Wow! Was yesterday fun or what? First we had a morning game by the Buffalo Bisons in which Deck McGuire dominated the Toledo Mud Hens. Then, the big club won a 1 PM start against Detroit and then we had the draft! Here are some of my thoughts on the first three picks the Jays had.
Interestingly, the Blue Jays are playing a very different game than last year in which the Blue Jays used almost all of their early picks to take young pitchers. In 2013, the Blue Jays first five picks were either high school pitchers (one of whom had TJ surgery last year and one had it this year) or first-year junior college pitchers. This year, the Jays went with a college pitcher with their first pick and a college catcher with their second first-rounder, taking a high-school pitcher in the second round. There was a rumour out there that many of the high school players in this draft were asking for very high bonuses that caused them to slide.
In the first round, the Jays had two picks and were definitely linked to Hoffman for a variety of reasons. Hoffman, an East Carolina University righty, had major mojo going his way in the few months before the draft and had been called one of the best players before an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays are well acquainted with said surgery and, having apparently been satisfied with Hoffman’s medical records, aren’t going to scare so easily.
Clint Longenecker of Baseball America writes that Hoffman could have been a “top-three pick had he been healthy” and the Blue Jays are getting a top tier talent. This pick is almost a win-win for the Jays unless Hoffman doesn’t recover completely from the surgery. The risk of a high pick on an injured player is real but somewhat minimal in this case (although pitchers who get injured are, of course, at risk to be injured again). The TJ surgery is common and players often rehab in a way that strengthens their entire body and arm to handle the rigours of pitching.
Win #1: The Jays get one of the pitchers with the highest upside in the draft.
Win #2: Because of the injury, Hoffman will likely sign for less money than he would have otherwise. The Jays, by taking him with the 9th pick (rather than with the 11th) will save more bonus pool money (exactly $200,500) by getting him in this spot. I think the Jays will get a big discount to sign the injured pitcher, maybe as much as saving half of the over $3 million that they’re allotted.
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The Blue Jays were said to be really high on college shortstop Trea Turner but ended up going with an athletic catcher from Kennesaw State University, Max Pentecost. Pentecost had been getting some love from scouts, especially for his speed as a catcher but some wonder about his power. The key here is that the Jays are not only getting another college player but they’re getting a position player, something that they didn’t draft last year (under the same scouting director, Brian Parker) until the 10th round.
In fact, Pentecost is the first really high-upside position player that the Blue Jays have drafted in the first ten rounds since 2012. The difference between 2014 and 2012 is that Pentecost is far less risky coming out of college than the three talented position players that the Jays selected in 2012: D.J. Davis (HS), Mitch Nay (HS) and Anthony Alford (HS).
I’m not sure whether the Jays will be able to get any discount on Pentecost, mainly because he’s a junior with one more year of NCAA eligibility. He’s already putting together a great resume with a .423/.483/.631 with a team-leading nine home runs in his junior year, throwing out over 50% of potential base stealers (21/41). The slot value is for almost $3 million ($2,888,300).
Baseball America ranked Sean Reid-Foley as the 19th overall draft prospect and the fact that he fell to Toronto at the 49th pick is probably indicative that he and his advisor are looking for a lot of money to sign. The first high schooler to be selected by the Jays in 2014, Reid-Foley has a strong, solid frame (although only time will tell how durable it is) and is known as a strike thrower who throws in the low-to-mid 90s with four pitches. He’s committed to Florida State so we’ll see how the Jays play it with him.
Stay tuned for more draft coverage! Keep an eye out for our 2014 All-Star Break Supplement to the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook which will have all of your draft, signing and mid-season coverage of the Jays’ minor league system!