Monday, April 24, 2017

MLB Draft Beginning to Take Shape

  With the MLB draft a little over a month away, many teams' draft boards are lining up.  As is usually the case, a couple of players have distanced themselves from the pack:  California prep two-way player Hunter Greene, and Louisville LHP Brendan McKay.

   The Blue Jays have a pair of first round picks - the 22nd, and the 28th (compensation for the loss of free agent parrot walker Edwin Encarnacion.  In the latest mock draft at Baseball America, Missouri State 3B has Jake Burger is pegged at #22.

   There are a number of reasons why Burger, who we had going to the Blue Jays in our previous draft article, is a good fit for the Blue Jays.  They have made the usual noise about taking the Best Player Available, but they showed a preference for more polished college players last year, and given the success they've had with those picks, Burger (who has been labelled the best power bat in the draft) checks several boxes.  He's decent enough a defender at 3rd to remain there for a while, and his bat speed is obvious.

    Burger currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in OBP and Slugging, and is 3rd in Average, while fanning only 19 times in almost 170 PAs.  He has not seen a lot of strikes, but he has hammered many that have strayed too close to the strike zone.  The concerns about him involve his stocky physique.  Less obvious is an arm bar that some scouts feel will be exploited by pro pitchers. He's been ranked as high as 12th on some boards, and as low as the mid-20s on others.  Given the success the Blue Jays have had in transforming some of their prospects in terms of strength and conditioning, there's every reason to believe they could perform the same kind of metamorphosis with Burger.

  UCLA RHP Griffin Canning is another player who several mock drafts suggested would be a good fit for the Blue Jays.  With a four-pitch mix and a fastball that's topping out at 96, he's moving up many draft boards, however, and may not be around when it's the Blue Jays' turn with either first round pick.
   North Carolina prep southpaw MacKenzie Gore was initially ranked in the 20s, but the high-kicking lefty with the plus fastball has risen up several boards, and probably will be gone by the time the Blue Jays make their first pick.
   A player ranked consistently in the late 20s is South Carolina RHP Wil (one 'L") Crowe, a stocky (6'2"/250) starter who missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  The Indians took him in the 21st round last June, but he decided to return to South Carolina for his senior year.  Prior to blowing out his elbow, he was on the verge of becoming the Gamecock's ace, and likely would have been a second round selection.  With a fastball in the mid-90s and a solid four pitch mix, Crowe could be the kind of under-the-radar pick who moves quickly.  He was dominant in a start this past weekend against the Gators in Florida - the last time he walked off the mound there two years ago was his last outing prior to Tommy John.

   A couple of other names that may be available and have been linked to the Blue Jays include North Carolina SS Logan Warmouth, who fits the Best Player Available mode, and Hagen Danner, a California HS RHP who has fastball command and a nice 12-6 curve.
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