The Blue Jays will have some promising options with the fifth pick in this year’s MLB draft. Will they draft for the near, or the long-term?
While we still don’t have baseball in North America to watch, the upcoming draft will at least give those of us suffering from withdrawal something happening in real time. Unfortunately the draft has been withered down to just five rounds this year, but it will still provide some entertainment.
For the Blue Jays, there is a pretty significant opportunity with having the fifth overall selection, and regardless of what happens ahead of their pick, there will be plenty of talent to choose from. With the Tigers, Orioles, Marlins, and Royals ahead of them, part of the plan could be dictated by who is still available, but there’s another important question to ponder as well. With this draft in particular, the Blue Jays will likely have to ask themselves if they want a more MLB ready prospect, or someone with a high ceiling who is several years away.
If you have a look around at the various mock drafts and prospect lists being published these days, most are in agreement that Spencer Torkelson and Austin Martin will be the top two picks one way or another, and Asa Lacy seems to be settling in at #3. From there it’s hard to say what the Royals will do, but I don’t think that’ll change the second question for the Blue Jays.
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When the draft gets to the fifth selection, the Blue Jays will likely be faced with that near/long-term choice in the form of a few options. For a shorter development path, and depending on how the Royals draft, the Blue Jays could choose 20 year-old right-hander Emerson Hancock, a 20-year-old infielder in Nick Gonzales, 21-year old outfielder Garrett Mitchell, or perhaps 21-year-old pitcher Max Meyer. However, if they’re not worried about a longer development, the Blue Jays could be very tempted to take Zac Veen, an 18-year-old high school outfielder.
I don’t have any insight into the front office’s plans, but we can take a look at what has been built over the last few years and speculate from there. On that note, the Blue Jays have built an impressive group of youngsters that are either at, or very near MLB-ready that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Nate Pearson, and many more. And as I wrote about the other day, there’s another wave of young pitchers that are 18-20 years old that could be something special in Toronto in a few years. So while that second wave that Atkins likes to talk about could be set up in the pitching department, can we say the same for position players?
There are definitely some young talents on that side of the ball as well, including Jordan Groshans, Orelvis Martinez, and more, but adding an outfielder with Veen’s upside should be very tempting. He’s already 6’5″ and 200 lbs with room to grow at 18 years old, and some scouts see him as a potential five-tool type of player. Baseball America (subscription required) has some glowing things to say about his potential:
"“He frequently gets into deep counts and waits for a specific pitch to hit. His swing has natural leverage and good loft that should allow him to continue tapping into his ever-increasing raw power, which is at least plus now and could eventually reach double-plus.”"
Of course, the scouting report isn’t all sunshine and roses, as there is some concern about swing and miss tendencies, and how much his filling out could take away from his current speed, but there’s a lot of upside to like here.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays could be more interested in adding a more advanced pitcher to a group that could be ready to compete in a few years time. I’m not sure they’ll be able to pass on the opportunity to select Hancock if he’s still available, but there are some folks who think the Blue Jays could be more interested in a pitcher like Meyer or even Reid Detmers rather than taking the younger Veen. It’s certainly possible that the Blue Jays could take Gonzales as well, although I feel like with the options available and what they have in their pipeline already, they’ll steer away from another middle infielder.
Whatever direction the front office decides to go, they have an opportunity to add a significant piece to the puzzle. Whether they elect to draft a piece that could help sooner than later remains to be seen, but the options should be there for either route.