It’s been awhile since I wrote an article in this series, but that just means that we’re that much closer to the 2022 MLB draft.
Today, we’ll be looking at prospects that the Blue Jays could pick with their 77th overall pick. This pick was acquired when Marcus Semien (.199/.266/.274, 60 wRC+, 1 homer) signed with the Texas Rangers.
The Jays also own the 78th pick, but that will be a separate article. I debated putting it in the same article, but these articles are used to inform the reader of players that the Jays could pick.
I’ve said this quite a lot, but I don’t think a team should ever draft for need. Despite the Blue Jays having a surplus of middle infielders in the high minors, it wouldn’t hurt to add another one.
Eric Brown, a 21-year-old shortstop, is a junior at Coastal Carolina University. Through his three seasons with the university, he has a .306/.428/.508 slash line in 547 plate appearances. This includes 16 homers and more walks (76) than strikeouts (74).
His 2022 is even more impressive as he owns a .332/.456/.563 slash line with seven homers in 242 plate appearances. Furthermore, he has walked 34 times compared to 27 strikeouts, which you know I love in a prospect.
According to Pipeline, he has a weird batting stance, but he still has the ability to make continuous contact. They also note that Brown has a high baseball IQ, a very important attribute for the shortstop position.
MLB Pipeline describes Brown as an “offensive catalyst” who has great bat to ball skills. He also has sneaky power, which could lead to 20 homers in the bigs.
They also note that the 21-year-old is one of the best defensive shortstops in the draft class as he has fast hands and feet. MLB Pipeline notes that he could play anywhere on the field, which means that the Jays would love his versatility.
Here are his grades according to MLB Pipeline:
He ranks as the 60th best draft prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Baseball America ranks him as their 53rd best draft prospect, and Prospects Live ranks Brown as their 30th best draft prospect.
Sticking with shortstops, we have the 18-year-old Gavin Guidry. Unlike Borwn, Guidry’s Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) to the majors is at least four years.
Like with most high schoolers, it’s nearly impossible to find Gavin’s stats for his high school team, so this section will rely heavily on MLB Pipeline.
Guidry’s a versatile player who can play all four infield positions and also has room to grow. He shows solid raw power, but as he continues to add on muscle, more power will come.
Furthermore, MLB Pipeline notes that his offense will get better once he steps off the mound, as he’s currently a 2-way player (like with most high schoolers). On the mound, Guidry has a low 90’s fastball with good spin while pounding the strike zone.
He’ll be able to stick at short and scouts love his makeup. He is committed to Louisiana State University and there’s a good chance that if he fell to 77th, he would choose university over going pro. Below are his grades according to MLB Pipeline:
He ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 67th best draft prospect, while ranking 95th according to Baseball America and 109th according to Prospects Live.
In the first article of this series, I mentioned fellow Gonzaga prospect, Gabriel Hughes, but in this section, we’ll be focusing on Trystan Vrieling.
Vrieling is a 21-year-old right handed pitcher and while he is not quite a large adult son (you have to be 6’5), the 6’4, 205 pounder has put up some solid numbers in his first full season as a starter.
He’s appeared in 40 games with Gonzaga in his three year tenure. He’s only started 15 of those games, with only two prior to 2022. He owns a 3.91 ERA in 131.1 innings pitched as well as a 11.6 K/9. However, his BB/9 of 4.4 is on the rather high side.
All 13 of the games he’s appeared in this season have been starts. He has posted an ERA of 4.24 in 74.1 innings pitched. His K/9 sits at an impressive 12, but his BB/9 sits at 4.4.
Vrieling has a four pitch mix, featuring a four seam fastball that sits between 91-95 mph. He also has a curveball (low 80s with downward movement), slider (mid 80s with cutting action) and changeup.
It’s noted by MLB Pipeline that he struggles with command, which explains his BB/9. However, they note that most scouts believe he can be a long-term starter. Below are his grades from MLB Pipeline:
Vrieling ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 69th (nice) best draft prospect and Baseball America ranks him as the 90th best draft prospect. He doesn’t rank on Prospects Live.
The 21-year-old left handed pitcher Hunter Barco recently underwent Tommy John surgery this past May. Pitching for the University of Florida, Barco owns a 3.18 ERA in 152.2 innings pitched. Unlike Vrieling, he has never struggled with common, as his career BB/9 sits at 2.5. Furthermore, his K/9 is at a rather impressive 11.1.
Prior to his season ending surgery, Barco had a 2.50 ERA in 50.1 innings pitched. His BB/9 dropped to a career low 2 while his K/9 jumped to 12.3, the highest in his career.
Standing in at 6’4, 220, Barco’s fastball velo sits at 92 mph, but touches 95 mph with a ton of movement. He also features a nasty slider and changeup. MLB Pipeline notes that his ceiling is that of a No. 3 or 4 starter, which wouldn’t be a bad pickup with the 77th pick.
However, due to his recent Tommy John surgery, it’s possible that he falls to the 4th or 5th round, due to him also missing his senior year. The upside is certainly there, it’ll just take awhile for him to get back on the mound. Below are his grades according to MLB Pipeline.
He ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 71st best draft prospect, Baseball America’s 39th best prospect and Prospects Live 56th best prospect.
Drafting Sam Horn poses risks. The 6’4 right hander is committed to Clemson University, the 14th ranked NCAA school for Football. As per usual, it’s nearly impossible to find high school statistics, so we’ll just look at his MLB Pipeline profile.
In terms of baseball, Horn has three pitches, all of which could be “solid or better” according to MLB Pipeline. His four seamer sits in the low 90s, but reaches 95 mph with sink (a lot of ground balls). He also features a curveball and changeup, the latter he uses less often.
According to his Pipeline bio, his commitment currently lies with football, meaning that if the Jays were to draft him here, they’d have to overslot him. Below are his grades from MLB Pipeline.
He ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 72nd overall draft prospect, Baseball America’s 75th overall draft prospect and doesn’t rank in Prospects Live’s Top 300 draft prospects.
A former large adult son, Spencer Jones is a 6’7, 225 lb outfielder. The 21-year-old is a junior at Vanderbilt University and has put up some good numbers in his career.
In his three years, he’s slashing .324/.415/.533 with 12 homers in 395 plate appearances. However, he does have a K% of 25.32% in his three years, while only walking 10.39% of the time.
This season, Jones is slashing .367/.459/.618 in 246 plate appearances. He has a career high of nine homers and has slightly dropped his K% to 24.49% while his BB% has increased to 11.79%.
In the future, Jones can hit both power and average, as he’s a large lad with quick bat speed. Per MLB Pipeline, there are concerns about whether or not he will drop his K% on off speed stuff.
Furthermore, he has issues pulling the pitch, which could lead to issues turning on balls on the inside part of the plate.
If the Blue Jays are drafting for need, Jones certainly fits that bill. One could guess that he’s only a few years away from the bigs. He’s also a left handed batting outfield, something the farm desperately needs. Below are his grades.
He ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 74th best draft prospect, Baseball America’s 81st best draft prospect and Prospects Live’s 117th best draft prospect.
Moving back to pitching, we have Reggie Crawford, a 6’4, 235 lb left handed pitching at the University of Connecticut.
There’s a lot to like about the 21-year-old first baseman/left handed pitcher. For example, he’s slashing .309/.362/.546 with 14 homers in 290 plate appearances with the Huskies. Furthermore, he hasn’t struck out a ton at 24.83%, but he does struggle to take a walk as his BB% only sits at 6.90%.
While I couldn’t find his grades on any of my three sites, it’s noted by Prospects Live that Crawford has “easy plus raw power, maybe more” as well as a “hit tool that matches the juice too.”
In his eight innings pitched in 2020 and 2021, he had a 2.25 ERA with a K/9 of 19.1 and BB/9 of 4.5, mainly as a reliever.
There is an issue though. Despite the great numbers, Crawford underwent Tommy John surgery last autumn, meaning that he hasn’t pitched or hit since 2021. Furthermore, throughout his three years at university, the sample size is minute.
On the mound, his fastball averages 97 mph and hits 100 mph. He also features a slider in the mid 80s, which is pretty insane. It’s noted on his MLB Pipeline bio that he’ll likely stick to the mound upon returning to full health.
MLB Pipeline notes that his small sample size will make it hard for teams to evaluate him, but his uniqueness in being a LHP that reaches 100 mph and being able to hit bombs makes it well worth the lottery ticket.
Due to this small sample size and recovering from Tommy John, it’s possible that he doesn’t sign with the team that drafts him. He is eligible for another year at the University of Connecticut, so he may try to raise his stock more. Below are his pitching grades.
He ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 76th best draft prospect, Baseball America’s 49th best draft prospect and Prospects Live’s 66th best draft prospect.
Williams is the only pure large adult son in this article. Standing at 6’5, 200 lb, Williams is a junior at Duke University.
Like Crawford, Williams hasn’t played in 2022 due to Tommy John surgery. However, he does have a much larger sample size during his tenure at Duke. In 37.2 innings pitched, he has a 3.82 ERA with a K.9 of 10.8 and a BB/9 of 3.1.
His MLB Pipeline bio states that Williams has much more potential, as his three pitches in his arsenal could develop into plus pitches. His fastball hit 94-95 mph prior to Tommy John, while his inconsistent slider has plus potential. He also features a changeup.
The ending of his bio states: “The rehab associated with elbow reconstruction often leaves pitchers stronger than ever, so Williams could have even better stuff once he returns to full health.
Williams ranks as MLB Pipeline’s 77th best draft prospect, Baseball America’s 153rd best draft prospect and Prospects Live’s 168th best draft prospect.
Who will they select:
In all honesty, your guess is as good as mine. I reckon that the Jays may draft pitcher heavy once again, so I could see them drafting Vrieling as I believe the team could help him improve his strike throwing abilities.
Crawford is another intriguing player, because from his 2021, it looks like he would be at worst, a backup first baseman in the MLB. Williams also interests me, but he doesn’t rank nearly as high on Baseball America and Prospects Live.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. We’re just over a month away from the draft and the Jays are firing on all cylinders, so it’s a good time to be a fan.