In case some of you are wondering who the Blue Jays drafting in the 2013 amateur draft, below is a short review of the prospects. We will have to see who signs.
First round pick – Phil Bickford (RHP). Bickford is a hard-throwing, right-handed senior from Oaks Christian High School (Calif.). He has the ability to hit 97 mph with his fastball while also using a changeup and slider in his repertoire. The 17-year-old Bickford has a commitment to Cal State Fullerton and could be a relatively tough player to sign. The recommended slot value for the No. 10 pick is $2,921,400, and the club has a total of $6,398,200 to spend in this year’s Draft, which ranks 17th in the Major Leagues. It remains to be seen whether the Jays will be able to sign Bickford, but they appear optimistic.
Second round pick – Clinton Hollon (RHP). Hollon is a senior from Woodford County High School (Ky.) and was taken with the 47th overall selection of the Draft. He has the ability to reach mid-90s on his fastball while also possessing a power curveball, slider and changeup. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder was one of the most hyped pitching prospects in the game a year ago until a right arm injury temporarily derailed his lofty expectations. As a junior, Hollon experienced tendinitis in his right forearm after leaving the East Coast Pro Showcase and was eventually shut down for the year. He returned this spring and was throwing well, which allowed him to climb up the Draft board. Hollon was ranked the 86th-best prospect in the Draft, according to MLB.com. He went 9-1 with a 0.61 ERA in 10 starts as a senior this season while striking out 87 batters in 57 innings and also being a 2013 Rawlings First Team All-American. Hollon has a commitment to the University of Kentucky so we’ll see if the Jays can get him signed.
Third round pick – Patrick Murphy (RHP). Murphy is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last year. The 17-year-old prospect was one of the top-ranked players in the state of Arizona in 2012 before being sidelined with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in late April.
Fourth round pick – Evan Smith (LHP). Toronto chose 6-foot-5 left-hander Evan Smith from Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, Ala. The 17-year-old senior topped out with a 93-mph fastball and an 80-mph curveball at the 2013 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. Smith was among the best high school students in the Southeast United States, and was named to the 2013 Southeast All-Region first team.
Fifth round pick – Daniel Lietz (LHP). The 6-foot-2, 19-year-old southpaw went undrafted out of high school in 2012, but spent this past year with Heartland Community College in Illinois, where he showed a sharp increase in his fastball. Lietz’s fastball went from the mid 80s to the upper 80s/low 90s after spending the winter in the weight room. His fastball is complemented by two potential Major League pitches, a slider and changeup, and Lietz also throws a splitter and a curveball. In eight appearances with Heartland, Lietz started eight games, completing seven of them (with two shutouts), and striking out 68 in 74.1 innings.
Sixth round pick – Matt Boyd (LHP). Boyd spent his first three years at Oregon State as a reliever, but transitioned to a starter for the first time as a senior this spring after not signing with the Cincinnati Reds, who took him in the 2012 Draft. As a starter, he’s shown the ability to mix four pitches well, all of which could be Major League average as he develops them. Along with logging double-digit victories this spring, Boyd led the Beavers during the regular season in innings pitched, strikeouts and complete games. Big, strong and durable, Boyd throws his fastball, curve, slider and changeup around the plate consistently and varies his arm slot to give hitters different looks. Boyd could remain a starter at the next level, though his Draft selection comes with the insurance of knowing that he also had success as a lower-angle lefty reliever in the past.
Seventh round pick – Conner Greene (RHP). Greene, 18, pitched for Santa Monica High School in 2013. The 170-pound righty has great downward plane on his fastball, something that could be a plus pitch as he fills out. He also sports a curveball and splitter, although he’ll need better command with all three of his pitches to have any success at the big league level. That didn’t stop him from dominating high school students in 2013, as Greene had a 1.68 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 50 innings. Greene will play for College of Southern Nevada if he doesn’t sign with the Blue Jays, but turning professional seems more likely.
Eighth round pick – Kendall Graveman (RHP). Graveman, a senior at Mississippi State, was previously selected in the 36th round by the Marlins in 2012, but didn’t sign to have one more opportunity to play in the College World Series. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has an upper-80s fastball with heavy sinking action. He also has a solid changeup and a below-average curveball in his repertoire, and has good command of all his pitches. As a starter, Graveman had a 2.94 ERA with three complete games, one shutout and 62 strikeouts in 98 innings in his senior year while serving as the team’s co-captain. Graveman threw 294.1 innings in his four years at Mississippi State, and was easily the most experienced member of the MSU pitching corps.
Ninth round pick – Chad Girodo (LHP). Girodo is a 6-foot-1 veteran southpaw reliever who appeared in 33 games with MSU in 2013. The lefty went 7-1 with a 1.10 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. Girodo has spent all four years as a reliever in college, only making five spot starts throughout his collegiate career. This past season saw a completely different pitcher step on the mound than in the previous three years, as Girodo’s ERA was 4.5 runs better than his previous best season.
Tenth round pick – Garrett Custons (C). After selecting nine consecutive pitchers, Toronto ended Day 2 of the Draft by selecting catcher Garrett Custons of the United States Air Force in Colorado. Custons is a two-time All-Mountain West catcher who is solid on both sides of the ball. This season, the 22-year-old has hit .353, with .441 on-base percentage, 22 doubles, a home run and 25 RBIs in 53 games. Defensively, he has thrown out 20 of 37 would-be basestealers. Custons is a senior, originally from Sarasota, Fla., and was one of 15 semifinalists for the 2013 Johnny Bench Award, given to the top Division 1 collegiate catcher.
Bottom line – The Jays took 9 pitchers in the first 9 rounds, most of which were young high-schoolers that are tall with power arms. This is a smart way to do a draft. Pitching is everything and as seen with this past offseason, young pitching prospects can be used in trades to net position players when the time comes. Looks like the Jays wanted to restock the cupboards with talented young arms.