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Can the Blue Jays draft first overall next year?

Back in March, I explored what a disastrous season for the Blue Jays would look like…

  • The pitching rotation could very easily be bad if Sanchez, Shoemaker, and Buchholz all struggle with injuries.
  • Vlad Jr. might not come out of the gate swinging like we expect him to and he could struggle to adapt to the Major League level.
  • Same goes for guys like Danny Jansen and Lourdes Gurriel, who could struggle in their first full big league season.

That’s, uh, pretty much exactly what’s happened here. Vlad Jr. had a slow start to his Major League career but has turned around in recent weeks and looks like the player we imagined he would. But the pitching rotation has been decimated by injuries to Ryan Borucki, Shoemaker, and Buccholz and virtually all of Toronto’s young toss-up types have struggled.

And here we are. The Jays are 23-39 for the season and it’s difficult to imagine things getting any better. My other disaster scenario was the team getting poor returns on trades for Ken Giles, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Sanchez, which hopefully doesn’t happen.

We don’t know what the return will be for those three players, but what we do know is that they’re all going to be traded prior to the trade deadline. So if the Jays have been this bad with an ace-calibre Stroman, a lock-down Giles, and a solid Sanchez, what on earth are we going to witness when they’re gone?

As of right now, FanGraphs has the Jays on pace to finish with a 68-94 record, which would be their worst finish since 2004. This projection, of course, doesn’t factor in the inevitable trades of those aforementioned pitchers, making the 45-55 finish to the season wildly optimistic. So, I mean, if FanGraphs’ optimistic view of the Jays’ next 100 games has them finishing with a whopping 68 wins, you have to assume a post-deadline-blowup would ultimately have them in the below 60-win range.

Why am I talking about this? Because I hate myself I’m solidly in MLB draft mode and I’m working through the possibilities of the Jays landing the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.

The Jays currently sit fifth-last in the league, ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and Seattle Mariners. Out-tanking the Orioles, Royals, and Marlins will be difficult, but it’s possible.

Toronto is only four games up on the last-place Trash Birds and Royals and they get to play 45 games against the gauntlet of the American League: New York, Boston, Houston, and Tampa Bay. The key will come down to the head-to-head games Toronto has with Kansas City and Baltimore if they want to finish last overall. The Jays will also need to drop their games against the Mariners, who are flying along in this tank race. Since starting 13-2 (remember that?!?!), Seattle has gone 13-38.

We’re about a month-and-a-half away from the team not having Stroman and Sanchez in a rotation that’s already so bad that Edwin Jackson gets a chance to build on his 11.90 ERA every fifth day, so just imagine how bad it’s going to look without them. The Jays went 7-21 in May with those pitchers. Is there any reason to assume they’ll do much better in the following months without them?

I mean, if the Jays are going to put their fans through this slog, they might as well make it worthwhile, right? I know this isn’t the NHL or NBA where a first-overall pick basically guarantees you a star player, but this strategy worked out nicely for the Astros.

If the Jays finish last, they can get this guy…

Anytime you’re breaking records that previously belonged to Barry Bonds, you deserve some attention. Spencer Torkelson shattered Bonds’ freshman record for home runs last season, and has kept on hitting: He’ll enter his junior season with 46 home runs in his first 439 collegiate at-bats. He nearly walked as often as he struck out last season, too.

Or this guy…

As we noted last week, Blaze Jordan recently reclassified — meaning he’ll be eligible for the 2020 draft rather than having to wait until 2021. He has well-above-average power potential and has been on the national radar since he was caught on film hitting 500-foot home runs as a 15-year-old. That’ll play. Jordan has an outstanding commitment to Mississippi State, but there’s a fair chance he goes high enough in next June’s draft to justify turning professional.

Or this guy…

Emerson Hancock is a big-bodied right-hander who posted a 1.99 ERA and struck out 97 batters in 90 innings as a sophomore. Predictably, he has good stuff, beginning with a fastball that can touch into the high-90s and ending with a quality slider. Factor in a repeatable delivery, and there’s front-of-the-rotation potential to be had here.