It’s commonplace for teams to take late round fliers on intriguing – and far from polished – high school players.
With a draft that can consist of 50+ picks per club it makes a lot sense to see if a young player can be pried away from a collegiate scholarship for a little bit of money and an opportunity for professional baseball. And if that’s not the case, teams will use those late round picks on players as nothing more than to signify that, yes, they noticed him and will be potentially following his work closely at the next level.
The Chicago Cubs found a little – both literally and figuratively – known right-hander in the 48th round in 2003 who would eventually win back-to-back Cy Young awards (Tim Lincecum). Mark Mulder, eventually grabbed by Oakland with the #2 overall pick in 1998, was drafted in the 55th round by the Tigers in 1998. And as ESPN’s David Schoenfield pointed out to me via email, the Boston Red Sox plucked Pedro Alvarez (14th round) and Jason Castro (43rd round) both coming out of high school in 2005.
Given the overall length of the draft, it’s easy to see how a club could hit on an undeveloped, college-bound prospect once, maybe twice a year.
Except the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2011 draft class looks like one for the record books – of the club’s unsigned picks, four players – Tyler Beede, Aaron Nola, Andrew Suarez and Luke Weaver – all should hear their names called in the opening round or two of the draft, with the former pair potentially being grabbed in the top 10 selections.
Plus, the club drafted – and offered second round money to – Boston College lefty Andrew Chin, whose senior season in high school ended after a few innings thanks to Tommy John surgery, as well as Long Beach State first baseman Richard Prigatano, who is batting .314/.430/.404 this season.
Beede, whose draft profile can be found here, spurned a reported $2.5 million signing bonus after being grabbed with the club’s first pick, #21 overall, because it was a cool million dollars less than his asking price. Suarez, whose draft profile can be found here, was grabbed in the ninth round. Florida State ace right-hander Luke Weaver (draft profile) was grabbed in the 19th round and Nola (draft profile), who could be the first of the bunch to hear his name called this June, three rounds later, in the 22nd, nine rounds before his brother Austin was taken.
As for the rest of the Jays’ draft class that year only two have made their big league debuts – Anthony DeSclafani and Kevin Pillar – and one – Daniel Norris – was ranked in the club’s top 10 prospects.
And with Toronto clearly in the thick of the playoff race right now – they’re currently in first, leading the Yankees by two games – one has to wonder where the organization would be had they been able to sign the quartet, though it’s speaks incredibly high of the franchise’s scouting staff.