The 2010 draft was the first one that was presided over by current GM Alex Anthopoulos along with the director of amateur scouting (at the time), Andrew Tinnish.
Looking over the 2010 draft, it’s immediately apparent that Ricciardi and Anthopoulos had drastically different philosophies on how best to use the Rule 4 Draft. Whereas the Blue Jays selected a 2009 group that was skewed heavily in favour of four-year college players, in 2010, Anthopoulos, Tinnish and company went for high-schoolers with abandon.
First let’s revisit the breakdown of draftees from 2009: 52 picks, 29 four-year college players, 15 high schoolers and 8 junior college players. Three of the top four picks didn’t sign and, as of the end of the 2013 season, 11 draftees remain in the Blue Jays’ system (some were traded but most were released). Seven of the players that the Jays drafted and managed to sign have made the major leagues at some point, showing that the 2009 draft was, all things considered, quite a good one despite the lack of players who managed to hang on for five seasons.
2010 is a far different story. With a plethora of early picks, the Blue Jays (for the most part) went for high-upside players and didn’t worry about spending money in signing bonuses. With a whole whack of compensation picks from free agents and non-signed 2009 draft picks, the Blue Jays had eight picks in the first 100 and 16 in the first 10 rounds, giving them 56 selections in total.
The Blue Jays went overwhelmingly towards the high school talent available in that draft. Anthopoulos, Tinnish and company chose 35 high school players in 2010. 14 players were selected from four-year colleges and the remaining seven came from junior colleges. With such a big focus on drafting young players, it’s easy to understand why only two Blue Jays selected in the 2010 draft have made their major league debuts and both of them only got their feet wet. Most scouts agree that the 2010 Blue Jays draft class is probably one of the most talented, with the largest number of potential major league stars (particularly among the pitchers) that we’ve seen in a draft.
Importantly, the Blue Jays signed the first 13 players they selected, showing a huge difference between the 2009 and 2010 drafts. While there were still a high number of unsigned players (including 2013 second-overall pick Kris Bryant) at 20, most of these were in the last ten rounds (which is probably one reason why the draft has been shortened to 40 rounds).
Who are the two 2010 draftees to have made the majors already (yes, both cracked the big leagues in a Blue Jays uniform)? The first was reliever Sam “Best Stuff in the Organization” Dyson who had John Farrell raving about his stuff in 2012 and was then claimed off waivers by the Miami Marlins this past January (where he struggled in 11 big league innings this season). The second was big lefty Sean Nolin who got shelled in his major league debut this season but, unlike Dyson, is definitely not going to be lost for nothing in the off-season.
That said, the Blue Jays put together a very worthy draft in 2010 full of names that, if you haven’t heard by now, you’ve probably been living under a rock. The first pick was the one that fans question the most: college righty Deck McGuire. I wouldn’t call him a bust yet and he’s definitely shown some signs of turning the corner after pitching for his second year in Double-A. McGuire definitely has big-league stuff and will likely be in Triple-A next year.
The next three picks (first round supplemental) include two of the best pitching prospects in baseball. At 34, the Blue Jays took Aaron Sanchez, the hard-throwing righty and at 38 they took Noah Syndergaard, traded this off-season in the R.A. Dickey deal. At 41, they selected Asher Wojciechowski, traded away to Houston in the deal for J.A. Happ.
In fact, the two that the Blue Jays traded away are closer to the majors than the one they kept. Sanchez is starting to get the label of being fragile and was kept in High-A Dunedin (before heading to the Arizona Fall League to pick up some more innings). Syndergaard is a horse who reached Double-A this season and Wojciechowski reached Triple-A and both could very well make the major leagues in 2014.
Of the three second round picks, two are still in the system and are likely the lesser of the group. The third, Justin Nicolino, was traded to Miami in the huge deal this past off-season and was named the Pitcher of the Year for the Florida State League but struggled when promoted to Double-A. The other two are players that you would be forgiven for not having heard about. The first, lefty Griffin Murphy is being used as a reliever and spent the season in Lansing, posting solid but not spectacular numbers. The second, infielder Kellen Sweeney, has really struggled trying to hit in pro ball and while he occasionally shows flashes of being able to cut it (especially on defense), he is getting awfully close to the “bust” label.
In the third round, the Blue Jays selected another two positions players: Chris Hawkins and Marcus Knecht. Hawkins, a high schooler, has been playing the outfield and has also struggled in Lansing for a couple of years and Knecht, a Canadian coming out of an Oklahoma junior college, has spent the past couple of years in High-A Dunedin putting up decent, but not great, numbers.
Rounds four through ten weren’t full of useless picks either. Round four returned Sam Dyson and round five brought Dickie Thon (who has had some health and injury issues that has hindered his development) and Sean Nolin was selected in round six. After round six, however, the star power starts to drop. Mitchell Taylor, the seventh round selection had drug issues and voluntarily retired (despite a very solid first pro season in Bluefield). Eighth round pick Logan Ehlers never signed and ninth rounder Brandon Mims was released after not playing much in his first season in the GCL. Finally, Tyler Shreve, drafted in round 10, never signed.
In the first ten rounds, the Jays selected sixteen players. Two didn’t sign, one voluntarily retired and one was released. Four will likely be major league regulars: Wojciechowski, Nicolino, Dyson and Nolin.* Sanchez and Syndergaard have the potential to be star players and McGuire has the potential to be a solid, innings-eating starter (#4 or #5) or bullpen arm but could go either way. It’s too early to tell on the positions players. Thon has shown flashes of excellence and Knecht has been ok in the middle-minors while both Sweeney and Hawkins have struggled in A-ball and will have to show some more in 2014 to get back into the prospect conversation. Murphy had people drooling a year ago but will be in his Age-23 season next year and will have to start showing more.
Still, a haul of six almost-sure-thing major leaguers in one draft is pretty impressive and there are a few fringe guys there too. But wait! There’s more!
Looking beyond the first few rounds, there’s still some more talent that came from that 2010 draft. In rounds 11-20, three players went unsigned (including Kris Bryant) but round 11 brought Shane Optiz who opened a lot of eyes this season, playing mostly in High-A Dunedin. Probably a utility infielder at best, he’s shown a solid bat and could be a sleeper if he starts to develop some power. Reliever Dayton Marze was drafted in the 14th round and is still with the organization, having a solid season in Dunedin this year. Coming in the 16th round could possibly be the gem of the late rounds. Mississauga native Dalton Pompey is a very toolsey outfielder who not only excels on defense (he won a Minor League Gold Glove award this season) but also has shown spurts of power, outstanding speed and the ability to get on base this season in Lansing, despite missing much of 2012 with an injury. If Pompey continues to hit and get on base, he stands to get much more attention in the coming years. 17th round selection Myles Jaye was traded for Jason Frasor a couple of season ago and 20th rounder Art Charles, a power-hitting first baseman, was traded away for minor league reliever Michael Schwimer (who was released earlier this season).
To summarize, in rounds 11-20, seven players signed, two were traded away, two were released and three remain in the system. If you’re counting at home, we’ve still got 11 players in the system from the first 20 rounds of the 2010 draft — as many as remain from the previous year’s draft combined.
In rounds 21-30, the herd definitely gets thinner. Five players didn’t sign (although Eric Arce was drafted again the following year and signed then). 24th rounder Ronnie Melendez was released this season (after not showing much in Lansing and Vancouver), 28th rounder Adaric Kelly is still active in the system (he pitched for Bluefield this season) and 29th rounder Jonathan Jones was injured most of the year but made it as high as Double-A New Hampshire.
Totals: 10 picks, five signed, three released, two still with the club. Total still with the Blue Jays: 13.
Rounds 31-40 also has a few players who are still kicking around. Only four didn’t sign and Andy Fermin (32nd round) played in Vancouver, having a very solid year and, right behind him, outfielder Melvin Garcia (33rd round) was mostly a backup in Bluefield and Vancouver. 35th rounder Danny Barnes spent most of this season on the DL after a great season in 2012 as the closer for Dunedin.
Totals: 10 picks, six signed, three still active, three released. Total still with the Blue Jays: 16.
Finally, we come to the last 10 rounds of the draft. Only three players signed and two of them are still with the organization: catcher Seth Conner (41st round) and pitcher Drew Permison (42nd round). Total still with the Blue Jays: 18.
So, while there have only been two tastes of the majors from the 2010 draft, the fact that the Blue Jays placed such a heavy emphasis on high school players will have the youngsters taking longer to bubble up to the big leagues. There’s a tremendous amount of major league calibre talent from this draft that will make a big impact on the major leagues. I’ll discuss this more in later posts but, if you’ll notice, almost all of the “hits” that the Jays had in the 2010 draft are pitchers. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
*I’m using my own realistic expectations of these players. I think Dyson can find work in bullpens for a while, Wojo could be a solid bullpen arm for quite a while (at minimum) and Nicolino and Nolin could easily be back-of-the-rotation starters.