Checking in on Blue Jays UDFA signings from the 2020 MLB Draft
By Eric Treuden
The Toronto Blue Jays left the shortened 2020 MLB Draft feeling good after selecting five high-end talents from the annual event.
The club selected Austin Martin first, who was included in the package to land José Berríos. Next was CJ Van Eyk, who is still a member of the farm system today but hasn't pitched since 2021. Nick Frasso was third, and we all know how he's doing now. The currently-injured Trent Palmer was fourth and catcher/outfielder Zach Britton, who is still with the organization, was fifth.
This just goes to show how much stock should actually be put into these things. Only a few of these players remain, and none of them turned into anything for the Blue Jays.
You may (or may not) remember that the 2020 draft was shortened to just five rounds because of the ongoing COVID pandemic.
Any players who were not selected in the lightning-fast five rounder automatically became UDFA, or undrafted free agents. Non-drafted free agents could be signed by any team for a bonus that was capped at $20,000. Since the pandemic forced the draft to shorten, this new "rule" suddenly leveled the playing field and saw all teams competing for players' services.
During this madness, the Blue Jays signed three players that had become UDFAs post-draft.
Checking back in on the Blue Jays' UDFA signings from a past MLB Draft.
Harrison Ray, a light-hitting utilityman, lasted just two seasons in the Blue Jays' system. He was brought aboard after a decent-but-not-great career at Vanderbilt in which he hit .259 with five home runs in 158 games. He hit a combined .198 in parts of two seasons with the Jays with 10 home runs and defensive appearances all over the diamond. Ray was released by the organization in August of 2022 after failing to produce in any way.
Outfielder MacKenzie Mueller was also brought aboard as an UDFA. He has not fared much better than Ray, hitting just .202 in 147 games with eight home runs and 61 RBI. Mueller, unlike Ray, is still a part of the organization but is currently on the injured list and is expected to miss the full 2023 season.
Finally, we have Zac Cook, who is still very much a part of the organization. Cook, now 25, is another utility option who can play some infield and all three outfield spots. Last season, he hit 15 home runs and stole 14 bases but struck out a ton and managed to hit just .189. His 2023 season is not off to a much better start, as he is 7-for-43 with 20 strikeouts in 15 games.
Again, this just goes to show how prospects can or cannot pan out over stretches of time. Each of this trio was signed with the expectations that they'd be key contributors to the organization for an extremely small amount of money. Unfortunately, this aspect of the draft was a major whiff for the Blue Jays.