The Toronto Blue Jays surprised many this evening by going against the strategy that they employed at last year’s draft when they took a safe college pitcher with their first pick and then went on to select riskier high school players with their subsequent picks. Their first pick tonight was young prep pitcher Tyler Beede, who has already committed himself to Vanderbilt for the coming season.

According to Keith Law:

Beede is the leading prep pitcher in a very strong class out of New England this year, showing average stuff with good projection and very good command for his age.

He will sit mostly 88-92 now but can flash a little better, mixing in a two-seamer at the low end of that range as needed. He’s got a solid-average changeup and an improving curveball that he needs to finish more consistently; at 71-73 it’s a bit slow and loopy but at 75 or better it’s a better pitch start to finish. Beede repeats his delivery extremely well, with a strong stride toward the plate, although he doesn’t tilt his shoulders and has a very slight arm wrap right before he turns his pitching hand over.

It’s a risk in two senses for the Blue Jays: 1) He’s going to be a tough sign for Toronto because of his existing commitment. He was rumoured to be uninterested in pro ball unless he went in the top five of the draft, which translates into getting paid top five draft money. 2) Also, of the high school arms available in the draft, Beede’s isn’t considered as far advanced as the others. He’s a bit more raw, but he’s still seen as having potential number two starter stuff.

That kind of upside is appealing at the 21st pick of the draft, but it also represents a moment in which the Toronto Blue Jays are going to have to put their money where their mouth is. We’ve heard them say over and over again that they want to build a team with elite level talent and that they’re willing to spend money on risks, well, in that sense, Beede fits very well with the organization. The 6’4″ right hander is going to demand the type of over slot payment that the Blue Jays made a show of paying to keep Dickie Thon Jr. after last year’s draft. it’s likely that the Thon signing gives the team a little bit of a reputation that hopefully push Beede and his advisers to take the Blue Jays pursuit seriously.

It’s unlikely that the team would pursue Beede with their first round pick if the Blue Jays didn’t think he was signable.

For more on Beede, check out this recent feature on ESPN. And this video from NESN.