Continuing trend, Toronto finds athleticism in arms
Blue Jays place emphasis on height, frame to add to system already loaded with pitching
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays know exactly what kind of players they like to target in the Draft, and it's not very often that they'll break the mold while overhauling the Minor League system.
Toronto has put a strong emphasis on acquiring tall, athletic pitchers in recent years, and that was the case again in 2015. Toronto used six of its top 10 picks on pitchers who are at least 6-feet tall, and it's clear the organization wants to build from the mound out.
The Blue Jays' Minor League system is flush with pitching prospects, but that didn't stop the club from topping up in that department even more. Not everyone is going to make it to the big leagues, and if there's too many who eventually do, that's a good problem to have.
"The frame is one thing we're looking at, especially with starting pitchers," Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Brian Parker said after completing all 40 rounds. "Obviously they need to get bigger and stronger, especially when we're taking high school guys, we have to project on the strength and the body.
"Throwing every five days, throwing in pro ball vs. amateur -- athleticism is important and clean arm action, guys that can repeat their delivery ... and if they show fastball command, if they show the makings of a breaking ball, it's even better. When they're showing all of those, those guys go higher in the Draft. It's kind of an overall philosophy of things we're looking for."
For the first time since 1984, the Blue Jays didn't own a traditional first-round pick, but they were still able to find that type of talent when right-hander Jon Harris fell to them at No. 29. There was some initial speculation that Harris would be selected within the top 15 picks of the Draft, but Toronto caught a potential break with multiple prospect experts calling it a "steal."
Harris appears to be one of the safer picks in the Draft, and the fact that he's a 21-year-old college student means he should rise through the system relatively quickly. There are some questions about his overall ceiling, but the general consensus seems to be that he could become a third or fourth starter at the big league level.
Toronto followed up that pick by taking a pair of high school righties in the next two rounds. Brady Singer and Justin Maese certainly come with an element of risk, but both have experienced an increase in velocity on their fastball and could become even better when they add some mass to their frames. To round out the top end, the Blue Jays also took high school righty Jose Espada and a pair of college arms -- Travis Bergen and Daniel Young -- who could become big league relievers.
"He was on our radar from his first start of the year," Parker said of Maese before giving credit to area scout Gerald Turner. "He was on this guy early, this was a young high school projectable arm, he played football last year, last summer, so he didn't do a lot of the summer circuit on the amateur side, but this is a guy we were on all spring. We had quite a bit of looks at him early and late."
Parker also was quick to point out that the position players weren't overlooked this year either. Toronto added two catchers, four infielders and an outfielder in the top 15 rounds. Included in that group was fourth-round third baseman Carl Wise, who was one of the better college power hitters available this year.
College infielder JC Cardenas provides some additional depth up the middle, while high school outfielder Reggie Pruitt could provide a lot of value in Round 24 if the Blue Jays can convince him to sign.
"I think everything went pretty well," Parker said of this year's Draft class. "We were able to mix in some position players that we liked. We got a couple of catchers in the top 15 rounds who we like. Obviously we're always looking for pitching, some depth on the mound, we were able to get some of those guys, projection guys and some college guys that we liked.
"But we were able to mix in some position players throughout, too, that we had interest in, and I thought it went very well. Everything went good for the Blue Jays."