The Toronto Blue Jays selected Gunnar Hoglund in the first round yesterday, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Mississippi. A projected top 10 pick to start the year, Hoglund recently underwent Tommy John surgery and will be on the shelf for the rest of this year and a good portion of the next, which is the main reason he was on the draft board for the Blue Jays at #19.
The MLB Draft resumes today, with rounds 2-10 scheduled to start at one p.m. (EST) and then rounds 11-20 slated for tomorrow. That being said, the Blue Jays will not be selecting until the third round at 93rd overall after losing their second-round pick as compensation for signing George Springer this past off-season.
Drafting Hoglund was a smart move in that he should go below compensation slot value (due to his TMJ injury) and with the Blue Jays having the third-lowest bonus pool this year, any dollar saved from one pick can be helpful to sign another player. Looking at the Jays overall farm system, with the abundance of middle infielders and catchers, I am hoping general manager Ross Atkins and scouting director Shane Farrell use their third-round pick on an outfielder.
The Toronto Blue Jays will not be selecting until the 91st pick in the third round after losing their second-round pick as compensation for signing George Springer. The team should use this next pick on an outfielder.
Looking at the top prospect list right now, the organization has six players who are designated as outfielders, with Austin Martin and Otto Lopez both splitting time between the infield and the outfield as of right now. Behind those two players is Dasan Brown, who is still a few years away from the major leagues but does have a lot of potential with his athleticism. Will Robertson, Josh Palacios, and Chavez Young round out the list.
Considering the Blue Jays have a pretty solid core of outfielders right now on the roster, adding a prep school player could be the move to make if some options are still on the board. The team should save some money on signing Hoglund and can use some extra dollars to convince a few high school players to forego the college route. If a college outfielder is available around the 91st spot then the “best player available option” can be utilized but that’s a bridge to cross when you get there. A more established college player could add some additional depth in A/AA and could make for quick work up the farm system with the additional development versus a high school player.
A quick look at who may be available in the outfield when the Blue Jays are on the clock:
Lonnie White – Malvern Prep
Ranked at #72 as per MLB.com, Lonnie White stands at 6’3″ and is known for his athleticism and raw power in the batter’s box. He does have some swing and miss to his game but with the right development, his already short swing could bode well if he can time up the fastball more. White does come with the added risk that he is a two-sport athlete, playing wide receiver in high school, and any team that drafts him will need to convince him to not attend Penn State. Proceed with caution but if the Jays think he can be signed, he will add some much-needed depth down in Rookie ball.
Aaron Zavala – Oregon
Ranked just behind White at #76, outfielder Aaron Zavala checks a lot of boxes for what the Blue Jays need in the farm system. He is a left-handed bat that hits for contact versus power, evident by his .354/.465/.506 slash line after three years at the University of Oregon. He did add some power to his swing with nine home runs this year and walked more than he struck out, another good sign of his eye and discipline at the plate. A corner outfielder, the Golden Spikes Award finalist could start easily start in A ball this year, and quick progression through the farm system is not out of the question.
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Daylen Lile – Trinity High
Another high school player, Daylen Lile is a lefty batter who is well known for putting the ball in play across the diamond and for solid gap power. His arm is a work in progress and it will need to improve over time but the bat is Lile’s calling, with teams very interested in how it can develop over time. He is currently committed to Louisville, something to consider when stepping to the podium. Lile is currently ranked at #80.
Michael Roberston – Venice High School
A lefty hitter for Venice High School in Florida, Michael Roberston is different than the previous players mentioned in that it is his speed that separates him from the rest of the group. He got a 70 ranking on the 20/80 scale and projects to be a future center fielder with his great speed and a strong enough arm to keep him there. A potential bat at the top of the lineup, the power has yet to be a huge contributor to his game but could be developed as he grows into his 6’1″ frame. Any team that drafts the #93 ranked Roberston will need to convince him to forego his commitment to Florida.
Isaiah Thomas – Vanderbilt
Rounding out the list is Isaiah Thomas, a right-hitting outfielder for the established Vanderbilt Commodores baseball program. Thomas is considered an all-around player with a bat that can hit for both contact and power, evident by his .303/.357/.585 and 20 home runs while playing three years at Vanderbilt (with one COVID shortened season). He played the corners this past year for the Commodores but does have a good enough arm and above-average speed to potentially play center field. The Blue Jays do have some familiarity with the program after drafting alumni Austin Martin last year in the first round, with Thomas being a solid addition to the farm system if he is still around in the third round.
There are a few other options around the 80-120 rank in the outfield like Braylon Bishop (#94), Malakhi Knight (#95), Denzel Clarke (#98), and Robby Martin (#104) if a few different options are gone when the Blue Jays are on the clock. The team could go with another pitching arm at this point in the draft but adding the outfield depth does seem like a solid choice, considering how stacked the other areas in the system are by comparison.
There is the potential, although very unrealistic, that high-ranking outfielders like Will Taylor (#20), and Jud Fabian (#23) could be available in the third round for the Blue Jays. The stars would really have to align but if Fabian is still around (Taylor is a bit riskier given he is a dual-sport athlete), they would be great additions to the farm system.