Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blue Jays Draft Recap: The Top Guys

Charlotte Observer Photo

  The internet is full of evaluations from a variety of sources about the Blue Jays draft.
I don't pretend for a moment to know all that much about any of the prospects, and much of what follows is a summary of online reports and my own observations from watching video.  Just the same, here's a look at the Blue Jays top draft picks:

Logan Warmoth  SS North Carolina
    Described by many as a "safe pick", Warmoth has been comped with long-time MLB SS J.J. Hardy, and that's a reasonable projection.
   In the field, Warmoth has fluid movements, combining agility with good hands and footwork. When he has time, he sets and makes strong, accurate throws.  He can also make that crossfire, on-the-run throw to first.  His arm is currently ranked as the strongest tool in his kit.  He's projected to stay at SS, and the Blue Jays will likely give him every opportunity to do so, although some reports suggest he's better off as a 2B long term.
   He has what is described as a solid approach at the plate, but it appears that he makes a lot of groundball contact and may have to work at adding some loft to his swing.  He has a simple, quiet set up, using a toe tap to start his load.  There's not a lot of movement in his short, compact swing.  He should put a lot of balls in play, and because of his ability to work a count, he should see a fair number of balls to barrel.
  Warmoth has been lauded for his baseball IQ, and in a trend that the Blue Jays are for the moment at the leading edge of, makeup.
   Warmoth should start the season at Vancouver, but could easily finish up at Lansing, depending on the playoff hunts of both teams.  He may move quickly through the system, and in most cases might be among the first of his draft class to make it to MLB.

Nate Pearson RHP College of Central Florida (JC)
   With their second first round pick, the Blue Jays opted to go for upside and chose Pearson, who has topped 100 several times this season, and usually sits 96-98.
   Unlike a lot of fireballers, Pearson works mostly down in the zone, getting good eye plane-changing downward movement.
  Pitching from a 3/4, semi-stretch delivery, there are not a lot of moving parts to his motion.  Pearson uses his lower half very well, and throws with intent.  At 6'6"/240, he is an imposing presence on the mound, and with his size and a glove flip during his delivery, can be very hard on right hand hitters.
He does not land in a good fielding position, however, and that part of his mechanics will need some refining.
   Pearson relies on his fastball, and has a slider that shows some promise with some late break.  His curve is not a well developed pitch - he often gets on top of it, and does not disguise it well.  It's highly likely that he will shelve that pitch once he turns pro.  His change is described as a work in progress.  There's a lot to like with that fastball, however, which should buy his secondaries time to develop.
   Scouts were encouraged that Pearson was able to maintain his velocity late into games.  He has a commitment to LSU, so there is no guarantee that he will sign.  The pick is protected, so the Blue Jays are covered if Pearson decides to return to school.  Drafting Warmoth with the first pick was a safe bet in the event that Pearson does not sign.
     There has been speculation that he could be moved to the bullpen full time, in which case he projects to possibly breeze through the minors and find himself in the back end of a major league pen with that velo in short order.  The more likely scenario is that the Blue Jays audition him as a starter, in which case he likely starts his season in Bluefield.  There is a considerable high risk/high reward element to this pick:  Pearson could develop into a solid starter if he can harness his secondaries, or he could become a lights out bullpen arm.  There is also a chance that he returns to school if the Blue Jays are unwilling to go much over slot for him.

Hagen Danner P/C California HS
  Selected with the 61st pick overall, Danner was one of the most intriguing players in the draft due to his two-way abilities, but scouts appear divided on where his prospects are best in the long term.
  He throws a three-pitch mix which includes a fastball that can touch 95, and will almost certainly add a tick or two to that as a pro.  Behind the plate, he has been termed a solid defensive Catcher who lacks elite bat speed.
  It will be interesting to see which direction the Blue Jays go with Danner.  Will they move him to one position or the other, or given the need for versatility on a 25-man roster in this day and age of multi-arm bullpens, will they allow him to play both?
  On the showcase circuit, Danner spent more time pitching than he did behind the plate, and that may be a clue as to where his future lies.  The GCL appears to be a logical starting point for Danner, but he probably won't finish the season there.

Riley Adams C San Diego
   Adams is a bat-first Catcher who improved his stock considerably this spring.
At 6'4", he's a bit big for the position, and scouts have noted inconsistencies with this throwing and receiving skills.  More than one report indicated that his makeup is considered plus, which was no doubt a factor in the Blue Jays selecting him.
  Adams hit well in the wood bat Cape Cod League last summer, adding legitimacy to his hit tool, but his swing is long, and there is a swing-and-miss element to his game, although he does see a lot of pitches.
  Adams should start the season at Vancouver.

A few final thoughts:
-it's worth remembering that as much as we cram in the days leading up to the draft, we don't really know these players.  Scouts do.  They've been following most of the players in their areas since their sophomore years of high school.  They've talked to the players, their parents, and their coaches. Scouts have a much better of the make up of a player than the rest of us do.  And with the physical talents between many draftees being only slight in terms of their differences, it's make up that often separates the prospects from the suspects.

-not that they have no value, but I don't tend to obsess much over guys picked later than the third round. These are the players that statistically speaking have the highest chance of reaching the majors.  The upper minors, of course, are littered with guys selected in lower rounds than that, but rather than take a shot-gun approach, I try to focus on the top selections.  Historically, they have the better chance of advancing.  After Round Three, the scouting staff typically takes over selecting players, and while they're always looking for that "arm behind the barn," to borrow a phrase from another era, the main purpose of picking players beyond that point is to stock rosters of the lower level affiliates.

-while there are almost a limitless supply of scouting reports and video online, most of it is in isolation - there's very little game action video, so you don't get a true sense of how a player responds in game situations.  And this is why that even though I read through all that material to get a sense of a player's profile, they're pretty much a blank slate to me, and I look forward to seeing them live (yours truly has not one, but two trips to Vancouver planned for this summer - helps to have family out there) or online.  I promise to have plenty of photos, video, and reports.

-speaking of the latter, if you can't make it out to the Left Coast this summer to watch the C's, broadcaster Rob Fai has confirmed that the Saturday night televised Canadians games will continue this summer.  Shaw TV televised the games last year, and while the games were not shown live east of Sault Ste Marie, they were available on YouTube.  Shaw sold its media division in order to get into the wireless market, and there were concerns that the new owners of Shaw TV properties, Corus Entertainment, would not be interested in showing the games.  It's only a half dozen games, but viewers get an excellent chance to watch some of the Jays prospects sent to Vancouver in action.

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