June 2012

Blue Jays unveil new strategy on Day 2

TORONTO — The Blue Jays started Day 2 of the Draft by selecting right-hander Chase DeJong in the second round at No. 81 overall on Tuesday afternoon.

DeJong, a two-way player from Wilson Woodrow High School in Long Beach, Calif., had a 1.08 ERA and batted .400 for his high school team this season. Last year, he was named the 2011 Long Beach Press-Telegram Dream Team Co-Pitcher of the Year after going 10-2 with a 1.00 ERA and 98 strikeouts.

He represented the United States at the COPABE Pan Am 18U Junior Championship in Cartagena, Colombia last fall and pitched the last inning in the United States’ championship win over Canada.

DeJong has a three-pitch mix, with a fastball that touches 94-mph, which he can consistently throw at 92, a curveball that flashes plus, and a refined changeup that his 18U USA pitching coach, Jim Lawler, describes as his “strikeout pitch.”

He was ranked as the No. 78 prospect heading into the Draft by MLB.com. Despite his previous commitment to USC, DeJong has informed MLB.com that he expects to sign with the Blue Jays.

DeJong was considered a tough sign going into the Draft but wants to go pro and appears as though he is already near a deal with the Blue Jays. He expects to get first round-type money.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a Blue Jay, 95 percent sure,” DeJong said. “They will pay overslot for me. … [I’ll] be treated as a first rounder compensation pick financially.”

DeJong said he is very excited to be drafted by Toronto and is ready to get his pro career underway.

“It was an amazing feeling and something I have wanted since Little League,” he said. “I was at a loss for words and was hugging everyone around me.”

DeJong was watching the draft live online and missed the call from Blue Jays scouting director Andrew Tinnish because he was celebrating with his family. He was with his mom, his two brothers, their girlfriends, his uncle and cousin.

His cousin Jordan DeJong used to play in the Blue Jays organization, so Toronto already has a special place in the hearts of the DeJong family.

DeJong believes he is developing a true three-pitch arsenal that should set him up well as a starter. He knew it was time to get a better feel for his secondary offerings as opposing hitters became more mature. The third pitch he mastered was the changeup, which Lawler described as a “split-chanegup that just goes and dives, it’s outstanding.”

“I really didn’t like the fact that a hitter stepping into the box had a 50-50 chance of knowing what was coming,” DeJong said. “So developing that third pitch, it’s a 33 percent chance that the hitter is going to get it right. It helps me.”

Lawler is fully confident in the abilities of DeJong.

“This guy is going to do it,” Lawler said. “He has the size and the length. Why he will make it is his maturity level. He was always asking questions of what he should do to a hitter. [Ask] How to pitch to guys. He seems like a 21-year-old.

“If he decides to go to Minor League ball, he’s ready.”

Lawler said DeJong isn’t a player who tries to light up the radar gun, which is what is most impressive. Lawler believes most kids his age try to throw as hard as possible, but DeJong was able to impress scouts even more so by being a pitcher opposed to a thrower.

Being a professional ballplayer is something DeJong has always wanted and Lawler believes he has the right makeup for it.

“You want him in the dugout,” Lawler said. “He’s a baseball guy, who wants to talk the game. He has his act together.”

Blue Jays select CF Anthony Alford in third round 

The Blue Jays selected a player many believe to be a first-round talent in Anthony Alford during the third round, No. 112 overall, of the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday.

Potential signability issues may have scared some teams off from Alford, who has committed to the University of Southern Mississippi on a football scholarship and will play baseball their as well, if he doesn’t sign.

Alford, who considers football his number one sport, told teams not to draft him because he intends to stay at school and has already started taking classes, but will listen to see what the Blue Jays present to him.

“They were talking to me in the first round, but I was up front with them,” Alford said. “I didn’t think they were going to take me that early. Right now, I want to enjoy it. I was excited, but I’m not going to make any quick decisions. I’m going to think about it for a while.”

At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Alford is said to be toolsy, a plus runner and was ranked as MLB.com’s No. 56 Draft prospect. He is said to have as much upside as anyone in the draft.

Alford’s high school coach, Larry Watkins, raved about his ability. Watkins described Alford as someone with exceptional instincts on the bases and a strong arm from center. He believes Alford is one of the best kids he has ever coached and said the Blue Jays scouted him hard all season long.

“He’s strong, a very gifted kid,” Watkins said. “He works hard, works hard in the weight room. He is very coachable and makes the adjustments. For a pitcher, it is tough to get him twice. He plays the game like it is supposed to be played.”

Blue Jays select RHP Tucker Donahue in fourth round  

With its third pick of the day, Toronto selected right-hander Tucker Donahue from Stetson University in the fourth round at No. 145 overall.

Donahue, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 38th round in 2011, was 2-1 with a 5.20 ERA over 27 2/3 innings of relief this season.

Blue Jays select LHP Brad Delatte in fifth round 

The Blue Jays selected left-hander Brad Delatte from Nicholls State University with their fifth-round pick, at No. 175 overall.

In 34 2/3 innings of relief, Delatte went 0-2 with a 2.86 ERA and struck out 35 while walking 18.

Blue Jays select 3B Eric Phillips in sixth round

In the sixth round, at No. 205 overall, the Blue Jays selected third baseman Eric Phillips from Georgia Southern University.

Phillips, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, holds the school record for career hits and batted a team-best .391 with five homers, 54 RBIs and a 1.022 OPS this season.

Blue Jays select OF Ian Parmley in seventh round 

Toronto selected outfielder Ian Parmley from Liberty University, Virginia, in the seventh round at No. 235 overall.

Parmley hit .312 with 30 stolen bases in 34 attempts for the Liberty Flames this season.

Blue Jays select C Tucker Frawley in eighth round

Toronto selected catcher Tucker Frawley from Coastal Carlona in the eighth round.

Frawley is a college senior, who was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division I baseball first team.  He was the 2012 Big South Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and graduated with a grade point average of 3.94.

Blue Jays select 1B Jordan Leyland in ninth round 

The Blue Jays selected Jordan Leyland from Azusa Pacific University in the ninth round on Tuesday.

He  hit .419, with 22 home runs, 74 RBIs and a .802 slugging percentage.

Blue Jays select  CF Alex Azor in 10th round

Toronto picked center fielder Alex Azor from US Naval Academy in the 10th round, 325th overall.

Azor earned All-Patriot League first team honors for the second time in his career and led the league with 28 hits in conference games and his .364 batting average was the third highest.

He commitment to the Navy could pose some complications.

The rest

The Blue Jays concluded Day 2 by going back to the high-school route for their final five picks.

In order, Toronto chose outfielder Grant Heyman, left-hander Ryan Kellogg, catcher John Silviano and lefties Zakery Wasilewski and Ryan Borucki.

Kellogg was the first Canadian selected by the Blue Jays and was considered to be the top Canadian heading into the Draft. He was an integral part of the Canadian Junior National Team, which lost to DeJong and the U.S. team at Colombia, and many felt he would go higher in the Draft.

Signability issues likely dropped Kellogg in the Draft, as he’s committed to Arizona State University.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound left-hander was named the ESPN Wide World of Sports Junior National Team MVP for his efforts at the Junior Championship. He has a fastball that sits in the high-80s and uses a changeup as his out-pitch.

In total, Toronto used the first two days to draft nine pitchers, five outfielders, two catchers, two third basemen, and a first baseman. Of the 19 selections, 11 were high schoolers.

— Chris Toman

Blue Jays complete Day 1 with three high schoolers

TORONTO — The Blue Jays completed their first day at Draft by taking three high schoolers — including two pitchers — in the compensation round on Monday night.

Toronto’s first pick in the compensation round went to left-hander Matthew Smoral at No. 50 overall. Third baseman Mitch Nay was then selected at No. 58 and was quickly followed by right-hander Tyler Gonzales.

The most intriguing of the three would be Smoral, who was projected to go relatively early in the first round until a stress fracture in his right foot ended his season in April. He reportedly has the ability to throw in the low 90s with an impressive sinking changeup.

“He’s poised on the mound and goes right after hitters, but he will have to improve that breaking ball if he wants to be a starter at the next level,” MLB.com columnist Jonathan Mayo wrote in his scouting report. “If he can sharpen that slider, he does have the other tools to pitch in that role. The team that takes him will be banking on his very high ceiling, though not being seen for the rest of the spring is sure to hurt his stock.”

Last season as a junior at Solon High School in Ohio, Smoral went 4-1 with an ERA under 2.00. The 18-year-old also participated in the Perfect Game All-American Classic and was named to the All-Sun East Spring team. He has a commitment to play at the University of North Carolina next season and could be considered a tough pitcher to sign.

Nay, who has a commitment to play at Arizona State University, hit .495 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs with a 1.071 slugging percentage last season for Hamilton High School in Arizona. He took part in the 2011 Area Code Games and was named an ESPNHS All-American.

Gonzales has the ability to throw in the mid-90s with a slider that has potential but still needs to be refined. The same could be said for his overall command on the mound and also could be considered a tough sign because of his commitment to the University of Texas.

“Gonzales is more thrower than pitcher, but guys who can throw as hard as he can will always generate interest,” Mayo wrote.

“Also a shortstop who could potentially play and pitch at the University of Texas, most think he should pitch as a professional. That might be because he has a potentially plus fastball, one he’s cranked up to 96 mph in the past.”

Blue Jays take Stroman No. 22 overall

TORONTO — The Blue Jays selected college right-hander Marcus Stroman with their second pick — No. 22 overall — of the First-Year Player Draft on Monday night.

Stroman is a 5-foot-9 reliever with an electric arm that has drawn somecomparisons to former Major Leaguer Tom Gordon. He reportedly throws his fastball in the mid-90s while also possessing an above-average curveball.

The 21-year-old is a hard thrower with the type of advanced skills that could translate into a relatively quick ascension through the Minor Leagues. MLB.com had him ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the Draft while the pick comes with a price slot bonus of $1.8 million.

Stroman appeared in 17 games as a junior at Duke University this season. He went 3-4 with a 2.80 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. He recorded four saves but also made eight starts but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the Blue Jays view his long-term future as a starter or a reliever.

In 2011, Stroman made seven relief appearances with four saves and 17 strikeouts for the USA Baseball Collegiate National team. He was originally selected in the 18th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by the Nationals but opted to attend university instead.

“He throws his fastball consistently in the mid-90s with some pretty good tail when it’s down in the zone,” MLB.com columnist Jonathan Mayo wrote in his scouting report. “He complements it with a power curve that has a nasty late break to it. His command isn’t fine, but he’s generally around the strike zone with both offerings.”

Stroman was Toronto’s second pick of the night following the selection of outfielder D.J. Davis with the 17th overall selection.

Blue Jays use their first pick on Davis

Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com

TORONTO — The Blue Jays selected high school outfielder D.J. Davis with the 17th overall selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft on Monday night.

Davis is a speedy center fielder from Stone County High School in Mississippi. The 18-year-old is a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder who is said to have well-above average range in the field while improving his approach at the plate this season.

The native of Wiggins, MS, was considered one of the fastest players in the Draft. His offensive potential has been a bit of a question mark in recent years but he reportedly has shown a better approach and possesses power to the gaps. It’s possible he could remind some people of Anthony Gose, who is currently one of the club’s top prospects.

Last season, Davis played in 25 games and batted .376 with 32 hits, six doubles and 18 RBI. He has a commitment to play at Meridian
Community College next season.

The Blue Jays have a total of 14 picks in the first 10 rounds of the Draft, which is tied with St. Louis and San Diego for most in the Majors. Toronto has a total cap of $8,830,800 for their selections with an average of $630,711, which ranks fifth among teams.

Five of those selections were set to occur on Day 1. The 17th selection was their pick based on last year’s standings while No. 22 overall was given to the club as compensation for failing to sign 2011 first-round pick Tyler Beede.

The last time the Blue Jays had two first-rounders was in 2007 when the club took shortstop Kevin Ahrens (No. 16) and current starting catcher J.P. Arencibia (No. 21).

Toronto also has three compensatory picks between the first and second rounds following the departures of Jose Molina, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch via free agency during the offseason. It’s the third consecutive year the Blue Jays have possessed at least five picks on Day 1.

In 2011, the club used its six selections on the first day to draft four right-handed pitchers and two outfielders. In total, Toronto used 12 of its top 15 picks last year on pitchers who were at least 6-foot-1.