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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Was it a Mistake to Take Another SS?

While the Jays pick of Nimmala looks reasonable as likely the best player available when they drafted at 20th, the Blue Jays already have a stacked pipeline of middle infielders in their farm system, including shortstops Orelvis Martinez (ranked 2nd in BA’s midseason top 30 prospects update), Addison Barger (4th), Leo Jimenez (7th), Tucker Toman (8th), Josh Kasevich (10th) and Manuel Beltre (13th). Other middle infielders in the system include Cade Doughty, Adrian Pinto, Alex De Jesus and Estiven Machado.

What the Blue Jays do lack in their farm system is MLB-caliber pitching depth, with LHP Ricky Tiedemann as their only top 100 prospect at present. There were a number of pitchers available at No. 20 on Sunday, including RHP Hurston Waldrep of the University of Florida who went 24th, RHP Josh Knoth of Patchogue-Medford HS in New York who went 33rd, RHP Charlee Soto of Reborn Christian Academy in Florida taken 34th, LHP Thomas White of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts who went 35th overall, and RHP Ty Floyd of LSU at No. 38.

The Braves drafted 21-year old Waldrep four picks after the Jays, and Baseball America says that “[He] has some of the filthiest stuff in the draft. It’s a potential frontline starter repertoire with a diverse array of pitches that could be 60s or 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale.” He was No. 14 on Keith Law’s ranking, 18th on the Baseball America list, and MLB Pipeline had him at No. 19.

18-year old high schooler Thomas White went 15 picks later to the Miami Marlins at No. 35. He was ranked as high as 19th in the Baseball America ranking, and 24th by MLB Pipeline. As Baseball America notes, “At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, White has a smooth, fluid delivery with minimal effort. His fastball typically sits at 92-96 mph and reaches 97 with late arm-side run from his three-quarter slot and a chance there’s a tick of extra velocity still to come. He maintains his arm speed on an 82-86 mph changeup that flashes plus, looking like a fastball out of his hand before falling underneath barrels with good sink and fade.” In other words, a left-handed Roy Halladay?

Could it be that MLB teams are shying away from high school arms in the early rounds of the draft given the risk associated with such a gamble? Certainly top 2022 Jays draft pick Brandon Barriera has struggled so far as a 19-year old pro.

Another successful strategy recently employed by Toronto was to draft SS Austin Martin - the best projected hitter available - at No. 5 overall in 2020, but then package him with RHP Simeon Woods Richardson in the deal to acquire starter José Berríos at the trade deadline in 2021.

Perhaps the Jays can use some of their talent logjam at SS to acquire MLB quality pitching at the trade deadline again this year? That certainly could help to solve their pitching depth dilemma, and might give them better odds to win the World Series than the current 5.9% per FanGraphs?