Blue Jays: Should they draft a pitcher or a hitter in the first round?

SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 5: Representatives from all 30 Major League Baseball teams fill Studio 42 during the MLB First-Year Player Draft at the MLB Network Studio on June 5, 2014 in Secacucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 5: Representatives from all 30 Major League Baseball teams fill Studio 42 during the MLB First-Year Player Draft at the MLB Network Studio on June 5, 2014 in Secacucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays are going to have some interesting choices to make during next week’s MLB draft.

After finishing with the fifth-worst record in the major leagues last season with a record of 67-95, the Jays hold the 5th overall pick in the draft, which gets underway on June 10th. With a high pick, the Jays have the opportunity to select one of the best players in this year’s draft class.

While Ross Atkins should select who he thinks is the best player available when they’re on the clock, one thing that needs to be taken into consideration when drafting is positions. Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration is how long the front office thinks the player they select will take to get to the majors.

Looking at the major league team, pitching and outfield are the most obvious needs. The rotation has improved a lot from last season’s, but every team’s rotation can always be better. During the off-season, the Jays were looking at adding outfield help, but ultimately stood pat with what they currently have.

Here are the positions of the top 30 prospects for the Blue Jays according to MLB Pipeline (Numbers may add up to more than 30 as some can play multiple positions)

C: 4
1B: 0
2B: 4
3B: 1
SS: 9
OF: 4
P: 13

The Jays seem set at catcher as they have four options in their top 30, as well as Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire at the big league level, who are both under contract for the foreseeable future. The Jays don’t have a future first baseman right now but many speculate that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be shifted to the other side of the diamond to accommodate top prospect Jordan Groshans once he eventually arrives. The Jays also have Rowdy Tellez who can play first and is under control for the next few years.

The Blue Jays have tremendous depth up the middle in the minors. Groshans is a shortstop, but many fans expect him to be the Jays third baseman once he reaches the majors. The Jays also possess prospects Orelvis Martinez, Miguel Hiraldo, Santiago Espinal and others that are middle infielders. Shortstop seems set in stone for the big league club though, as Bo Bichette is seen as the shortstop of the future. Second base is currently occupied by Cavan Biggio, but he is able to play other positions on the diamond including 1B and CF.

The only 3B among the Jays top 30 prospects is Kevin Smith. 3B is currently occupied by Guerrero Jr., but he’s no guarantee to stay there in the future. Groshans isn’t listed as a 3B, but as mentioned before, he may play the hot corner once he reaches the big leagues.

In the Jays top 15 prospects of the top 30, only one can play outfield and that is Griffin Conine who is ranked 14th. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. seems like he will be the LF until his contract is up, but it remains to be seen if the front office sees Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez as part of their long-term future plans.

With trades and draft picks in recent years, the Blue Jays have more pitching depth in the minors now. The major league rotation also improved with the additions the front office made over the past few months. One thing to note of the rotation is that Matt Shoemaker, Chase Anderson and Tanner Roark will all be free agents within the next two years. Even with the possible departures of these three starting pitchers, the Jays have the likes of Nate Pearson, Alek Manoah, Anthony Kay and Simeon-Woods Richardson in the minors that are expected to contribute to the rotation in the near future.

Here are how many of the top 30 prospects have their Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) to the big leagues for each year:

2020: 10 (6 pitchers, 4 hitters)

2021: 5 (2 pitchers, 3 hitters)

2022: 9 (3 pitchers, 6 hitters)

2023: 3 (1 pitcher, 2 hitters)

2024: 3 (1 pitcher, 2 hitters)

With the Jays nearing the end of their rebuild, they are likely aiming to contend very shortly, which could be as soon as next season. With their current major league roster, prospects in the minors and their ETAs, I think that the best route to go would be to draft a hitter.

With the current state of the Blue Jays, an ideal fit would be to draft a college outfield bat. Spencer Torkelson is the best college outfield bat available, but he is widely expected to be selected first overall by the Tigers. Another option could be Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin, but Jonathan Mayo of has him going second overall to the Tigers as do many other mock drafts. A more realistic option that the Jays could select is Heston Kjerstad of Arkansas who is described as a guy with power.

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If the Jays are looking to take an outfielder, they could go the high school route and select Zach Veen, although there is risk with high school players and it would also take Veen longer to reach the majors than a college player would, as he would need development in the minors. Many scouts love Veen’s potential though.

What the Jays could also do is select Nick Gonzales from New Mexico State if he’s available at the 5th pick. Gonzales is a middle infielder, but if this is who the Jays want, they could have him play second and shift Biggio to the outfield.

If Veen was a college player, I think he would be the perfect fit, but that’s not the case. If this is who the Jays decide to take, it would be a great pick as well as any of the other players I mentioned. They could also look to add to their pitching depth and select Emerson Hancock or Max Meyer.

Next. First round draft candidate: Zac Veen. dark

We’ll see who the Blue Jays take in five days, and how their prioritize their needs along with the players that are still on the board.