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Gerry and I got a chance to speak with Jon Lalonde regarding the team's most recent draft.

Going into the draft most publications considered this to be a weak draft. Lalonde indicated that he didn't necessarily agree with this statement on a whole, but thought that the "first round was not as strong as a whole as compared to last year. But when we look back at this draft 10 years from now there'll probably be just as many major league players as there are in any other year."

The Jays had no 2nd or 3rd round draft picks because of the the signings of AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan. Because of that the Jays didn't make any selections between the 14th overall pick to the 120th overall pick. Lalonde said that the overall strategy of the draft didn't change because of this, but "we did try to identify players early that were going to be tweeners and not spend too much working hours on those guys".  Tweeners were considered to be players that weren't good enough to go 14th, but weren't going to last all the way to pick 120. However, the Jays still evaluated and ranked those players in the event that they slipped to their selection.

Round 1 - Travis Snider, OF, Jackson HS

Coming into this draft the Jays had the reputation of a team that heavily emphasis on college level players since JP Ricciardi took over as GM. And that reputation was well deserved - the highest high school draft pick of the Jays in the Riccardi era was in the 2002 draft when the Jays selected pitcher Brian Grant in the 7th round.

The buzz about the Jays prior to the draft seemed to focus mostly on Matt Antonelli, the Wake Forest infielder. However, on the Monday before the draft the buzz was heavy that the Jays were going select Snider. The prior weekend Snider had come to Toronto for a workout and the Jays had an intriguing pitcher on the mound throwing him BP - JP Ricciardi.

"JP did not actually see Snider play, that's why we had him into the Rogers Centre for a workout," Lalaonde said. "JP threw batting practice to him. That day JP threw BP to three kids and we ended up signing them all" (the other two players being Hopkins and Baksh).

So what led the Jays to take a high school hitter in the first round of this year's draft? "I think we were more open minded this year in terms of 'let's not force a college guy' if there's not one there that we feel strongly about" Lalonde said. " But certainly it was a combination of liking Travis Snider and some of the college guys not step up for whatever reason."

Depending on who you listen to Snider was considered the 1st or 2nd best high school hitter in this year's class. Given that a player will have to have a good approach at the plate and that's what got the Jays attention. "What attracted us to him was sound swing mechanics at the plate, he has a good compact swing, he has a good approach at the plate, he is not a free swinger and whenever he gets into hitters counts he has the bat speed and the strength to make it hurt," Lalonde said.

The questions about Snider focused primarily on two things - his defense and his size - and that he'll eventually have to move to first base. Lalonde does not share in this opinion. "He has a chance to be a good all-round player. Physically some people have raised concerns about his size but we don't have any. He is a strong kid and he runs very well for his size. He's much more athletic than you would expect for someone his size. We see no reason he can't be a corner outfielder - he will have every opportunity to play rightfield. He's a really hard worker and we know he'll work hard to keep himself in really good shape."

Snider is starting out in Pulaski and the Jays plan on being patient with him. "Like most young hitters he is going to take time. He will be facing the best competition he has ever seen night in and night out," Lalonde said.

Round 4: Brandon Magee, RHP, Bradley

With their second pick of the draft the Jays went with a player who has the classic height of a pitcher - 6'5". Magee was a senior pick who improved considerably in his final year at Bradley, lowering his ERA and walk rate and increasing his strikeout rate.

What did the Jays see in Magee? "Foremost his competitiveness, he takes the ball and doesn't want to give it up. He maintains his velocity and whether you see him in the first inning or the eighth inning the ball comes out of his hand the same way. He is a good athlete with excellent size. We had him up to 94 mph on the fastball that settles at 92-93 with excellent movement. His slider shows flashes of being a real good major league pitch and he needs to improve his change-up. There's some mechanical things we have to work on with him but we were excited to get him. He brings a lot to the table for us."

Round 5: Luke Hopkins, 1B, New Mexico St

Hopkins put up huge numbers at New Mexico St - his batting line this past year was .403/.548/.799. However, baseball in the southwest US is generally condusive to inflated offense. New Mexico St's park factor was 160 from 2001-2004 which makes the heyday of Coors Field look mild. So how do you know if Hopkin's performace was a result of envionment or a result of actual ability?

Lalonde said, "We do consider it but that's why we go in to see the player, we don't just rely on the numbers. We also had Luke in to the RC for a workout. While his numbers might be inflated, his swing isn't an altitude swing. He controls the strike zone well, he has power, he hits to all fields and works good counts."

Hopkins was the second hitter the Jays selected in the draft and both he and Snider are known for their power. Was more of an emphasis put on power in this draft given the difficulty in acquiring it? "No we just put the players in order and draft accordingly, we don't target anything in particular" Lalonde said. "Hopkins might rank higher than the next player on the list because of his power, but to say we picked Luke Hopkins because of his power would be incorrect."

Round 6: Brian Jeroloman, C, Florida

The scouting report at said that Jeroloman was 'perhaps the best defensive catcher' in this year's class. But while Jeroloman's defense is his strong point he hit just .242 for the Gators this season. However, Lalonde noted that his approach at the plate is better than the numbers indicate.

"We think there are some things we can do with his swing and we like his defense. Mechanically his swing is sound and you would have no idea he struggled this year. Defensively he is not the next Pudge Rodriguez or anything but he does have advanced skills."

Round 7: Jonathan Baksh, OF, Florida Tech

The Jays reached down to the Division II ranks to select Baksh in the 7th round. Division II is a step down from Division I where most college players are selected. Competition, however, didn't concern the Jays.

"Division II is not the level of the SEC, but Division II down there in Florida is a very good standard," Lalonde said. "We targeted Jonathan early and we hoped he would be available for us in the draft and he was.  He has a very mechanically sound swing, excellent strike zone recognition, uses all fields.  I expect him to have early success as his swing should translate well.

Baksh is originally from Missassauga and the Jays were familiar with him prior to the draft. Lalonde noted, "Andrew Tinnish scouted him a lot and we brought him into the Rogers Centre in January and Andrew threw him BP and I saw him then".

Round 8: Daniel O'Brien, LHP, Western Michigan

The Jays selected their second pitcher of the day in the 8th round, selecting the southpaw from Western Michigan.

Lalonde said, "He is more of a command/control style than an overpowering guy. He throws a lot of strikes and pounds the zone with four pitches. His curve and change will have to improve. The best pitch is his cutter - he could break a lot of bats with that pitch. O'Brien competes very well on the mound and is also very deceptive. His height (5'10") is not a concern. If he was 6'4" he would have gone much earlier."

Round 9: Cole (Stephen) Figueroa, SS, Lincoln HS (FL)

The second high school hitter selected came in round 9 as the Jays took a SS out of Florida. Coincidentally, the Jays also selected his twin brother, Justin, in the 42nd round.

"He is fundamentally sound, good arm, can go both directions to make plays at shortstop. At the plate he can drive the ball for a guy who is small in stature and we like his lefthanded swing," Lalonde said. "We haven't signed him yet. He was supposed to go a JC but now he might be heading to Florida".

"We like both players (Cole and his brother Justin). In our evaluation we put Cole higher. He's a shortstop but his brother is a second baseman, and there is always a premium on shortstops."

Round 10: Scott Campbell, 2B, Gonzaga

Campbell was the first player ever drafted from New Zealand. But regardless of that the Jays like what they saw from Campbell.

"He has a very simple left handed swing," Lalonde said. "He is a line drive hitter, not a lot of power, ideally a top of the order hitter. Campbell will see a lot of pitches, gets on base, spray the ball around the field. He belongs at second base, he is not a shortstop but he is not a liability at second base."


Shawn Scobee, OF, UNLV (14) - "He is really strong, we like his power. When he walks out of the dugout he jumps out at you physically, he is in great physical shape. He is a true corner fielder. He is the kind of kid that might take off in professional baseball, we will have to see. Hopefully our coaches can work with him a little bit (to cut down on strikeouts). We don't want to change his swing just have the coaches work with him a little bit".

Brad Mills, P, Arizona (22) - "Just prior to the draft he made his (bonus) demands known and he was very clear about it and I respect that. Our intention is to follow him for the summer and we will see how we make out with some of the earlier picks and if we cannot reach a deal with some of our earlier picks, we might target him as a sort of plan B."

In addition to Mills both Graham Godfrey (RHP, College of Charleston, Round 34) and Luke Tucker (RHP, Florida St, Round 39) are college players the Jays will follow throughout the summer.

Since the intial wave of signings the Jays have since signed Brian Jeroloman (6), Chase Lirette (16), Kyle Ginley (17), and Jonathan Del Campo (20). With the exception of Figueroa the Jays have signed all of their draft picks in the first 21 rounds, and 30 of the top 33 picks.

The remaining unsigned Junior College selections will likely all be draft and follows.

Several Canadians were selected this year, although Lalonde says that is more of a coincidence than anything else. "That's the way the board broke. Our goal is to get the best players in the best spots and if they happen to be Canadian, great. But we cannot take a Canadian when there is another guy on the board we rated higher."

Many thanks to Jon Lalonde for taking the time to speak with Batter's Box.
Draft Interview with Jon Lalonde | 4 comments | Create New Account
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Maldoff - Wednesday, July 05 2006 @ 12:02 PM EDT (#150230) #

Great work guys!!! Always great to hear Jon Lalonde's take on the draft.

As a side note, a lot of later round picks have been performing well thus far.  Matt Luizza, Adam Calderone, Ben Zeskind and Kelly Sweppenhiser are all performing well at Auburn, and guys like Luis Fernandez and Raul Barron are doing well in Pulaski.

Mike D - Wednesday, July 05 2006 @ 01:01 PM EDT (#150236) #
Great stuff, Pistol. 
ds - Wednesday, July 05 2006 @ 01:08 PM EDT (#150240) #
Awesome guys.  Thanks a lot.
Draft Interview with Jon Lalonde | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.