With the college and most high school baseball seasons (at least in the warmer climates) well underway, it's time for another look at the top ranked players for the upcoming June Major League Baseball draft.
The Blue Jays have both the 9th pick in the first round, and the 11th, as compensation for not signing California HS pitcher Phil Bickford. We'll focus on the top 15 prospects, with an eye towards who the Blue Jays might pick, given the drafting trends they've shown in the past few years.
A couple of words of warning about the information contained within this post:
1. Even though spring training has passed the half way point, we're still very early in the college and high school seasons. A lot could change between now and the June draft.
2. This information is a synthesis of the observations of the top talent evaluators in the online world. It's no substitute for scouting in person.
3. While the Blue Jays have shown a willingness to roll the dice with their draft picks, trying to pick a player for their draft spots based on our perception of the team's needs and preferences is still very difficult. We will likely rotate many players through the 9th and 11th draft positions, and the Jays may take none of them, which wouldn't be all that surprising to us.
At this point, the potential first round picks seem to have separated themselves into at least three distinct tiers.
The first tier contains the premium prospects that will not be around when the Blue Jays turns to pick come up. Among those are:
Carlos Rodon lhp NC State -hasn't been as dominant as his past two collegiate seasons, but still
has huge upside.
Tyler Kolek rhp Texas HS -rocketing his way up the rankings; has topped 100 on the radar.
Some suggest that the Astros may take him over Rodon to help
spread the bonus money around, which would make him the first
prep righthander taken first overall in the modern draft era.
Jeff Hoffman rhp East Carolina -has been passed by some evaluators by Kolek, but still a solid top 5
Jacob Gatewood ss California HS -Gatewood is a BP monster, although there are some concerns about
his ability to translate into game performances.
Alex Jackson c California HS -there are some concerns about his long-term future behind the plate,
but his bat will play.
Tyler Beede, rhp Vanderbilt -the likelihood of the Jays drafting him was slim to none to begin with, but
Beede's performance to date has taken him into this upper tier.
Gatewood and/or Jackson may slip out of this group, and join the next tier:
Aaron Nola rhp LSU -there are some who don't like Nola's low arm slot, and project him as a
reliever, but it's hard to argue with the results so far.
Nick Gordon ss Florida HS -the brother of Dee and son of Flash was ranked the top SS prospect in the
draft by Keith Law. Unlike many other SS prospects, he's projected to
stay at the position. Also has a low 90s FB.
Brady Aiken lhp California HS -throws 94-97 with a plus curveball, and at 6'4" fits the Jays' love of
long, lean athletic prep pitchers.
Erick Fedde rhp UNLV -off to a strong start, he will need to continue to pitch well after an
inconsistent sophomore season. Athletic, with a plus fastball.
Trea Turner ss NC State -elite speed and likely to stay at short, but scouts don't feel his bat
has a lot of upside.
Sean Newcomb lhp Hartford -bad weather has hampered his season so far, and after being shut down summer ball last year after contracting mono, has shown some
Max Pentecost c Kennesaw State -the best of a thin pool of catching talent, has average to above
average tools across the board.
Derek Fisher of Virginia -tabbed as a 60-hit, 60-power left handed hitter whose stock could rise
due to a lack of impact bats in the draft. No one seems impressed with
his defence. Fisher broke the hamate bone in his right wrist on March
8th, and will miss 4-6 weeks.
Justus Sheffield lhp Tennessee -nephew of former MLBer Gary, he doesn't have the stuff of Aiken,
but has what's been described as a clean, athletic delivery, that gives lots of room for projection.
Of the above group, given the Blue Jays recent draft history, we would have to say that Aiken and Gordon best fit the club's preference for athletic high schoolers. One or both may be gone by the time the 9th pick comes up. Pentecost would fit a need in the system for a toolsy catcher, and could advance quickly.
Thought we would throw in a Tyler Beede update.
In his first 5 starts, the Jays first pick in the 2011 draft has upped his stock considerably.
Beede sports a 4-1 record, striking out 40 batters in 32 innings, with a tiny 0.63 WHIP. Opposing batters are hitting only .128 against him.
Prospect guru Keith Law watched a recent Beede start against Stanford, and came away impressed:
"...while he's always been good (Law has been following Beede since his junior year of
High School), he'd never put together the single dominating performance where he would show
both stuff and command that would make me feel that he was a clear top-ten or top-five pick.
He did that on Friday night, an outing against a good team that had area scouts walking
away saying the same thing: that's the Tyler Beede we've all been waiting before."
Law feels that Beede has propelled himself into the upper echelon of draft prospects. Everything appears to be coming together for the righthander: command, velocity deep into his start, and a good feel for his changeup, all as a result of an easy delivery.
Many Jays fans still fume at the club's inability to sign Beede in 2011, because of differences over money and other unknown aspects of the negotiations. Law says criticism of the Jays for not signing him are unfair, as the offer they made him was more than generous:
"...the Jays did offer more than $2 million (well above slot) to him, a very reasonable amount
given the type of prospect he was at that time."
Beede stands to cash in far in excess of the Jays' 2011 offer. Barring injury, he projects to be a top-five pick this June.