Maybe the Blue Jays’ front office simply knows something we don’t.
The idea isn’t so far-fetched when you consider that the organization boasts 25 regional scouts charged with identifying draft talent (most teams employ about 15) and GM Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t made too many mis-steps during his 20 months on the job, particularly when it comes to the stocking of the farm system.
But when your top draft selection is referred to as – in the kindest words – a “reach” at No. 21 over-all and – at worst – brings questions of whether the team has any intent to sign the pick to begin with, there’s cause for some second-guessing.
Now, I’m sure Tyler Beede is a perfectly nice kid and could well turn out to be a serviceable major leaguer one day. Listed at 6’4”, 200 pounds, the 18-year old right-hander out of Massachusetts’ Lawrence Academy certainly has a pitcher’s build and the team was impressed by his mechanics. But most teams viewed Beede as a fringe first rounder and no one disputes the signability concerns surrounding him (he has committed to play at Vanderbilt and does not intend to jump right to pro ball).
Beede wasn’t the only Jays’ Day One selection thought to be a reach, either. Outfielder Jacob Anderson, whom Toronto selected with the No. 35 pick obtained as compensation for Scott Downs, boasts a high ceiling with a smooth swing, great bad speed and the possibility for power numbers down the road, but still entered the draft seen as more of a mid-round selection.
Even later compensation picks on Day One, namely right-handed high-schoolers Joe Musgrove and Kevin Comer, weren’t on the radar of too many teams as being among the top 60 picks. The 6’5” Musgrove has only emerged as a viable big leaguer in recent months, having seen his velocity jump into the mid-90’s this spring. Comer, meanwhile, was a huge surprise, as his large 6’4”, 200-lb frame can’t make up for what is perceived as a short-armed ball delivery.
You’ll notice the continuing theme of big right-handed pitchers out of high school, which certainly seemed to be the Jays’ focus. In fact, five of their first seven picks were high school hurlers, four of whom are righties (Anderson and fellow OF Dwight Smith were the two exceptions). Throw in an abundant supply of arms from last year’s draft (Deck McGuire, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard and Asher Wojciechowski to name four) and the team should be well-stocked for years to come. Of course, don’t expect to see any of these 2011 high school picks up with the big club anytime soon.
Credit Anthopoulos for continuing his bold, risky draft strategy into Day Two and coming away with a pair of first round talents that fell for reasons having nothing to do with their ability. Left-hander Daniel Norris would likely have been snapped up well before the No. 74 pick if not for signability concerns, just as righty John Stilson would not have lasted to the 108th pick if not for shoulder woes that scared off most teams. The organization has demonstrated the financial commitment to draft picks necessary to get Norris signed, while they can afford to be patient with Stilson thanks to the sheer volume of pitching throughout the farm system.
It’s always tricky to offer your own thoughts when a team goes against the grain and takes a high-risk, high-reward approach to drafting, since you can only hope their scouts know what they’re doing. And so, while I can’t criticize Anthopoulos’ 2011 draft efforts, I can’t offer much more praise than to say that we shall see what the next few years of development reveal. If this post makes me look like an idiot in, say, 2016, then credit AA with another coup.
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Written by Ben Fisher