2023 MLB Draft Primer: What area should the Blue Jays focus on in the early rounds?

Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays
Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

With the 2023 MLB Amateur Draft set to take place in a month’s time in Seattle, teams have been reviewing carefully on what their priorities will be when making their selections. The Toronto Blue Jays currently hold the 20th overall pick in the draft, but have forfeited their second round pick as compensation for signing free agent pitcher Chris Bassitt this past offseason. As a result, the Jays don’t pick again until the third round (89th overall), so they should plan their selection strategy wisely.

With that in mind, what area or need should the Jays focus on in the early rounds of the draft? Well, during the 2022-23 offseason, the Jays made the bold move in trading away their top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno, along with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks for defensive stalwart Daulton Varsho.

The catching position was a position of strength for the Jays as of last season because they had three MLB-ready catchers at their disposal. By dealing away Moreno, it left the Jays with the starting catching tandem of Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk at the MLB level, but with no one in sight coming up their pipeline. Their next best and upcoming catching prospect happens to be Luis Meza, currently ranked 30th on the Jays top prospects list, who just started playing in the Rookie league with the FCL Blue Jays this year, so it will be a while before he develops into anything of significance.

As a result, with their catching depth going from a strength to a weakness after just one trade transaction, it is essential for the Jays to try to pursue a catching prospect in the early rounds of the 2023 MLB Draft that could be more developed or have greater potential that what they currently have in their minor league system to replenish their depth.

For the upcoming draft, Kyle Teel at aged 21 is currently the highest ranked and most talented catching prospect available at #10 on the MLB 2023 Prospect Rankings. He has the ability to hit for both average and power, along with great plate discipline, as he walked more than he struck out last year at the University of Virginia. He also possesses a plus-arm, along with high baseball IQ and leadership skills, making him an attractive target early in the first round.

More than likely Teel will be gone by the time the Jays are up for selection, so their focus should be more on Sinton High School graduate Blake Mitchell, currently ranked #13 on the MLB 2023 Prospect Rankings, but some have predicted he could fall back a bit in the draft, perhaps just enough for the Jays to take him at number 20. Mitchell’s strengths are his bat speed along with his patient approach at the plate, allowing him to work counts and hit for power and average as a result. His athleticism projects him to be an average defender, to go along with a double-plus arm strength. More intriguing is that Mitchell can also pitch, with a fastball that can touch 97 mph, along with a dropping curveball and changeup in his arsenal, so if catching doesn’t end up working well for him, he can always fall back as a power pitcher.

If both Teel and Mitchell are gone by the time the Jays have their pick, both Ralphy Velazquez and Cole Carrigg could be options to consider, although they are both ranked outside the top 20 for 2023 MLB Prospect Rankings (so if the Jays were up for the gamble, they could wait to their 89th pick to hope one of the two are still available). Velazquez possesses the strength and physique to be a power bat in the heart of a big league lineup in the future. He is a great contact hitter with a ton of raw power, and his strong arm would play well as a catcher, although some predict he may eventually be more suited as a first baseman.

Carrigg’s strength is his athleticism and defensive flexibility, as he could play any of the middle of the field positions in center field, shortstop, and catcher (think Daulton Varsho 2.0, plus shortstop capabilities and minus some power). He is a switch-hitter that may have a little less power compared to his main competitors above, but more than makes up for it with good contact skills. In addition, he also has the speed as a plus runner, and is more than capable defensively with a plus arm.

More than likely, the Jays will probably go with the best available prospect when their turn arrives at number 20, but look for one of the above catching prospects’ names to be called if they indeed focus on what their obvious need is in the organization as of this moment.