Why Arjun Nimmala was the wrong pick for the Blue Jays in the 2023 MLB Draft

The Blue Jays selected 17-year old high school shortstop Arjun Nimmala with the 20th pick in the 2023 MLB amateur draft on Sunday. While convential wisdom says ‘take the best player available’, that strategy may have been a mistake.
Aug 28, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, US; East infielder Arjun Nimmala (22) during the Perfect Game
Aug 28, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, US; East infielder Arjun Nimmala (22) during the Perfect Game / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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With the 20th pick of the 2023 MLB amateur draft, the Toronto Blue Jays selected 17-year old shortstop Arjun Nimmala of Strawberry Crest HS in Florida. He won’t turn 18 until November, and is the youngest 1st round pick this year. He’s a lean 6-foot-1 and 170 lbs, so could definitely fill out and move to 3B as he gets bigger and stronger. But he might not be MLB-ready for another 4~5 years.

Keith Law of The Athletic (subscription required) had him 8th on his final ‘Big Board’ ranking of the top 100 prospects, while MLB Pipeline had the right-handed hitter ranked 11th overall. He’d fallen to 17th in the most recent Baseball America (subscription required) ranking given concerns about striking out too much this past spring. They note, “He generates impressive power with a quick turn, but his approach and contact ability need continued refinement. He expands the zone too frequently, and while he’s capable of driving both fastballs and breaking balls, he’ll also get too steep with his bat path and swing under pitches, as well as wave over them below the zone.”

The Jays’ top few rounds draft strategy has recently shifted markedly to draft day age. The Nimmala pick follows them drafting 18-year old high school LHP Brandon Barriera with the 23rd overall pick in 2022, as well as 18-year old SS Tucker Toman with the 77th pick last year.

And as noted above, the 10 shortstops taken among the top 28 picks this year tied 2021 for the most SS selected that high in any draft. As Carlos Collazo of Baseball America notes, when you include catchers and centerfielders, “that’s 19 of 28 total first-round picks who were either selected at an up-the-middle position or have a reasonable chance to stick there in pro ball.”