Blue Jays’ future sustainability hinges on discovering expertise late in draft

TORONTO – Planting the seeds of future sustainability will get tougher from right here on out for the Toronto Blue Jays, who’re drafting nineteenth this yr after choosing fifth general final summer time and hope to maintain transferring backwards, relatively than forwards within the years to return.

To that finish how successfully the membership’s novice scouting division, led by director Shane Farrell, can discover high expertise within the backside third of every spherical will assist decide how lengthy the present aggressive window runs.

As issues stand, the Blue Jays are positioned properly on the big-league degree with a younger core that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio and Alek Manoah. Final yr’s first-rounder Austin Martin headlines a powerful subsequent wave presently at double-A New Hampshire that additionally consists of Gabriel Moreno, Jordan Groshans and Simeon Woods Richardson, amongst others.

There’s potential affect decrease down the system within the likes of Adam Kloffenstein, C.J. Van Eyk, Eric Pardinho and Orelvis Martinez. However attrition will funnel lots of them out and to keep away from the kind of cliff the Chicago Cubs at the moment are heading in the direction of would require figuring out abilities different groups missed.

“I do know it’s all of our hope that we’re choosing even additional behind decide 19 for years to return,” Farrell stated throughout a Zoom chat with media Thursday. “It’s difficult, clearly, the deeper you decide and every spherical. However you may take a look at organizations just like the Dodgers who’ve had a number of success choosing deep. They’ve finished an incredible job of their novice draft led by Billy Gasparino. The necessary factor as we begin to decide deeper and deeper within the draft is simply coming into every draft and every spherical with an open thoughts and never getting too particular on what you’re in search of and recognizing that baseball gamers are coming in all areas, with all completely different backgrounds. Now we have to be open to that and never be too fixated on one demographic.”

The identical goes for strategy and danger tolerance, two different areas the place the Blue Jays beneath GM Ross Atkins and president and CEO Mark Shapiro have tended to point out stability.

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Since 2016, the membership’s first draft beneath the present regime, the Blue Jays have had six first-round picks and brought a university participant with 5 of them – Groshans the lone exception in 2018. Nonetheless, they’ve additionally taken greater upside prep-schooler swings past that, most notably nabbing Bo Bichette within the second spherical, 66th general, in 2016.

Hagen Danner, a pitcher at single-A Vancouver initially chosen as a catcher, was a second rounder in 2017. Kloffenstein was a third-rounder behind Magnolia Highschool teammate Groshans in ’18. Kendall Williams (traded to the Dodgers within the Ross Stripling deal) and Dasan Brown adopted Manoah in ’19, whereas the Blue Jays used all 5 picks on collegians final yr.

Broadly talking, school gamers have a tendency to supply extra certainty however much less upside, whereas prep schoolers are extra unstable however normally have greater ceilings. Assuming the Blue Jays’ draft slot retains getting pushed additional again, they could be pressured to determine between chasing upside or choosing stability.

“I don’t assume you need to ever stroll right into a draft with a set thoughts on what particularly you’re in search of by way of by way of danger,” stated Farrell, “as a result of the participant order goes to vary because the draft is occurring and a participant could fall to you that you just’re not anticipating, or one thing like that. And generally (the strategy) has to do with the well being of your group, the present prospects that you’ve, that which will assist decide that.”

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Therefore, the entrance workplace’s cautious hoarding of prospects within the face of temptation to leverage one of many deeper farm techniques in baseball to reinforce the big-league membership. Right here, the Dodgers are as soon as once more the mannequin, as not solely do a superb job of discovering high expertise deep within the first spherical (Corey Seager at No. 18; Walker Buehler at No. 24; Will Smith at No. 32; Gavin Lux at No. 20), in addition they rigorously handle their prospect capital, mitigating their vulnerability to a collapse.

The Cubs are on the brink proper now after buying and selling away prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres in win-now offers. The Blue Jays had been in an analogous spot after the post-season runs of 2015-16, with an ageing roster and a farm system in want of a bridge to Guerrero and firm.

They’re again in a aggressive window and anticipate the entrance workplace to behave extra just like the Dodgers than the Cubs, even when they’re positioned extra equally to the San Diego Padres of the previous couple years. Now that the Blue Jays are additionally gamers in free company, vital signings like that of George Springer will value them a draft decide and including the star outfielder means this yr they received’t have a range within the second spherical.

The affect there isn’t solely the lack of a decide but in addition the reduce within the signing bonus pool, limiting their capability to maneuver cash round and pay a participant who could have slid into their vary.

“We’re undoubtedly open to taking a look at varied methods to make use of our bonus pool,” stated Farrell, however at $5,775,900, he’ll have the third smallest tally to work from. The Pirates and Twins, in distinction, each have greater than $14 million to unfold round.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior author. Collectively, they bring about you probably the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast within the league, overlaying off all the most recent information with opinion and evaluation, in addition to interviews with different insiders and crew members.

All of that makes this draft, and sure those to return, all of the more difficult for the Blue Jays. Whereas the method this yr will probably be way more regular than a yr in the past – Farrell and workers are gathered on the Participant Improvement Complicated in Dunedin, Fla., after conducting issues just about final summer time – they’ve far much less management choosing at No. 19 as an alternative of No. 5.

“That’s what makes the draft so thrilling,” stated Farrell. “We’ll line up the gamers one of the best we are able to and use all the knowledge that we’ve got to put them in that order and because the draft begins to fall and gamers come off the board, the knowledge’s going to maintain altering. Simply staying true to the method and what we’ve finished within the week or 10 days main as much as the draft to type of ease or calm a few of these nerves to assist us make one of the best resolution attainable is what we’ll do. It’s difficult at occasions, but it surely’s a number of enjoyable and thrilling within the second. This yr we’re undoubtedly casting a wider web by way of who we predict will probably be accessible at our decide. So it’ll be a bit extra reactionary … this yr with extra picks being in entrance of the place we’re.”

The Blue Jays would love nothing greater than to make choosing late within the draft a behavior. But when they’re going to maintain the big-league membership over an prolonged interval, they’ll need to be actual good at it, too.

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