Thanks to the departures of former players like Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg, John Buck and, yes, Miguel Olivo, the Blue Jays will be picking early and often this Monday when the MLB draft takes place. No one’s ever accused baseball’s draft pick compensation system of being simple, but the Blue Jays’ amateur scouting director isn’t about to complain about selecting seven of the first 78 players in a talented, top-heavy draft.
“To me it’s an advantage,” Andrew Tinnish told MLBTR. “I think the more picks you have up high, if you scout well and sign the players, you’ve got a better chance of getting more quality big leaguers.”
Some would argue that successful drafts correlate better with dollars spent than number of picks, and if that's the case, the Blue Jays may be in an especially enviable position. If last year is any indication, ownership will provide the Jays with the finances to pursue ‘tough signs’ like high schoolers with college commitments, two sport stars or players with over-slot bonus demands.
In 2010, the first full year under GM Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays spent $11.6MM on bonuses - the third highest amount in draft history, according to Baseball America. When the signing deadline approaches in mid-August, the Blue Jays will again be prepared to sign top players, as long as their asking prices match up with Toronto’s assessment of their potential.
“The way we look at it is we place a value on the player and if we select a player and our value matches what he’s willing to sign for, then we feel like we’re going to be able to be successful and sign a handful of players,” Tinnish said, pointing out that the Blue Jays signed all of their top selections last year. “We’re fortunate in the sense that we have a supportive ownership group that understands that we place value on players in specific areas.”
Last year Tinnish selected Deck McGuire, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard and Asher Wojciechowski - a quartet of right-handed pitchers - with his first picks as an MLB scouting director. The Blue Jays say they expect to select the top players available again instead of drafting based on positional need.
“When you draft a player - whether it’s a high school player or a college player - they’re further from what they’re ultimately going to be than in most sports,” Tinnish said. “This isn’t the NBA; this isn’t the NFL where you can draft a player out of college and they can have an immediate impact on your franchise.”
Blue Jays scouts are meeting this week to rank hundreds of players they’ve watched over the course of the last year-plus and they hope to wrap up the discussions with some time to spare. Tinnish says he’s more comfortable running the draft as a second-year scouting director, but that doesn’t make balancing reports, stats and video any easier.
"You’re trying to weigh what six, seven, sometimes maybe even eight or nine people saw on different days," Tinnish said. "You’re looking at performance, you’re looking at health, you’re looking at makeup and ultimately it’s our job as scouting directors to in the end make a call on who goes ahead of whom."
The Blue Jays select 21st, 35th, 46th, 53rd and 57th on Monday, then twice more before the end of the second round. Though Tinnish sees it as a “top-heavy” draft with many impact prospects available early on, that doesn’t mean the ones the Blue Jays end up with will be close to Major League-ready.
“I’m realistic and I understand that it takes time,” he said. “Am I excited about players? Absolutely, I’m very excited about players that we took in last year’s draft, but I also understand that this is a long process that takes time and hopefully they do end up making a difference for us some day.”