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I started really taking an interest in the draft and the Blue Jays’ minor leagues right around the same time I started writing about the Jays, in late 2012. I remember being in Pearson International Airport waiting for my flight back to Germany in 2012 when the first round of the draft was taking place and frantically trying to figure out who D.J. Davis and Marcus Stroman were. So on the eve of what will be the strangest draft I’ve seen, let’s take a look back at how the Toronto Blue Jays have drafted since then, looking at the first five rounds (since that’s how many round there will be in the draft this year).
I’m going to start in 2013, since I started Blue Jays from Away in November 2012. No player from the first five rounds of the 2012 draft has yet to make the major leagues (although both sixth-rounder Matt Boyd and eighth-rounder Kendall Graveman have accrued positive WAR, with Rowdy Tellez going in round 30, Danny Jansen going in round 16, Jonathan Davis going in round 15, Tim Mayza and Tim Locastro going in rounds 12 and 13 respectively).
In the first round, the Jays selected pitcher Phil Bickford with the 10th overall pick. Bickford was a hard throwing righty but didn’t sign, giving the Jays compensation in the following draft.
In round two, the Jays selected Clinton Hollon who had injuries and ran into trouble with drugs, getting suspended and ultimately was released by the Jays, reaching Lansing at his peak.
Patrick Murphy, the Jays’ third-round pick, has been the most successful of the top five picks in 2013, reaching Double-A New Hampshire in parts of two seasons. He’s struggled with injuries and last year had an issue in his mechanics that umpires deemed illegal and struggled with his command and with injuries after he ironed things out in 2019. He’s on the Jays’ 40-man roster and could become the only Jay drafted in the top five rounds of 2013 to make the majors.
Lefty Evan Smith was selected in the fourth round and was released by the Jays after pitching until 2016, reaching Lansing that season. He did pitch in affiliated ball in 2017 in the Pioneer League and threw in two independent leagues in 2018.
Finally, the 2013 fifth rounder was Daniel Lietz who reached Dunedin with the Jays. Another lefty, Lietz peaked in the Jays’ system in 2017 before he was released and he did pitch in the 2018 season in the Braves’ system, reaching Double-A Mississippi.
In 2014, the Jays had two first-round picks and selected big righthanded pitcher Jeff Hoffman with their first one at ninth overall and athletic catcher Max Pentecost with the other at 11th overall. Hoffman was traded to the Colorado Rockies in the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto in 2015 and has since pitched in 55 games in the majors with a -0.7 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) with a 6.11 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Pentecost struggled with shoulder injuries and, after he finally got back to being a full-time player and catcher, peaking in Double-A in 2018, he retired.
Sean Reid-Foley was drafted in the second round and, while struggling with his control, has reached the major leagues, pitching twice in the big leagues. He’s still on the Jays’ roster and could be a factor when games return.
The Jays’ third rounder that year was high-school lefty Nick Wells, whom the Jays then traded to Seattle in the deal for Mark Lowe at the deadline in 2015. He’s bounced around a bit and has struggled since reaching the Class-A level in 2016. He’s peaked so far at Advanced-A Modesto and was traded last season in May to the Washington Nationals organization.
Catcher Matt Morgan was taken in the fourth round and he never really got on track, struggling to hit at every level of the minors. He reached Lansing in 2017 and 2018 and was released.
Finally, the most successful major leaguer from the first five rounds of the 2014 draft has been Lane Thomas who was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 2, 2017 for International Bonus Pool money. He reached the major leagues last year as a 23 year old, hitting .316/.409/.684 with four home runs in 44 plate appearances with the Cards.
In 2015, the Blue Jays went with a college pitcher for the first pick, mirroring what they did in 2014. Jon Harris has had some injury troubles but has reached Triple-A in the Jays system despite being unable to put things together for extended periods and really move up in the rankings. Harris reached Double-A in 2017 and has had just two starts in Buffalo since. He made just six outings in 2019, a year I really had hoped he’d break out.
In the second round, the Jays selected Brady Singer. Singer was highly touted but did not sign with the Blue Jays and was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft after going to Florida for college. He reached Double-A in 2019 is among the game’s top prospects.
In the third round, the Jays selected a sinker-baller out of Texas, Justin Maese. Maese was flourishing in the Jays’ system before shoulder surgery derailed his career. Maese has pitched just three times since 2017.
The Jays selected Carl Wise with their fourth pick in 2015, and Wise reached Advanced-A Dunedin in 2017 and he retired after the season.
The fifth player drafted by the Blue Jays in 2015 was Puerto Rican righty Jose Espada. Espada reached Lansing with the Jays’ system in 2019 and was selected in the Rule 5 draft (minor league phase) in 2019, going to the Boston Red Sox organization.
The only player to reach the major leagues from the 2015 draft was seventh-rounder Travis Bergen who was selected in the Rule 5 draft in 2018 and pitched 21 times out of the bullpen for the San Francisco Giants before he was returned to the Toronto organization.
The first five rounds of the 2016 draft have been most fruitful for the Jays so far. First rounder T.J. Zeuch (yet another college pitcher) reached the major leagues in 2019 and pitched five times, posting a 4.76 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, accumulated 0.3 WAR. He also threw a no-hitter for the Buffalo Bisons on his way to the majors in 2019. On the 40-man roster, Zeuch is probably going to be on the depth chart for Blue Jays pitchers when baseball returns.
The Jays selected J.B. Woodman in the second round. The contact-challenged outfielder peaked with the Blue Jays in the 2017 season with Lansing, striking out 157 times in just 96 games (although former first rounder D.J. Davis still holds the franchise record for most in a season with 167 set in 2014) and was traded to St. Louis for Aledmys Diaz following that season. Woodman played 2018 in Advanced-A for the Cardinals before being released in August of 2018.
You’ve all heard of the Jays’ second second-round pick in 2016. With an extra pick because of compensation for not signing Brady Singer in 2015, the Jays took Bo Bichette with their third pick in the draft (second in the second round). Bichette reached the major leagues at the tender age of 21 in 2019 and hit .311 with a .930 OPS in just 46 games and accrued 2.3 WAR. Not bad. The Jays have two more players approaching the major leagues with their third and fourth round picks.
Third rounder Zach Jackson is a right-handed reliever with a funky delivery and a great curveball and he had some success in Buffalo in 2019. Josh Palacios is a toolsy outfielder that the Jays took in the fourth round and had a solid year in New Hampshire in 2019.
In the fifth round, the Jays took another son of a major leaguer, Cavan Biggio, who installed himself as the Jays’ everyday second baseman in 2019, hitting .234 (but with an outstanding walk rate) and posted a .793 OPS with 2.9 WAR in 100 games.
Lefty Jake Fishman is probably the next closest draft pick from 2016 to the majors; he pitched in Double-A New Hampshire for all of 2019, striking out over a batter per inning.
No one has made the major leagues from the 2017 draft yet, but we’ll talk about one guy who will make the major leagues shortly after baseball resumes. For their first pick, 22nd overall, the Jays selected shortstop Logan Warmoth. Warmoth was known as a guy who was a good all around player who didn’t have a stand-out tool. Warmoth has struggled with the bat, reaching Double-A in 2019 where he hit just .200/.290/.277.
The Jays’ second pick in the draft, coming 28th overall thanks to a compensation pick for losing Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, was Nate Pearson. Pearson has wowed everyone with his velocity after coming out of junior college is probably considered to be the biggest steal in the draft. Considered to be one of the top two or three pitching prospects in baseball, Pearson is poised to be a dominant righty when baseball returns.
The Blue Jays selected high schooler Hagen Danner in the second round. It was somewhat of a controversial choice because Danner was selected as a catcher rather than as a pitcher, where some scouts thought he had more potential. But he agreed to sign with the Blue Jays because they would have him catch rather than pitch. Danner’s power is undeniable as he hit 12 home runs in 80 games for Lansing in 2019 but he also struck out 96 times and posted a .170/.254/.369 slash line.
In the third round, the Jays selected another catcher, Riley Adams, who had a solid 2019 in Double-A New Hampshire, hitting .258/.349/.439 in 81 games, hitting 11 home runs.
Fourth-rounder Kevin Smith had a breakout 2018, hitting 25 home runs combined between Lansing and Dunedin but the wheels fell off a bit in 2019 as he continued to hit for some power (19 home runs in 116 games) but hit just .209/.263/.402 in Double-A New Hampshire.
In the fifth round, the Jays selected Cullen Large, a versatile infielder who reached Double-A in 2019 after missing most of 2018 with an injury and hitting pretty well (.269/.360/.408) in 84 games in Dunedin in 2019 before his promotion.
Now we get to the more recent drafts and the Jays have some exciting prospects from these past two drafts despite not having enough time for anyone to get to the major leagues. As the 12th overall pick in the draft, shortstop Jordan Groshans was on a Bo Bichette-like trajectory, eating the GCL alive in his draft year and beating up on the Midwest League in his second season. But while Bichette was named Midwest League MVP, Groshans had a foot injury that allowed him to play just 23 games in which he hit .337/.427/.482. Groshans is among the prospects hit the hardest by the lack of baseball this year as he was poised to get his groove back and show fans that his start to 2019 wasn’t just a flash in the pan. He’s still among the top prospects on this team.
The Blue Jays selected another son of a major leaguer, Griffin Conine, in the second round. A college outfielder, Conine had a solid first year in Vancouver but was suspended for a stimulant and missed the first chunk of 2019. He came back with a vengeance, hitting 22 home runs in just 80 games and winning the Midwest League home run title. That said, he struck out 125 times and will need to temper that total when he returns to action.
The Blue Jays selected Jordan Groshans’s high school teammate, Adam Kloffenstein, another highly touted prospect, in the third round. He was outstanding in the Northwest League at the age of 18 in 2019, dominating the competition with a 2.24 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
College pitcher Sean Wymer was taken in the fourth round and he spent 2019 in Lansing, taking a regular turn. While his overall numbers weren’t great, he finished the season on a high note, throwing a complete-game four-hitter, giving up just one run.
The Jays’ fifth-round pick in 2018 was catcher Christopher Bec. Likely selected because he was a college senior who would sign for a small bonus, Bec spent 2019 in Dunedin, hitting .232/.343/.333 in 54 games.
Finally, our most recent draft, 2019, was headlined by big college pitcher Alek Manoah. The hard-throwing righty was dominant in Vancouver last year, striking out 27 batters and walking just five in 17 innings.
In the second round, the Jays took high school righty Kendall Williams. Williams pitched sparingly in the GCL last year but struck out 19 in 16 innings with a 2.25 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.
In the third round, the Jays selected Canadian outfielder Dasan Brown. The Oakville native also played sparingly in the GCL (partially because he was granted permission to play in the World Junior Championships with the Canadian Junior National Team) and hit .222/.444/.356 in 14 games.
In the fourth round, the Jays started their roll of college position players, selected outfielder Will Robertson who hit a solid .268/.365/.404 in Vancouver. Joining him in Vancouver was fifth-rounder Tanner Morris who hit .246/.384/.346.
So that’s the recap of the first five round of the draft from 2013 to 2019. Are there some major leaguers there? You betcha. So let’s see who the Jays select in 2020!
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