Blue Jays turn attention to middle infield
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays spent the early portion of the Draft focused on starting pitching, but their attention shifted to the middle infield for Round 6.
Toronto used the 182nd overall pick on switch-hitting shortstop JC Cardenas, who is a six-foot, 185 pound, junior at Barry University in Florida. The 20-year-old hit .352 with four homers, 15 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs in 43 games.
Cardenas becomes the highest pick in Barry University history. Right-hander Manny Rodriguez held the previous mark after being taken with pick No. 307 (10th round) by the Nationals in 2011.
"It was always my goal to get drafted," Cardenas said in a statement released by his school. "My dream, since I was a little kid, has been to play pro ball. The Blue Jays were my first workout and they've been following me since high school. It feels really good to be going somewhere I'm wanted and appreciated."
The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on MLB.com beginning at noon ET.
Cardenas recently earned an honourable mention on the All-SSC team. He led the Bucs with 46 runs, a .519 slugging percentage, a .457 on-base percentage and 24 stolen bases.
The Miami native was the starting shortstop at Barry, but according to MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis, he may eventually have to switch positions. The 182nd overall pick has a recommended slot value of $258,400.
"I want to thank all the coaches at Barry University: head coach Marc Pavao, assistant coaches Alex Gonzalez, Kevin Howard, Chris Leon and Erik Busine for always pushing me to the limit to be the best player I can be," Cardenas said. "I can't thank them enough for the opportunity to play at Barry University and have a chance to live out my dream."
Round 7: LHP Travis Bergen, Kennesaw State
Bergen's selection here shouldn't come as a surprise, because he's someone Blue Jays scouts would have been very familiar with. He's a junior at Kennesaw State, which is the same school last year's No. 1 pick Max Pentecost attended. Those two helped form the core of a 2014 team that advance to the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals in its playoff debut last June.
The 21-year-old Bergen was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tallahassee Regional with two wins over the span of four days. He also had a strong showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he currently has a 2.89 ERA with 78 strikeouts over 99 2/3 innings. Bergen was ranked No. 150 on MLBPipeline.com's Draft board, but Toronto got him at No. 212.
Bergen has a unique crossfire delivery and his biggest asset in the big leagues might be a cutter that's still a work in progress but has displayed promise. The delivery and pitch repertoire could result in Bergen eventually becoming a bullpen arm, but the Blue Jays likely will give him a shot to start when he officially joins the organization.
Round 8: LHP Daniel Young, University of Florida
Toronto doubled down on potential left-handed relievers by following up the selection of Bergen with this pick of Young. The 21-year-old has worked as both a starter and a reliever with the Gators, but by all accounts, he projects to work out of the bullpen in the big leagues.
Young hits 91-92 mph with his fastball and also possesses a slider. Command reportedly can be an issue at times, but he has the potential to become a middle reliever or setup man. As a college arm, Young could move through the system relatively quickly.
The native of Boca Raton, Fla., recently pitched 3 1/3 innings without allowing a run to help Florida capture the 2015 SEC Tournament championship. This year, he worked almost exclusively as a reliever and has a 2.42 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 26 innings.
Round 9: 3B Connor Panas, Canisius College
This has become a banner year for Baseball Canada, with eight players selected in the first nine rounds of the Draft, and the Blue Jays joined the party with pick No. 272 by taking a hometown third baseman in Panas.
Panas spent four years at Canisius and hit .339 with 20 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs in 165 at-bats during his senior season. He's a Toronto native and went to high school at Etobicoke Collegiate on the west end of the city. In 2014, he received the MAAC Student-Athlete of the Year Award, which is regarded as the conference's highest individual honor.
The recommended slot value for Toronto's ninth-rounder is $159,300 and the Blue Jays have a total pool allotment of $5,411,000, which ranks 24th in the Draft.
Round 10: C Owen Spiwak, Odessa College
Toronto went north of the border for the second consecutive round by using this pick on Spiwak. The 20-year-old attended junior college in Texas, and Callis relayed a report from a scout which said Spiwak had "off-the-charts makeup and a sweet left-handed swing."
Spiwak hit .387 with eight home runs and 54 RBIs in 56 games for Odessa. He also scored 43 runs and added eight stolen bases while throwing out 16 of 48 attempted baserunners. His recommended slot value at No. 302 is $149,700.
The native of Mississauga is a former member of the Canadian Junior National Team. He also plays the infield, but the Blue Jays drafted him as a catcher.
Other Canadians taken in the top rounds included: first baseman Josh Naylor (12th overall by the Marlins), righty Mike Soroka (No. 28 by the Braves), lefty Jeff Degano (No. 57 by the Yankees), outfielder Miles Gordon (No. 115 by the Reds), outfielder Demi Orimoloye (No. 121 by the Brewers), lefty Ryan Kellogg (No. 143 by the Cubs), righty Devon Stewart (No. 274 by the Indians) and outfielder Cole Bauml (No. 310 by the Tigers).