All of a sudden, following Day 1 of the draft, the already pitching-rich Jays get richer. Jays first-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos has always stated that he believes in a philosophy where the goal each year is to sign two high impact players out of the June selection process rather than ink perhaps five, safe mid-level drat picks that will make it to the major-leagues but never have significant careers.
On the first night of major-league baseball's annual draft on Monday, the Jays' first-year scouting director Andrew Tinnish, supervising the Jays' selections, tabbed four righthanded pitchers among the draft's first 41 picks. The Jays are hoping that two of these young men will become the future stars that they covet.
These guys are all classic prospects in term of bodies, command and stuff. Why four righthanded pitchers? The Jays swore that as their turn arrived they would not be picking from need, but instead by the best player available in terms of projected major-league ability. The feeling must have been in the Jays' war room that the best player available at 11, 34, 38 and 41 were pitchers. This infers that the Jays myriad amateur scouts believed that hitting, especially up the middle, was weak in this year's draft.
11-Deck McGuire RHP 20 Georgia Tech 6-6 220 lbs. (Jays 1st round)
34-Aaron Sanchez RHP 17 Barstow (CA) H.S. 6-4 190 lbs. (comp. for Marco Scutaro)
38-Noah Syndergaard 17 Legacy (TX) H.S. 6-5 200 lbs. (comp. for James Paxton)
41-Asher Wojciechowski 21 The Citadel (SC) 6-4 235 lbs. (comp. for Rod Barajas)
McGuire: (Ranked 13th overall by ESPN's Keith Law; drafted 11th) Tinnish estimated that no less than a dozen Jays' scouts, including GM Anthopoulos, had actually seen McGuire pitch in person for the Yellow Jackets. He combines a 91-93 m.p.h. fastball that has sometimes inconsistent downward movement, with a major-league slider that touches 86 m.p.h., a solid feel for the change and a slowly developing curveball that would be the first to be discarded.
McGuire and last year's first-round pick, Chad Jenkins (selected 20th overall) are comparable physically and in age, although Jenkins always had a little baby fat to worry about on his 6-4 frame. But the big difference is that McGuire pitched in a major baseball conference, the ACC, while Jenkins pitched at tiny Kennesaw (GA) State. The Jays swear that they will be able to sign all of their top draft picks as opposed to last year. When McGuire does come to terms and reports to minor-league camp in Dunedin, he may be ahead of Jenkins already in terms of development towards the majors, especially with regard to poise and the ability to handle the more relentless bats in a pro lineup in a full-season Class-A league.
Sanchez: (ranked 15th overall by ESPN's Keith Law; drafted 34th) The California high school prospect will fill out from his wiry 170 lbs. and gain another 20-30 in the next three years which will allow his fastball to max out at 93-94. Add that to a solid curveball and a changeup in which he's not yet confident and the Jays may have a mid-rotation starter in about five years. The Jays are not scared to take pitchers this far away from the majors because of the tremendously deep stockpile that they are putting together. Sanchez is one of the two picks awarded for the Sox signing of Marco Scutaro.
Syndergaard: (not ranked in Top 100 by ESPN's Keith Law; drafted 38th) Back in the '70s, A's owner Charles O. Finley, thinking he was smarter than everyone else in baseball, fired most of his scouts and drafted using information from the MLB scouting bureau and player evaluations in major sports publications. Clearly the Jays did not hire their record number of amateur scouts simply to go with the flow of Baseball America, ESPN and some of the on-line scouting services. Thus they have their own view of Syndergaard that involves personality, background and what they can do with him once they get him down to minor-league camp. At Legacy High School near Dallas, the solidly built 17-year-old was 7-3, with a 1.42 ERA, walking 18 and striking out 83 in 59 innings. Texas high schools have a long history of producing successful, hard-throwing, cocky, quick to advance professional pitchers. The kid already throws 92-93 m.p.h. and shows a solid delivery that precludes arm problems. He relies on his fastball most of the time, but has a curveball and a change that will be developed when he turns pro. Syndergaard was compensation for being unable to sign Canadian righty James Paxton last June.
Asher Wojiechowski: (ranked 28th overall by ESPN's Keith Law; drafted 41st). Perhaps the highlight of the draft on TV was seeing Robby Alomar step up to the podium on behalf of the Jays and announce the tongue twisting Wojiechowski. By the way, next year's hall-of-famer, Alomar looks pretty healthy to me for a guy that was supposed to be horribly ill according to a disgruntled ex-friend. Wojo may at some point down the road become the answer to the closer question being left in the wake of B.J. Ryan and now Kevin Gregg. He will start out in the Jays system (we're assuming all these guys sign) as a starter, but that's just in order to get him some innings and see him pitch. Most major-league bullpen closers started out as minor-league starters. The guy throws 94-96 but has command issues and no faith in his changeup. He rushes through his delivery and the Jays believe they can help him and harness the natural ability that includes a hard slurve -- a bastardized combination of slider/curve. Wojo was the pick awarded the Jays for the Mets' signing of catcher Rod Barajas.
SUMMARY: The Jays, once they sign these four guys, are going to have a tremendously deep pool of pitching prospects that are all of them set to arrive in the next two to five seasons. What this means for the re-building organization is that Anthopoulos will have the ability to trade several of his starting pitching prospects from this talented inventory at the deep end of the pool and still not be accused of trading away the future -- as he promised he would not do. That will make a difference more in the next off-season (2010-11) than at the trade deadline. The Jays would like this full season to re-rank their own pitching prospects and try and package some of the others -- that would still leave good depth.