Alex Anthopoulos won’t be the star of Day One of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, considered by many to be the deepest pool of baseball talent in years. That distinction will fall to Tampa Bay Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, whose Rays boast a stunning 10 of the top 60 picks.
However, the seven picks among the first 78 (specifically, No. 21, 35, 46, 53, 57, 74 and 78) is nothing to sneeze at, and as such, Anthopoulos has some room to collect future assets. And just as when they opened up the vault last year to sign each of their top 13 selections and dole out a team record $11.6 million in signing bonuses, the team is expected to have the green light to get their selections under contract.
Now who might those selections be? With the Jays’ first pick only coming after 20 other clubs have made their choices, it’s hard to anticipate who may be the top player available on their draft board (although Toronto has given a hard look to Levi Michael, a shortstop out of UNC who should fall around that pick).
Team scouting director Andrew Tinnish has indicated that the club will pursue the best available talent rather than focus in on specific organizational needs, an indication that a college hurler or two could be in the offing. Anthopoulos and co. have shown a penchant for college pitchers in the past, but are fresh off a 2010 Draft that saw them use six of their top eight picks on pitchers. However, they say that you can “never have too much pitching” and even with some pitching strength on the farm, the club may be tempted by what is expected to be a hurler-heavy crop of amateur talent.
The Jays won’t get in on elite talents like UCLA star Gerrit Cole or Oklahoma high-schooler Dylan Bundy, but flamethrowers like Taylor Jungmann (Texas), Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech), Matt Barnes (UConn), Alex Meyer (Kentucky) and Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt) could be around come pick No. 21.
There is also the possibility of top prospects falling due to hefty contract demands, specifically with no fewer than seven of the clubs picking ahead of Toronto facing money issues. This unfortunate sub-plot of every recent Draft may not exist for long (Major League Baseball is expected to address the issue of financial allotments for draft picks in the near future), but it could actually serve to benefit a Jays’ team ready to spend. Those who might fall due to asking price rather than talent could include Bundy and high school OF Bubba Starling, while OF Josh Bell (will likely go to University of Texas) and LHP Matt Purke (is battling shoulder problems) are high-risk, high-reward players.
Anthopoulos showed that he is not averse to taking risks at this time last year, when he took (and signed) SS Dickie Thon, Jr.despite suggestions from the prospect’s father that he didn’t want to be in Toronto. Those kind of risks are easier to take when you have the luxury of multiple picks, something that the team afforded itself thanks to strong efforts in gathering compensatory selections.
The Jays picked up two sandwich round picks (No. 35 and 74) for the departed Scott Downs and one for each of John Buck (46) and Kevin Gregg (53), none of whom fit into the club’s future plans. Perhaps the biggest masterstroke of the 2011 Draft came last November, when the team acquired Miguel Olivo from Colorado for cash, knowing that he carried value as a Type 2 free agent. Olivo would go on to sign with the Mariners and earn the Blue Jays the 57th selection in the draft.
Among the Canadian content expected to be available in the June 6-8 Draft, look for BC natives RHP Tom Robson and C/3B Dustin Houle to be the first two Canucks off the board, followed by a trio of righties in Skyler Janisse (Maidstone, ON), Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (Montreal) and Ethan Elias (Entwistle, AB).
Check back tomorrow for a recap of how the Jays fared and an introduction of the team’s newest faces.
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Written by Ben Fisher