The draft continues on, and I’ve done a pretty poor job of following it since last night’s write-up about Jeff Hoffman. So… let’s rectify some of that, shall we? Starting with this awesome image awesomely from Crashburn Alley, which came from a post back in October, pivoting off Keith Law and Chris Crawford’s top 2014 draft prospect rankings for ESPN.com. The awesomely-named Jays’ eleventh overall pick was actually ranked eleventh at the time, and those of you with insider will also note where number nine pick Jeff Hoffman was: ranked second. The Crashburn stuff, though… so good.
Like Hoffman, Pentecost is a college player — though as I’m sure you know by now, he’s a catcher. A real catcher, that is. Unlike some of the other high picks who played the position last year, Pentecost is expected to be able to stick at the position. In his live draft analysis at ESPN.com, Crawford explains that “Pentecost was rumored to go as high as pick No. 4 to the Cubs, but at the end of the day he went where his value suggested he should. None of his tools are plus, but as a catcher who has average to above-average tools across the board, he could move through the Blue Jays system expeditiously, and Toronto fans are well aware that they are in need of a catcher for the future.”
Pentecost is called a “rare catcher who could have average or better tools across the board, has a chance to hit for solid average and power” by MLB.com, who also make the requisite pointing out of the fact that he is “coming off a summer in which he was MVP of the Cape Cod League and led the premier college summer circuit with a .962 OPS.”
In their pre-draft rankings, ESPN had Pentecost at 22nd, which may have made some think the pick is a bit of a reach. As above, the reports are good, though: “The draft’s best pure catcher, Pentecost can catch, throw, run and hit for average,” we’re told. “The biggest question facing him is how his unorthodox swing will handle wood bats and pro pitching.” Baseball America was a little higher on the possibility of him doing so, as they ranked him 10th overall, while MLB.com had him 19th.
Giving out grades on the first day of the draft is a little bit absurd, but there’s some analysis to be done with respect to the strategy on display, and the Jays ended up big winners according to Law and Crawford. Law lists Toronto among his day one winners, for the obvious reason on Hoffman, and especially how he relates to the club’s second round pick. The Jays, he explains, “could also save some money by signing Hoffman for under slot, as he has zero leverage, and put it toward signing later picks, including prep righty Sean Reid-Foley, their second-round selection. Reid-Foley has a rough delivery but repeats it well and now shows three average or better pitches.”
Crawford elaborates in his roundup of day two winners, which also includes the Jays. Broken down by division, he calls Reid-Foley the highest upside of any AL East second-rounder, and explains that this “was an arm I thought would go in the first 20 to 25 picks, but for whatever reason, his stock fell over the past few days. The Toronto Blue Jays should feel fortunate to pick up a right-hander with this kind of talent this late, though, as he has two plus pitches in his 90-94 mph fastball and quality slider. His change should be an average offering as well. ”
Jeff Hoffman actually spoke with the local media after he was selected, and Gregor Chisholm has the transcript up over at North of the Border. Meanwhile, at Sportsnet, Shi Davidi tries to answer several key draft-related questions, including whether the Jays will actually sign the players they picked (gotta say yes here), and just what the hell happened with Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford. Thing is, the unsigned pick business has actually worked out pretty well for the Jays: Noah Syndergaard was the comp pick for not signing James Paxton, Beede begat Marcus Stroman (and also allowed the Jays to find funds to add late-round signability guy Dan Norris), and now Bickford has become Hoffman. Not saying it’s something the Jays should want to do, but all the whining about it is a little overblown, no?
Anywho, moving on from the draft…
I’ll mention it again in the Game Threat, but this is certainly noteworthy: Edwin Encarnacion is back in the Jays’ lineup tonight, after missing yesterday’s game with a sore back. He’ll DH, but that’s still a pretty damn good sign.
Minor move alert! The Jays added a small piece of bullpen depth, signing veteran right-handed reliever, Luis Ayala. MLBTR has the details, explaining, “The 36-year-old Ayala has been a solid bullpen piece for the past three seasons after it looked like his career was beginning to fade. He’s pitched for the Yankees, Orioles and Braves from 2011-13, posting a strong 2.58 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate north of 50 percent.”
Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Shi Davidi talks to Bob Stanley about the late Don Zimmer. Stanley, the Jays’ bullpen coach, joined the Boston Red Sox in 1977 — the second of Zimmer’s five years as manager there.
And one more from the team owner: our old friend the Tao of Stieb says that it’s time to temper our expectations for Brett Lawrie, but there’s a twist! “It’s time we stopped waiting for Lawrie to become something greater,” he says, “and start to recognize the value in the player he already is.” I can live with that.
Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun engages in some magical thinking as he explains that the Jays should deal Colby Rasmus, while pretending that they’re actually going to be able to get something pretty good in exchange for him. Better than the pick they’ll get when he walks, plus the value he’ll provide over the rest of the season (which, FYI, will be more than Anthony Gose does or can do)? I don’t think so.
Chris Mosch of Baseball Prospectus looks at the high-flying Jays, while at Sports On Earth, Dirk Hayhurst looks at Old Faithful: aka Mark Buehrle, a successful season from whom, he suggests, “may not answer all of baseball’s arm health questions, but could help baseball ask some desperately needed new ones.”
It’s not attendance shaming from Bob Levin of the Globe and Mail, but something quite the opposite. He recounts the summer when he was 12, as his hometown team, the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, collapsed and scarred him as a baseball fan for life. And in doing so, he offers this advice: “So take your time, Toronto fans; you’re entitled to your skepticism, your caution, never mind an aversion to the soulless dome or break-the-bank beer and nachos. Go when you’re ready. But go eventually – because, on balance, as Lord Tennyson almost said, ’tis better to have loved a team that lost than never to have loved at all.’ ”
In his game story for the National Post, John Lott looks at Thursday afternoon’s win with an emphasis on the impact of the Jays’ new hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer.
The Blue Jay Hunter tells us the tale of the unfortunately-named Domer, the original SkyDome mascot, who’ll be making a return appearance tonight in celebration of the building’s 25th anniversary.
Lastly, the Toronto Star looks at the fact that the Jays are 5.5 games up in the AL East, examining just how rare an occurrence that has been.