Archive for the ‘Rule 4 Draft’ Category

SRF-signing

The pseudo-disaster that was last year’s Phil Bickford pick isn’t quite behind them yet, but the Jays took another big step on their way to getting their 2014 crop of draft picks locked up today, inking one slot-value deal and one double slot-value deal with their second- and fifth-rounders Sean Reid-Foley and Lane Thomas. And you’ll never believe which one got which!

That is, you’ll never believe it if you didn’t already know. Or if I didn’t give it away from how I phrased the second sentence of the previous paragraph.

Anyway… it’s Reid-Foley — the guy labelled a “steal” on many fronts — who got the slot-value deal. Jon Heyman tweeted the news this afternoon, announcing a bonus of $1.128-million.

I know this is a guy we’ve never seen pitch and don’t know a whole hell of a lot about, but — holy shit! — Reid-Foley was ranked the 18th best prospect in the draft by MLB.com, 20th by Baseball America, and 35th by ESPN. And the Jays took him at 49 and signed him for slot!??!?! That’s kind of amazing.

Now, Jeff Hoffman he is not. The profile of him at ESPN.com from Keith Law and/or Chris Crawford notes his lack of a third pitch — “he will occasionally throw a change, but there’s noticeable arm speed difference and it’s clear he’s not comfortable throwing it yet,” it’s explained — but suggests he’s got the floor of a high-leverage reliever and the ceiling of a number three starter, so that certainly isn’t bad. Especially when you remember how reluctant scouts are to put a “number one” tag on anybody. MLB.com, for what it’s worth, puts the same third-starter ceiling on him, but notes that he throws “four pitches for strikes,” so… that’s different.

Meh.

Regardless, it ought to go without saying that it seems like a tremendous job for the Jays to have nabbed themselves a polished guy with first round talent for slot money at pick 49. And it turns out that those “savings” (the theoretical savings against what you’d have expected to pay him, that is) had a purpose. Not having to pay more to get SRF has allowed the club to make a bit of a reach — at least, if the industry consensus is to be believed — in signing fifth rounder Lane Thomas for twice what his pick was valued at. MLBTR explains:

The Blue Jays announced today that they’ve agreed to terms with fifth-round pick Lane Thomas, and MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets that Thomas will earn a hefty $750K bonus. That’s more than double the $343K value of Thomas’ No. 144 overall selection.

Thomas, a Tennessee commit, wasn’t ranked among MLB.com’s Top 200 draft prospects or the Top 100 of ESPN’s Keith Law, but Baseball America considered him the No. 172 prospect in this year’s draft class. BA praised the high school shortstop/center fielder’s athleticism, noting that many scouts believe he’s a true center fielder with plus speed once he’s underway. Others feel that his strong arm and athleticism will lend well to playing in the infield, per BA’s report. In his tweet, Callis noted that the Tennessee high schooler has solid “all-around tools.”

But don’t let the lower ranking get you too down, as Chris Crawford writes in his piece at ESPN.com about the teams who improved themselves the most in the draft, that “both Nick Wells and Lane Thomas have the talent to be among the best bats in their system.” Damning him with faint praise? Perhaps. But obviously the Jays like him plenty, and it’s not like the industry consensus is all knowing — I sure remember some furled brows at the time the Jays reached for Noah Syndergaard in the 2010 sandwich round. Which… well… which isn’t to say that every time a team shows it likes a player more than the industry does it means they must know something. But it isn’t to say that it doesn’t, either.

The Jays, per a team release, have also signed fourth-round prep catcher Matt Morgan, and eighth-round University of Florida pitcher Justin Shafer. Bluebird Banter has a handy table keeping track of the status of all the Jays’ picks, with respect to having signed or not (and the amount they’ve signed for), if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

Image via the Mayport (FL) Mirror. It’s really SRF! Signing his letter of intent to Florida State.

jeffhoffman

Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Pick #9, Slot Value: $3,080,000

“The competitor in me makes it hard for me to see, maybe, a bunch of guys get picked ahead of me — guys that I know aren’t better than me, some guys out of high school that don’t really understand the game of baseball yet. It’s going to be tough if I fall a little further. But everything happens for a reason, and whatever team takes the so-called risk and drafts me is going to get the best player in the draft.”

That’s Jeff Hoffman, the player who the Jays selected with the ninth overall pick in the draft on Thursday night, speaking to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The player who lost millions of dollars due to an ill-timed injury and landed at the feet of the Toronto Blue Jays, who at least managed not to fumble the opportunity away.

There is risk that comes with this opportunity, of course. There always is when it comes to the draft, but it’s especially true of Hoffman, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery. On the MLB Network broadcast of the draft, Peter Gammons reported that many teams had looked at his medicals and felt that the operation had gone cleanly, but while the recovery rates for the surgery have improved over the years, it’s hardly foolproof. But knowing that, because of a second high pick, they wouldn’t be blowing their entire first round if Hoffman is never the same again, the Jays smartly took the guy whose pre-injury ESPN.com scouting report said “could challenge” for being the first pitcher off the board.

As in, a top four, or three, or two, or maybe even top-of-the-draft talent.

Obviously such designations are fluid — obviously — but if you’re a Jays fan this is something you can’t not be very, very happy about. That’s easy for us to say, of course. I mean, we don’t know what the hell goes on behind the scenes and with the medicals, and why teams appear to make more conservative picks than not. We have no idea what actually constitutes a reasonable risk in the draft. We have a bunch of media proxies who try to help guide us through these things as best they can, working as they do slightly deeper within the murk of the various clubs’ draft schemes. But… welll… think of the Jays’ next pick: Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost. There were all kinds of intriguing names still on the board at the time he was selected, and which makes you wonder about the degree to which they’ve been conservative. It’s hard to gauge, and really, the whole draft is about the balancing act between risk and reward, between floor and ceiling, between safe reliability and unhinged potential. To us, who know so little of the particulars, it’s all risk — or, at least, that’s probably how we ought to look at it, rather than get hung up on certain guys — and that’s why Anthopoulos just flopping his balls on the table and taking the injured guy with the pedigree way above where he’s been selected seems totally fine.

Especially you have things being said about him that simply do not get said about ninth overall picks. “If Hoffman were healthy,” writes Chris Crawford, ESPN live draft blog, “he would have been a lock for the top four, as some compared him to a poor man’s Adam Wainwright.”

“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about Verlander or Strasburg when they see him in live action,” Hoffman’s Cape Cod league coach, Dan Roszel, who mentored Chris Sale at Florida Gulf Coast, told the Times. “Watching Jeff and the way he’s handled everything, it makes me believe he can be a big league No. 1.”

And according to a tweet from Ben Nicholson-Smith, Jays scouting director Brian Parker adds that, “We thought for most of the spring we wouldn’t even get a chance to take [him].”

He’s 6’4, he’s touched 98, and that pre-injury report from ESPN gave him a future 70 fastball, 70 curveball, 60 feel for pitching, and a plus changeup as well. And if you want to give him extra points for confidence, he’ll take those too.

“In the short term, my goal was to be the No. 1 overall pick, because I feel I’m the best player in the draft,” Hoffman told Kepner. “That’s kind of changed a little bit, but my long-term goal of making an impact on a big league team within two years — that’s not changed at all.”

Oh yes, two years. That feels weird, considering he’s a Jays first rounder, but he somehow actually isn’t a high-schooler! Neither is Pentecost!

Hoffman is, in fact, just six months younger than Aaron Sanchez, who was taken four drafts ago. So there’s that. It’ll still be a while before he can make any sort of impact, but there’s a lot to like about this. And! Because he’s injured now, and will only barely have himself back on a mound again next year in time to show that there are no ill-effects of the surgery, and will be a college senior then — meaning he wouldn’t have a lot of negotiating leverage anyway — it’s hard to see this one getting away from the Jays for any sort of financial reason. Hoffman will get paid, but he just doesn’t have the incentive to not sign something if the Jays are being remotely fair. In fact the Jays, the thinking goes, should be able to get him at some measure under slot, which would allow them to save a bit of money to load up on some talent later in the draft as well.

Yep… not a whole lot to dislike about this.

 

Image via Reflector.com.

 

mlbdraftlogo

The MLB Network’s draft coverage is streaming live now. Earlier today we examined the names most linked to the Jays. In the Daily Duce we got you up to speed with all the late changes to the various mock drafts. We’ve already put more effort into this than MLB did in designing their draft logo, in other words. And then the Jays won. Again. Madness! Tremendous madness!

The Jays hold the ninth and eleventh picks tonight, with all kinds of intrigue surrounding them. Do they go with massive upside? Do they cheap out? Do they try to help their upper minors with someone more polished? Do they take a pitcher who just had Tommy John surgery?

At 7 PM the festivities,  and the march begins toward the Jays’ two selections, begin. I’ll be here to guide you through it all. So keep refreshing, and follow me, @AndrewStoeten, on Twitter for all kinds of good stuff. The latest updates I provide will go above the horizontal line you see below, with all previous ones residing below it. Let the insane comps begin!

8:16 PM

The Jays Select Kennesaw State C Max Pentecost (11)

Pentecost is a catcher who folks seem to think will stay a catcher, but has a bit of a bat and is athletic too. Lots of yelping about Touki Toussaint not going here, or Trea Turner — who I thought I heard the Jays were super for sure going to take, or something — but given the state of catching in the majors right now, and the fact that Jonathan Mayo — one guy on the MLB Network panel actually worth listening to — figures he’s the only actual catcher of any of the projected top 15 picks, and that sounds pretty alright to me. But what do I know? Nothing. What do you know? Nothing. What does anyone know? Nothing, really. But let’s try to fix that, shall we? I’ll hang up the live blog for a little bit, but fear not, as I’ll be back shortly with all the scouting we need on these two.


8:10 PM

The Mets take Michael Conforto, and the Jays once again find themselves on the clock.

Some housekeeping. I’m going to post the Jays’ next pick in the same format as the update below announcing Hoffman, and then, as far as following along with the selections, you’re on your own. I’ll be back, though, providing all the information I can find on the two Jays selections.

Sound good? Good.

8:04 PM

The Jays Select East Carolina RHP Jeff Hoffman (9)

Peter Gammons calls Hoffman “a special guy” and says that this is a great gamble, as many teams looked at the medicals on Hoffman, who just had Tommy John surgery (or he otherwise would have been picked much higher), and thought that the operation was clean and that he should be back in 15 months ready to go. The success rate on Tommy John isn’t 100%, but this is a very smart gamble for a club that has two picks here. They save money for elsewhere in the draft, and by taking him at nine they have a lower slot recommendation to begin negotiations with the eleventh pick at. That saves even more pool money to use later on, and shouldn’t be an issue, with a lot of talent that they still thought might be available still around. A better gamble than Phil Bickford. Let’s say that.

Read the rest of this entry »

In this guest post from Kyle Matte we look at which players the major mock drafts have linked the Jays to, how those players fit the patterns established by the drafts of the Anthopoulos era, and what to expect on Thursday night, as the Jays hold the ninth and eleventh picks in the MLB draft. Follow Kyle on Twitter at @KyleMatte, and stay tuned to DJF on Thursday night for our annual draft live blog!

In early May here at DJF, I looked back at the Toronto Blue Jays 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 drafts, attempting to identify a template or prototype for what this regime looks for in amateur pitchers and hitters. I won’t go into too much detail regarding the methodology (you can read all about it by checking out the article), but by combining scouting information and physical data from 80 notable prospects selected across the aforementioned drafts, a number of trends emerged for what Alex Anthopoulos and company covet most. By awarding points for meeting certain criteria, seven pitchers and five hitters widely considered to be in the top 60 overall emerged as the most suitable prospects – by my system, at least.

The regular seasons for both the high school and college ranks have reached their conclusions, though for many prospects, the baseball season carries on. College tournaments in the United States are well underway and will continue through June before culminating in the College World Series on June 25th, while high school prospects have been engaged in Showcase events that offer them one final opportunity to display their talent on a level playing field.

With that being said, barring serious injury, it’s unlikely that anything happening on the diamond over the last week or so has had a dramatic effect on any kind of ranking or perception by a front office. Teams have established their targets; most of what has been happening (and will continue to happen) leading up to Thursday night is extensive dialogue between organizations and player agents advisors. “We like your player. Slot for the ninth pick is 3 million. Will your client sign for 2.5?” The conversations are (likely) far more delicate and professional, but with the talent level established, signability becomes one of the biggest determining factors in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, outside of the occasional anonymous source, the general public is not privy to such exchanges, and furthermore, it’s probable that whatever number gets floated by advisors differs from team to team based upon client preference. The only way we might be able to gather the tone or flow of those conversations is through draft analysts and/or insiders who are presumably slotting players to teams in their mock drafts for a reason.

In this article, we’ll look at the most recent mock drafts published by Baseball America, MLB.com, MLB Draft Insider, Perfect Game, ESPN, and Scout.com to see who the experts are slotting to Toronto at 9 and 11. In most cases, these mocks will be their penultimate edition, as a final mock is usually released the morning or afternoon of the big day. We’ll conclude the article by looking at the twelve players I originally outlined to see where they presently stand in the eyes of the scouting community.

Read the rest of this entry »

pillarsuperman

Just because.

Shi Davidi posted a piece at Sportsnet on Wednesday night, in the afterglow of what was certainly the most unlikely of the nine straight wins of the Jays’ recent streak, that in many ways focused the cold, hard light of reality on the club’s current situation. Though ostensibly about Brandon Morrow’s recovery from a torn tendon sheath in his index finger, and the huge boost a healthy Morrow (who dealt with soreness in the area of the finger, we’re told, for three weeks before the injury occurred) could give this team, the piece also touched on the viability of Liam Hendriks — who, you may have noticed, needed every damn inch of the Rogers Centre to get away with his impressive two-run, three-hit, zero-walk, five-strikeout line yesterday — as well as the viability of any Jays plans to take on salary via the trade market, and even their draft budget.

That last bit was the really eye-popping one, buried as it was, as Davidi told us that, right now, “money is so tight the Blue Jays won’t even have their usual war chest for next week’s draft.” That is, of course, unless “the Blue Jays continue to play well, remain atop the American League East, attendance rises and the TV ratings spike further.”

The doubting ultra-cynic could maybe see a not-so-subtle message in there from the masters of the club, but it’s certainly just as easy to take it at face value, too. “Cheap-jack shit-fuck Rogers” is an easy narrative for a good reason. There’s something to it. As Shi puts it earlier in the piece, “if the money wasn’t there” when the club need players to make deferrals in order to sign Ervin Santana, “there’s no reason to think it will be there in July with the Blue Jays already at their 2014 budget of roughly $135 million.”

Except… isn’t there? Shouldn’t there be?

Would Rogers be so unresponsive to even the business case that surely could be made for turning a small payroll add into a better-assured ratings and attendance bonanza that ultimately means the initial investment easily pays for itself?

Looking at the way the club operated this winter one might be inclined to quickly say yes. But before we throw our hands up and resign ourselves to being governed by the pathological corporate hive mind of Rogers, let’s remember that a lot may have changed by the time of the trade deadline. The Jays will have a much better sense of their playoff chances — i.e. whether or not an investment would be a waste or not. They will have the advantage of needing a much smaller payroll commitment to add a piece then than they would have over the winter, with two-thirds of the season being in the books by the time of the July 31st trade deadline, and therefore two-thirds of the players’ salary off the books. And, as Davidi reminds us cynics, a strong showing in terms of ratings and attendance could absolutely still change things.

Yet here we’re being told that “general manager Alex Anthopoulos may be forced to seek trades that are revenue neutral – foisting Ricky Romero on someone for a prospect as part of a bigger deal might be one way to do it – in order to make a substantial addition.”

Weird, huh? Somewhat absurd, too (someone’s really taking Romero and enough of his salary to make such a move not entirely pointless?). But mostly weird. And even weirder still is this suggestion that the club may not even have their “usual war chest” for the draft.

Honestly, though, I’m not even sure what that means. They don’t exactly need a “war chest” for next week, because the deadline to get draft picks signed isn’t until mid-July– though, ideally, they’d want to have some idea of their upper spending limit, if it was going to be imposed artificially by ownership. More importantly, the war chest idea seems like a relic of the old collective bargaining agreement. There have been two drafts so far under the November 2011 CBA, and only once has any team in baseball been more than $600K either above or below their bonus pool allotment. In 2013, according to Baseball America, the Astros ended up spending $877K less than their league-high bonus pool of $11.7-million. That year the Jays, mostly because of their inability to use above-slot money earmarked for Phil Bickford, spent $424K less than their final pool allotment total that year. The year before the Jays spent $441K over.

In other words, teams of late don’t really seem to actually have a war chest, like in the old days. They have a ballpark figure that’s already budgeted for based on the pool allotment that has long been known. And the Jays’ failure to sign Bickford last summer makes it even harder to figure what their “usual” war chest even is. In 2012 they spent $9.2-million; in 2013 they spent $3.05-million.

Obviously that doesn’t mean that the club couldn’t try to pull off some weird outlier bullshit and ignore the bonus pools altogether, under-drafting like those teams who dumbly tied themselves to slot recommendations under the previous CBA, I guess. But… really? It’s a sad testament on Rogers’ stewardship of the Jays that we think it’s even possible the club might actually sink a whole draft (or at least a significant part of it… or any part of it, really). After all, it’s the once-a-year player-acquisition apparatus Alex Anthopoulos sold as being absolutely integral to the club, and much of the reason they invested so much in scouting infrastructure early in his tenure (and continue to do so). It’s simply bizarre to think that they could genuinely be less than serious on this because either no one at the head office gives enough of a shit about the club to be sympathetic (even to the best of business cases) about adding budget, or because the front office was unwilling to take a hit in terms of on-field talent in order to find more wiggle room under that “2014 budget of roughly $135 million” to avoid laughable, brand-damaging decimation of their future. But… do we really? Do we seriously think that’s an actual, possible outcome?

The fact that I wrote this same kind of “come on, guys, there’s no fucking way” shit at the start of this winter about the payroll in general, only to see it frozen solid in defiance of my highest hopes — at least until those deferral agreements from the players — plants a big ol’ seed of doubt underneath the scoffing at the impossibility of the club doing something completely fucked up and backwards that I’m doing here. I mean, Rogers could grandstand on this. They could say that they simply set the team’s budget and that it was the front office who didn’t do enough to clear room for the entirety of the bonus pool “war chest” to fit within it. Shit, the front office might even have a defensible position on that, given their job status, having chosen to spend on the win-now big league roster and deal with a less-than-ideally-robust draft budget later on.

But… really?

In our worst fears taken from those little words our heads are sent spinning with thoughts of unprecedented, powerfully detrimental, utterly shameful cheapness. And again, it’s not like it isn’t easy to assume the worst about Rogers — though, to be fair, this year’s Jays’ payroll is higher than that of Arizona, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Colorado, Seattle, Kansas City, Chicago (AL), San Diego, the Mets, the Cubs, Minnesota, Oakland, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Miami, and Houston — and if the club really did such a thing they’d get all the vitriol from this corner that such an action would deserve. But… really??? We’re just going to go ahead and assume that this is a foregone conclusion and an unequivocal affront and start shaking with terror at the possibility, and the possibility that the team’s insistence on revenue-neutral trades will undermine their ability to actually add anything of value at the deadline (hence, perhaps, the building of the narrative that Morrow — and his sudden professed affinity for not trying to “do too much” — can be a real impact mid-summer add) and killing off what right now looks like it could turn into a really, really special season? Because we assume they’re totally just not posturing now, figuring there are better negotiating tactics than openly admitting they’re looking to spend like drunken sailors?

I sure as hell hope not. I mean, I get the underlying worry, for sure, but let’s maybe wait until we actually have some tangible evidence of what’s any of these things Davidi says may become issues before we go nuts, eh? Yes, I’ve been burned on this phrase before, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Until I do, there are far better things to dwell on. For example: DID YOU SEE THAT FUCKING GAME LAST NIGHT!??!!?!!

 

Screengrab via @DesaiDevang.

aadazed1

In this guest post from Kyle Matte we look at data from past drafts and try to find trends that will help us identify the types of players the Blue Jays could target next month with their two very high picks. Follow Kyle on Twitter at @KyleMatte.

The 2014 MLB Draft begins with its first round on the night of June 5th, roughly one month from today. Unlike the other three major sports, baseball has its draft in the middle of its regular season, and not only that, but before the conclusion of the seasons being played by the amateur talent being acquired. In hockey, football, and basketball, the organizations have months to comb through game tape and interview potential selections in preparation. As such, a player’s most recent in-game performance carries less weight than the total package of data. Things are drastically different with baseball. A strong month or two in the spring can vault a prospect up draft boards — often termed “helium” —  while a very poor start to the season can severely damage the stock of a player, causing him to slide and lose hundreds of thousands in bonus money in the process. As a result of this unique situation, mock drafts are next to useless any earlier than just a few days before the actual draft takes place.

What we can do, however, is soak up as much information as possible from past drafts in an attempt to identify an archetype for what an organization looks for in amateur talent. There are thousands of draft-eligible prospects between United States post-secondary schools and high schools across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, so it’s impossible for any scouting department to get eyes on everyone. By identifying trends in the historical data, you can develop a more precise idea of what the scouts might be watching for, and therefore who an organization might be targeting.

This brings us to the Toronto Blue Jays, the only organization in baseball to possess two picks in the draft’s first round (compensatory round not withstanding). We’re not talking about the late first round either – the selections are ninth and eleventh overall in what is supposed to be a talent-rich group. It would be less than truthful to claim June 5th has the potential to be franchise-altering, as even with first round picks it seems like you’re flipping a coin as to whether or not they’ll amount to anything whatsoever, but needless to say it will be a big day for the front office as they continue to try and fill the void created by the trades of the winter of 2012.

In hopes of defining a “Blue Jay Way”, I immersed myself in as much information as possible from the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 draft classes. Starting with a list that exceeded 150 names, I slowly trimmed the group to 80. The sample is all prospects drafted (not necessarily signed, mind you) by the Blue Jays who had a notable signing bonus and/or an extensive pre-draft scouting report from which to gauge talent level. I believe by narrowing the list in this way, we have a conglomerate that best defines the attributes that the Blue Jays most desire. As an example, while Tucker Donahue was a fourth round pick in 2012, the fact he signed for a pittance by bonus standards indicates it was his signability that the club sought, not his talent. He, and players like him, were removed from the data cluster to avoid skewing the archetype away from the relevant information: talent and tools.

Defining The “Blue Jay Way”

I’ve been closely following the draft for a number of years now, and when it’s the Blue Jays turn to select, analysts almost uniformly use some combination of the words “athlete”, “projectability”, and “upside” when put on the spot to make a prediction for the club. With this investigation I was able to not only determine the validity of those statements, but to take it a step further and start attaching some numbers, trends, and thresholds to what could loosely be classified as the “Blue Jay Way”. The end-game of this exercise is to then project those patterns onto the 2014 draft class in hopes of identifying who might sit atop Toronto’s draft board. But first, some background on the historical grouping of 80:

Read the rest of this entry »

Phil-Bickford

Recipient of bad advice, Phil Bickford.

The 5:00 PM deadline for clubs to come to terms with the players selected in June’s Rule 4 draft has come and gone. Merry Fans Lose Their Shit Over Unsigned Draft Picksmas! Do we have another Young Beedah on our hands?

Yes we do! Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted, just as the clock passed 5 PM, that Phil Bickford, the Jays first pick, and tenth overall, will be going to Cal State Fullerton.

However, as a consolation we have Jake Brentz, the big Missouri high school left-hander, who the Jays took in the eleventh round– and was number 80 on Baseball America’s top 500 list. He was reportedly not as close to coming to terms with the Jays as Rowdy Tellez, but less than ten minutes before the deadline Callis tweeted that he signed for $700,000.

A few moments later, the Tellez– a power hitting first baseman from California– signing was passed along by Callis as well. Another top 100 talent (59th on the BA list, to be specific), Tellez signed for $850,000, according to the tweet from Callis.

The Jays, of course, also get the 11th overall pick in next year’s draft as compensation.

Read the rest of this entry »