Here we look at who the Blue Jays selected in the 26th through 30th rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft.
In the 26th round, the Blue Jays selected D.J. Neal out of the University of South Carolina-Sumter. Neal was drafted once before, in the 32nd round by the Braves in 2015, and he hit .331 this year with seven doubles, two triples and three home runs with an OBP of .390. Neal started his collegiate athletic career playing football (he was a safety) at the University of South Carolina but transferred after two years to USC-Sumter to focus more on baseball. A news story on the USC-Sumter website noted that he was ready to go pro, quoting Neal as saying “I’m definitely going to join the Toronto organization. . . . I had a lot of discussions with them and worked out for them. They said I fit what they were looking for. I think it’s the right thing for me.”
In the 27th round, the Blue Jays went with high school pitcher Sam Weatherly out of Howell High School in Michigan. Weatherly throws in the high 80s (as a lefty) with a curveball that seems to be inconsistent and doesn’t show a lot of upside just yet but he does seem to have a developing changeup. Weatherly’s had blister problems this year but scouts seem to think that the best is yet to come for him, mainly due to the fact that he’s from a northern state which limits the amount of throwing young pitchers are able to do. He’s committed to Clemson University and he’s expected to attend college rather than sign a pro contract.
The Blue Jays selected another high school student in the 28th round, picking third baseman Davis Schneider out of Eastern High School in New Jersey. Baseball America notes that the right-handed batter “did damage” in the 2016 WWBA World Championships. They note that his “pure hitting ability is by far his strongest tool.” He’s a little small for a corner infielder and has a commitment to Rutgers that the Blue Jays would have to buy him out of but it was reported on Philly.com that he would “seriously consider signing to begin his professional career, assuming the Blue Jays make a reasonable offer.” Another article says that Schneider was “70-30” that he would go pro. Schneider was the South Jersey Baseball Player of the Year, hitting .444 with 40 RBI and 16 doubles (a school record), five home runs and, by all accounts, was playing excellent defense. Schneider also earned raves for his “immeasurables.”
The Blue Jays went back to college with their 29th-round pick, selecting 5-foot-9 left-handed pitcher Joseph DiBenedetto out of Nova Southeastern University in Florida. DiBenedetto pitched for Seton Hall for two years, coming out of the bullpen with decent results, posting ERAs of 3.98 and 3.13 with more than a strikeout per inning in his second season. He transferred to Nova Southeastern and spent his junior year struggling, posting a 6.35 ERA and 1.94 WHIP with 12 walks and 16 strikeouts in 17 innings. I have seen references to some other stats for DiBenedetto, going 6-4 with 58 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings but that comes from a Staten Island news site.
Playing for the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota Manatees, 5-foot-9 sophomore catcher Reilly Johnson got the Blue Jays attention enough to become their 30th round pick in the 2017 draft. Johnson was the NJCAA Region 8 Baseball Player of the Week for the week of March 20-26 and hit .343, good for second on the team. Known for his defensive prowess, he was named the Suncoast Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team member of the Suncoast All-Conference team. It would appear that Johnson has either signed or will be doing so soon as he’s already touting himself as a “Professional baseball player in the Toronto Blue Jays organization” on his twitter account.
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