With the Blue Jays not quite finished their current rebuild, there shouldn’t a lot of urgency with their draft pick this year.
With the Blue Jays having the fifth pick in next week’s MLB draft, there’s a real opportunity to add an impact player to the organization. We’ve been talking about it quite a bit here at Jays Journal lately, but that’s because it’s been a while since the Blue Jays have had a pick inside the top five. In fact, it hasn’t happened since 1997, when they made a solid choice by taking Vernon Wells in the first round.
There are a lot of important variables that go into making a first round pick, including team needs, the talent available, and much more. Since the Blue Jays should be starting the upswing of their current rebuild, there are plenty of folks that would tell you that they should be adding someone who can help them sooner than later, hopefully joining the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Nate Pearson, and several more. However, I believe that should be a secondary consideration for Ross Atkins and company, for a few reasons.
As things currently stand, the Blue Jays have an enviable homegrown core, both in the early stages of their MLB careers, and throughout the minor league pipeline. It’s not a flawless organization and there are definitely holes, but there is a lot of talent and it’s coming together a lot more quickly than I once anticipated. That said, one of the things that Atkins and the Blue Jays front office has preached about is building in “waves”, and I think there’s an opportunity to think about that with this year’s draft.
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For example, the only knock I can see on the idea of drafting someone like Zac Veen, an 18-year-old just finishing up high school, is that he’s going to need some time to develop in the minor leagues before he can contribute to a contender. Ideally the talented young outfielder’s MLB timeline would line up with the likes of Vlad Jr. and Bichette, however, it’s not as if there that couldn’t eventually happen. Some scouts think he could debut by 2022, and that would only be the fourth year of the current core’s seven-year window.
As far as drafting a prospect that might be able to debut sooner, that probably comes in the form of a starting pitcher like Emerson Hancock of maybe Max Meyer. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy if the Blue Jays added either pitcher to their minor league stables, especially the former, but I guess I don’t sense the same urgency that I see some others talking about. As things stand, I’m feeling quite confident about the short-term future of the Blue Jays rotation.
Signing a veteran like Hyun-Jin Ryu was huge for the Blue Jays, but there are plenty of talented arms on the way, and they should be ready to help soon. Nate Pearson looks like a future ace and should debut in 2020 as long as there’s a season, and there are others not far behind, depending on what happens with their development this year. Alek Manoah is going to be ready to contribute sooner than later, and don’t be surprised if you see the same from Simeon Woods Richardson, who made huge strides last year while climbing to #61 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list (subscription required). Throw in other potential talents like Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, and even Ryan Borucki, and the Blue Jays should be in good shape.
More importantly, this current roster is very inexpensive, and will remain that way for a while as their young core works through the first few years of their entry-level deals. I realize that every team lost a lot of revenue this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but there’s no reason the Blue Jays can’t have the money available that they’ll need to supplement the roster, both with the pitching staff and the lineup.
The more that I think about it, the more I think the Blue Jays are set up to take the “best player available” in this year’s draft. It remains to be seen what the Tigers, Orioles, Marlins, and Royals will do ahead of them, but whether it’s a youngster like Veen, or a more MLB-ready arm like Hancock that they like the most, a big league ETA really shouldn’t be a big determining factor.
All that said, that’s just my opinion, and the Blue Jays’ front office might have a very different stance. However, as I look at what they’ve built so far and how the new core of the team is just starting their MLB journey, I don’t know that the front office should feel much urgency to add someone who can help right away.