Prospects Live recently organized a mock draft for the first 3 rounds of the upcoming June 10th MLB First-Year Player Draft. Who did they project for the Toronto Blue Jays?
Prospects Live organized a mock draft last Friday, drawing on writers from Prospects Live, 2080 Baseball, Perfect Game, Rotowire, Prospects1500, The Atletic, and more. You can see the video at the 4 hours and 23-minute mark here, and the summary of picks here.
The first four picks were Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, Asa Lacy, and Zac Veen. (As an aside – this left the Jays, whose players were picked by Mason McRae of Future Blue Jays, with Emerson Hancock, Nick Gonzales, Garret Mitchell, and others to choose from). Mason chose Hancock, saying that on his list Hancock was #3 (ahead of Lacy) because of his clean mechanics, strong change-up, and fastball command. One panelist compared Hancock’s mechanics to Mike Mussina.
This was no surprise. We have discussed Hancock’s pros and cons here at Jays Journal in the past. I am perhaps a bit less high on Emerson than most – when the first thing you say about a pitcher is that he “has good mechanics”, it is like saying that a blind date “has a good personality” – but I would likely have taken him with this pick as well.
Toronto Blue Jays
The second Jays pick (#42 overall) was Dylan Crews, an 18-year-old high school centre fielder (ranked #36 by Fangraphs) who is expected to move to right field. Mason said that Dylan was 10th on his draft board, largely due to his high hit ceiling. Fangraphs agrees, saying that “Crews has a chance to be a 60 game power, prototype right fielder, and he is arguably the most advanced bat in the 2020 class, college or high school.” But – as you would expect from a second-rounder – Crews comes with questions. His 6’0″, 190lb frame is likely already maxed out, so there is limited upside for him to add muscle. And his ability to make consistent contact, particularly with top-level pitching, is in question – one panelist made the point that in the Under Armour showcase game, Dylan was 0-for-5 with 5 strikeouts. But I like this pick. Rather than playing it safe, Mason chose a player with arguably a low floor but a high ceiling, rather than playing it safe on a player with lesser upside. The Jays’ system is strong enough now to justify swinging for the fences with at least a few of their top picks.
The wild card with Crews is that, in addition to playing outfield, he has also played catcher. Could Crews be a second Gabriel Moreno, who played mostly SS/2B in Venezuela but converted to catching full-time after being drafted by the Jays, and is now the Jays’ top-rated catching prospect?
The Jays’ third pick (#77 overall) was Petey Halpin, another 18-year-old high school centre fielder (ranked #72 by Fangraphs). Fangraphs describes Halpin as a “lefty with bat control, speed and sneaky power, young for the class”. Pretty much all high school players are gambles, but (much like Crews) Halpin is more of a gamble than most. He could very well be a “tweener” – a player whose defense is not quite at the centre field level but whose bat is not quite at the corner OF level. Halpin is a classic example of how prep outfielders are almost never finished products – you draft them for what they could become and how they are trending, not for what they currently are. In Halpin’s case:
"Entering last summer, Halpin was more of a slap hitter who leaned on his front foot with little power. But after his three weeks competing in the inaugural PDP League, which is an invite-only developmental event that features 80 of the top prep players in the country, Halpin was a different hitter.He altered his technique at the plate and realized he needed to add strength to the frame. He estimates he’s added “about 30 pounds since the PDP League” to increase his weight to 191 pounds, he said."
The bottom line
It is hard enough projecting who the Jays will take at #5 overall. Trying to accurately predict selections much later in the draft is almost impossible. But Mason’s choices raise an interesting strategic question. Should the Jays be “playing it safe” with their second and third-round picks, or gambling on players with very low floors but higher ceilings? Personally, I would prefer the latter.