named Baseball America College Player of the Year and an All-American at both positions he played.
In January 1989, Olerud suffered two major life-changing scares when he first was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and then later in the month he was found to have a brain aneurysm which led to surgery. When Olerud returned to baseball in April he would wear a helmet on the field for the rest of his playing days.
In the June draft that year, Olerud made it known that a team would have to offer a large bonus for him to forgo his final season at Washington State. The Blue Jays drafted him in the third round and negotiated into August where he finally signed and by September 3rd that year he was stepping into the batter’s box against Major League Pitching without appearing in the minor leagues. Olerud went 3-8 in limited playing time, but was ineligible for the playoffs that year against the Oakland Athletics due to his late start.
In 1990, Olerud became an everyday player, but primarily at DH as 90 of his 108 games were in that position. The team felt comfortable enough going forward with Olerud as the everyday first basemen and it helped the team make their blockbuster trade, which meant moving out Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.
Olerud would play eight seasons in Toronto, he won the AL Batting title in 1993 with a .363 AVG as well as leading the league in doubles with 54. That season Olerud flirted with batting .400 and was still at the mark into early August.
Toronto and Olerud would part ways before the 1997 season when they traded him to the New York Mets for Robert Person. Olerud currently holds the fourth-best career batting average (.293) as a Toronto Blue Jay and is ninth in doubles.
Honorable Mention: Adam Lind and Rowdy Tellez