Draft Preview: Jays have plethora of top picks
Toronto holds 11th overall selection, eight among top 100
TORONTO -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos wants to turn the Blue Jays organization into a perennial contender. He has a vision of prolonged success that ultimately leads to his club hoisting a World Series trophy high in the air once again.
Since taking the reigns at the end of last season, Anthopoulos has reshaped Toronto's scouting and player development departments, made moves to strengthen the club's farm system and taken steps to build a better product on the field. Now, with a high volume of selections in his first Draft as the Jays' GM, Anthopoulos has another opportunity to make his mark on the organization.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 7-9 on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.
Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Here's a glance at what the Blue Jays have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Anthopoulos' first Draft as a general manager includes more early-round picks than any other team. In the first round, the Blue Jays boast four selections (No. 11 being the first), including three in the first compensation round. Overall, Toronto has eight picks within the top 100 selections and 10 within the first four rounds.
"There's a lot of people who believe that because you have so many picks you might take more chances. When we sit down in our meetings, we'll probably debate that a little bit. I think we have to look at every pick in a vacuum, independent of all the other picks. We're looking at ability and talent, because if the strategy, which I'm sure everyone has, is 'best player available,' the thought process should be the same." --Anthopoulos
The last time the Blue Jays used their top pick on a high school pitcher was 1995, when the club selected a right-hander out of Colorado's Arvada West High School named Roy Halladay. With so many early-round picks this year, Anthopoulos can afford to take a chance on a prep pitcher. The top high school arms this year include Jameson Taillon (likely to be long gone by the 11th pick), Karsten Whitson, Stetson Allie and Dylan Covey. Other possibilities might include: collegiate outfielders Michael Choice or Bryce Brentz; Ohio State pitcher Alex Wimmers; Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox; or high school third baseman Nick Castellanos or Kaleb Cowart.
Anthopoulos has let it be known that finding a long-term solution for shortstop was one of his goals when he took over as the Jays general manager. Anthopoulos hopes to have found his man in Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who signed a four-year contract with Toronto earlier this season.
That does not mean the Blue Jays will necessarily pass on any shortstops early on in the Draft. Anthopoulos said he and his staff do not plan on making picks based on any perceived organizational needs at the Major League or Minor League levels.
"You can never have enough," Anthopoulos said. "We're not going to be impacted by what positions we have at the big league level. We're not going to be impacted by what positions we have at the Minor League level. At the end of the day, the best player available is the best player available."
"Some of our better prospects are at certain spots, but we won't shy away from a player because we have someone at that spot. Things change too quickly."
The Blue Jays have a wealth of young pitching prospects (Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart and Henderson Alvarez, among others) and high-ceiling prospects at first base (Brett Wallace), shortstop (Hechavarria) and catcher (Travis d'Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia). Areas of need would seem to include the outfield and at third base.
"You should be aiming at trying to get a prospect every single time," Anthopoulos said. "I'd rather take a tough sign in the 43rd round that has a chance to be a prospect than someone who's just going to fill out a roster and maybe last for a year or two."
Former Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi had a tendency to lean toward collegiate players in the Draft rather than stockpiling high school talent that might come with more risk. Anthopoulos worked under Ricciardi for several years, but the young general manager is hoping to stick with the best-player-available philosophy throughout his first Draft.
"We've talked about it a lot," Anthopoulos said. "We're trying to get the best player available. We're shooting for ceiling, but it's not going to be reckless. We're also managing our risk at the same time. I just think it's a matter of lining it up with respect to rounds. We might sacrifice some probability.
"There might be some players that are high-probability guys that are maybe lower ceiling. I think we're going to shift the focus a little bit to potentially taking on a little bit more risk, the reward being a little bit more ceiling and understanding that we're not going to hit on all of the picks. We're going to make mistakes."
Anthopoulos added that the college vs. high school argument might become more of a factor in the later stages of the Draft. As high school athletes slip to the later rounds, the chances of them pursuing college scholarships instead of signing a professional contract increase.
Rising fast Originally selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2008 Draft, and acquired by the Jays in an offseason trade with the A's, Wallace continues to tear through Minor League pitching. Through 52 games, Wallace was hitting .282 with 11 home runs, 16 doubles and 33 RBIs for Triple-A Las Vegas. Wallace, 23, is honing his skills at first base, where he will likely play next season in Toronto.
The Blue Jays grabbed outfielder Darin Mastroianni in the 16th round (505th overall) during the 2007 Draft and he has enjoyed a steady rise through the farm system. This season with Double-A New Hampshire, the speedy center fielder has hit .289 with three homers, six doubles, three triples, 26 RBIs, 31 stolen bases and 39 runs through 51 games. Mastroianni had a .370 on-base percentage.
In The Show
The Blue Jays had four starting pitchers make their Major League debuts in 2009 -- three were products of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. One of those young arms, lefty Brett Cecil, remains in Toronto's rotation.
Cecil -- selected with the 38th overall pick in the '07 Draft -- opened this season with Triple-A Las Vegas, but has performed well since joining the Blue Jays' staff in late April. Through eight starts for Toronto, the 23-year-old Cecil has gone 5-2 with a 3.81 ERA, striking out 40 and walking 12 over 49 2/3 innings.
Lefties Marc Rzepczynski (175th pick in '07) and Brad Mills (145), who each made their big league debuts in '09 with the Jays, are currently pitching for Triple-A Vegas. Rzepczynski was in the mix for a rotation job with the Jays this spring, but was sidelined until recently with a fractured middle finger on his pitching hand. Mills has gone 4-3 with a 4.33 through 11 starts for Vegas this year.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.