Follow by Email

Friday, December 19, 2014

That's Just Crazy, Buster

   ESPN Baseball Insider Buster Olney suggested in a blog post today that the Baltimore Orioles might be entitled to huge compensation from the Blue Jays if they are successful in hiring current O's GM Dan Duquette.
   Duquette is under contract with the Orioles until 2018.  As a courtesy, most teams will allow an employee under contract to interview for a promotion with another club.  Legally, Olney points out, O's owner Peter Angelos would be within his rights to ask for compensation if Duquette is hired by the Blue Jays.
   We are truly in an era when top baseball executives can have a significant impact on the direction and fortunes of an organization.  "Great baseball executives," writes Olney, "continue to be the most undervalued asset in an industry currently obsessed with identifying value."  He suggests that the return the Red Sox received from the Cubs for the hiring of Theo Epstein (reliever Chris "The Other One" Carpenter), was paltry when compared to the value the Cubs received in the form of Epstein. Adds Olney:

   Think about that: Epstein is regarded as one of the best and brightest minds in baseball and was being pursued for a leadership position with a billion-dollar company, and he was under contract, and all the Red Sox received was a second-tier relief pitcher.

  The history of compensation for signing major league managers and executives is sparse to begin with.  The Blue Jays received infielder Mike Aviles from the Red Sox when they hire John Farrell away from Toronto in 2013.  The Blue Jays then donated Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes to the Indians in return for pitcher Esmil Rogers. When the Cubs and Red Sox could not initially agree on compensation for the signing of Epstein, both sides submitted written proposals to Commissioner Bud Selig, before reaching an agreement in the form of Carpenter.

  Olney suggests the O's could be entitled to one of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, or Daniel Norris, or a package of top prospects Jeff Hoffman, Max Pentecost, and Richard Urena, in return for agreeing to let Duquette go.

  And with all due respect, that's ridiculous.

  Certainly, the O's should receive more compensation than a middling reliever or slightly above league average middle infielder.  The Blue Jays are a direct competitor, and Duquette not only would bring his vast baseball knowledge to Toronto, he would also be packing a depth of information about O's players both on the 40-man roster, and in their minor league organization.  And it's understandable that Baltimore would aim their sights that high: the Red Sox were reportedly asking for Matt Garza and/or Starlin Castro in return for Epstein, but settled for considerably less.  Still, if the matter of compensation between Toronto and Baltimore could not be agreed upon, the price Olney suggests is far too steep, and could severely limit the movement of executives in the future.
   Duquette would not doubt add value to the Toronto organization.  The Blue Jays players Olney mentions could add tens of millions of dollars to the club's player values.  Given the history of compensation, though, we just can't see it, and even though the Blue Jays have shown that they are not afraid to use top prospects as currency, we find it hard to believe that they would agree to the demands Olney suggests.

   Who would the O's be entitled to?  As we said, they should be compensated above the norm.  To us, though, that means a #11-20 prospect of Toronto's choosing - and even that's a huge price, given the precedent established.  With the Blue Jays on an upward swing in their competitive cycle, it will be hard to measure exactly how much value Duquette would add to the organization.  It won't be as hard to determine the value the players mentioned will have.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

5 Sleeper Prospects


Amazon photo
   The term "Sleeper" as applied to a prospect is a bit of a misnomer, as it suggests that a player has latent talent that is just waiting to be woken up.  In our experience, prospects don't develop at the same rate, so when a player has a breakout season, it's often more because they have figured something out (new release point, repeating delivery consistently, a new grip on their four-seamer, how to recognize breaking pitches better, etc), or have seen a commitment to training (proper fitness, nutrition, sleep, and specific skill work) start to pay off.  The point is that the breakout came as a result of the player actively seeking to unlock their ability - the term "Sleeper," again suggests a passive process, when the result is anything but.

  In the spirit of our last post, which looked at five Blue Jays prospects who we considered, but ultimately decided against including in our Top 20 Prospect list, here are 5 more who we may have overlooked, but could make impressive gains next year if the stars align and all goes well for them. They may be "Sleepers," in the sense that they really haven't broken through into the spotlight yet, but their skill level and athleticism suggest they could:


BDT Photo
Lane Thomas IF/OF    
   The Blue Jays took the Tennessee HS product in the 5th round of last June's draft.  Thomas has the athleticism the team prefers in a draft pick, and has a skill set that is described as well rounded.  A plus runner, there were some thoughts that he could develop into a premium centrefielder, but reports on his work there are mixed.  There is thought that his agility and arm strength is better suited to SS or 3B.
   Thomas started the year in the GCL, and was elevated to Bluefield for the final month of the season.  Thomas' development took off in the Appy League, and he hit .323/.384/.431 at the higher level.  Here's what Baseball America's Clint Longenecker had to say about him:

 
    Lane Thomas is an exciting player that the Bluefield staff praised. He got time at third base this summer, an interesting development because he has an above-average arm. He ran well but was not a true burner in center field, where he played most as an amateur. He plays the game hard and has natural aptitude for the game. He will likely see some time at Bluefield or Vancouver next summer, given the Blue Jays history with recent high school draftees, and will absolutely be                                                                                                 someone who could factor onto the (top prospect)                                                                                                      list.

   In Thomas' case, it's mostly sample size that has kept him out of consideration for one of our top prospect slots.  That may not be the case after 2015.

Matt Boyd LHP
   Boyd was looking like a lock for our Top 20 in April, when he had a better month than Daniel Norris and Kendall Graveman.
   The Jays' 6th round pick out of Oregon State last year, Boyd was promoted to AA after giving up only one earned run over his first 5 starts with Dunedin, covering 31 innings.  Over that time, he surrendered only 18 hits, walked 5, and struck out 37, including 12 in his final start.
Dunedin starter Matt Boyd carried a no hitter into the top of the six when Langley, BC native Wes Darvill hit a solo shot to right to bring the score to the 5-1 final.   (Eddie Michels photo)
Rocektsports.com 
   Things did not go as well for Boyd in AA.  Boyd hurt his foot shortly after the promotion, and he admits that he failed to repeat his delivery consistently after it had healed, and the more experienced Eastern League hitters barreled him up often in 2 of his first 3 starts.  Boyd seemed to be figuring things out when he was roughed up in a start at the end of May, and was sent back to Dunedin.
   He pitched reasonably well for Dunedin in June, and found himself back in AA by July as a result of some injury issues and roster moves higher in the organization, striking out 9 in his first start, but was back in Dunedin to finish the season.  Boyd was lit up in his last couple of starts with the D-Jays, and we have to wonder if the almost 280 innings (he helped OSU get to the College World Series in 2013) he has logged between his senior year of college and first two years of pro ball (a span of about 18 months) have taken their toll.
   Boyd was a reliever in his first three years of college, and with his low three quarters arm slot was tough on lefthanded hitters.  He raised his arm slot and was sent to the OSU starting rotation for his senior year, and had a fantastic season.  Boyd sits between 90 and 92 with his fastball, and has touched 94.  He doesn't have one outstanding pitch, but throws all four of his pitches well. He projects as a back of the rotation starter.
   If the club was to consider moving Boyd into a relief role, he might rocket through the system quickly.
   
Taylor Cole RHP
   It's hard not to be a fan of this guy.  At 25, he was old for High A ball this year.  A two-year missionary commitment during his days at Brigham Young (in Toronto, of all places) meant that the righthander didn't debut in pro ball until he was 22.

Milb.com
   Cole has a plus fastball, and he trusted it more this year, and led the minor leagues in strikeouts with 181, as a result. Paired with a solid change up and a vastly improved slider,  BA named him their top Fringe Prospect of the Year, and while that's something of a dubious honour (he wasn't named a Top 20 Florida State League prospect), it's evidence that the scouting community at least took notice of his year.
   Cole made a pair of starts for New Hampshire in early August, and had command issues in both.  Returned to Dunedin for the rest of the year. he seemed to wear down like Boyd did, and wasn't effective in the FSL playoffs.
   It's very hard to see Cole as a major league starter, but his 11.9K/9 this year is really hard to ignore.  He could become another one of those bullpen power arms with his fastball/change combo.  The graph below indicates a lot of swing and misses and weak contact:

MLBFarm.com 


Jesus Tinoco RHP
    He has yet to put up the numbers to match his talent, but Tinoco is dripping with potential.
Here's what BA's Longenecker had to say about him:

Milb.com
  Jesus Tinoco has a real chance to emerge with continued development, both physically and mentally. He has youth (19), a great body, the fastball (velo and life) as a foundation for his prospect status. He can really sink the baseball. His combination of fastball velocity and heavy sink reminded some of former Blue Jay farmhand Henderson Alvarez, who has the 7th highest GB rate among MLB starters. His changeup is presently his best secondary offering and his curveball shows 12-6 tilt at its best, though it is inconsistent. Tinoco will need to improve his lower half in his delivery because he often collapses his front leg and falls off to the first base side, causing him to not get on top of his pitches. But he has the raw materials to emerge. Keep your eye on Tinoco.

   We talked to Danny Jansen, who caught Tinoco at Bluefield this year, and he said Tinoco was dominant at times, and could be tough to hit when his sinker was on.  When he's on, Tinoco induces twice as much groundball contact as he does the flyball variety.  When he's not, he tends to catch too much of the strike zone and gets hit.  Tinoco won't turn 20 until the first month of full season ball next year, but he's already a veteran of three minor league seasons, two of them stateside.  It still is hard to determine his ceiling, but he has the makings of                                                                                                 yet another power arm.


 Clinton Hollon, RHP
   We admittedly are going far, far out on a limb here, or maybe you haven't noticed our preference for projection.
  Hollon, a 2nd round pick in 2013, saw his draft stock slip after a drop in velo caused by elbow soreness before his senior year of high school.  He had regularly hit the mid-90s as a sophomore.  The Blue Jays knew of his elbow troubles, but couldn't ignore his potential.   Hollon has been limited to 17 innings as a pro, and underwent Tommy John surgery in May.
   Much has been made of Hollon's max effort delivery, and there's little doubt that the Blue Jays will work to correct that.  Prior to his injury, his slider was graded as a plus pitch, and his change was average.  If he can find his former velocity and improve his mechanics, Hollon could emerge as one of the steals of his draft year.  He would not be the first pitcher to undergo this sort of transformation with the Blue Jay organization.
   He won't be returning to game action until May, and even then that will be likely at Extended.  The good folks of Vancouver may get to see another electric arm in him this summer.


   We acknowledge that there are other names that could have been considered for this list.  LHPs Jake Brentz and Grayson Huffman are part of an impressive pool of arms in the lower levels of the system, and may move quickly with added experience.  And Andy Burns has dropped off of our radar a bit this season, but he had an impressive second half with New Hampshire, and could easily find himself in a super utility role with the big club later this year or next.  Josh Almonte had a banner year at Bluefield, and could press for a spot on Lansing's roster this spring.  The signing of Russell Martin has given the organization's catching prospects more time to develop, but it likely hurts AJ Jimenez's chances of a spot on the major league roster, which is unfortunate, because we really like his work behind the plate.  Shortstop Yeltsin Gudino made his stateside debut this summer, and was the 7th youngest player in the GCL, which showed in his struggles at the plate, but there is still plenty of upside to him.
   But we have to draw the line somewhere, or at least come up with a Top 50 Prospects list if we can't.
   Over half of its talent is below full season ball, but there is a lot to be optimistic about with this farm system.




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Top Prospects: Five Who Just Missed


   When you follow prospects, you're used to them having a series of ups and downs over the course of several weeks and months.  Sometimes the peaks and valleys even out, and the prospect continues on an upward trajectory of development. For some prospects, it's not that smooth a process.
   For those that don't ride the wave and are stuck in a trough that lasts a whole season, it's tough to include them on a top prospects list, no matter how good their tools may be.  Other prospects are difficult to include because their small sample sizes make projections hard to determine.  Even other prospects make for tough decisions because they were a bit old for the level they were playing at.  And sometimes we just overvalued them, ignoring some flaws that were not necessarily obvious ones, but were there just the same.
  Here are five prospects who just missed the cut for our top 20 prospects list.  We're still high on all of them, but felt there wasn't enough there to justify their inclusion this year.

  We've been waiting a while for DJ Davis to fulfill the expectations the Blue Jays had for him when they made him the 17th pick in the 2012 draft.  One of the youngest players in the draft, and raw because of his Mississippi HS background,  the toolsy Davis  made Baseball America's GCL Top Prospects List at #3 that year, and was their 2nd-ranked Appy League Prospect last year. Here's what BA's Clint Longenecker had to say about him after that season:

      He was one of the league’s most exciting players, offering quick-twitch athleticism, a center-field profile and game-changing speed—though he’s learning how to take full advantage of it.
Davis has quick hands, above-average bat speed and surprised many with his power, as 41 percent of his hits went for extra bases. Although peak power of 10-15 home runs is most likely, the most optimistic evaluators believed Davis has the power to hit 20.

   What a difference a year makes.  Davis had monumental struggles at the plate this year in his first go at full season ball in the Midwest League.  Davis hit .213/.268/.316, and his 167 strikeouts (in 542 PAs) were 2nd in the loop.  The left-handed hitting Davis hit only .161 against lefthanders, and indications are that a lot of his swing and misses were not necessarily at pitches out of the zone (although pitch recognition is also an area of concern, too), indicating some issues with his swing plane.  One of the fastest  players in all of minor league baseball, Davis has yet to learn to take advantage of that tool, getting thrown out 20 times in 39 stolen base attempts.

   One of the youngest players in the league, Davis did play some highlight-reel defence, And he finished the season on a high note, hitting .265/.375/.441 over his last 10 games (there were 16 Ks over that span), which included 3 straight successful steals in a game against Dayton.  We've made the comparison between Davis and Dalton Pompey before, and while maybe it's not a completely fair or accurate one, we think there are many parallels between the two, the latest being that Pompey caught fire in his last few weeks at Lansing last year as well.  Given his draft status, Davis has more ground to catch up on. At 20 years of age, we're not ready to give up on him, but we couldn't justify including him in our Top 20 this year.  He will likely need to at least start the season again in Lansing.

 
MLBFarm.com Graph

 
   Alberto Tirado was labelled a "beast" by Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus after a breakout 2013 season.  BA labelled him the prospect with the most upside on a very deep Bluefield pitching staff that he helped lead to the Appy League playoffs:

  The athletic Tirado is an unrefined pitcher whom scouts can dream on because he has some of the most electric stuff in the lower minors. He has a thin, wiry build, long limbs and a loose arm that is lightning quick, and the ball explodes out his hand. His fastball sat 92-96 mph with late life and touched 98, and he is working a sinker into game action. 

    BA also observed that Tirado had a tendency to overthrow, and could get off line with his delivery, resulting in command issues.  The club opted to skip him over Vancouver this season, and made him one of the youngest players in the Midwest League, where he struggled mightily.  Tirado had a scintillating debut with Lansing in April, striking out 7 in 4 innings.  We watched an early May start Tirado made against Dayton, and other than one inning, he really wasn't in trouble, allowing 1 run and one hit, with three walks and four strikeouts over 5.  He demonstrated reasonably good command on a cool spring Ohio night, and we didn't see the delivery issues that must have plagued him in other outings. It turns out that that outing was likely his high water mark for the season, as his control slipped after that, and he was sent back to Florida for Extended a month later.  His totals for a truncated season at Low A included 40Ks in 39 innings, but along with 40 walks.

  A week after leaving Lansing, Tirado headed northwest to join Vancouver when short season play started.  He continued to struggle with his command, and was shut down for a few weeks in late June, likely for emotional as well as physical reasons.  When he came back, Tirado pitched out of the C's pen, and except for getting roughed up in one outing, was mostly effective.  When he was on, he was sitting between 93-95 and creating a lot of weak contact.

   You can't give up on an arm like Tirado's, and he would be far from the first Dominican prospect to struggle in his first year of full season ball, learning to adjust to a new culture, new language, and new climate.  At the same time, he may have been over-rated off of last year's performance.  At 6' 180 lbs, he doesn't have a typical pitcher's build, and his command issues may limit him in the future to bullpen duties.  Those two red flags, combined with the step backward his development took this year meant that we considered him, but ultimately decided against his inclusion in our Top 20.

MLBFarm.com Graph



 Sometimes, a prospect has shown enough in limited action to warrant closer scrutiny, but the sample size just isn't big enough.  We like what we have seen, but they just haven't played enough at a higher level to make a firm prediction about their ceiling.  Such is the case with Dan Jansen, another player from a non-traditional baseball state (Wisconsin) that the Jays took with their 16th round pick in 2013.
   Jansen has shown effectiveness on both sides of the ball in his first two pro seasons, but a knee injury limited his 2014 season to 36 games with Bluefield.  He was named the Appy League's 16th best prospect this year after positing a .282/.390/.484 line.  At 6'2, 215 lbs, he has a great build for a catcher, and shows excellent bat speed.  Behind the plate, he projects to be at least an average defender.  The advancement of his receiving skills are something of a surprise, given his relatively limited high school playing time. He's a good blocker of balls in the dirt, but his arm is graded as average.  He has drawn raves for his maturity and ability to handle a pitching staff.
   The problem, of course, is that Jansen has played only parts to two years in short season ball.  He was in consideration for a spot in the back end of our Top 20, but we don't have a big enough body of work to go on.  Jansen is still far away.  With the acquisition of free agent catcher Russell Martin, the need to accelerate Jansen isn't pressing, but given what we've read about his leadership abilities, the Blue Jays may likely skip him over Vancouver to Lansing this year, giving him a chance to handle a potentially deep, young pitching staff (with possibly Borucki, Smoral, and Tinoco on board), and to play every day.  We will be following him closely next year.
   Jansen contemplated a college football career.  He talks about his decision to sign with the Blue Jays here:





    Sometimes, a player puts up amazing numbers in a league, but upon closer inspection,  it turns out that the player was several years older than the average player in the league.  And that opens up some suspicion about what the player's true ceiling is.
   Such is the case with Roemon Fields.  Fields was the true good news story of the year in the organization.  Undrafted after graduating from a tiny Kansas NAIA school (after transferring from a Washington State college), Fields was working for the US Postal Service in his hometown of Seattle, when he was asked to join an American entry in an International amateur tournament in Prince George, BC.  He caught the eye there of  Matt Bishoff, who made Fields his first sign as a Toronto scout.
   Fields made his pro debut with Vancouver in 2014, and obliterated the Northwest League's stolen base record with 48 in 57 attempts, and hit .269/.338/.350 for the C's.  BA ranked him as the NWL's 20th prospect.
   At 23, Fields was playing in a league populated mostly be 2014 college grads, but he still was a bit old for that level.  He does hit to all fields, but not for much power, and he needs to make more consistent contact and get on base more frequently to take advantage of his speed.  He is a maker of highlight reel catches in centrefield.  At his age, there isn't much room (if any) left for projection:  he is what he is, and what he's going to be.
   So, we have to take Fields' first pro season with a grain of salt.  In all likelihood, he will move up to Lansing this year (or even Dunedin, if Davis repeats at Lansing), so we will watch with interest to see how he measures up in full season ball - where he still will be one of the oldest players.


    A rough month can do a lot to derail a prospect's progress, not to mention his batting average.  For a young pro ball player, their first prolonged slump can be a devastating thing.  For many, it's their first real experience with failure on an extended basis.  For those that survive, they quickly learn to put failure behind them, and at the same time not to become overly elated with success.  Elite athletes all share that quality of being able to quickly put failure behind them.
   For Shortstop Dawel Lugo, August of 2014 was a month to forget.  Not only did his average drop over 30 points, his presence on our Top 20 list dropped as well.  Coming off a hot July in which he hit .298/.324/.423, Lugo hit a paltry .147/.180/.189 in August, the grind of his first year of full season ball no doubt having taken its toll on his young frame and psyche.
   Lugo still needs to walk more (18 in 492 PAs this year), but he puts the ball in play (only 74 Ks).  It's not a matter of pitch recognition as much as it is a need to become more selective, and work pitchers into deeper counts in order to get a more favourable pitch.  Laying off pitches outside of the strike zone would help, too. There's nothing like a good spray chart to illustrate how many balls Lugo puts in play:

MBLfarm.com graph

   Lugo is not projected to stay at Short, but in the games we observed him in he showed good lateral movement, soft hands, a fairly quick release, and a strong, accurate arm.  His range likely will be an issue as he continues to grow (he's only 20), so a move to a corner infield spot may be in his future. Baseball Prospectus labelled him a potential impact bat after 2013, and BA named him the Appalachian League's #5 prospect.  If his season had ended about July 20th, Lugo would have likely been a solid mid-teens member of our Top 20 list.  He can easily put himself back on our radar with a good start next year.
 
 There you have it:  5 prospects who have not turned into suspects, but 5 for whom 2015 will be an important season in determining their future.

   By the way, we wrote about how the Blue Jays acquired 1987 AL MVP George Bell in the 1980 edition of the Rule 5 draft, despite the Phillies' best attempts to hide him.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Scouring the Bargain Bins at the Rule 5 Draft


   Baseball's Rule 5 draft used to have great significance, and added fuel to the Hot Stove embers.
Teams that tried to sneak an eligible player through the draft would get creative in where and how they hid them, while teams like the Blue Jays would get equally creative in the lengths they would go to uncover them.
  The draft has had many incarnations over the years, but the main purpose of it remains to give long-serving minor leaguers an opportunity to reach the bigs with another organization, and to keep teams from stockpiling talent.
   To draft an eligible player, the team acquiring him must pay $50 000.  The player must be kept on the team's 25 man roster for the entire season.  If the drafting team changes their mind on said player, he must be offered back to his original club for $25 000.
  The Rule 5 draft used to remind me of the bargain bins at Coles, when the bookstore chain once was in every mall of every size in our fair country (that country being Canada, of course).  Everything in the bins was under $5, and once in a while you would score a huge bargain.  Author/musician Dave Bidini's Baseballissimo was an informative and entertaining account of a summer Bidini spent following an Italian semi-pro team.  John Grisham is widely known for his legal thrillers, but he stepped outside of the courtroom to pen Playing for Pizza, a fictional account of a back up quarterback who somehow got into an NFL game, and put on such a poor performance that he was exiled to the Italian Pro (and we use that term loosely) Football League.  I have long wanted to travel to Italy to take a cycling holiday and visit the grave of a Great Uncle who was killed in WWII.  After reading Grisham's book, I now want to go for the food too. His descriptions of the post game meals were reason enough to read the book.
   But the reason those books wound up in the bin, with all due respect to the authors, is that no one wanted them, or maybe they were beyond their shelf life.  Same with players in the Rule 5 draft.  Their current organizations either didn't see enough progress or projection to place them on the 40 man roster.
 
   The rule 5 draft is open to players who:

-are not on their major league organization's 40-man roster (as of November 20th), and:

– were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or

– were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

   Up until 2007, teams were only allowed four and three years for the above players.  With the extra year of eligibility, clubs now have more time to make a more informed decision about their players, and fewer impact players are exposed to the draft as a result.
   The increased number of pitchers, particularly relievers, a team uses each year has gone steadily up as well.  We've used an admittedly arbitrary benchmark of 20 appearances for a pitcher over the course of almost 30 seasons.   In 1985, the Blue Jays had 10 pitchers who pitched in at least that many games.  In 1995, it was 10 as well, 12 by 2005, and 14 last year.  Injuries and how the team used its bullpen certainly figured into those numbers, but the trend clearly shows that the club has carried more pitchers (usually 12) now compared to an average of 10 thirty years ago.  With the decreased number of position players on the roster, teams can no longer afford to draft a rule 5 player and keep him on the bench for most of the season, like the Blue Jays did with youngsters Manny Lee and Lou Thornton in 1985.
   A pitcher can be stashed away (somewhat) in a bullpen, and only used in specific situations, which is likely why 69 of the 93 players chosen since 2008 have been pitchers.  21 players were selected in the draft in the first year after the rule change, and has steadily dwindled to a low of 9 last year.  Over 50% of the players selected during that time were returned to their original clubs.
   The Blue Jays for the past several years have taken a very conservative approach with their minor league players, particularly high school pitchers.  They have taken a more aggressive route with some of the organization's top prospects, but draftees still typically spend between 1 and 2 years in short season ball (more for international prospects, many of whom are signed at 16 or 17), and progress up the ladder one rung at a time, meaning that it often takes 4 or 5 years just to move beyond A ball.  As a result, of the 23 (by our count - we may be off by one or two either way) Toronto minor leaguers who are newly eligible for this year's draft, only two (relievers Blake McFarland and the injured John Stilson), have spent any significant time above High A.  We should add, of course, that players who were not put on the 40 man roster in previous years, and still have not been placed on it this year are eligible as well.

   So, who is likely to be taken from the Blue Jays list of eligible players?  Well, most who haven't played above A are not, and neither is Ricky Romero, who is owed $7.5 million this year and a $13.1 million team option with a $600K buyout for 2016 (we think we know which way that's headed), after knee surgery in June ended a season in which he had walked 42 batters in 38 AAA innings.  Another who won't be taken is righthander Ryan Tepera, who was added to the 40-man at the November 20th deadline.  A starter for his first five years in the system, Tepera was converted to relief this year, and quietly had a good season in Buffalo, striking out 67 in 64 IP.  He likely would've been scooped up if he hadn't been added.
    Baseball America's JJ Cooper took a look across the minors to see who might be most likely to be bargain bin scoops, and he identifies three Blue Jays who teams may take a flyer on:  Stilson, and relievers Tyler Ybarra and Gregory Infante.
   Stilson is coming off his second shoulder surgery since 2011, but hit 97 for Buffalo this year, and sat between 93-95.  If not for his shoulder woes, he might have taken up residence in the Blue Jays bullpen.  Rule 5 players have to spend 90 days on an MLB roster, but he can spend time on the disabled list.  The risk, of course, is that there are no guarantees for a player in Stilson's position, and if teams likely won't want to have to pay for subsequent operations if the most recent was unsuccessful.  Toronto is likely banking on that, and it's highly unlikely that Stilson will be taken.
  Infante hit 100 on the radar gun for New Hampshire this year, but he tends to have little movement on his fastball, and often catches too much of the strike zone.  Still, he pitched well in AA and AAA, and when BA's prospect report lands in our inbox every morning of late, he's often had another good outing in Venezuela.  Infante has had a go of major league life already, having made his debut with the White Sox in 2010.  He might be worth a gamble.
  Ybarra can light up the radar gun, too.  The lefthander sits between 94 and 97, and after overmatching High A hitters last year, Ybarra was roughed up a bit at AA, struggling with command (30 BB in 53 innings), and he gave up 8 home runs.  All 29 other MLB teams passed on him last year, and it's likely that they will again this year, too.
  Cooper didn't make mention of lefty John Anderson, who was exposed to the 2013 draft, but wasn't chosen.  Anderson struck out 72 in 68 innings with New Hampshire this year.  The huge red flag with Anderson is the pair of Tommy John surgeries he had within 15 months of each other earlier in his career. Still, he's averaged more than a K per inning since resuming his career in 2013.  With his injury history, being selected this year is still unlikely.
   The Blue Jays, for their part, have largely eschewed the Rule 5 draft during the Alex Anthopolous era.  The only player they have selected since 2010 was lefthanded reliever Brian Moran last year from Seattle, who they promptly traded to the Angels for International bonus pool money, in effect getting something for relatively nothing.
   A player who is intriguing and will be available in the draft this year is Astros prospect Delino DeShields.  The offspring of the former MLBer by the same name.  DeShields has richly deserved a reputation as a problem child, having been benched multiple times for giving less than a full effort on the field.  The 8th overall pick in the 2008 has the best tools in this draft (he has Milb's only 10-100 season ever, hitting 12HRs and stealing 101 bases in 2012), but after hitting .236/.346/.360 in AA this year, he may still be a few years away.  DeShields plays an adequate centre field, and can also play second.  He's a huge gamble, but given the Blue Jays troubles at the latter position, and their penchant for rolling the dice with premium athletes, we could see them taking DeShields and giving him spring training to see if he could make the leap.
  There are some interesting power arms in this year's draft, but the Blue Jays likely are content with the supply of such pitchers they already have.  The draft takes place on December 11th.

  We wrote about the Rule 5 Draft and how the Blue Jays used it to acquire one of the best players in team history, and you can read about it here.
  You can read JJ Cooper's BA article here.