There is a big difference between selecting fifth and 19th in the first round of Major League Baseball’s annual draft, a gulf the Blue Jays will have to navigate this season after Austin Martin fortuitously dropped to Toronto’s slot after a handful of picks last year.
But selecting further down the pecking order is a good problem for the Jays to have; it means Toronto is having success at the big-league level. It also means casting a wider net in terms of who the organization believes will be available by the time their first pick comes around, and being a little more reactionary to what goes on ahead of them.
“That’s what makes the draft so exciting,” Jays scouting director Shane Farrell said Thursday from Florida. “We’ll line up the players the best we can and use all the information that we have to place them in that order. As the draft starts to fall and players come off the board, information is going to keep changing, so (we will be) just staying true to the process and what we’ve done in the week or 10 days leading up to the draft to calm some of those nerves to help us make the best decision possible.”
As usual, the Jays will be looking for the best remaining player at each slot, no matter their age, their position or their schooling. At the college level, for example, Toronto needs to be open to smaller schools rather than being tied to power conferences like the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Southeastern Conference.
“I think the important thing as we start to pick deeper and deeper in the draft is just coming into each draft and each round with an open mind and not getting too specific on what you’re looking for,” Farrell said.
Toronto will operate a fairly normal draft room during the proceedings, which begin with first-round selections Sunday at 7 p.m. and continue with the second to 10th rounds Monday and the 11th to 20th Tuesday. The Jays are about a week into meetings at their player development complex in Dunedin, Fla, with about 20 to 25 staff members, including cross-checkers, analysts and other members of the office, setting up boards and going over lists. It’s a refreshing change after most of last year’s work was done virtually.
The Jays, who have a pick in every round but the second this year, have the third-lowest bonus pool in baseball in 2021, at $5,775,900 (U.S.). They are open to using it in various ways, Farrell said.
With some sense of normalcy returning to certain parks in the U.S., Farrell has been able to see some scouts and staff across the country and watch games in person. Access to players and their families has been more limited, warranting a virtual aspect to this year’s draft process again, but Toronto has also been able to hold a handful of workouts in Florida over the last month.
Canadian prospects have been particularly hard to scout given the more widespread pandemic-related restrictions this past year, though the Jays did manage to catch up with some Canadians who played in the U.S.
But challenges have been par for the course for every scouting staff in baseball since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And Farrell will be happy to sacrifice a straightforward draft if it means winning at the big-league level.
“It’s all of our hopes that we’re picking even further behind pick 19 for years to come.”
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