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The Toronto Blue Jays had a great draft, which is the consensus of the folks in the media, especially since they got one of the top two pre-draft talents with the #5 overall pick. But now is where the real work begins for new Amateur Scouting Director Shane Farrell and his staff. MLB has implemented a $20,000 cap on signing bonuses for undrafted free agents and it’s a free-for-all out there, signing seniors and even some high school players who were draft eligible.
The Blue Jays’ opening salvo in the amateur free agent market brought three players to the Jays on the first day that they could sign players: second baseman Harrison Ray from Vanderbilt, outfielder MacKenzie Mueller of Baylor and utility player Zac Cook from the University of Texas-Arlington.
Harrison Ray was a teammate of both first-round pick Austin Martin and last year’s ninth-round pick catcher Philip Clarke on Vanderbilt’s College World Series-winning team, making the game-winning catch as a second baseman. Ray put together a .265/..341/.390 for Vandy in four years, peaking in his junior year with a .282/.357/.412 slash line in 60 games, hitting 18 doubles, two triples and two home runs with 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts (note: the Vanderbilt website states that he stole 21 bases in 24 attempts). While he slumped a bit to start his senior year (.242/.347/.355), he did steal nine bases in just 11 attempts over 18 games.
Head Coach Tim Corbin’s quote on Rays’ Vanderbilt website states that “Harry is the consummate team guy … very connected to his teammates. Versatile, adaptable, relational, contentious and tough. Guys like this … you really miss when they are gone.”
Corbin notes that Ray can play many positions on the field in addition to second base and the Vanderbilt site says that he started 22 times in his sophomore year, playing 42 games at four different positions with 13 starts at third base.
Ray was ranked the #441 draft prospect by Baseball America who noted that he would have gone in the 5-10 round range in the draft as a senior sign (who could take less money than the allotted slot value to help sign other players who might go for over the slot value), describing his “versatility and raw tools.” The big criticism was his strikeout rate (24.8% for his collegiate career), he get points for being able to play anywhere on the infield with “good arm strength, average raw power and above-average running ability.”
The Blue Jays signed outfielder MacKenzie Mueller (shortened as MacK, thanks to Jesse Goldberg-Strassler for digging that up) out of Baylor University. Mueller has taken a very circuitous route to getting his free agent contract, starting in Europe where he pitched for Team Europe in the Little League World Series in 2009 and 2010 as the star pitcher.
Mueller then went to Rice University where he was a pitcher but only got into four games, totalling just one inning pitched and giving up five runs before transferring to Cisco Junior College where he transitioned successfully into being a hitter. At Cisco, he put up some big-time numbers, hitting .443/.522/.828 with 14 doubles, four triples and 15 home runs (though the team batting average was .402 so you’ll have to take those numbers with a grain of salt).
He returned to NCAA D1 action, heading to Baylor University where he played his final two years of eligibility, hitting a combined .283/.374/.531 over 39 total games with 10 doubles and six home runs.
What are the Blue Jays getting? Well, Mueller seems like a very classy guy, as can be seen in this news piece from when he was challenged to (and whupped in) a pushup contest by 11-year-old Scotty Cunningham, a developmentally impaired boy whose legs are locked in place. Check out the video where this inspiring boy competed with a collegiate athlete!
The third undrafted free agent signing was Zac Cook, a utility player from Division-I school the University of Texas-Arlington. I’ve seen some different stats on different sites but D1baseball.com and The Baseball Cube have his career slash line at .292/.383/.375 but he was really breaking out in his senior year, hitting .321/.500/.623 in 16 games in 2020, hitting two doubles, a triple and already had a career-high four home runs, striking out 13 times and walking 13 times. This is a huge change for Cook who already had solid walk rates and OBPs in his four years, making solid contact (with batting averages in the .290s every year) but with limited power (three home runs in almost 150 career games leading up to his senior year).
I’m sure there will be more undrafted free agents signed in the coming days and we’ll get you all the info as it comes in!
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