TORONTO -- The Blue Jays remained aggressive in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft -- a trend it has shown in years' past -- despite the new collective bargaining agreement that placed restrictions on how much each club can spend.
Toronto drafted some tough high school signs early, and balanced out the rest by selecting seven consecutive college seniors, which the club should be able to sign for under-slot value to save money against the overall cap.
Blue Jays amateur scouting director Andrew Tinnish admitted, without disclosing names, the club had already signed and agreed to terms with some of those college seniors. He says he's happy with the new Draft rules, but admits there are some noticeable differences.
"The process I'd say is more structured than it was before," Tinnish said. "I think a little more strategy is involved as far as the players you take, especially in the Top 10 rounds. One of the important jobs of our area scouts is to determine what they feel the player feels his own value is. We feel like we've got a good chance to sign all of our players in the top 10 rounds."
Starting with its first overall selection at No. 17, D.J. Davis, Toronto elected to go for a high-upside outfielder, and followed by taking right-hander Marcus Stroman at No. 22. Stroman was considered to be among the best collegiate arms in the nation this past season.
Toronto then took third baseman Mitch Nay, right-hander Tyler Gonzales and left-hander Matt Smoral in compensation round A. Smoral was considered a first-round talent entering 2012, but missed the majority of his senior year after undergoing right-foot surgery for a stress fracture.
Toronto remained aggressive on Day 2, and started it off by taking two high-upside high schoolers -- amid concerns over signabilty -- with its first two picks. In the second round, the Blue Jays nabbed Team USA 18U right-hander Chase DeJong, who has committed to USC, as well as outfielder Anthony Alford in the third. Alford has already started taking classes at Southern Mississippi University, and intends on playing football there, too.
DeJong put the signability concerns to rest on Tuesday by declaring he'd prefer to turn pro and was "95 percent" likely to sign with Toronto, while Alford expressed that he needed time to weigh his options, which include playing football.
"Anthony is an extremely athletic center fielder," Tinnish said. "He's a guy that we'd love to have as part of our organization. It's something that we're going to work hard to do, but at this point, we're just starting the process of communicating with him and his family."
After selecting six high schoolers with its first seven picks, Toronto chose seven consecutive college seniors who have much less leverage in negotiations.
Tinnish conceded that decision created some financial flexibility, but also was particularly impressed with pitchers Tucker Donahue (fourth round) and Brad Delatte (fifth round), outfielder Ian Parmley (seventh round), and first baseman Jordan Leyland (10th round).
Most importantly, though, the seniors should be signed for a relatively cheap price with the savings then being used to pay the likes of Smoral and Alford, who are expected to demand more money than the recommended slot allotment by MLB.
"It was something that we thought about," Tinnish said when asked if he opted to go with cost certainty in the middle rounds after seeing the new CBA. "The tough thing is, you can come up with all of the different strategies that you want, but you don't know if you'll be able to implement them or use them until you actually sit there and see who's facing you at each pick.
"We were prepared for it. [We] couldn't sit there and guarantee that it was going to happen, but it was something that we certainly thought about in advance, and felt like we had identified players who would provide us flexibility and also ability at the same time."
The Blue Jays started Day 3 of the Draft by going heavy on pitching, selecting a blend of high school and collegiate arms. In the 17th round, Toronto drafted left-handed pitcher Shane Dawson, the second Canadian the club snatched off of the board, after tough sign Ryan Kellogg was taken in the 12th.
Tinnish said the Blue Jays are excited about Dawson, describing him as young and athletic, and someone who the club thinks has a chance to be very good.
Other picks on Day 3 that Tinnish singled out were shortstop William DuPont and center fielder Dennis Jones, who Tinnish both described as plus runners.
"We felt like our scouts did a very good job identifying talent that might get a little deeper into the Draft," Tinnish said about the Day 3 selections. "We feel like we've got a chance to add Major League talent beyond that 15th round, and we're excited about it."
While Tinnish is excited about how the Blue Jays' three-day Draft went, he knows there will be tougher signs in the later rounds, like Kellogg, who was expected to go somewhere in Rounds 3-to-5 but dropped because of his perceived financial demands.
"We're hopeful," Tinnish said when asked if the club will have money to spend on some of its late, pricier picks. "I think that's one of the biggest challenges with this new system. Obviously there are restrictions in place and anything over $100,000 after the 10th round counts against your pool, so you need to work smart if you want to be able to sign some of the players you've taken after the 10th.
"I feel like we will have a chance to do that, but obviously a lot of it depends on first and foremost how things go with the players in the top 10 rounds."