TORONTO -- The Blue Jays had no choice but to change their plan of attack for Major League Baseball's upcoming First-Year Player Draft, which gets under way on Monday night in New Jersey.
Toronto had been one of the most aggressive teams in the Draft during the three-year tenure of general manager Alex Anthopoulos. The Blue Jays stockpiled as many compensatory picks as they could and would often go over slot to pay players that were considered tough signs.
Those days are all but over following a change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which attempts to limit how much each club can spend. Instead of waiting for a lot of the top talent to drop, the Blue Jays are going to simply have to go with the best player available under the new format.
"With the new rules, on the one hand you maybe can't take the high school kids later and buy them out of college, [but] the best talent should be going as high up as it can," Anthopoulos said. "There's more money in those slots, so I think the roles of the advisors right now ... will be working on trying to get their players moved up the board to get more of that slot money."
The Blue Jays have a total of 14 picks in the first 10 rounds, starting at No. 17 overall, with an overall cap of $8,830,800. Six of those selections are in the top 81 as Toronto once again took advantage of the free-agent compensation system with Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Jose Molina signing with other clubs during the offseason.
This is the final year that compensation format will be in place, and it gives the Blue Jays one last opportunity to stockpile the farm system with a series of top picks. In recent years, Toronto has acquired the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez and Asher Wojciechowski through the compensation round that can be found between the first and second rounds of the Draft.
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players.
You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
The old system is now long gone, and while it's a welcome change for a lot of teams around the Major Leagues, at least some elements of it will be missed by Anthopoulos. The one thing they won't be doing is drastically going over the cap, which would result in large fines and the potential of losing future Draft picks.
The days of outspending other teams in the Draft appears to have come to an end.
"I just don't see us doing that," Anthopoulos said. "You never say never, but I just don't, especially in the top two rounds."
Here's a glance at what the Blue Jays have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Blue Jays have six picks in the first two rounds of the Draft and should be able to utilize the high number to inject another wave of talent into what is already one of the best Minor League systems in the game.
There isn't as much top-end talent up for grabs during this year's Draft, but there is still an impressive amount of depth to work with, according to Blue Jays scouting director Andrew Tinnish. The club will continue to monitor both the high school and college ranks, but as it goes deeper into the Draft, Tinnish's staff will have to become increasingly conscientious of avoiding high schoolers who may not be inclined to sign.
"Our scouts have done a good job communicating with the players and getting a feel for, not just them throwing out a number, but their desire to play professional baseball right now," Tinnish said.
"It's certainly important, I think we've always relied a lot on our area scouts to gather information on the player. I've always felt like they have an unsung role, it's extremely important and it actually becomes even more important in this system."
Tinnish has remained tight-lipped about who the Blue Jays are considering in the first round.
Various online reports have speculated that Toronto could be inclined to take long looks at shortstop Gavin Cecchini and infielder Stephen Piscotty, while MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo predicted outfielder David Dahl of Oak Mountain High School in Alabama. Mayo has also suggested pitchers Nick Travieso or Lance McCullers.
"The talent pool overall is very strong," said Tinnish, whose club has an extra first-round pick after failing to sign right-hander Tyler Beede in 2011. "I don't think it's any less than years past. I think the big difference is that it may not be as top heavy as it was last year. Last year, I think if you were picking in the top 10-15 there was a high number of very high upside players with a lot of ability."
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Blue Jays' Minor League system is already well-stocked with high-end talent on the mound, but that doesn't mean the club is going to shy away from taking pitchers early in the Draft. According to MLB.com, 10 of Toronto's top 20 prospects are pitchers, and most of them can be found in Low-A.
"I think we really try to figure out who we like as the better player," Tinnish said. "I think that anytime that you break it down -- like, we have catchers so we don't need to take a catcher -- I think you're doing yourself a disservice."
Last year, Tinnish used 12 of his first 15 selections on pitchers compared to just two outfielders and one infielder. The club has a preference for tall, athletic hurlers who project to have more durability than some of their smaller counterparts. Of the 12 pitchers that were selected in the top 15, all were at least 6-foot-1 or taller.
Recent Draft History Rising fast
Outfielder Jake Marisnick has quickly made a name for himself since being selected in the third round of the 2009 Draft. Marisnick, who is currently ranked as the club's third-best prospect according to MLB.com, had a successful season in Class A Lansing last year and has since been promoted to Class A Dunedin.
The native of California got off to somewhat of a slow start this year but has the type of five-tool talent that could see him playing in Double-A New Hampshire before the season is out. He has the ability to hit for a lot of power while also playing strong defense in either corner outfield position.
Blue Jays' recent top picks
Did not sign
Double-A New Hampshire
Double-A New Hampshire
Blue Jays (MLB)
Yan Gomes moved out of obscurity and into the spotlight following a strong Spring Training with the Blue Jays. The 10th-round Draft pick in 2009 spent most of last season as the backup catcher to top prospect Travis d'Arnaud but has since begun to pave his own way to the big leagues.
Gomes has learned how to play both corner infield positions and recently began working out in left field as well. The native of Brazil enjoyed a brief stint with the Blue Jays earlier this season and in all likelihood will be back in the not-so-distant future as he became a favorite of manager John Farrell.
In The Show
Right-hander Drew Hutchison began the 2011 season in Low-A ball, but an incredible season on the mound put him front and center with the big league club this season. Hutchison didn't break camp with the team but was promoted to the Major Leagues on April 21 and has since made eight starts while posting a 4-2 mark. Not bad for a guy who dropped to the 15th round in 2009 because he was considered a tough sign.