Friday, March 11, 2016

Draft Update: Still Incredibly Early Edition

Will Benson
    The Blue Jays have the 23rd overall selection in the first round of this June's amatuer draft.
They also have the 57th pick (as a result of not coming to terms with Florida HS P Brady Singer), as well as their own at 66.

    Baseball America released their updated Top 100 draft prospects rankings yesterday, and while this list is notable only in its fluidity, it's interesting to see how the list changes and evolves from month to month.
     The Top 10 rankings really aren't of a lot of interest to Blue Jays fans, as those players will likely be off the board once it comes time for Toronto to pick, but it is interesting to watch how names rise and fall over the course of the spring.  The College baseball season is a couple of weeks old, and high school baseball has just started in the warmer states.  The scouting season has just begun.
     BA's top prospect so far is New Jersey HS LHP Jason Groome, who has been at or near the top of most lists.  Tennessee 3B Nick Senzel has rocketed up the rankings to the second spot on BA's list, mainly thanks to a breakout summer season in the Cape Cod League, and a sizzling start to the collegiate campaign.

    Under former GM Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays coveted projection, particularly in the form of high school pitchers.  Even though much of their amateur scouting staff remains intact, it remains to be seen if there will be variance from that draft strategy with the new regime.  The Indians record when it came to first round picks under Shapiro has been dismal with the exception of Francisco Lindor, so it will be interesting to see if the new administration will allow the scouting department to operate as they have in the past.  One thing may change - Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have shown an aversion to risk, so there may not be as much rolling of the dice on draft day.  You can't hold them to one draft, but the Indians and 21 other teams passed on Marcus Stroman in 2012.  It could be argued that they were willing to roll the dice with rehabbing Brady Aiken last year.  So, perhaps there's a good chance that the amateur scouting staff will go about their business as usual this spring.

   Last post, I looked at 3 players who were initially ranked in the 20s.  I'll update their progress, then profile a few other players who are ranked in that range.

RHP Cal Quantrill, Stanford
   The son of the former Blue Jay has yet to pitch this season, thanks to Tommy John surgery last spring, and won't take the mound in game action until late April or early May.  If he returns without missing a beat, he's likely to go in the top dozen or so picks; if he struggles, he may still be available. The bloodlines, advanced feel for pitching, and the projection make him an ideal pick if he's still on the board.

RHP Kyle Funkhouser, Louisville
   Selected 35th overall by the Dodgers last year, Funkhouser opted to return for his senior year.  So far, he's done little to reverse the slide that saw him fall out of the top half of the first round.  According to BA, his fastball was down to 88-91, his command was below average, and his offspeed pitches lacked consistency.
   He may well be available at 23, but unless there's a remarkable turnaround, it's hard to see Toronto selecting him.

RHP Forrest Whitley, Texas HS
   The 6'7" Whitley has hit 97 with his fastball, and oozes projection.  He also broke his left thumb last fall.  Keith Law of ESPN suggests the Tigers would pick him 9th overall.  He still remains in the 20s, but that velo may bump him up the list once March turns into April.

And now for a couple of players who are currently ranked in the 20s....

OF/1B Will Benson, Georgia HS
   The 6'5" Duke commit draws comparisons to fellow Georgian Jason Heyward.  Here are a couple of scouting notes:

Moves well in the outfield, strong arm.  
Agile around the bag at first.
Hands low at the plate, feet slightly wider than shoulder length. 
Slight leg kick.
Gets bat through the zone with excellent bat speed.
Pull side approach, ambushes balls on the inner half, not as fluid on the outer half and on offspeed where he feels for the ball a bit.
Approach will need to be refined on outer half. 

   Here's a glimpse of some of that bat speed:

RHP Reggie Lawson, California HS
   Lawson was deemed a scout's favourite last summer, with a fastball that touched 95, and nice, easy, and loose arm action.
   Law had a look at Lawson in action last weekend, and noted that while the velo is still there, his delivery seems to have taken a step backward.  His fastball was barreled up a few times because he offered little deception, and had trouble keeping the pitch down.  His curve flashed as a potentially plus pitch.
   Lawson is athletic and projectable, but Law was concerned that his delivery had regressed from just under a year ago.  Law thinks the mechanics could be easily fixed once he's in pro ball.
   Lawson seems to be a project at this point, which could keep him in the 20s.

   There is every chance that the Blue Jays will not take any of these players, of course, but it still helps to provide some interest.  Stanford and Louisville games can both be found online, making following the college players a little easier.  The players I've identified so far seem to me to be the type the Blue Jays like to follow, and I'll keep tabs on them in the coming weeks.

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