Toronto Blue Jays: The year they won the MLB draft

DUNEDIN, UNITED STATES: Toronto Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston (R) talks with Jays General Manager Gord Ash during a rain delay at Grant Field in Dunedin, FL, 29 March. Toronto was playing the Philadelphia Phillies in their second to last spring training game. AFP PHOTO/Carlo ALLEGRI (Photo credit should read CARLO ALLEGRI/AFP via Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, UNITED STATES: Toronto Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston (R) talks with Jays General Manager Gord Ash during a rain delay at Grant Field in Dunedin, FL, 29 March. Toronto was playing the Philadelphia Phillies in their second to last spring training game. AFP PHOTO/Carlo ALLEGRI (Photo credit should read CARLO ALLEGRI/AFP via Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays haven’t always made the right choices during the MLB draft, but there was one year they definitely got it right.

Out of the four major sports, I don’t think there’s any argument that drafting in baseball is the most difficult. It takes baseball players longer to get to the highest level than in other sports, and it’s very common for first round picks to not work out. You can do all of the research you want, but it’s still very much of a roll of the dice in a lot of ways.

The Blue Jays are a prime example of that sort of thing, as they’ve mostly missed when they’ve had a pick inside the top five throughout their franchise history, something I looked at on the weekend as well. However, there was one year the Blue Jays absolutely nailed the draft, and added a future Hall of famer to the organization with the 17th pick.

That was the year the Blue Jays selected Roy Halladay, who not only fell to 17, but he was also the ninth pitcher drafted that year. Only one of them would even remotely touch Halladay’s accomplishments, with Kerry Wood going to the Cubs fourth overall, but he obviously didn’t have the career success and longevity that the “Doc” brought to the Blue Jays organization.

You can pretty much look back at any year of the MLB draft and find examples of “mistakes” that teams have made. Sometimes the diamond in the rough doesn’t show up until the later, and that stings even more in hindsight if your team had multiple chances to take the better player. Again though, it’s a bit of a crapshoot for MLB front offices, even with all of the scouting in the world.

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Back in 1995, there would only be a couple of teams who might argue they don’t regret taking the player they did ahead of Halladay. The best of the bunch would be Todd Helton, who had a borderline Hall of Fame career of his own for the Colorado Rockies, and others like Wood and Darin Estad had solid MLB careers. Obviously if the whole thing were done with a crystal ball, the Blue Jays wouldn’t have been able to get Halladay all the way at #17.

For what it’s worth, I’ll admit that the rest of the draft wasn’t all that great for the Blue Jays, even if they knocked their first round pick out of the park. For example, they chose a catcher by the name of Craig Wilson with their 2nd round pick. He ended up at least climbing to the highest level, but he was a far cry from the player taken two selections later in Carlos Beltran, who went to the Royals 49th overall, and was a slam dunk for the 2nd round.

In the third round, the Blue Jays took a shortstop by the name of Jeff Maloney, who unfortunately never made it to the big leagues. There was no Beltran taken after him this time, but a solid reliever in J.J. Putz went to the White Sox at #84. There weren’t any major misses in the fourth round when the Blue Jays whiffed again with a shortstop by the name of Mike Whitlock, and they didn’t get much out of their fifth round pick in Jay Veniard either.

The Blue Jays did end up taking Ryan Freel in the 10th round, which worked out better than most at that point, and they also tried to draft Ted Lilly in the 13th, but they weren’t able to sign him. Other notable players that went later included Joe Nathan in the 6th round, A.J. Burnett in the 8th, Juan Pierre in the 30th, and a handful of others.

Next. Who have the Blue Jays drafted with their top five picks?. dark

As always, there were talents than slipped much lower than they should have, and every team missed with one pick or another. However, there was only one Hall of Famer from that class, and that was the Blue Jays’ 17th round pick in Roy Halladay. It’s possible that Beltran will join him one day, but even then, the Blue Jays couldn’t have made a better selection.