The Blue Jays have had a few draft successes in recent years, but their top picks have been something of a mess.
While there’s still time for guys like T.J. Zeuch, Logan Warmoth, and especially Jordan Groshans to make an impact, the organization can’t be happy with the fact their top picks in the last 10 drafts have given them virtually nothing at the major league level.
Only two of those 10 have even worn a Blue Jays uniform in the majors - Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire - and McGuire returned to the roost as a 29-year-old free agent flier, appearing in just four games. Jenkins was hardly a star either, which makes the group about as bust-heavy as they come.
Who could they have gotten instead, though? It’s easy to point to any under-drafted star and say “the Blue Jays should have picked him”, but that’s a disingenuous application of hindsight.
By and large, the club was choosing from players who were ranked approximately in their area of the draft. If we’re going to play the “what if” game, let’s play it right by looking at players who were taken in the five picks below each Blue Jays’ top selection.
Those are players who were available and seen as being worthy of approximately that high a pick at the time. Here are the picks the Blue Jays should have made at the beginning of their last 10 drafts that they may have actually considered:
Actual Pick: RHP Chad Jenkins 20th overall
Jenkins threw 100.2 innings of 3.31 ERA ball for the Blue Jays, with a virtually non-existent strikeout rate and unimpressive velocity. His sinker was described as a “bowling ball” often, but he didn’t post an elite groundball rate and there was never any reason to expect him to take off, despite his superficially OK numbers.
The right-hander was definitely a bust, but not as much of one as some of the guys below.
Better Pick: CF Mike Trout 25th overall (Los Angeles Angels)
This feels unfair because Trout could go down as the best player of all time and every team that passed on him (including the Angels who went with Randal Grichuk a pick before) ought to feel silly. However, Trout fits within the rules of this game, so he counts. Pretty safe to say Blue Jays history would be awfully different if Trout had been the successor of Vernon Wells in centre field.
Grichuk also would have been a better pick than Jenkins. Even the consistently-average Kyle Gibson would work here.
Actual Pick: RHP Deck McGuire 11th overall
McGuire was supposed to be a safe pick as polished college arm, but he flamed out in the Blue Jays system. He appeared in the major leagues briefly with three teams - including the Blue Jays - without much success.
He recently threw a no-hitter in Korea, so that’s something.
Better Pick: LHP Chris Sale 13th overall (Chicago White Sox)
Sale has been to the All-Star Game seven straight times, and could be on his way to Cooperstown. The fact he hasn’t won a Cy Young yet is kind of silly. Good guy to have.
All-Star catcher Yasmany Grandal, selected right after McGuire, would have been a nifty choice too.
Actual Pick: RHP Tyler Beede 21st overall (did not sign)
Beede is still trying to stick in the majors as a 26-year-old with the Giants, and the Blue Jays weren’t able to sign him in the first place. The club did get Marcus Stroman as compensation for this pick, so things worked out in the end.
Better Pick: 2B Kolten Wong 22nd overall (St. Louis Cardinals)
Wong is no superstar, but he’s been an above-average starter at the keystone since 2014. Thanks to strong defence and an OK bat he’s the sort of “set-it-and-forget-it” everyday lineup staple Devon Travis hasn’t been thanks to injuries.
Actual Pick: D.J. Davis 17th overall
Davis was a good athlete but he moved excruciatingly slowly through the Blue Jays’ system, never showing much with the bat. He didn’t make it to Double-A and was released in June 2018.
Better Pick: Corey Seager 18th overall (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Though Seager has been derailed by injuries lately, he was legitimately a superstar by age 22 and could wind up fighting Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa for the title of best shortstop of his era.
Actual Pick: RHP Phil Bickford 10th overall (did not sign)
Something could theoretically come of Bickford - who’s struggled with injuries throughout his pro career - but he’s almost 24 and buried at High-A at the moment. The Blue Jays weren’t able to sign the right-hander, and ended up with catcher Max Pentecost in 2014 instead. The backstop couldn’t shake his injury worries and retired from baseball prior to the 2019 season.
Better Pick: OF Hunter Renfroe 13th overall (San Diego Padres)
There weren’t any stars available in this part of the draft, but considering the current state of the Blue Jays outfield they’d love a guy like Renfroe, who’s a bit Grichuk-esque with a plus-power, limited-discipline profile.
Actual Pick: RHP Jeff Hoffman 9th overall
Hoffman was the biggest prospect the Blue Jays relinquished in the Troy Tulowitzki deal, so he did provide some value for the team. Of course, the Tulowitzki deal didn’t really work out for the Blue Jays - or the Rockies, really - so it’s hard for him to get too much credit for that.
The 26-year-old is still trying to establish himself with the Rockies, but may be able to carve out a career for himself as a reliever or depth starter.
Better Pick: SS/OF Trea Turner 13th overall (San Diego Padres)
Although Turner doesn’t wield a mighty bat, his speed and defensive ability make him one of the most exciting young stars in the sport. He also brings impressive defensive versatility.
Actual Pick: RHP Jon Harris 29th overall
Harris is 25 and hasn’t wowed anyone with his work in the minor leagues yet. He’s reached Triple-A, so he could pitch for the Blue Jays at some point in the near future, but there’s little chance he ends up being an MLB difference maker.
Better Pick: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes 32nd overall (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Hayes has scuffled a bit this year, but he entered the season as the top prospect in the Pirates system. The 22-year-old profiles as an everyday third baseman with an exceptional glove and more-than-respectable bat. He’s another guy with a big-league dad, which is awfully on brand for the Blue Jays right now.
Actual Pick: RHP T.J. Zeuch 21st overall
Zeuch could still make it as a back-end starter, but his odds are getting longer and longer. He’ll be 24 this year, he’s dealing with a lat strain and still hasn’t pitched at Triple-A.
Better Pick: RHP Eric Lauer 25th overall (San Diego Padres)
Lauer isn’t anyone’s idea of a top-of-the-rotation guy, but he’s got close to 200 MLB innings of 4.38 ERA ball to his name with the peripherals to match. Lauer is the type of starter almost any team could use to fill out their fourth or fifth spot, especially on as thin on starting pitching as the Blue Jays currently are.
Actual Pick: SS Logan Warmoth 22nd overall
Just two years after being drafted Warmoth looks like a clear bust. He could possibly work his way to the bigs as a utility man. A dismal 2018 relegated him to non-prospect status and he’s repeating High-A as a 23-year-old this year.
Better Pick: RHP Tanner Houck 24th overall (Boston Red Sox)
There are a few prospects to choose from here, none of whom jump off the page. Houck was the Red Sox’s fifth-ranked prospect coming into the season per FanGraphs. The 22-year-old doesn’t look like a future star, but you’d take him over Warmoth.
Actual Pick: SS/3B Jordan Groshans 12th overall
Groshans look like he could be the best of this bunch. He’s hit the ground running in his pro career, showing off the power bat that could make him a big-league regular. The 19-year-old has a ways to go, but he hasn’t given anyone reason to doubt him yet.
Better Pick: N/A
Nobody drafted after Groshans has been obviously better than him out of the gate, although some scouts are awfully high on Rays pick Matthew Liberatore.
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