TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have made their share of big splashes on the free agent and trade markets over the organization’s four-plus decades, but their best teams have always had a foundation of homegrown talent.
Let’s take a look back at some of the best homegrown Blue Jays, who went from Draft prospects to becoming some of the club’s all-time greats.
1. RHP Roy Halladay
Round 1, 1995
The Blue Jays saw Halladay’s upside, of course, when they selected him out of high school with the No. 17 overall pick in 1995, but nobody could have projected the heights the young right-hander would someday reach.
What makes Halladay’s rise to stardom so fascinating was that, just as he was arriving in the Major Leagues, he had to tear it all down and start again. After debuting in 1999, Halladay hit the wall in 2000, pitching to a 10.64 ERA over 67 2/3 innings. He went back to the low Minors and rebuilt his delivery and, by the time he returned in the middle of the 2001 season, he began to transform into Doc, the greatest pitcher to ever wear a Blue Jays uniform.
Halladay’s Cy Young Award in 2003 and six All-Star appearances headline his accomplishments with the Blue Jays, but he’s best remembered for the consistency of his excellence. As a true ace and workhorse over parts of 12 Major League seasons in Toronto, Halladay stands above the rest and it may be a long time until that changes.
2. RHP Dave Stieb
Round 5, 1978
Going from the fifth round in 1978 to one of baseball’s best pitchers in the ‘80s makes Stieb one of the best picks in Blue Jays history. Behind Halladay, Stieb is widely considered to be the second-best pitcher to wear a Blue Jays jersey after his 15 seasons with the club, which included an unlikely comeback after four years of retirement in 1998 at age 40.
Stieb is remembered well by baseball fans in Toronto and Canada, but in the league-wide context, the right-hander’s career remains underrated. Stieb gave the Blue Jays a 3.42 ERA over 2,873 innings, combining peak seasons with sustained success over a decade-plus.
3. OF Jesse Barfield
Round 9, 1977
One of the early MLB Draft picks in the club’s history, Barfield starred in those great Blue Jays outfields through the ‘80s, combining power and defense over his nine years with the organization.
Barfield’s best season came in 1986 at age 26, when he hit .289 with 40 home runs and a .927 OPS, earning an All-Star nod, Silver Slugger Award and Gold Glove Award. That season was worth 7.5 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs, after he’d posted a mark of 7.0 the season prior.
4. 1B John Olerud
Round 3, 1989
Drafting Olerud in the third round out of Washington State University was excellent value for the Blue Jays. Olerud didn’t play a single game in the Minor Leagues for the Blue Jays, either, jumping right to the big leagues in late 1989.
Olerud established himself as a regular almost immediately and, by the early ‘90s, he was a key to those great Blue Jays lineups that powered their World Series runs. With one of the sweetest swings in baseball, Olerud put up his peak season in 1993, when he chased a .400 average deep into the season, finishing at .363 with a .473 on-base percentage and 1.072 OPS.
If Olerud had stayed with the Blue Jays beyond his eight seasons, we’d be talking about him as one of the greatest hitter in the organization’s history.
5. LHP Jimmy Key
Round 3, 1982
The lefty debuted with the Blue Jays in 1984 as a reliever, but after making the full-time shift to starting in 1985, Key took off. Over nine seasons with Toronto, Key posted a 3.42 ERA while pairing up with Stieb to give the Blue Jays a strong top to their rotation.
The 1987 season was Key’s finest, as he posted a 2.76 ERA over 261 innings and finished second in American League Cy Young voting to Roger Clemens. Key deserved more than the two All-Star nods he earned with the Blue Jays, too, but had another runner-up finish for the Cy Young Award later in his career with the Yankees in 1994, that time losing out to David Cone.