Finally, we arrive at the 2013 draft with the players still fresh out of the box all shiny with only one season of baseball to talk about.
I’ll get to more of the analysis at the end of the summary, but for now we’re going to review who was selected, when, how they did this season and what scouts are saying. I managed to get my eyes on a few of these players so I’ll include those comments when applicable.
You’ll also notice that the Blue Jays, for the first time in a long time, had only one selection per round. With the change to the CBA in free agent compensation, the Blue Jays did not have any compensation-eligible free agents at the end of the 2012 and therefore did not get any draft picks. They were also not eligible for the competitive balance compensatory rounds and only had their 40 picks.
With their first pick, the Blue Jays selected high school righty Phil Bickford. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
“Bickford is a controversial pick. Scouts say that his mechanics are going lead this young righty who throws up to 96 mph already into trouble. They also criticize his lack of quality offspeed pitches. He was ranked by Baseball America as the 8th best RHP in the draft (20th player overall) and went 23rd in their 4th mock draft. At Minor League Ball, John Sickels had him going 8th overall to the Kansas City Royals. Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com had him ranked at 26th in the Top 100. Apparently, there is some signability concern with Bickford who has asked for a really big signing bonus.”
Well, those signability issues came to the fore and Bickford didn’t sign. He’s going to go to Cal State Fullerton this year and the Blue Jays will get the #11 overall pick in the 2014 draft as compensation. By not signing Bickford, the Blue Jays actually lost the ability to use that money towards other players, which worked out to be almost $3 million.
The highest pick to actually sign with the Blue Jays was second rounder Clinton Hollon.
“Hollon is another hard thrower, but without as big a body as some of the Jays other selections. He has had some injury scares, including “forearm tightness” that led to his falling off the draft board last year. He rose back up with a strong season in 2013. Some strategists think that the Jays reached for Hollon at 47th overall because he’ll sign for less money. Jonathan Mayo ranked him 86th before the draft.”
At the age of 18, he signed quickly for well under slot value. Slot value for the pick was $1,168,200 and Hollon joined the Blue Jays organization for $467,280. Just as Mayo said, the Blue Jays probably reached because they knew that due to his history of arm injuries, he would sign for well under slot (saving the team just over $700 K).
Hollon had an excellent first season of professional ball. Baseball Prospectus writer Chris King told me that he was really impressed by Hollon who did not allow a run in 12 innings in the GCL. He got a dose of reality when he went to Bluefield at the end of the year, giving up seven runs (six were earned) over five and a third innings. His strikeout numbers were solid in the small sample size and, he should be able to do well in 2014 where he’ll probably start in Bluefield as a 19 year old.
3rd round pick Patrick Murphy also signed for below slot money.
“Murphy was tagged as a “wild card” by Perfect Game. He was recovering from Tommy John surgery and they thought that he would have been at least a 2nd round pick had he not had the injury. The Jays must believe that he’s got his velocity back and will be ready to pitch in the Gulf Coast League this year or next”
Once again, the Blue Jays went with another pitcher who had known injury issues. In Murphy’s case, he’s actually got the TJ surgery out of the way and the Blue Jays were in no hurry to rush him back. He signed for $500K (just over $150K below slot) and did not play in 2013.
In round 4, it was another pick and another pitcher, Evan Smith:
“At 6’5″, Smith is exactly what the Jays are looking for, a big, young lefty who can bring the heat and can probably add more velocity as he grows and fills out. I couldn’t find much on the Alabama high-schooler, but it appears that in May this year, his fastball was sitting in the 88-93 range and he threw a curveball at about 80 mph. According to this report from Birmingham, Alabama, the Blue Jays expect him to sign quickly”
Smith signed for almost $100 K under slot, taking $350 K to sign. He only threw 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League but his poor numbers (10 earned runs allowed, 10 walks but 12 strikeouts) indicate very little. Smith didn’t turn 18 until almost the end of the season (August 17) and the fact that he’s 6’5″ and listed at 190 pounds is a huge indication that he’s still growing into his body and can not only add velocity but will need to finish growing before he can find his control.
In the fifth round, the Blue Jays selected another lefty, Daniel Lietz.
“The first draftee from a Junior College for the Jays, Lietz went undrafted out of high school but was rocketing up the draft boards this year. Jonathan Mayo likes the fact that his fastball has jumped in velocity this year and that he has three other workable pitches that could be major-league-average after some development. Baseball America had him ranked 254th overall.”
Again, showing the Blue Jays trend, Lietz signed for well under slot, taking a bonus of $200 K ($134 K under slot). Listed at 6’2″ and 200 lbs, Lietz is already more physically mature than Smith and will probably not have so much left in terms of how much velocity he can add. He’s still fairly young, pitching this season as a 19 year old but the Blue Jays took advantage of his physical maturity, getting 36 innings out of him in the Gulf Coast League. Lietz’s numbers weren’t bad, a 4.75 ERA and a lot of hits (47) but he had a very good strikeout to walk ratio, getting 35 strikeouts and walking just 11 batters. I think the Blue Jays will move Lietz more aggressively than any of the other arms discussed so far.
In round 6, the Blue Jays selected, another pitcher, Matt Boyd:
“The first college senior that the Jays selected, Boyd is, by far, the most polished pitcher that the team selected so far. He was drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds, but went to Oregon State and spent three years as a reliever. As a starter in his senior year, he threw over 121 innings with a 2.15 ERA and limited batters to a .196 batting average and walked only thirty while striking out 109. Jonathan Mayo ranked him #72 at MLB.com and thinks that all four of his pitches could be major-league-average, which is quite a compliment to the big durable lefty. Look for the Jays to limit his innings a bit and he’ll probably start off in Vancouver after signing fairly quickly. Boyd was also ranked as the 30th best lefty in the draft by Baseball America.”
Signing for just $75,000 (just over $175 K under slot), Boyd had a long season with the Oregon State pitching in the College World Series. He took some time to rest after his season ended but showed up to work for the Lansing Lugnuts by the end of July. In a small sample size, Boyd’s work was excellent, pitching in five games for the Lugnuts and three with the Dunedin Blue Jays after a late-season promotion. His numbers were outstanding in 14 innings with Lansing but not as stellar with Dunedin although he still maintained excellent strikeout and walk numbers at the higher level. My impression is that he was tired after a long season and will improve.
I saw Boyd pitch in his last Lansing start and he was outstanding. Boyd has excellent control, a good changeup (that he needs to keep down) and an excellent curveball. His fastball was sitting in the high-80s (touching 90 mph) and he worked very efficiently. I look forward to seeing what Boyd can do on a full offseason’s rest.
In the seventh round, the Jays selected Conner Greene:
“Greene comes into the draft as a projectable righty who stands 6’3″ but only weighs 165 lbs. He’s been scouted as hitting 90 mph and since he still needs to fill out, the Jays think that number will increase as he gets stronger. Jonathan Mayo writes that he has a good feel for a curveball and a splitter but needs to work on control and command”
Greene signed for $100 K, just over $87 K under slot. He also had a rough year as an 18 year old in the Gulf Coast League and Jonathan Mayo’s comments about control and command ring very true. In 30 2/3 innings, Greene walked 15 and struck out 20. On the bright side, he only gave up one home run all year. Since Greene isn’t a high profile guy, there weren’t many reports coming out of Dunedin but hopefully we’ll have more on him as Extended Spring Training gets under way.
In the eighth round, the Blue Jays went with a pitcher, but this time, he was a college pitcher, Kendall Graveman.
“A senior coming out of Mississippi State, he was drafted in the 36th round last season but went back to school for his senior year. He should be a quick sign for the Jays and looks to be (by the looks of Mayo’s scouting report) to be a solid organizational arm who could start his pro career in Vancouver or Lansing. He wasn’t dominant in his final year of college, putting up a 3.14 ERA in 103 innings while striking out only 65 and walking 27.”
Graveman was indeed a quick sign, joining the system for $5,000 and saving the team over $150 K for their bonus pool. Graveman put up solid numbers for the Lansing Lugnuts with a 4.31 ERA and 1.36 WHIP and shows well developed control with only 13 walks in 39 1/3 innings. The downside is that he may not have the stuff to get major league hitters out as his low strikeout total (25) might indicate.
At number 9, the Blue Jays went with Graveman’s teammate at Mississippi State, lefty reliever Chad Girodo.
“[Girodo] wasn’t even the closer on the squad, but posted excellent numbers in his senior year: he threw 41 innings, giving up 32 hits and 14 walks while striking out 53 batters.”
Girodo also signed for $5,000, saving the Blue Jays a little over $140 K for their bonus pool. The side-arming lefty doesn’t throw hard (I had him topping out at 86 mph) but his fastball has excellent sink and tail and he also throws a developing slider. Girodo actually posted a very good 24 strikeout to just five walk ratio in 23 2/3 innings and has a ceiling as a LOOGY.
The final player picked in the first ten rounds was catcher Garrett Custons.
“Custons, a senior from the US Air Force Academy, hit .353 with 22 doubles, 3 triples and 1 HR on the season and threw out 54% of basestealers on the season. If he does end up playing pro ball (he may have armed forces commitments to carry out), he would probably be a solid defensive organization catcher for the Blue Jays”
Custons, like Alex Azor the year before, signed for $1,000 and got a chance to play pro ball before his Air Force commitment kicked in. I saw Custons in Bluefield and he definitely looks like a ball player and could actually be pretty good if he returns. In 61 plate appearances in Bluefield, Custons hit .222/.295/.315 but showed some decent extra-base power with five doubles.