Blue Jays 2023 MLB Draft Primer: Infielders and Outfielders
Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel – USA Today Sports
By Nick Prasad2 months ago
In the first part of our 2023 MLB Draft primer, we looked through some pitchers and catchers who might be of interest to the Blue Jays when they make their first selection at 20th overall on Sunday.
Next up, we’ll take a look around the infield and the outfield for players who could be of interest to the Blue Jays. Let’s start in the outfield.
Defensively at best health, the Blue Jays employ one of the best outfield alignments in the Major Leagues — one with good hitting capability and exceptional outfield tools. When reviewing the organization’s top 30 prospects, the No. 12, 15, and 17 ranked players are outfielders. That’s Gabriel Martinez, Dasan Brown, and Enmanuel Bonilla. Martinez and Bonilla are both solid international pickups, and Dasan Brown was the highest Canadian drafted in the 2019 draft.
These three players are the baseline of tools Toronto will focus on during this year’s selections. Which draft prospects match the Blue Jays’ outfield criteria?
Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF
If the Blue Jays head their selections prioritizing the back-field grass, Enrique Bradfield Jr would be the perfect fit and target. The junior out of the notorious Vanderbilt University is ranked 16th of the top 200 MLB draft prospects, with Toronto having the 20th pick, the possibility of landing him is within hope. Bradfield Jr gives the same vibes as Dasan Brown under the scouting scope. He has an athletic-slim build and does everything from the left side.
The key link between the two players is the word “havoc.” No pitcher or catcher is within sanity with this kid on pads, which is about .410 percent this year alone. Let’s start with his fielding ability: Enrique Jr can patrol the outfield, particularly center field with his top tool being his strong point. He’s able to cover ground, get to balls quickly, and make difficult plays which somewhat shadows his average workable arm.
Enrique Jr can swing it for hard sneaky contact using the entire field and has the ability to stretch base hits. So far in 2023, he’s hitting a decent .279 batting average with 65 hits, 6 home runs, and 34 RBIs. His on-base percentage sits at .410. It is important to pay attention to his walks-strikeout ratio; he’s 45 times and struck out 40 times. With that on-base presence he’s stolen 37 bags so far, only caught 7 times, and he’s come around to score 69 Vanderbilt runs.
Career-wise he has a .311 batting average, a .426 on-base percentage, 131 walks, 122 strikeouts, and 130 stolen bases while only being caught 13 times, 224 hits, 15 home runs, 108 RBIs, on 224 hits. Bradfield would be the guy to change and improve the Blue Jays running game from the ground up.
Jack Hurley, OF
Jack Hurley is another talented choice that touches similar bases as Enrique Jr. He’s an athletic-strong outfielder that hits from the left side with strong potential to be in the top five spots in a competitive lineup, and the ability to play all fields. Hurley can use all fields as a gap hitter, creating and executing offensive systems.
The 33rd-ranked prospect out of Virginia Tech University has a .320 batting average so far in 2023 with 57 hits, 17 home runs, 49 RBIs, and 46 runs on 57 hits. He has an on-base percentage of .414, and a college-career on-base percentage of .411. Hurley brings almost five tool possibilities to any team that picks him up in this year’s draft.
Colton Ledbetter, OF
If you haven’t seen the trend yet, left-handed hitting outfielders seem to be the popularity in the position. Colton Ledbetter holds draft-worthy traits and tools to pay attention to. 6’2” at 205lbs, Ledbetter took his talents from Samford to Mississippi State University, bringing hitting ability, strong defensive ability, and beneficial running game.
Ledbetter has a consistent and calculated swing, bringing his hands in and keeping the bat head in the zone toward the pull side. Ledbetter will use all fields when protecting the zone, but will make you pay on the inside half of the plate. He’s strong with good use of his athleticism and quick hands.
Defensively, Ledbetter can play the majority of the outfield but will probably play the corners with a workable arm. His speed and movement on his feet will assist him in covering a fair amount of ground. Furthermore, Ledbetter can snag bags and is known to be a smart runner. He’s snagged 17 bags this season; 32 stolen bases in three college seasons. In 2023, he has a .320 batting average with 63 hits, 12 home runs, 53 RBIs on 197 at-bats. Ledbetter has only struck out 36 times while walking 47 times; this translated to 52 runs scored for Mississippi. His ability to score runs is huge and will help any club win games.
Lefty hitters with speed and hitting ability will fit the Blue Jays’ survey of draft outfielders, and these three prospects are promising players.
Looking at which infielders might interest the Toronto Blue Jays at the 2023 MLB Draft…
In the between the Addison Barger’s, and possibly the Aidan Miller’s and Ralphy Velasquez’s poses healthy options to fill the middle infield with high-end talent. While Toronto has names such as Tucker Toman, Cade Doughty, and Josh Kasevich on the come-up, finding the next Bichette and two-bagger is a priority.
With Toronto drafting 20th in the first round, it may be tough to land a high-ranking mid-infielder, especially if pitchers or catchers could be the genuine priority. What are the most possible options? Let’s start with a Spartan shortstop.
Mitch Jebb, SS/2B
Now, looking at this kid’s stance and swing, you may write him off at first site; however, he’s ranked 44th of MLB’s top 200 draft prospects for a reason. The 6’1” 185-pounder is a junior for the Michigan State Spartans, hitting from the left side and throwing from the right. Visibly, Jebb holds a true at athletic makeup which transpires in his ability. His defence is average and workable with good hands, range, and an average arm. The opportunity for defensive development is evident and he has the ability to also play second base.
Jebb’s ranking comes from his ability to swing the bat and get on base. His hitting is ranked a 60 on the 20-80 scale, with strong contact for line drive type gap-to-gap hits. Although Jebb has a non-appealing batting stance and unconventional swing, it gets the job done and his ability to get on base is extremely valuable; his run game is ranked a 65. So far in 2023, he’s batting .337 with a .438 on-base percentage.
In three college seasons, he’s at a .327 batting average with a .413 on-base percentage. Scouts recognized his game in the summer of 2022 where he played in the Cape Cod League and drove in 22 RBIs, 53 hits, and an impressive 26 stolen bags. Jebb may be a realistic option for Toronto.
Maui Ahuna, SS
This Hawaiian infielder is a transfer portal prospect from Kansas to Tennessee and ranks 47th prospect of MLB’s top 200. He’s spent time in Cape Cod and the USA National program. Recent struggles have posed questions about his draft-ability in round one, but he still holds extreme value and projections.
There is no doubt about Ahuna’s ability to hit. He’s aggressive at the plate with a leg kick and semi-upper cut swing creating launch and travel. He’s able to use all fields when needed and use the middle to get on base. Consistency is the biggest question with Ahuna; can he read and deliver? His physical makeup and offensive display are enough to put him in the second or third round at best.
His defence matches if not surpasses his hitting skill, with a terrific ability to play his position and an above-average arm. So far in 2023, Ahuna is hitting .312 with 42 RBIs, 8 home runs, 64 hits, and walked 37 times with a .425 on-base percentage.
Tai Peete, SS
This shortstop absolutely rakes at the plate and can play shortstop, third base, second base, and the outfield. The former pitcher who touched 95mph shows athletic ability, well-rounded tools, and an above-average arm and bat. He throws from the right and hits from the left at 6’2” 193lbs with raw power, athletic build, and locked in at the dish.
He’s hit out 12 bombs in his high school year so far with a .444 batting average. Peete brings diversity in positional ability along with a long-term possibility to pitch. He’s been growing, maturing and polishing his tools. He’s ranked MLB’s 53rd draft prospect and has committed to Georgia Tech. This type of player would give the Blue Jays great future options and possibilities with what Peete is able to do on the field.
Aidan Miller, 3B
The Blue Jays can aim young with a very impressive high school prospect out of JW Mitchell. Miller walks and talks the professional game with a good display of projectable skills and tools. He has grown and filled out his uniform, standing 6’2” and 205 lbs.
As a former middle infielder, Miller retains his athleticism at a slightly slower pace at the hot corner, while showcasing a strong arm across the diamond with smooth and fluent mechanics. His footwork along with forehand and backhand skills are on point, and he is able to cover ground, with fast twitch movement to each side of the position.
Miller can play his position at a high level which has him committed to Arkansas. His soft hands and footwork appears clean, precise and professional and can be imaginable in low-A with Toronto. His bat speed and power are raw, heavy, strong, and consistent. He shows knowledge and calculation at the plate while looking for his pitch and launching middle-in to spray to all fields.
A young player such as Aidan Miller can be promising for the future Blue Jays infielder, setting up to be the next Addison Barger.
Ralphy Velasquez, C/1B
Primary first basemen aren’t a very common draft target unless the bat that comes with it is beyond satisfactory. In this case, the Blue Jays would land a projectable left-handed hitting first baseman that can catch. Ralphy Velazquez is out of Huntington Beach and is committed to Arizona State University. He bats left, throws right, and stands 6’3” at 215lbs, strong-athletic build.
Velazquez brings above-average power and a strong presence to the plate. He can square up off speed with readiness for the fastball, while using a Juan Soto-type stance that allows him to stay back on hooks, followed by good bat speed for the heater. He is definitely a primary first baseman as he’s more polished defensively than behind the plate. He has an above-average arm and shows his refined mechanics at the position. The Blue Jays can benefit from the positional diversity and offensive projections from Velazquez.
Jake Gelof, 3B
Let’s get back to the college field where the hot corner at the University of Virginia is well taken care of. Jake Gelof is a hot name in all of Virginia baseball. He’s a big bat with a strong arm at third base, and has the ability to play first, which could be an option.
He’s aggressive in and around the strike zone, and is super focused on getting his pitch. The MLB 42nd-ranked draft prospect is surpassing his 2022 breakout year as we speak. In 2022, Gelof batted .377 with 80 hits, 81 RBIs, and 21 home runs with a .477 on-base percentage.
So far in 2023, he has 81 hits, 23 dingers, 89 RBIs, 47 walks, a .331 batting average, and a .435 on-base percentage. Gelof is a proven producer in college baseball and is projected to produce at the same pace in the pros. Gelof would be a prime option for the 2023 Blue Jays draft selections at third and first base.
Garret Forrester, 1B
This stopper down the right-side line could be a sneaky pick for Toronto, steaming out of Oregon State/ Garret Forrester is a primary first baseman with tools to succeed at his position and is a physical presence in the batter’s box.
Forrester comes with bat speed, raw power, and plate IQ. He has the ability to hit the ball long and hard, with good launch angle and home run capabilities. He shows out well at first base with an average arm that plays a defensively sound game. He’s currently ranked 118th by Major League Baseball and could be a quiet but valuable pick in the later rounds.
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