The Blue Jay Way (Part II)

George Pimentel

An in depth analysis of Alex Anthopoulos' tenure as the Toronto Blue Jays General Manager.

Part one of this series was basically a rundown of Anthopoulos' so far, short career and why he decided to make a play for playoffs headed into 2013. We went over how everything seamed to be aligning for the Blue Jays from easier competition and the second wild card to the right players being available at the right price. In this part of the series we will be dealing with Anthopoulos' draft technique as well as trying to gauge his success at it.

Anthopoulos has overseen three drafts during his tenure as the Blue Jays general manager and the aspect that really defines his drafts is the sheer amount of draft picks he's had. Over the three years, the Blue Jays have drafted 20 players in the first two rounds. Just by being able to add that much talent to your minor league system year after year gives you a much larger margin of error.

Anthopoulos was great at taking advantage of the old and broken former free agent compensation system and was therefore able to restock his minor league system so efficiently. An absolute brilliant move of his was trading for Miguel Olivo following the 2010 season. Why was this such a brilliant move you may ask, well Olivo happened to be a Type B free agent that offseason. That meant, since the Blue Jays offered him arbitration they'd receive a supplemental round selection as compensation.

Anthopoulos was the master of turning major league veterans into draft picks. He turned players like Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas and Scott Downs into supplemental round draft picks, as well as others. Having the ability to take advantage of an awful system, Anthopoulos did just that. First round picks are an extremely valuable commodity and being able to create them out of players like Kevin Gregg is nothing less than excellent. The brilliance behind Type B free agents was because the team losing them was not compensated via the signing team's draft pick, the other 29 MLB franchises were no less likely to sign them, basically everybody won.

We might as well proceed to taking a look at Anthopoulos' actual draft results. What I did was compile a list of all players drafted by Anthopoulos to be graded by John Sickels, the resident SB Nation prospect guru.

Round Overall Player Pos HiLvl 2011 Sickels 2012 Sickels 2013 Sickels
1 11 Deck McGuire P AA B+ B+ C
1 34 Aaron Sanchez P A B B- B+
1 38 Noah Syndergaard P A B- B+ A-
1 41 Asher Wojciechowski P AA B B- B-
2 61 Griffin Murphy P A- B- C C
2 69 Kellen Sweeney 3B A B-
2 80 Justin Nicolino P A C+ B+ B+
3 93 Chris Hawkins SS A+ C C C
3 113 Marcus Knecht LF A+ C+ C+ C
4 126 Samuel Dyson P MLB C C
5 156 Dickie Thon SS RK B- C
6 186 Sean Nolin P AA C B
7 216 Mitchell Taylor P RK C C
16 486 Dalton Pompey CF A C
35 1056 Dan Barnes P AA C C
1 35 Jacob Anderson OF RK B- C
1 46 Joe Musgrove P RK B- C
1 53 Dwight Smith Jr. OF A- B- C
1 57 Kevin Comer P RK C C
2 74 Daniel Norris P A- B+ B-
2 78 Jeremy Gabryszwski P RK C C
3 108 John Stilson P AA C C+
4 139 Thomas Robson P RK C
6 199 Anthony DeSclafani P A C C
7 229 Christian Lopes SS A- C C+
8 259 Mark Biggs P RK C
11 349 Andy Burns SS A C
13 409 Matt Dean 3B RK B- C
25 769 Eric Arce 1B RK C
29 889 Taylor Cole P A- C
32 979 Kevin Pillar CF A+ C+
1 17 D.J. Davis OF A- B-
1 22 Marcus Stroman P AA B
1 50 Matt Smoral P B-
1 58 Mitch Nay 3B C+
1 60 Tyler Gonzales P RK C
2 81 Chase DeJong P RK C+
3 112 Anthony Alford OF RK C
15 475 Ryan Borucki P RK C

Starting with 2010, right off the bat almost every draft pick through the first seven rounds of the draft were graded, now that's a lot of talent. While Deck McGuire, their first pick of 2010, might not be as good as once advertised, the other pitchers in that draft have proven to be great finds. Between Sanchez, Syndergaard, Wojciechowski, Nicolino and Nolin they managed to add a sickening amount of top shelf pitching talent. Three of those pitchers have been traded away this past year, one in each of the three big trades the Blue Jays have pulled off.

2011 has marked the only time Anthopoulos has failed to sign one of his top draft picks, failing to sign Tyler Beede the hard throwing right handed pitcher who happened to be the Blue Jays first selection of the draft. All players through round eight were graded by John Sickels in his book. Similar to 2010 as well, three of the first ten round starters were traded. Kevin Comer and Joe Musgrove were traded to Houston along with Asher Wojciechowski and Anthony Desclafani was traded along with Justin Nicolino to Miami. While Jacob Anderson and Dwight Smith Jr. have been somewhat disappointing up to this point in their careers, toolsy high school outfielders tend to take a longer time to develop.

While the 2012 draft was just a few months ago, Anthopoulos drafted a very strong mix of players. Mixing high upside arms like Marcus Stroman, Matt Smoral, Chase DeJong and Tyler Gonzalez with the supremely toolsy outfielders D.J. Davis and Anthony Alford and let's not forget Mitch Nay's raw power ability.

Marcus Stroman was one of my favorite players heading into the draft. He was included in many top ten draft prospect lists due to his mix of college dominance and great stuff. As a junior at Duke, Stroman pitched to a 12.49 K/9 and a 2.39 BB/9. Stroman throws a fastball that ranges from the low to mid-90's and also throws a hard curveball in the low-80's. While his changeup is behind his other two offerings, it isn't at all a bad pitch. So why did Stroman fall to the Blue Jays, mainly because he's only 5'9" and doesn't possess the cleanest mechanics in the world generally due to him rushing his delivery at times. This has led scouts to see him more as a reliever than a starter.

While Stroman might have been too much of a risk as a top ten selection, he was a steal at 22. His proximity to the majors is possibly Stroman's biggest attraction. He's probably major league ready right now and is likely better than a lot of teams' three starters as well as their closers . If Stroman proves to be durable enough to be a major league starter, he'll end up making a lot of teams regret they passed on him.

Overall Anthopoulos clearly has put an emphasis on raw but very talented high school players over lower ceiling college players. If you look at the draft as a whole only 87 out of 156 draft picks have been drafted out of high school, but if you only look at the first round, 11 out of 14 have been straight out of high school. As for the pitcher/hitter breakdown, 81 out of 156 have been pitchers, a pretty even split. Anthopoulos has drafts his players from all over, drafting 26 players from California, 18 from Florida, 17 from Canada and 15 from Texas. Being that those three American states are considered tops when it comes to baseball those numbers should not surprise you. The 17 from Canada is nice to see from the only team currently located north of the border.

So what do we see from all of this. The truth is because of Anthopoulos' tendency to draft raw high school players, three years doesn't suffice in order to properly gauge his ability to draft. That being said, the amount of pitching the Blue Jays have been able to develop and stock their system with as well as use in trades, is pretty incredible. Obviously no one in baseball can get every draft pick right and that's why players like Albert Pujols sometimes fall to the 13th round. This is why having a clear cut draft strategy and stocking up on certain portfolios of players as opposed to putting too much stock into any one individual player has worked very well up to this point. While clearly not every one of the players drafted will work out, if you are confident in your scouting and player development a nice percentage of them will.

Scouting, drafting and developing are the key elements to sustaining success at the major league level and it sure looks like Alex Anthopoulos has found the right approach in doing so. Anthopoulos has shown his ability to first stockpile draft picks, then trust his ability to find the right high risk yet high reward players and most importantly has shown consistency in his drafting methodology. Also, because of the amount of talent Anthopoulos has compiled in the first few rounds of the draft, he hasn't had to pay players overslot outside the top ten rounds, meaning less risk in that area. Anthopoulos has a very defined drafting process involving taking big, but calculated, risks and spending a lot of money, but as long as he believes in his process, the proper outcome should follow.

Next Time

We will continue to discuss AA's ability to acquire talent.

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