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If the worst should happen this summer and the Blue Jays were a truly awful team, finishing near the bottom of the major-league standings, take solace in this: they'd be that much closer to being able to draft British Columbia's own Adam Loewen.

It won't happen, of course: the Jays would have to make a special effort to lose as many games as the Tigers or Devil Rays, JP doesn't go anywhere near high school pitchers, and Loewen's signing bonus is likely to be stratospheric. But Loewen could still be one of the most interesting figures in next June's draft, and not just for Canadians.

From a patriotic standpoint, Loewen is a source of pride: the fourth overall selection in the 2002 entry draft, higher than any Canadian had ever attained. He is a physical specimen, to be sure: 6'5" and 220 pounds at just 18 years of age, he's a lefthander who throws regularly in the low 90s and touches 96, complemented by a split-finger, curve and newly acquired slider that reaches the high 80s itself. The thought that he might yet gain velocity and command as he matures is an intoxicating one.

Certainly the Baltimore Orioles thought so when they drafted Loewen with the fourth pick lat year. But Peter Angelos and friends offered the Canuck a US$2 million signing bonus, well below what comparable draftees were getting and lower even than what MLB guidelines suggest for a high first-round pick. Loewen balked at the offer -- he was seeking $4.8 mil -- and instead played for Canada at the World Junior Championships last summer before heading for Chipola Junior College near Tallahassee, which appears to be the Homestead Grays for holdout draftees.

The choice of a JuCo was an intriguing one. Had Loewen followed up on his intention to attend Arizona State, he would have committed to a three-year stay with the Wildcats, whereas Chiploa was but a one-year commitment. Moreover, he's considered a draft-and-follow, which means he could still sign with Baltimore after Chiploa's season ends, right up to a week before the 2003 draft, or he could re-enter the draft and become available to anyone. Not only that, but Loewen can swing the bat too, and tore the cover off the ball during the Worlds at first base and in the outfield (.733 BA). Considering that he currently tops the MLB Scouting Bureau rankings, it seems certain he wouldn't last past the fourth pick this time either.

Loewen's decision is also interesting with regard to draft pick bonuses, one of the topics discussed during the labour negotiations last summer but never resolved. Pretty much everyone, it seems, wants to see these bonuses decrease, except of course for the agents. Several Scott Boras clients were stonewalled at the bargaining table in the weeks after the draft, and there was a strong sense that teams were starting to finally draw the line and refuse to shell out millions to young men who had never thrown a professional (or in many cases, even a collegiate) pitch. Bobby Brownlie, a Boras client taken 21st overall by the Cubs, has also refused to sign for $2 million, though he hasn't gone back to college and is in a sort of limbo. The fate of players like Brownlie and Loewen may well indicate which way the tides are turning in the relationship between clubs and their high draft picks.

For Loewen, his choice isn't without risks. One more year of college ball, even at the JuCo level, is one more year risking a rotator cuff blowout or similar injury and losing millions of dollars in future earnings. And it's not like he has a lot of room to improve his draft position or the likely signing bonus to accompany it. But frankly, anything that keeps our young friend from B.C. away from the Orioles' organization has to be considered a good thing; Loewen should review Sidney Ponson's career if he wants a taste of what could come. And I'm willing to bet that the owners' self-imposed fiscal discipline in these matters will last only until one team decides to break the bank on the next can't-miss prospect, and then it's back to business as usual. And in any event, if Loewen really believes he's worth more than $2 million, he might as well stick to his guns.

It's going to be an intriguing story, well worth following. Whatever the result, here's hoping Loewen soon embarks on a healthy and successful pro career, and that he fulfills his potential to perhaps become the first Canadian pitcher to seriously warrant a comparison to Ferguson Jenkins.
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Coach - Monday, January 27 2003 @ 03:20 PM EST (#98159) #
Bonus points for the headline, Jordan. Loewen should get bigger and stronger, but one thing he'll have to deal with is a huge jump in the competition when he finally turns pro. Even in Rookie ball, and especially in Class A, every batter he faces will be as good as anyone he ever saw in B.C. high school ball. (I've been preaching patience with Toronto prospect Brandon League for the same reason; high school in Hawaii is a long way from the Show.) The "other" B.C. lefty taken in the first round, five picks after Loewen, might have been higher on the Jays' list -- Jeff Francis has at least pitched in the NAIA against U.S. collegians.

...the owners' self-imposed fiscal discipline in these matters will last only until one team decides to break the bank on the next can't-miss prospect

AKA the Brien Taylor exception to the rule of common sense. It wouldn't surprise me if the same sudden rush to responsibility that has paralyzed the free agent market this winter was extended to signing draft picks next summer. Some clubs have always exercised restraint; the Jays were accused of picking Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios because they were "signable", and whether that was true or not, those decisions turned out OK.

Getting back to Loewen, I agree that he should avoid signing with Baltimore and take his chances in the next draft. He may have to settle for less money than he wants, but he deserves to be in an organization that will enhance his development and above all, not rush him. I fear the O's would turn him into this generation's David Clyde.
_R Billie - Monday, January 27 2003 @ 04:03 PM EST (#98160) #
Loewen's tools at 18 years old have got to have scouts salivating...but this is probably exactly the reason that JP's Jays would shy away. Even the most optimistic development schedule would have him taking 3 to 4 years and these years would represent the stage of his pro career where he's most susceptable to arm injury. I think Loewen has already gotten too much fanfare to be a good value.

So is a near $4 million bonus worth that? Can one afford to waste a first round pick in the hopes of convincing him to sign at a "reasonable" amount? There are exceptions of course...even the A's drafted 18 year old Jeremy Bonderman in the first round in 2001. Of course they also traded him after his first full pro-season for major league and high minor league help.

BTW, the Jays are already set to pick 13th overall in June's they do this season won't affect that. If Loewen is indeed available in the draft then he'll likely be gone by that pick. The Jays may be able to pick up a more polished collegiate arm like Stauffer or Sullivan; it's too bad they didn't get any supplemental picks for this draft as it looks like a deep one. I wouldn't mind seeing the Jays pick JD Drew's younger shortstop brother if he's available.
Coach - Monday, January 27 2003 @ 04:44 PM EST (#98161) #
If he stays in school, Stephen Drew should surpass his brother and John-Ford Griffin as the best Florida State player ever. As a 19-year-old, he hit 16 HR in 204 AB and had an OPS of 1.207; he was rated the best pure hitter, fastest runner and best defensive shortstop in the ACC by Baseball America, who also named him the best freshman in the country. Somehow, I don't think he'll fall to the Jays if he comes out early.

Here is a pre-season NCAA All-American ranking from USA Baseball; R Billie's picks Tim Stauffer and Brad Sullivan both made the first team, and I'm sure they will be watched closely by Toronto scouts. Neither has the size that other organizations insist on, but there's always room for a Tim Hudson or a Roy Oswalt on my team. If they are 2003 draft eligible, either would be a solid mid-first-round pick.

By the way, check out this Adam Loewen rave from Patrick Ebert on

The talented Loewen has been compared to Mark Mulder as a LHP, and Larry Walker as a RF. Should he be available, assuming he has a good season at Chipola Community College, he could surpass (Florida high school OF Lastings Milledge) as the top available amateur prospect for the 2003 draft. It has been speculated that Loewen will be allowed to both pitch & hit once he enters the professional ranks, and his future as a ballplayer will be determined later down the road.

More like the Canadian Babe Ruth than the next Fergie Jenkins? :)
Pistol - Monday, January 27 2003 @ 05:50 PM EST (#98162) #
FWIW - I believe that part of the issue with Brownlie is that he had an arm injury. If not for that the chance that he would have signed with the Cubs would be better.
Gitz - Monday, January 27 2003 @ 06:51 PM EST (#98163) #
Somehow, I don't think [Stephen Drew] will fall to the Jays if he comes out early.

I'm not sure about this, but I believe college baseball differs from college football and basketball, in that once you start college, you aren't eligible for the major league draft until the end of your junior year. So Scott Boras has to wait at least two more years before he can turn off about 26 teams from taking J.D.'s younger and hopefully healthier brother.

And flunking out won't work, either, since athletes have a bit more sway with academic departments than, say, wannabe English majors. When I was at USC, rumor had it (I had a good friend on the team) that Bret Boone carried a 1.3 GPA around during his freshman and sophomore years. My GPA there wasn't much better, but, rather than being a high-round draft pick by the Mariners, I ended up dropping out and graduating from a state school. A state school! Oh, the humanity!
Craig B - Monday, January 27 2003 @ 07:05 PM EST (#98164) #
USC isn't a state school? Huh. The things you learn on BB.
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