How well have “Team Shapkins” done in their first five amateur drafts, relative to Baseball America rankings?
A few years ago, I wrote an article comparing the first round amateur draft picks made by Alex Anthopoulos during his Blue Jays tenure to the Baseball America rankings in those years. Now that the Shapiro and Atkins team have made five amateur drafts, I thought it might be fun to do a similar exercise for them.
The rules of the game are simple. For each of the 2016-2020 draft years, I look at the last prospect ranking published by Baseball America before the draft. I then compare the player chosen by the Jays to the player they would have taken if they had just blindly taken the highest remaining player from the BA list.
A few caveats: if the highest player were hurt, or was known to be asking for an extortionate signing bonus, or had some other issues that would impact on the Jays’ enthusiasm, I would move on to the next player on the BA list. And any assessment is made based on what is known at this time. It is entirely possible that a highly-ranked prospect could fail, or that a lower one could break out.
2016 draft – Jays take T.J. Zeuch with pick #21
At the time that the Jays took T.J. Zeuch, the top 12 players on the 2016 BA 500 list were already gone. But the 13th player was still available – a high school outfielder named Taylor Trammell, ultimately taken by the Red with the 35th overall pick. Trammell went on to be a top-100 prospect (ranked as high as 11th overall by Baseball Prospectus pre-2019) before being traded to the Padres in the Trevor Bauer deal at the 2019 trade deadline.
Advantage – Baseball America
Toronto Blue Jays
2017 draft – Jays take Logan Warmoth with pick #22 and Nate Pearson with pick #28
At the time the Jays took Logan Warmoth, the top ranked player remaining on the BA list was …. Nate Pearson, at #13. So suppose the Jays had taken Nate with pick #22? Then, when they picked again with #28, the top remaining player would have been Logan Warmoth, at #19. But suppose that Warmoth were gone by then – who would the Jays have taken? The next player available would have been Sam Carlson, who ultimately signed for an above-slot $2 million when taken by the Mariners with pick #55.
Heading into 2018, Carlson was ranked the top pitching prospect in the Seattle organization. But Tommy John surgery in July of that year caused him to miss the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019. Going into 2020, Fangraphs’ assessment of Carlson was:
"We’re still collectively waiting for Carlson to pitch coming off of Tommy John. At his prep peak, he was into the mid-90s with a good changeup and more strikes than is typical for such a hard-throwing, cold-weather prospect."
Advantage – Baseball America (marginal)
2018 draft – Jays take Jordan Groshans with pick #12
This year is difficult to assess. On the one hand, the Jays passed on Matthew Liberatore, the #2 ranked prospect on the BA list. Liberatore is ranked #42 on the current BA Top 100 Prospects list (Groshans #29), number 58 on mlb.com (Groshans #75), and #50 on Baseball Prospectus (Groshans #43). But Jordan Groshans missed most of 2019 with a foot injury, so his ranking is based on limited actual MiLB experience. And the Groshans signing probably made it possible for the Jays to also sign Adam Kloffenstein, a pitcher currently ranked as Toronto’s #9 prospect.
Advantage – Atkins (but fluid)
2019 draft – Jays take Alek Manoah with pick #11
When the Jays took Alek Mahoah, the highest remaining player on the BA list was #10, Bryson Stott (Manoah was #13). Going into 2020, and coming off a 146 wRC+ in low-A ball in 2019, Stott was ranked #87 on the mlb.com top 100 prospects list. Stott is projected to remain at short, but to be an average MLB-er at best. His floor is arguably higher than Manoah, but his ceiling is lower.
Advantage – push
2020 draft – Jays take Austin Martin with pick #5
Not surprisingly, Austin Martin was also the highest player remaining on the BA list (#2 on their list). But I still credit the Jays for not going crazy, and for taking advantage of a situation that they likely did not (realistically) anticipate.
Advantage – push
The bottom line
I would likely give the advantage in this contest to Baseball America, largely due to 2016 and 2017. But it is very close. And of course, the Liberatore-vs-Groshans and Manoah-vs-Stott comparisons will likely not be resolved for many years. The bottom line? Team Shapkins are pretty good at this draft game.