The damn draft is still meandering towards its merciful conclusion, but by Day 3 all of the good stuff has already happened– and this year a whole hell of a lot of it seems to have taken place during day two, as many teams, the Jays perhaps chief among them, started test-driving their strategies on how best to game the new CBA system in order maximize the amateur talent they’re able to acquire.
All that good stuff, and further scouting on the Jays’ top picks, was the subject of Mike Wilner’s chat with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus during the pre-game show last night on the (audio here), as well as some gold from Keith Law yesterday, who spoke about Marcus Stroman and Matt Smoral on the Baseball Today podcast, and answered a number of Jays-related questions in his post-draft chat at ESPN.com.
Here are your highlights…
After risking alienating his audience by pointing out that Brett Lawrie hasn’t been so hot this year– though saying that’s to be expected from a 22-year-old and it’s nothing to worry about– Goldstein and Wilner moved on to some draft talk, starting with some strategy talk.
“I don’t think DJ Davis is going to be a problem signing at 17 in the least,” Goldstein explained, trying to help us wrap our heads around how the Jays will make use of their allotted draft money. “I wouldn’t anticipate much problems with Marcus Stroman at 22. I think they’re going to try to find some money somewhere to find extra to sign Smoral, who I think has mid-first round expectations, as far as what kind of money it’s going to take, and Alford, who also could have first round expectations as far as money. Guys who are looking at, or expecting between a million-and-a-half or two million dollars.”
“That’s why you suddenly saw, at a certain point, when you’re saying, ‘how are they going to sign these guys?’ you started to see where the money’s going to come from,” he says. “Their fourth round pick, college senior, guy with no leverage, is going to sign for way less than fourth round money, and he’s way less than a fourth round talent. The same thing happened in the fifth round– the lefty from Nicholls State. Georgia Southern, the sixth round pick– that’s another college senior with very little leverage, who’s nowhere close to a sixth round talent, but he’s going to go there, they’re going to save money, and they’re going to reassign this cash to basically sign Smoral and Alford. And it’s really smart. I mean, I don’t care what they would do with these picks afterwards, if you can find a way to finish the day with four guys who are legitimately in a lot of mixes in the first round, you do it. And if they can find a creative way to do it, I think they end up walking away with one of the better drafts in baseball.”
To that point, Clint Longenecker of Baseball America broke down the number of college seniors selected in the first ten rounds by team. Five teams selected none, nine teams selected just one college senior, ten teams selected two, two teams picked three, the Rangers, Yankees and Red Sox each took five, and the Jays took seven.
“There were even reports of teams trying to circumvent the system by entering non-prospect names, like team interns, to draft and then pay them a minimal amount in order to divert bonus money elsewhere,” writes Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. “That plan was caught and thwarted by Major League Baseball.”
Back to the Jays– because surely they weren’t one of such clubs, looking for every possible legal way to game the system *COUGH*– there actually appears to be one other, less talked-about draftee who will be going over slot, as Chris Toman of MLB.com spoke to their second rounder, Chase De Jong, who told them, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a Blue Jay, 95 percent sure. They will pay over slot for me. … [I'll] be treated as a first-round compensation pick financially.”
Of course, the difference in slot between being the 81st pick and the 60th is a little over $200K, according to Gregor Chisholm’s draft primer at BlueJays.com, so that sounds doable– and as you’ll read below, Keith Law would probably agree that it’s worthwhile, as he was high on De Jong. But first, more Goldstein, as the BP man also spoke to Wilner about the Jays’ first round picks, both of whom he liked quite a lot, by the sounds of it.
Asked if Davis brings much to the table beyond his 80 grade speed, Goldstein explained, ”I think that’s one of the reasons he’s in the first round. I mean, we can find plenty of good runners– there’s plenty of sevens and eights in this draft. There’s eights still on the board because they can’t play.”
“One of the things that really excited people about DJ Davis when they went and saw him was, yeah, he’s a burner, but there’s some ability here as well,” he added. “The guy can hit, and he’s not some sort of little speedster slap hitter. He’s a good athlete, he’s got strong wrists, he has the ability to drive some balls. He’s no power hitter, but a lot of times these 80 runners, you see these little guys who are just slapping the ball around– he’s hitting line drives, he’s driving stuff, there’s gap power here. When you add it all up, he’s a baseball player with 80 speed, as opposed to a guy with 80 speed who you’re hoping you can teach how to be a baseball player. There’s a big difference.”
Moving on to 22nd pick Marcus Stroman, Goldstein confirms Wilner’s suggestion that “he absolutely was the best pitcher in the ACC this year, and he has some of the best stuff in all of the draft. And I’m with you on the Tom Gordon comp [we've heard Stroman get], I think a Tom Gordon comparison for Marcus Stroman is both cheap and lazy, and people shouldn’t do it. First of all, I’m not sure he’s 5’9″, he’s probably more 5’8″, but Tom Gordon was well-known for an amazing curveball, Marcus Stroman throws a slider– they’re not really similar guys– and then Stroman probably has better velocity. Stroman was a starter at Duke, but then you look at him like, but he’s 5’8″, can he really throw 200 innings a year in the big leagues? And the smart money’s on no. It just doesn’t happen, guys. But you’re sitting back and you look at him and you think about what he did last summer– he closed for Team USA and he was absolutely lights out as closer. He was coming in at 95 to 97, with a plus-plus slider– a seven slider. And that’s two nasty, nasty pitches. That’s a late inning combination– that’s a closer combination– a ninth inning reliever. And if you just throw him in the bullpen right now, and let him relieve, he really could be pitching important innings for the Blue Jays by September.”
Speaking of Stroman’s role, Keith Law explained during yesterday’s Baseball Today podcast, “I asked the Blue Jays, I don’t think they’ve made any decisions yet about what to do with him.” So… there’s that.
He also spoke extensively of 50th pick Matt Smoral.
“Smoral would be the one of the Blue Jays’ [Day One] picks who I’d say there’s a risk he might not sign. Because if he’d been healthy all spring, he’s probably a top 10, top 15 pick. He suffered a stress fracture in his right foot– his landing foot, he’s a left-handed pitcher– and that knocked him out for the last two-, two-and-a-half months.
“I like him,” he continued. “It’s a great arm. But he’s had a previous stress fracture in his elbow, he’s had an avulsion fracture, I think, in his knee, stress fracture in his foot. He’s had some issues with these minor fractures, and didn’t pitch this spring, and expected to be a top 10 or top 15 pick. He’s almost the perfect candidate to just go to school, to reestablish his value, and he comes out in three years and then he’s a top ten pick. That same guy, coming out of college, is in contention for the first overall pick.”
“I wouldn’t put it past them, put it that way,” he says of the possibility of the Jays signing all of their first three picks. He then concluded his brief Jays discussion by commenting on the ”very, very high effort delivery” of Tyler Gonzales, and providing some details on him and Mitch Nay as well.
And, as I mentioned way the fuck above, there were some Jays-related nuggets in his chat yesterday as well…
daphne (somerville MA)
what do you think is the likelihood of Stroman reaching the majors this year? 50%? is the Jays’ weakness in the bullpen going to have any impact on whether he comes up or not?
It’s 100% if they want him to do it.
Gruber’s Mullet (Toronto)
DJ Davis is graded at 80 speed. How does his speed stack up against Billy Hamilton?
I think Buxton is faster than Davis, actually.
Jays take Chase De Jong, another of my favorites form SoCal (admittedly a pretty high-profile guy). Still no evidence they’re going under slot anywhere.
Gruber’s Mullet (Toronto)
Is it more than likely many teams will go over the 5% total pool $ and pay the tax penalty?
I think very few will, probably none.
Gruber’s Mullet (Toronto)
Tyler Beede didn’t sign last year when Toronto picked him. When is Beede eligible to go back into the draft?
Jason (Port Perry, ON)
Was DJ Davis a huge reach for the Jays? You had him ranked a lot lower.
His hit tool is a big question mark. He can certainly run, and he did clean up his swing a lot this spring, but he’s still a long way off with the bat.