On Friday, April 2, Major League Baseball informed the Toronto Blue Jays and the other 29 teams that this year’s Amateur Draft will be 20 rounds long, 15 rounds more than last year’s COVID shortened draft and 20 slots down from a regular draft that normally consists of 40 rounds.
If you’re not aware, the MLB and the MLBPA came to an agreement to lessen last year’s draft to five rounds in order to help clubs save money due to the financial strain the shortened season had on revenue for teams across the league. A great article on last year’s draft can be found here.
Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays held the 5th, 42nd, 77th, 106th, and 136th picks and ended up drafting one of the best collegiate hitters in Austin Martin. This season, the Blue Jays hold the 19th spot in the draft after a 32-28 record, as the draft order is determined by the worst record selecting first (the Pittsburgh Pirates hold the first selection this year) and then consecutively going down the line. My colleague Callum Belshaw wrote a great article looking at some position players the Blue Jays could draft this season.
So why is it important to the Blue Jays that the draft expanded to 20 rounds this season?
With the excitement of signing free agent George Springer to the biggest financial commitment in franchise history, there is one downfall that comes with signing a player of his caliber.
When the season concluded last year, the Houston Astros were able to extend a Qualifying Offer to their star outfielder, an offer that he would decline in order to become eligible for free agency. Given that Springer was extended the offer and would sign with the Blue Jays, the organization now has to surrender their second-round draft pick this year due to the length and financial term of the contract. With the Astros not being over the luxury tax and not receiving any form of revenue sharing (mostly used for small market teams), they will receive a compensation pick in the fourth round for losing Springer (a pick that can be traded if they choose).
If the Blue Jays lost this pack last year when there were only five rounds, the impact would loom rather large on their overall draft plan given that there are so few selections in the draft. For reference, the Blue Jays would not have been able to draft RHP C.J. Van Eyk if the circumstances were to happen last year (unless the pitcher fell to their 77th slot, which I highly doubt). While the Blue Jays do have a top ten ranked farm system this year boasting the likes of Simeon Woods-Richardson, Alek Manoah, and Orelvis Martinez, a player like Van Eyk has the potential to be a contributor on the Jays roster in the near future, and having him in the farm system is obviously better than having him be with another team.
That is the risk associated with signing a premium free agent like Springer, and while Ross Atkins and co. obviously knew that the pick would be gone when they signed him, the fact that this year’s draft is now 20 rounds takes some pressure off the scouting department when it comes to executing an overall draft plan.
The later rounds do have talented players available and some current Blue Jays roster players found themselves drafted past the fifth round, including the likes of Jordan Romano (2014, 10th round), Tim Mayza (2013, round 12th round), Ryan Borucki (2012, 15th round), and Rowdy Tellez (2013, 30th round). This is obviously a small sample over the entire Blue Jays draft history, but lots of quality players can be found in the later rounds and at affordable signing bonuses in the $125,000 area (funds that are used from the Blue Jays draft bonus pool and can only be used for drafting purposes).
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Over the past five years, the Blue Jays scouting department has done well at drafting quality players that find themselves progressing through the farm system, with the likes of Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Nate Pearson currently at the core of the current Blue Jays roster. Shane Farrell, the organization’s current scouting director, is entering his second season at the draft helm and will hopefully look to continue the success that he found in his first year in the director role.
In the grand scheme of things, there is no guarantee that any player will make the big leagues, regardless of what round they are drafted in, otherwise, the Blue Jays roster would look a lot different right now.
Personally, I am just happy that the Blue Jays will be losing a pick in a draft that boasts more than just five rounds, utilizing the additional rounds to hopefully find potential prospects that could either benefit the future roster or be used as trade bait to improve the current roster (notice that the 2018 and 2019 second-round picks were traded away in recent years). There was the potential that the draft this season could be similar to last season, so the fact that there are at least 20 picks this season is an added benefit that should help the scouting department develop a plan and add some talent to the organization’s farm system.
While most fans would obviously give up a second-round draft pick for a player like George Springer, Blue Jays fans who follow the organization’s prospects and analyze the draft boards will feel better knowing there are more rounds for young players to join the Jays ranks, especially since a high-value pick is no longer available.