The 2018 major league draft is upon us so let’s take an overly brief moment to look at what we have seen so far from the previous two draft classes selected under the current management team, shall we?
In 2016 the Jays signed 28 of their selections, one of whom is serving in the Navy and two of whom have been traded already. Of the remaining 25, 18 are currently assigned to full season teams. Among those, seven have reached AA, five are in A-Advanced Dunedin and the other six are in Lansing. That’s pretty good but it should be noted that 10 of those 18 are relief pitchers. I’ll take a closer look at each team’s return on these guys below.
From the 2017 class, 32 players were signed, and 20 are assigned to a full season squad. One, 10th round pitcher Justin Dillon, is assigned to AA (he actually got a few starts in AAA because the Jays had raided the Bisons rotation and was impressive, see below), eight are assigned to Dunedin, and the other 11 are with Lansing.
Hottest Pitcher: Justin Dillon
Why not stick with the theme, eh? In fact, it was not a real strenuous choice. There were a couple of other contenders who’ve had strong overall seasons and are worthy of mention but in the last couple of weeks, no one has statistically surpassed this guy or been a bigger surprise. Dillon was certainly very good in his Vancouver debut last year (1.96 ERA, .207 BAA, 0.91 WHIP, 7:1 K:BB) but he was the oldest player the Jays drafted (23 on draft day, 24 now) so he didn’t light up any of the top prospect lists.
This year he started at Dunedin where his stats were wrecked by one ugly outing on April 20. He was called on to fill in at Buffalo when they lost three starters to the Jays and in his first AAA start struck out 10 in six shutout innings (walking one). While the strikeouts seem to be an outlier, the run prevention isn’t. Apart from that one bad outing in Dunedin he has, across the three highest levels (he’s in New Hampshire now) his line looks like this:
46.2 IP, 32 hits, 9 ER, 9 BB, 36 K, 1.74 ERA, 0.88 WHIP.
That plus his age makes it likely he’ll be the first player from last year’s draft to play in the majors.
Hottest Hitter (OTV): Bo Bichette
The ongoing historic season of Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (.407/.462/.661 since the last report) tends to suck the oxygen out of every prospect conversation, particularly relating to his teammates. In this case it probably saved us from a lot of hand-wringing among Jays prospect-aware fans about “what’s wrong with Bo!?!” Indeed, as of May 23 his BA had dropped to .244 and his OPS was a mediocre .687 at the nadir of a 3 for 32 slump. Such worry, though, would have been unfounded. In 13 games since then he has slashed .354/.404/.625 and restored an upward trajectory to his season. One of Bichette’s reported strengths is the ability to adjust and it seems that may be exactly what he did here. Also, basically every scout who’s seen him is now reporting he’s defensively a major league shortstop at this point and doubts which led some to suppose an eventual move to second or third are never voiced anymore.
5 Other Stat Lines (May 18 – June 2)
- Ryan Borucki (LHP) – Buffalo – 1.82 ERA in four starts since the last report – Borucki bottomed out on May 1 when he gave up six runs in five IP. Since then, in six starts with 37.2 IP his ERA is 1.67 and he has posted a 0.88 WHIP. If the management decides the season is lost, look for Borucki to be the first true prospect SP to get a try in Toronto.
- Jordan Romano (RHP) – New Hampshire – 3.24 ERA in three starts – One of those three outings was an emergency start for a double-header in Buffalo which was always intended to be a one-off. In my opinion, he’s looking overdue for promotion but obviously the team has a plan I’m not party to.
- Angel Perdomo (LHP) – Dunedin – 2.81 ERA in 3 starts – Perdomo had his roughest outing of the season in terms of runs allowed on Sunday, but came into that game with a 1.74 ERA in his previous seven 2018 starts. Like Romano, I’ve been banging the drum for his promotion. I know they have their reasons for delaying but it sure doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
- Danny Jansen (C) – Buffalo – .366/.500/.488 – Jansen could easily have gotten the honors for this week. It’s time for the Jays to seriously consider what it would take to trade Martin if, indeed, they sell off this season.
- Brock Lundquist (RF) Lansing – .327/.490/.441 – Lundquist may well be the next Lugnut to move up to Dunedin. I’d be surprised if either he or Chavez Young play a game for the Nuts after their All-Star break in a couple of weeks.
– For the first time as a Jays affiliate, the Bisons are contenders in the IL North having gone 14-6 in their last 20 games. With a strong offense led by Jansen, Dalton Pompey (who’s now back on the DL until at least the all-star break -*sob*- because of a thumb injury) Dwight Smith, Jr and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (as well as erstwhile Jason Leblebijian) and a mostly reliable pitching staff, this isn’t a mirage. This is particularly true now that Anthony Alford seems to be breaking his slump.
– As noted above, Justin Dillon joins eight 2016 draft selections on this roster, most notably Bichette (3rd round). Cavan Biggio (6th), whom you’ve heard a word or three about, is from the same class as is starting pitcher and first rounder TJ Zeuch (by the way, go look at his stats for this year before he appears again. No questions, just do it). Joining them are four relievers: Zach Jackson (4th rounder) who was considered an up-and-comer but is walking WAY too many for the role right now, Nick Hartman (10th), Kirby Snead (11th) and Brayden Bouchey (34th) none of whom have sufficient IP at NH to say much about at the moment, but Snead, a lefty, was particularly good last season. Like Buffalo, leading the division is unfamiliar territory for the F-Cats but this is a really good team.
– The recently promoted (after setting ablaze Midwest League pitching) Kevin Smith, a SS who was last summer’s 4th round selection, joined currently injured first round choices (SS) Logan Warmoth and (RHSP) Nate Pearson along with catcher Riley Adams (3rd) from the same draft class here. Also in Dunedin are previously promoted Kacey Clemens (8th), 2016 5th round CF Joshua Palacios, and 19th round infielder Bradley Jones. On the pitching staff there’s another recent promotion, Zach Logue (5th 2017), who was dynamite for Lansing and two relievers from each class – closer Ty Tice (16th) and Jon Cheshire (36th) from last year and Andy Ravel (8th), Conner Eller (24th) and Jake Fishman (31st) from 2016. Still, Dunedin hasn’t been a good team and currently sits in last place. If Warmoth and Adams get going, and Smith and other promotions from Lansing (some still to come) can translate their success the second half might be brighter.
– The Lugnuts are rolling into Bowling Green Tuesday to take on the one team in their division with a (slightly) better record. Despite playing .632 ball, Lansing sits one game back of the Hot Rods but both are closing in on playoff spots. The team’s impressive offense has always had someone to lead the way, first it was Clemens and when he was promoted Smith carried on. Now he’s gone too but fellow 2017 selections 3b/2b Cullen Large (5th), who spent four weeks on the DL but in the week since he’s been back has been even better, and previously mentioned RF Brock Lundquist (6th) are leading the way. Another key offensive performer is CF Chavez Young who was taken in lowly round 39 in 2016 but has so far impressed everyone. Also, 1B/LF Ryan Noda (15th) is here, setting walk records but not yet looking like the offensive monster we saw in Bluefield last summer. Meanwhile the pitching staff is packed with recent choices with no fewer than 10 2016/17 selections playing here, even after promotions. The best of the bunch so far is 31st rounder SP Graham Spraker, who’s currently on the DL. Also keep your eye on 21st rounder SP Turner Larkins who sports a 2.17 ERA in his last six outings.
In conclusion, for you deep-dive prospect hounds, and this is REALLY deep, the DSL team began play yesterday and got crushed 17-0. The players of note here are SS Miguel Hiraldo (the second highest paid July 2 signing by the Jays last summer) and outfielder Alberto Rodriguez (5th highest). In all 10 of the signings announced last July 2 are here but three of the four highest profile guys are not, and project to land in the GCL when they get going soon.
Lead Photo © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports