Bauxites sam and Kelekin have stepped in with their predictions for the draft. Thanks guys.
The first year player draft is upon us and what has taken scouts, crosscheckers, the director of amateur scouting, special assistants to the GM, and the GM months and probably years to compile, Kelekin and I have done in a couple days. In fairness, our draft board is only for the Jays’ first couple picks, while the Jays will be working off a board of hundreds of names all personally scouted by staff several times over. For example, Jays’ scout Blake Crosby was reported to have seen every one of Aaron Sanchez’s starts in his draft year. Unfortunately Kelekin and I have not seen these prospects in person, but we have done our youtube research and based a lot of our board off the various scouting reports that circulate on the Internet. We have tried to provide links to each player on our board so readers can formulate their own opinions.
Trying to handicap who the Jays might select is a bit like taking blood from a stone. This will be General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and Director of Amateur Scouting Andrew Tinnish’s second draft together and they have taken with their first pick a “safe” college pitcher who was considered someone who might move fast, and a high school pitcher who was considered a tough sign. In the early rounds the Jays seem to have found a balance between projectable high schoolers and college pitchers who may have fallen for various reasons. It seems like the Jays have had a board and haven’t deviated from that regardless of signability concerns. That board has valued tools and projectability over polish. The Jays have also been unafraid to draft an injured prospect or a prospect with a long track record of success who has faltered in the run-up to the draft. This may change with the new rules.
As has been much discussed in these parts, the new CBA puts strict limits on the bonus amounts clubs dish out to drafted prospects. For the Jays this likely means no more over-slot deals in the later rounds. So a lot of guys who have one or two “first round” tools, but have underdeveloped secondary tools and would have been drafted in the later rounds and been offered first or second round money to sign, these prospects will likely be going to college. For the Jays this would mean no Joe Thon’s or Matt Dean’s. Also, guys who have slipped out of the first round because of injury or signing concerns that the Jays have then gobbled up in the second or third round and then signed to an above slot bonus (I’m looking at you Daniel Norris, John Stilson…) probably will go to, or back to college especially if they believe they’ll improve their chances of being selected higher the next time around. So the talent should match the draft position and we’ve arranged our board along that assumption. We’ve also arranged our board with names the Jays have been reported to be linked to, for whatever that’s worth. We make sure to note this. But mostly, we’ve arranged this board along our own preference for players and players or tools we think the Jays might target. Tall, projectable high school pitchers certainly seem to be the Jays’ cup or tea, as do athletic middle of the field high schoolers. Our list features lots of these. Power, however, seems to be a bit lacking in our system. Like most systems, the Jays seem to be lacking of some true plus power bats. With such a dearth of power in the game at the moment, we expect the Jays to target some of the prospects with plus power potential. With that being said, some of the more successful systems have been those that continue to have pitching heavy drafts. The old adage, “you can never have enough pitching” holds true in our estimation and we expect the Jays to draft their fair share of projectable pitchers. Furthermore, while catching appears to be a strength of the system and the Jays have shied away from using one of their early selections on the position in recent drafts, much of the depth has either graduated or stagnated. We would not be surprised if the Jays “pop” a catcher with one of their early picks.
Our board is unlike a normal draft board. We have listed five prospects we like in the first round and five we like in the supplementary. Tomorrow, or perhaps later on tonight we’ll have some prospects we like in the later rounds up for your consumption and scrutiny.
Here is a link to the official draft order:
Here are some prospect lists (some of these may be behind a pay wall):
Some mock drafts (thank you Finch):
A list of prospects with signability questions:
The general consensus on this year’s batch of draft eligible prospects is they are solid, yet unspectacular. There’s some depth to the draft, but a dearth of high-end tools. As Kelekin duly pointed out to me in our discussions on Lance McCullers Jr., the Jays may as a result target the few players with the primo tools early on because the draft does thin out. In fairness, last year’s crop of draft eligible amateur players were reported to be the best in sometimes with scouts reporting to have never seen 95mph so much. That’s not to say the Jays won’t come away with a couple blue-chippers, but prospects possessing major league tools may dry up in this draft a lot sooner than usual.
Here is our draft board. The prospects for each round are not ranked.
Joey Gallo 3B/1B/RHP HS Nevada
Gallo and the Jays is a popular link with internet types and media outlets. The reasoning follows the Jays are interested in toolsy high schoolers, which Gallo is most certainly, and they have a lack of power and corner infielders in the system. Enter Gallo. It’s hard to fault this thinking. Gallo possesses premium tools (in particular raw power), is fairly athletic, and will likely sign if selected in the first round. The Jays don’t necessarily have that premium power prospect in the minor leagues either, but then again so don’t most teams and power is the most difficult tool to project. Drafting an eighteen year old certainly doesn’t guarantee filling an organizational hole, but true power potential doesn’t grow on trees and when it does come along you take notice.
Gallo is a two-way player out of the relatively new baseball hot-bed of Nevada. He is a left-handed hitting corner infielder with reported plus power potential (some reports have him as plus-plus potential.) He is also of a 95mph fastball. He is an athletic 6’5 220, running a 7.24 60. Gallo’s potential to hit in the middle of a ML order likely means teams will look at him as a position prospect ahead of a pitcher. Defensively there are some questions of overall range that may ultimately see Gallo pushed to first base as he further matures physically.
Gallo has an upright hitting stance starting his hands high at ear level. He drops his hands into a good hitting position as the pitcher delivers the ball and seems to be relatively direct to the pitched baseball. There’s not much fuss to the overall swing—he picks up his front foot slightly and has a slight stride to the pitcher. It is a swing with some length and upper-cut to it, but undeniable speed and violence. It is not hard to see a ML first basemen when watching video of Gallo. He gets good extension on the baseball and is reported to put on impressive batting practices. On this point I wonder if the Jays would go after Gallo. Gallo is perhaps your classic showcase player. Tall and athletic, he passes all the visual tests. In a controlled environment he can simply overwhelm a scout. Towering homeruns in batting practice and an excellent arm across the diamond in infield practice and warm ups will have many scouts, crosscheckers, and directors impressed and ready to grade him out as a first round talent. There are reported questions whether Gallo will hit enough to tap into that power. One of the benefits of having more scouts, the Jays have an opportunity to see more of Gallo, especially outside of the showcase loop. I imagine the Jays have had multiple people to see Gallo. Moreover, the Jays have since shied away from prospects in the early rounds who seem likely destined for first base.
There is some bust potential to Gallo and a team with few selections in the first or supplementary round may as a result pass on Gallo. Gallo will surely be a first day pick. Drafted any later, it is likely Gallo will honour his commitment to LSU.
(many will note the sound of the ball off the bat of Gallo and the audience Gallo draws during batting practice.)
Lance McCullers Jr. RHP HS Florida
Opinions seem to vary on the long-term future of McCullers Jr. He is a high school right hander out of Florida and has been on the amateur baseball circuit for some time. In part, that might be McCullers problem—overexposure. Excessive viewings and playing, especially in the over-heated Florida baseball scene and showcase events can provide perhaps too much opportunity for criticism. (Note: Seeing a prospect often is never a bad thing. The well-known Florida prospects though tend to play year round and this can lead to some burnout and blunting of physical and baseball development. John Sickels recently posted a feature on Florida high school pitchers drafted in the first round and their long-term ML success and the numbers aren’t too pretty. McCullers too has been on the showcase circuit for some time as well and I doubt a month, let alone a few weeks have gone by since he turned 16 in which a scout has not seen him play.) The raw product—a plus fastball, a plus slider, a plus competitive streak, and excellent bloodlines put McCullers into the equation at no. 1, and indeed he was in consideration at no. 1 a season back. However, McCullers delivery is with serious effort and reports suggest he struggles to command his pitches, although Keith Law recently noted that McCullers has shown well this spring and has moved up draft boards. So is he a high leverage bullpen arm or can he start, and does he have front-line potential? He is not overly physical either, coming in at 6’2 205, and what you see is probably what you get in terms of long-term physical projection.
There is no denying the arm speed and electricity of the stuff. McCullers’ is more of a drop and drive type pitcher, slightly turning his shoulders away from the batter before unleashing the ball at a ¾ arm slot. Again, the arm speed is perhaps unlike any other in this draft and would hold up to any other prospect drafted in past drafts. He gets really good reach and extension with the arm, but the problems with the delivery do stem from his upper body. There seems to be some overall inconsistency with the delivery in terms of shoulder rotation and arm slot, but I imagine from a scouting standpoint you’d say he’s got the arm speed and pitches to be frontline and he’s athletic enough to make the adjustments. But that delivery, I’ve seen several videos and each one has a different delivery. He’s the type of guy I think might excel in the Jays’ minor league pitching program. Slowing him down for a year letting him adjust to new mechanics without the pressure of the draft year I think might pay dividends down the road. The arm strength is certainly there so it’s not a matter of letting his body develop and acquire that velocity, but playing the amount of baseball he has at the somewhat break-neck speed of showcase events and high school ball can take it’s toll.
Like Gallo’s power potential, high schoolers who have reported to touch 100mph and sit mid-90s do not come around very often. Furthermore, ones with excellent mound presence, a plus secondary offering, and great bloodlines (father played in the Bigs), are just as rare. I think, however, what you can say from a scouting standpoint is there is probably an arm injury in there waiting to happen. A kid his size and age, throwing as violently as he does probably does not project out too well long term. The wear and tear too of playing in Florida and the likelihood that he’s probably maxed out physically all point to some near-future arm/shoulder issues. For those on the Florida amateur circuit I’m sure a name like Bobby Seay might come up as a prospect with just unbelievable stuff, but someone physically developed and ahead of anyone his age with significant mileage on the arm before college or pro ball. I do think the Jays will kick the tires on McCullers, but those guys who have peaked as early as he has tend to break down. I think these are things we should consider before we start slotting him into the 2015 rotation.
If mock drafts are a thing you believe in, McCullers and the Jays is a forgone conclusion. Largely the reasoning seems that the Jays like upside and there are questions to his game that a team with one selection in the first round or early on might shy away from. He’s a Florida commit and a Scott Boras kid and if he falls out of the first round he probably doesn’t make it to our supplementary picks, and if he does there’s no guarantee of him signing. His father seems to be of the Dickie Thon school of bargaining so do expect his potential signing to play out in the media. It sounds like there is some expectation that McCullers deserves top 10 money.
Matt Smoral LHP HS Ohio
Smoral has an injured foot right now and if you read the attached interview it’s fair to surmise he’s been injury prone over his high school years. Foot injuries for 6’8 225 pound eighteen year olds do not spell well for a future of clean health and as an English soccer fan I can tell you that metatarsals are notoriously difficult to heal and predict. But, with all that unpleasantness out of the way Smoral is an excellent pitching prospect that in the old system would have been an ideal mid-round draft and follow and potential eleventh hour signing for first round money.
We live in a new draft world and Smoral as mentioned is a huge risk in the first round. He does, however, possess a lot of what you look for in a high school pitching prospect. Smoral is a big, physically imposing left-hander out of Ohio. He has a quick arm and for a kid of his size and length manages to keep all the parts together in a fairly clean delivery. The fastball is reported to work in the high 80’s-low 90s, with reports that it can get up to 95mph. He throws it from a ¾ arm slot with fairly good deception and some arm side run, although not with the jump some would like to see. With the size and delivery it does play up. He’s free and easy and has the frame to put a little more oomph on so it wouldn’t be beyond reason to expect that fastball to work low to mid-90s down the road. The slider is legit wipeout from what I’ve seen on video and reports online. Northern pitchers are particularly attractive to scouting directors, as it’s believed their arms have less wear and tear than players in any of the warmer baseball hotbeds of Florida, Texas, and California. I blame John Smoltz. I remember part of the allure of Mark Rogers a few years back was just that. In a day and age where kids are playing year round regardless of environment in indoor facilities, travel tournaments and such, I’m not sure this is necessarily the case, but who am I to mess with baseball scouting lore. Smoral does come from some athletic bloodlines as his father played some D-1 basketball and by all accounts seems to be a fairly athletic kid, which bodes well for future projection and adjustment. We all love to make comparisons so here is mine for Smoral. He has Chris Sale stuff in Brian Tallet’s body.
Smoral will be an interesting one to follow. That size, stuff, left-handedness does not come along often and three healthy years at North Carolina (where he’s committed to) will certainly put him in the conversation for no. 1 come draft time 2015. The injury really does complicate things. Do you draft him with one of the first round picks and hope come July the foot has healed enough for him to pass a medical. Prospects usually don’t let teams medically evaluate them prior to the draft so I’m sure the Jays have engaged in a fair bit of medical projection themselves. Ultimately I think he’s a difficult talent to pass up and if you do draft him and he signs he probably doesn’t play this summer and you then you hope a summer, fall, and winter of rest means he comes to Spring Training the following year with a clean bill of health and ready to start developing at that point.
Marcus Stromen RHP Duke
Stromen is a smallish right-handed pitcher, who just this season took up pitching full-time. A lot of where Stroman gets drafted will be whether teams view him as a high leverage reliever or starter. I think the size thing maybe gets overblown. Yes, Stroman is 5’9 180, but the league has seen pitchers with that size succeed and Stroman does have fantastic stuff. He has started this season, whereas in the past he has worked out of the bullpen, and has reported to maintain a mid-90s fastball with excellent command deep into starts, sometimes touching upper nineties, to go along with an above average mid-80s slider. The changeup is well behind these two pitches. The two pitches are definitely there then to pitch in a major league bullpen and then you hope the minor league people can coax that third pitch out of the fella to pitch in a rotation somewhere. Stroman is athletic and seems to pitch like an infielder—get the ball and throw, so there might be some overall work to be done getting him into that starter’s mentality, but you bank on that raw stuff. There’s not much electricity in the pitching ranks this draft year and Stroman is one of the few with “it.” My uneducated eyes don’t see much wrong with the overall delivery, but I wouldn’t bank on him throwing harder just because he has professional instruction and because he’s now dedicated exclusively to pitching. I think the overall repertoire though might be a bit more refined with the instruction and perhaps playing professional baseball.
Again it seems with every “type” of amateur prospect in the draft with the new CBA people are interested to see what will happen and how teams may prioritize their package and quickness to the big leagues over others. As a reliever, Stroman might be able to pitch in a big league bullpen sometime this year, although the long term track record of those guys is not very good, which oddly enough has never really deterred teams. In the past, a team might take Stroman in the first round because he’ll be quick to the big club, and then go after the “prospect,” who might take some time to develop and demand a significant signing bonus with later picks in the mid-rounds. Teams can’t do that to the same effect anymore. So do teams with few picks early on still go after Stromen? I don’t know. The Jays, however, have several early picks and I think Stromen perhaps offers that balance between the high school prospects the Jays are sure to take early on and have taken in past drafts that do take time to physical mature and develop. As well, power pitching is the name of the game and Stroman offers one of the better packages of fastball-slider in the draft.
Clint Coulter C HS Washington
I think before day one is over the Jays pop a catcher. Where the Jays select in the first round and recent links to Stryker Trahan (a HS catcher out of Louisiana) may suggest that this is too high for where Coulter has been rumoured to go. Nonetheless, I think there is a lot to like in Coulter and his tools suggest he could be moved off the position if need be. Coulter is a big fella. If you were to tell me he was 22 and a college senior I probably wouldn’t argue with you. He is 6’3 215 of muscle and athleticism. He is a high school wrestler and from video it looks like he carries that athleticism and agility onto the baseball diamond. He receives the most plaudits for his bat. He has a nice, short swing that generates significant power. There are grades floating around the Internet of a 70 future power tool. The hit tool itself apparently is quite impressive, with the ability to use all fields and a good overall approach. Defensively he is raw, but again not without premium tools. Reports are that it is a plus arm with carry and with good overall athleticism behind the plate. There are no real red flags and the bat seems to play at a corner infield position if need be. Running is not a strength of his, but the internet does not seem to think he’ll be a “clogger” down the road. Coulter is a big guy so what you see might be what you get. The other fear with overly physical high schoolers is their overall agility and strength will fall off as they grow older. John Tolisano, for example, put on a lot of muscle weight his senior year and that reportedly scared a few teams off. The wrestling thing really helps Coulter and he seems to be one of those rare guys who are able to carry that girth and remain incredibly athletic and agile.
Coulter has a commitment to Arizona State University, but should be a guy who signs if drafted day one. For a guy his size I’m not sure going to college is necessarily the right thing. If anything, questions whether the body will be able to handle catching long term will be louder and the chances of improving his stock might not be the same as a Smoral or Lucas Giolito. At the moment, his value is extremely high as offensive catchers who look to stick at the position are incredibly valuable.
J.O. Berrios RHP HS Puerto Rico
It’s a big year for Puerto Rico and Berrios is one of a number of high-end prospects out of the unincorporated island. Berrios is a smallish right-hander, coming in at 6’1 187. He is also one of the youngest prospects in the draft. He has a nice looking frame, which has already started to fill out (some would say filled out completely.) As a result, there are some questions about long-term projectability. Berrios has nice delivery, but tends to get out in front of himself and not staying tall on the mound. He has a quick arm and has improved his draft stock this spring with a concerted effort to add strength. While the velocity right now reportedly varies from start to start, he can be up to 97mph with the fastball and in the low 80s with a power curveball. I think you’re looking at a guy as he climbs that will sit 92-95 with the fastball. There are the usual questions about overall command with high school prospects, but reports suggest he wants to play pro ball so look for him to sign early with whoever takes him early on. You gamble on the raw stuff, frame, and overall athleticism.
Victor Roache OF Georgia Southern
Roache broke his wrist this spring and has not played much recently as a result. Last year he hit 30 homeruns in college despite the NCAA switch to new, less bouncy bats. That wrist injury though is like a shoulder injury for a pitcher. You really don’t know how they’re going to come back from it. Even optimistically I don’t think you can still say he has 70 power—as some reports out of the Cape Cod League last summer had him. Power is the calling card and Roache does have plenty of it. Roache is a big, athletic corner outfielder standing 6’1 225. He has a very quick bat and while there are some real concerns whether he can hit for average and has shown ugly tendencies to chase bad pitches, you do bank on that quickness to make some adjustments and hope to hit for some average going forward. Roache might put some muscle on before all is said and done, but defensively he’s somewhat limited by average speed and range. Good overall actions and instincts play up as does a strong arm that reportedly plays in RF, but don’t expect gold gloves in his future. Roache might be a guy Batter’s Box viewers should have a look at. Do viewers like what they see in video prior to the injury? Is he worth a supplemental pick? Teams really value power and all it takes is one team that believes he regains that power potential. He probably signs somewhere in the first two or three rounds.
Jesmuel Valentin SS HS Puerto Rico
Valentin is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin. The younger Valentin is a switch-hitting, slick-fielding, middle infield prospect with some potential to hit for average. He is an all-around solid draft prospect—the type of player who will do a lot to help a team win down the road. Some boards have him listed as a second base prospect as well, as Valentin was forced off SS by teammate and likely high first round pick Carlos Correa, but most reports suggest Valentin will have no problem handling SS long-term. The actions in the field look good and the arm apparently is plenty strong enough to handle the position. At the plate he is reported to be a legitimate switch hitter with contact ability and some natural loft to the swing(s). Reports are that he looks better right handed, but in limited video the left handed swing does not look too shabby either. He does not have “wow” bat speed, but it’s a solid swing with good tempo. While not a plus-plus runner, he consistently runs sub 7 second 60s with solid all-around baseball awareness, which would lead you to project some twenty steal seasons down the line. Once again, a very solid high school baseball prospect. He’s listed at 5’10 180 with fairly broad shoulders. He’ll get a bit bigger, but he does already have some muscle on the frame so don’t get too ahead of yourself projecting all sorts of power and physical development. Valentin is an LSU commit and that does complicate things, but the general experience with sons of former ball players is if drafted high enough they tend to sign.
Duane Underwood RHP HS Georgia
There seems to be a lot of online skepticism with Underwood. He is everything you look for in a high school pitching prospect. He has size at 6’2 185 and room for more. Raw stuff with a fastball up to the high-90s and plus secondary offerings. He is athletic, has a quick arm, comes from a renowned baseball area in Georgia and is reported to have shown an idea of how to pitch. The bright lights of draft year, however, have not been kind to Underwood. There are questions about his ability to maintain velocity deep into starts (with reports that he was working at 87mph this spring), as well as significant questions about control and command. The secondary offerings apparently come and go just as frequently. He is the type of prospect that you do have to dream on, but one that a team with scouting resources will have had multiple people and multiple viewings of. Underwood has reportedly fallen down draft boards and is now one of those prospects that might just go to college if he’s not selected in the first couple rounds. He is committed to Georgia. He might be a guy like Aaron Sanchez who you draft and forget about for two years (as a fan), and come 2014 he’s lighting up the Midwest league.
Shane Watson RHP HS California
The Jays will draft a projectable high school pitcher from California. I guarantee you that. I’ve listed Shane Watson here, but it just as well could be Chase DeJong, Paul Blackburn, Kyle Twomey, or even Hunter Virant (the ladder two of the left-handed pitchability variety). Freddy Avis seems destined to go to Stanford, and while the names mentioned above all have commitments to major college programs on the west coast, the internet industry consensus seems to be that all will sign if selected in the first couple rounds. Watson is a projectable, 6’4 195 right hander out of the Los Angeles area. He has featured a low-90s fastball with reported late life and has shown mid-90s here and there. He is a high-waisted athletic kid with a good frame and lots of room for physical development. He’s got a good, clean arm with the consensus being there’s more velocity down the line. Granted the picture of Watson on MLB.com has Watson in the dreaded W pitching position. The curveball according to some is legit wipeout and one of the better ones in the class. Watson is a good pitching prospect with lots to dream on.
Kelekin and I are working on our “board” and will have more potential mid-round draft picks to you before the draft resumes tomorrow.
A big thanks goes out to sam and Kelekin for some great work here.