22nd pick Marcus Stroman of Duke. No… the one in the middle.
We’re into the draft’s equivalent of the flyover states, as rounds two through seventy jillion are underway in Secaucus– and you can follow along with MLB.com’s Live Draft Tracker– but before we move on, I think it’s best we tidy up some of the stuff that’s buried in last night’s giant clusterfuck of a post, specifically having to do with the Jays’ first round, which Keith Law listed among his honourable mentions at ESPN.com (Insider Only), and their three key picks ones, DJ Davis, Marcus Stroman, and Matt Smoral.
DJ Davis – #17 – OF – Stone County HS (MS)
In his first round analysis for Baseball Prospectus (Paywall’d), Kevin Goldstein writes that the Jays “decided to spread their risk, and went conservative with their first pick in order to spend a little more money later.” Fireballing lefty Matt Smoral, picked 50th, seems to fit that bill, though Davis is certainly no slouch. I pointed out last night that ESPN’s Top 100 draft prospects list (Insider Only) had him at 65, but that a report from Lone Star Ball mentioned that he was at number 20 for Baseball America, and 30 overall for Goldstein.
Baseball America, like just about every other source, says he’s not quite a five-tool prospect, as his arm strength is suspect, and MLB.com suggests it will at least play in centre, where Davis can utilize his crazy speed. At SB Nation, John Sickels adds that Davis is fortunate he’s got the range for centre, “because he doesn’t have the arm for right field.”
In ESPN’s pick-by-pick analysis piece (Insider Only) Jason Churchill says that he thinks that he “could be a table setter if he maxes out the hit tool.” That seems to be the big question on Davis, as he’s reportedly got some power– “gap power,” tweeted Goldstein– and “the athleticism and bat speed to look like a potential star in the big leagues,” according to his ESPN scouting report (Insider Only). The same report refers to a “noisy lower half,” and suggests that he’s “a great upside play but will likely require a lot of patience as well as some work to calm down his swing.”
That said, there’s a hackneyed old saying that you can’t teach speed, and by all accounts Davis has shitloads of it– with some reports suggesting he’s just a notch below Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, who has stolen 63 bases, having been caught 13 times, in 53 games this season. More impressively, according to a report at the upside-focused PerfectGame.org, “the biggest excitement from scouts hasn’t come from Davis’ speed, which is a given at this point, but from the improvement he’s shown with the bat, especially with his power. Davis is not a slash-and-run hitter and takes a full, aggressive swing at the ball and is looking to drive pitches. He’s also proven to be a very patient hitter who is willing to wait for his pitch and take a walk, a very valuable skill for a baserunning threat.”
A crazy athletic, up-the-middle, huge upside talent who may allow the Jays to move some money around and sign some upside picks selected later? I’m almost surprised that we were kind of surprised by the pick.
Marcus Stroman – #22 – RHP – Duke
The MLB Network guys were falling all over themselves to praise this pick, with Jonathan Mayo saying on the broadcast that “he may be the steal of this first round.” That’s because Stroman “would go in the top five picks this year if he were only about five or six inches taller,” according to his ESPN.com scouting report (Insider Only), thanks to a repertoire that Baseball America praises as including a “fastball, which sits 92-94 mph,” a “wipeout slider that can make hitters look silly,” and because “he has added a changeup and cutter in the last year as he evolved from an infielder/closer into a starter.”
Goldstein adds in his pick-by-pick analysis at BP (Paywall’d) that “Stroman seemed to be the Plan B player for any number of teams in front of this pick,” and reiterates Mayo’s contention that he could be a steal for the Jays.
“Stroman’s main issue is a lack of plane or downward life on his fastball, so he gives up more contact than you’d like on the pitch, but that could be alleviated if he tried to throw a two-seamer, or if he goes to the pen and adds a grade of velocity,” says the ESPN.com report. Many suggest the bullpen could be in his immediate future– as well as the Majors later this summer– and that neither of the two options suggested above seem unrealistic. “The Jays could attempt to teach Stroman a two-seamer to create more sink on his heater and use him as a starter,” writes Jason Churchill in his pick-by-pick analysis at ESPN (Insider Only), while the PerfectGame.org report says that in a relief outing for Duke, his fastball “was clocked as high as 100 mph.”
His ESPN.com scouting report (Insider Only) knocks that notion down a peg, telling us that “as a starter, Stroman works from 92-95, but has shown 95-97 in relief before,” but… that’s still pretty damn good.
Matthew Smoral – #50 – RHP – Solon HS (OH)
“Smoral has big upside thanks to a mid-90s fastball and plus slider from a low arm slot,” writes Jason Churchill in his pick-by-pick supplemental round analysis at ESPN.com (Insider Only), which draws comparisons to Madison Bumgarner in ESPN’s scouting report (Insider Only)– though that’s not quite as big a compliment to the talk of Randy Johnson in the positive-focused PerfectGame.org report. “Six-foot-seven lefties who can touch 95 mph don’t exactly grow on trees,” wrote Kevin Goldstein in his final mock draft for Baseball Prospectus.
It’s a bit of a risky pick, however, because of both injury and signability. “He has a scholarship to the University of North Carolina and may be a tough sign,” writes John Sickels at SB Nation, while the ESPN scouting report points to the fact that he “made just three outings this spring before his season ended due to a stress fracture in his right (and thus landing) foot.” They add that “before that, Smoral had pitched like a potential top-10 overall pick, touching 95, sitting 89-93 with plus life and a hard out-pitch slider, even showing the ability to pitch to his glove side with the fastball.”
He wasn’t quite yet his old self, I suppose, in this video from Baseball America, which shows him in his return to action from the injury, but there’s obviously a lot of upside in what Goldstein tweeted was “your aggressive punch of a pick we’ve been waiting for from the Jays.”
A Note on Info and Analysis
We’ve ranted a bunch of times about fans losing their minds over the draft, when really, these are all guys that not a whole hell of a lot of people know a damn thing about. I read an absurd page of an MLB.com Blue Jays forum, for example, where people were laying out their ideal picks for the Jays at all their different slots, as though these tools had any fucking clue about anything!
But you know what? Fine. Have your meaningless fun, because it’s all pretty fucking OK in the grand scheme, compared to the sites out there who are writing about these prospects in their own voice, as though they’re presenting their own information, as though they’d know the first fucking thing about these guys without the hard work of experts like Keith Law, Jim Callis, Kevin Goldstein, John Sickels, Jonathan Mayo, Jason Churchill, the scouting reports at PerfectGame.org, and others.
Yes, we use the work of those guys to help compile the pictures of minor league prospects that get passed around as gospel on sites like this, but there are many other avenues in which to glean information on those guys, including freely available stats, statements from team officials, coaches, etc.
While I don’t know what every writer gets up to in the course of studying this stuff– and I’m not asking for resumes– I just want to make it real clear that I know sweet fuck all about these draftees, or any amateur baseball talent, honestly. And that’s why I’m acknowledging– and tried my best to do so last night– where this information is coming from, who you should be looking to for extra information (because I’m certainly not going to give away everything that each person or service is saying), and when I’m just spitballin’ something from my own knowledge base.
A blog like this has so much to do with work being produced by others– be it rumours heard, opinion columns to shit on, or scouting reports to digest– that it sometimes feels dicey, probably for good reason, how much I’m using from particular sources, especially because I truly value what they do and want to responsibly promote their work while still giving enough of a taste of it to use it to my own ends. I hope I’ve managed to do that, but perhaps more importantly, I hope to fuck nobody is out there explicitly and intentionally not doing that, and writing like an expert without a hint of suggestion that they’re not.
Image via Twitter.