I’ve been really looking at some of the past drafts that the Blue Jays have had for another blog post that might never happen. That said, before I get to writing about this year’s draft, analyzing players’ performances and looking at some overall patterns, I want to take a look a back at a few past years first.
2010 was Alex Anthopoulos’s first draft and I want to contrast that with J.P. Ricciardi’s last draft with the Blue Jays in 2009. In my eyes, 2009 was a really interesting draft year that had both some good and some bad.
First, some overall stats. In 2009, the Jays had 52 selections (50 rounds plus a supplementary first rounder and an additional third rounder). 15 players were selected out of high school, 29 were drafted out of a 4-year college and eight players were selected out of junior college.
This breakdown is already interesting to begin with although not as important with the way the draft was run then. In general, high school players cost the most to sign because they have the most leverage. They can tell a team that unless they get x-amount of money, they’ll go to college and hope to get a bigger signing bonus after three years of college. Players going to a 4-year college will have the most leverage the first year that they are draft eligible: usually after their junior (third) year. They have the ability to say that unless they get x-amount of money as a signing bonus, they’ll return to college for a fourth year. Players in junior college are eligible to be drafted after each year and most are looking for a pro contract or good enough seasons that they can transfer to a 4-year college with a scholarship.
The reason that the numbers of college/high school players are so interesting from the 2009 draft is that there were no limits to how much a team could give out in signing bonuses, allowing teams to draft and sign high-priced players wherever they wanted without any kind of penalty.
Despite that fact, the Blue Jays targeted college players in the early rounds, not because they would save slot value for the Jays to overpay for other rounds but just because they felt that these guys were the ones that they wanted get. The Jays went for two college players in the first round: Chad Jenkins and James Paxton. Jenkins signed but Paxton didn’t and fell in the draft the following year, getting drafted by Seattle in the fourth round. Jenkins is still around with the Jays, having made a few appearances in the majors and Paxton made his major league debut for Seattle this year.
The next two picks were both high schoolers who didn’t sign. Most of our readers have probably heard of the tragic story of Jake Eliopoulos who never signed a pro contract after being drafted in three different seasons by the Blue Jays (but never as high). Jake Barrett didn’t sign with the Blue Jays and was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft after three years with Arizona State. He had a very good season this year, finishing the season as the closer for Arizona’s Double-A affiliate.
The next four picks signed and you’ll probably recognize their names: Jake Marisnick (HS), Ryan Goins (coll), Ryan Schimpf (coll) and K.C. Hobson (HS). Two of those four have made their major league debuts although Marisnick’s wasn’t with Toronto. The Jays ninth and tenth round picks in 2009 have also earned significant major league service time: Aaron Loup and Yan Gomes have both been pleasant surprises for the Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians, respectively. Both came out of college programs.
The last two players from the Blue Jays’ 2009 draft to have appeared in the major leagues are 15th rounder Drew Hutchison and 18th rounder Daniel Webb. We all know about Hutchison, his terrific major league debut, his Tommy John surgery and his season on the comeback trail. Webb, however, was traded to Chicago with Myles Jaye for Jason Frasor in January of 2012 and has pitched just over 11 very good innings for the Chicago White Sox.
In the first 10 rounds, the Blue Jays drafted 12 players. Three never signed, Marisnick and Gomes were traded, one was released in 2011 (Brian Slover) and Egan Smith didn’t play all year this year (he’s listed as being on the Temporary Inactive List). Chad Jenkins, Ryan Goins, Ryan Schimpf, K.C. Hobson and Aaron Loup remain active within the system: that’s five of 12 players drafted in the first 10 rounds that are still around with the Blue Jays.
Looking at those first 10 rounds, it’s quite interesting because the Blue Jays have the second most players who made the majors drafted in those first 10 rounds make the majors although only three are still with the club. Paxton didn’t sign with Toronto and Gomes and Marisnick were traded. The Angels had also six players make the majors from their top 10 rounds of 2009 (including Mike Trout), and the Diamondbacks led the majors with seven (including Paul Goldschmidt).
As we get further down in the draft the numbers look much worse. In rounds 11-20, only four players remain with the Blue Jays (Sean Ochinko, Drew Hutchison, Ryan Tepera and Kevin Nolan). One never signed (Bryson Namba), one was traded (Daniel Webb) and five were released.
In rounds 21-30, only one player remains in the organization: RF Brad Glenn (who made it to Triple-A this past season). Two didn’t sign and the rest have been released at some point. In rounds 31-40, only one player remains in the system: Jack Murphy. Three never signed and the rest were released (most recently was Shawn Griffith who was let go at the end of this season). None of the last ten players picked ever signed although one was redrafted in 2013 by the Blue Jays and signed on: Peterborough-born catcher Mike Reeves.
So, from the 2009 draft, the Jays have had eight players make the big leagues. Aaron Loup has shown that he is a very solid bullpen lefty. Chad Jenkins and Drew Hutchison have had solid starts to their major league careers but still need to prove that they can sustain that over a longer span of time although Hutchison probably has more upside than Jenkins. Ryan Goins has displayed some defensive excellence but his bat is still a big question mark. Yan Gomes has shown that he’s capable of much more than even the Blue Jays thought he’d be capable of and Daniel Webb has the potential to be a solid bullpen arm. Marisnick didn’t have any success in his first taste of the big leagues but he’s, by far, the youngest player (and the only high schooler) of this group to make the majors. He’s only 22 and still has some big upside.
What can we conclude? At the top of the draft the Blue Jays were very effective in 2009. Drafting eight players that make the majors from a single season is a very high number. The biggest issue with that draft is not the top portion (although three unsigned picks of your top four is pretty lousy), it’s the bottom. After round 10, only five players (out of 40) remain in the Blue Jays system four years later. A couple were traded but mostly the players just washed out or didn’t sign. As we look at some of the Anthopoulos drafts (starting 2010), we’ll be able to see how he compares.