TORONTO -- Having put the finishing touches on their Draft preparation, the Blue Jays hold the fifth overall pick today and have an opportunity to add a significant prospect to their organization.
Operating remotely during the coronavirus shutdown, the Blue Jays have brought in voices from throughout the organization to work with their scouts, crosscheckers and other members of the front office. This unique situation and a shortened five-round Draft call for adaptation, but some facets of the scouting process are easier to shape than others.
From the top down, the Blue Jays speak about the value of character or clubhouse makeup, especially with their ongoing youth movement. President and CEO Mark Shapiro says it, general manager Ross Atkins says it and manager Charlie Montoyo says it. Now, it’s up to director of amateur scouting Shane Farrell to find it in the 2020 Draft.
“It’s difficult to measure because makeup is evolving throughout a player’s career. It’s hard to predict what an 18-year-old or 21-year-old’s makeup will be by the time they reach the Major Leagues,” said Farrell, who will be running his first Draft with the Blue Jays. “It’s something we place a lot of time, effort and energy into, getting to know not only a player, but getting to know the family and those that he’s associated with.”
This means talking to coaches and plenty of the Draft prospect’s teammates from high school or college. It can also mean talking to his team’s trainers and other staff, or his academic advisers and teachers, anyone who can shine more light on how the prospect projects as a person, not just as a player.
The difficulty with all of this -- both in scouting it and communicating its value -- is that we can’t put a number on makeup. Speed can be measured in feet-per-second, throwing strength in miles-per-hour and hitting power in exit velocity, but scouting makeup is all about feel. That human element can be particularly difficult to measure through Zoom calls, but the Blue Jays have relationships stretching back multiple seasons with many of these prospects, well before this spring.
With the Blue Jays increasing their emphasis on mental performance, like many other teams have, this is critical not just in terms of short-term scouting, but long-term development well after the Draft.
“Our job is to evaluate the tools and the talent that we see between the lines, but there’s a great deal of emphasis of what’s happening outside those lines or how they are able to handle adversity,” Farrell said.
The ability to handle adversity is key, because some top prospects simply haven't failed yet. Many young players experience their first true slump in the Minor Leagues after coming through every level of their amateur career as the best player on their team or in their area. For some who fly through the Minors, that first taste of failure doesn’t come until they’re already in the big leagues. Talent can get a player to the big leagues, but adjusting to adversity keeps them there.
Hitting on their picks in the five rounds will be key for Farrell and his group, given the uncertainty that comes with competing to sign undrafted players. That will be a major focus for the Blue Jays as they look to add depth to their class behind the top-end talent.
“Our area scouts have done a tremendous job digging and continuing to build relationships with those players,” Farrell said, “just trying to get a sense of where they’re at in their careers and their education, if they feel like they are done with school and ready to start professionally or are open to signing this year, given the circumstances.”
Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs today on MLB Network and TSN3 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN in the U.S.) and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday on MLB Network and ESPN2 (ESPN2 in the US) and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.