Keith Law quite liked the Jays selection of shortstop Logan Warmoth with the 22nd pick in the first round of the draft on Monday night. At ESPN.com he singled out just five clubs for praise on Day One, and the Blue Jays were one of them.
Law writes that Warmoth had his “favorite swing in the draft, and I believe he stays at shortstop in the long term, so the big question on him is whether his pretty swing will produce enough hard contact to make him a good regular or even a star.” You can probably guess that he seems to think that there’s a decent chance it’s the latter. “There’s a high floor of him being a good utility infielder, with a very good chance that he ends up a regular or more,” he says.
This, you may remember, is in stark contrast to the sort of stuff we were hearing from Law about the Jays’ draft last year. Back then he laid this on us: “I don’t like giving draft grades, as I note in the lead, or even calling any draft class the ‘worst,’ but I can say this is my ‘least favorite’ of all 30, considering the picks and pool available, as well as the players taken.”
The Jays’ 2016 draft class may end up being something of an anomaly, though. Not only was it was the final draft under soon-to-be outgoing scouting director Brian Parker, but it was also a draft we can presume was run significantly through the infrastructure that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins had inherited from their predecessors, as well as one where the club may have felt the pull of restocking their bare cupboard more than is healthy. A whole lot of prospects from the upper minors had been traded away in 2015 (HAVE YOU HEARD?), and the 2016 draft was a chance to get a bunch of guys to the upper levels fairly quickly. No time for project picks!
That may have been smart, actually, even just in terms of simple job security — when you take over an organization, you probably don’t want your first high profile draft picks to take seven years to reach the big leagues — but the Jays did seem to go a little college-heavy, and — more importantly — perhaps a little “safe.” (And the funny thing about it was, one of the two high school players they selected among their first ten picks ended up being, undoubtedly, the most exciting player of the group: Bo Bichette.)
That’s all probably a vast oversimplification, but it’s at least what the prevailing thought seemed to be. This year, at least early on, the Jays do continue to be looking mostly to the college ranks, but not so much to “safe” picks. Nate Pearson, who they took at 28, for example, has a massive fastball that didn’t really show up until late in his amateur career, and not a whole lot yet in terms of secondary stuff. He could very much end up a reliever — albeit a pretty nice one, given he’s been hitting triple-digits on the radar gun (in bullpen sessions at least) — but he might be a hell of a starter if it all comes together for him, aaaaaand if the pin in his elbow from a high school injury doesn’t cause him problems down the line. I’m hardly an expert, but this seems like the kind of higher risk, higher reward type of pick that the club eschewed last time out.
But who cares what I think! Here are some other reactions to the Jays and their selections in the first and second rounds:
- Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline says that when he “was talking to scouts last summer about the best players in the Cape Cod League — a showcase circuit for college players — Warmoth’s name came up a few times as a sleeper. But he’s not a sleeper any longer.” Well, clearly. And Pearson he thinks belongs in the bullpen, but maybe that’s OK, even with such a high pick: “he’s got the frame and the fastball to make a difference in the late innings.”
- John Sickels of Minor League Ball says that Pearson “pairs well with Warmoth,” and on Warmoth himself is to the point: “he can stay at shortstop.”
- At FanGraphs, Eric Longenhagen has only a brief comment on the Jays’ Day One haul, saying that he “had Danner in as a catcher, as well. He has rare power for the position, and I think he might stick back there once he starts working on it every day.”
- Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Chris Mitchell uses their KATOH projection system to look at Day One college players, tabbing Logan Warmoth for just 1.0 career WAR (and noting that he rarely walks). (Central Florida, where Pearson played, is actually a junior college, so he’s not on this list.)
- The only site ridiculous enough to actually give grades for each pick, naturally, is Bleacher Report (surely because they know that’s going to be a popular search term, and they’ve never acted like they’re not entirely pillaging clicks from rubes through Google). For what little the letter grade part is worth, Joel Reuter likes what the Jays did with Warmoth and Pearson, elaborating slightly on what Sickels said, explaining that Pearson “is the perfect risk pick to pair with a fairly safe one earlier in the first round.” But, of course, Warmoth maybe even isn’t all that “safe”!
- Steve Givarz of Baseball Prospectus offers this tweet of his report on Nate Pearson, which is probably worth a look:
It seems like a lot of the analysis, quite obviously, is still to come, and will focus on teams’ draft classes on the whole, so for now I’ll just leave it at that! Seems like things are looking up for the Blue Jays in their first draft under new scouting director Steve Sanders.