The 2014 MLB Draft was held last week (June 5-7), and the Blue Jays found themselves in a great spot with two picks in the top-11. As is an annual tradition here on 500 Level Fan, we hand the reins over to our draft expert (this year straight from Beijing!) to talk about just how well the Jays fared with their first few picks.
Take it away Mr. Yarwood:
The Blue Jays had two first round picks this year because of their failure to sign first round pick Phil Bickford last year. With the #9 pick, the Jays took RHP Jeff Hoffman, a beast of a high school junior that may have gone #1 overall if not for his late-season injury this spring. Having just had Tommy John surgery on his right arm, Hoffman will be out until at least next summer, when he can start showing why he was so highly rated coming into this year’s college season. Hoffman has one thing going for him at least — great self-confidence. This is what he said about falling in the draft due to his injury:
Everything happens for a reason, and whatever team takes the so-called risk and drafts me is going to get the best player in the draft.
Looking at video of Hoffman, he looks like he will need some tweaks to his delivery to stay healthy. But he’s extremely talented. One of the best things about this pick is that the Jays got a guy who they should be able to sign under slot, saving money for talented players they drafted in later rounds.
At #11, the Jays took C Max Pentecost. He isn’t spectacular in any single respect, but he is solid in all — hitting for average with a little bit of power, good receiving skills, good athleticism. It looks like he should be able to make it to the majors as a C, and while he doesn’t have great power, he should do other things well. His throwing mechanics need some work, but his arm is strong. In a way this is the anti-JPA pick. JPA was a 1-tool catcher. Pentecost is much more balanced and could move quickly through the system.
In the second round, at #49 over all the Jays took Sean Reid-Foley. This is my favourite pick so far. Reid-Foley was rated between #18 and #27 by major draft ranking systems. He has good control of 4 pitches, a 92-95mph fastball and what look to me like nice, clean mechanics. Some people mention that he throws across his body somewhat and that he has a high elbow slot which will make him more susceptible to injury. To me his delivery looks somewhat like Curt Schilling’s. He won’t likely have that kind of velocity or control (command is what really set Schilling apart) but he is a very talented high school pitcher that still has some potential to develop. Had the Jays drafted Reid-Foley at #11, people would have understood that they were just very high on him — it wouldn’t have been that much of a reach as there are often a number of high school RHP that go higher in the draft than predicted. Instead, they got him at #49 and should have extra money from Hoffman and Pentecost’s slots to sign Reid-Foley.
In the third round, the Jays took 6’5″ LHP Nick Wells, another high school pitcher who has taken a leap forward in his development in recent months, adding about 5mph to his fastball in his senior year. In the 4th round, they took Matt Morgan, a high school catcher, also a solid contact hitter. They took one more high-schooler, RF Lane Thomas, in the 5th round before going back to the college ranks for picks 6-10, as they have in the past. The Jays strategy in recent years has been to essentially throw away picks in rounds 4-10 on college seniors who will sign far under slot, then use those savings to sign highly ranked players taken in earlier rounds. This year, perhaps due to a change in strategy, perhaps due to the Hoffman pick alone, the Jays drafted actual prospects right through round 10. However, they did pick guys that were ranked lower than they were drafted, meaning that they may still be trying to save money for the likes of Reid-Foley and Wells.
The Jays balanced high upside risk (Hoffman, Wells) against more projectable players with a higher floor (Pentecost, Reid-Foley) in the early rounds. This has the potential to be a hugely successful draft, but of course it depends on AA’s ability to get all of these players to sign with the Blue Jays.