TORONTO -- The Blue Jays selected college catcher Max Pentecost with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
Pentecost was generally regarded as the top catcher available. That title could have gone to Seattle's No. 6 selection Alex Jackson, but he's expected to transition to the outfield.
That likely won't be necessary for Pentecost, who is believed to have the defensive skills required for the position. According to various scouting reports, he has the athleticism and arm strength, but could still use some improvement in his ability to receive.
"This is a guy we have above-average catching grades on," Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Brian Parker said. "We think this guy can be an asset behind the plate for us. We've done some research, we talked to some of his teammates from the Cape, some of the guys he's played with in the past, and they all rave about him."
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1.
Pentecost required surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right arm as a high school senior, but that didn't stop the Rangers from taking him in the seventh round three years ago. He reportedly almost signed, but made the decision to go to Kennesaw State.
The 21-year-old becomes the highest selected player from Kennesaw in the Draft's history. That title previously belonged to right-hander Chad Jenkins, who was taken by Toronto with the 20th overall pick in 2009. Jenkins is currently a reliever on the big league club.
Pentecost reportedly has above-average speed for a catcher and projects to hit for average at the Major League level. He also has some power, but is generally considered to be the type of player who will hit the gaps, as opposed to registering a lot of home runs.
The 21-year-old was the second player taken in the first round by Toronto. The Blue Jays also grabbed college right-hander Jeff Hoffman with the ninth pick. The recommended slot value for Pentecost's selection is $2,888,300, and the Blue Jays have a bonus-pool total of $9,458,500.
The addition of Pentecost adds some much-needed depth behind the plate in Toronto's system. The Blue Jays possessed some of the top catching prospects in the game several years ago, but a lot of that talent has since either eroded or did not materialize.
J.P. Arencibia was given three seasons to establish himself as a legitimate starting catcher, but he was non-tendered by the club during the offseason. Travis d'Arnaud spent multiple years as the organization's top prospect but was dealt alongside right-hander Noah Syndergaard in a deal for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Another prospect, Carlos Perez, was traded in a multiplayer deal for left-hander J.A. Happ, while Yan Gomes went from being an overlooked talent in Toronto to a breakout star last year for Cleveland. That left A.J. Jimenez as the only catcher in the club's top prospects group.
Pentecost will help change that, and considering he's a junior in college, he could come through the system at a relatively decent rate. Still, Parker insists this move had nothing to do with the depth or lack thereof behind the dish, and instead was all about taking a player they've been fond of for quite some time.
"Taking Max had nothing to do with any of those trades or getting rid of any of those players," Parker said. "When you pick nine and 11, you just have to line up your board and take the best player, and that's what we did. We like Max. We scouted him pretty hard from last summer in the Cape and throughout this spring.
"He's an athletic, two-way position player and we like the bat. I think there's a lot of positives with him. Obviously, a guy at a premium position that can help out offensively and defensively is something that attracted him to us."
Blue Jays select pitcher Hoffman with 9th overall pick
TORONTO -- Jeff Hoffman spent Thursday afternoon watching the Blue Jays complete a three-game sweep of the Tigers, but little did he know at the time he was getting a first-hand look at his future organization.
A few hours after the Toronto's 7-3 victory over the Tigers, Hoffman gathered his friends and family around the television for a moment he had been waiting all year for. Hoffman was essentially guaranteed to go in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft, but where he would end up was anyone's guess.
When Commissioner Bud Selig stepped to the podium and announced the Blue Jays had taken him with the ninth overall pick, Hoffman couldn't help but feel a little sense of irony at the way his day unfolded.
|1||HOU||LHP Brady Aiken|
|2||MIA||RHP Tyler Kolek|
|3||CWS||LHP Carlos Rodon|
|4||CHC||C Kyle Schwarber|
|5||MIN||SS Nick Gordon|
|6||SEA||OF Alex Jackson|
|7||PHI||RHP Aaron Nola|
|8||COL||LHP Kyle Freeland|
|9||TOR||RHP Jeff Hoffman|
|10||NYM||OF Michael Conforto|
|11||TOR||C Max Pentecost|
|12||MIL||LHP Kodi Medeiros|
|13||SD||SS Trea Turner|
|14||SF||RHP Tyler Beede|
|15||LAA||LHP Sean Newcomb|
|16||ARI||RHP Touki Toussaint|
|17||KC||LHP Brandon Finnegan|
|18||WAS||RHP Erick Fedde|
|19||CIN||RHP Nick Howard|
|20||TB||1B Casey Gillaspie|
|21||CLE||OF Bradley Zimmer|
|22||LAD||RHP Grant Holmes|
|23||DET||OF Derek Hill|
|24||PIT||SS Cole Tucker|
|25||OAK||3B Matt Chapman|
|26||BOS||SS Michael Chavis|
|27||STL||RHP Luke Weaver|
|28||KC||LHP Foster Griffin|
|29||CIN||SS Alex Blandino|
|30||TEX||RHP Luis Ortiz|
|31||CLE||LHP Justus Sheffield|
|32||ATL||OF Braxton Davidson|
|33||BOS||RHP Michael Kopech|
|34||STL||RHP Jack Flaherty|
"It was something that I had hoped I would be part of that organization, but I didn't know for sure yet," Hoffman said. "It was fun and now that I look back on it, it's kind of crazy how all of that went down."
This is the type of partnership that seemed almost impossible a few months ago. Hoffman was projected to go in the Top 3 of the Draft until he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in late April. He underwent Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks later and is expected to miss at least the next 12 months.
That caused his stock to drop and all of a sudden the Blue Jays were in the mix for a pitcher they previously thought would be unavailable. Even though Hoffman was injured, that did little to limit Toronto's interest.
The success rate of Tommy John surgeries has gotten to the point where a torn ligament is no longer considered a career-threatening injury. The Blue Jays took a close look at his medical records, liked what they saw, and decided the overall upside of Hoffman was too good to pass up on.
"We've done a lot of research since his surgery, really poured over the medicals and poured over everything with him," Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Brian Parker said. "We've done a lot of background work and we're comfortable with where everything stands with him.
"We just felt the talent was too good to walk away from. This guy was going go top three, top four picks prior to his injury and we just felt like even with the Tommy John this was a good gamble for us."
It also helped the Blue Jays' comfort level that they heavily scouted Hoffman for the past year and a half. Parker watched Hoffman in the Cape Cod League last summer and again this spring while he was pitching for East Carolina.
In person, the scouts were able to see what all the fuss is about. Hoffman typically pitches in the mid-90s with a fastball that can top out at 98 mph. He complements that with a well-above average curveball and a changeup that many experts already consider to be a plus pitch.
It's the type of skillset that most teams dream about and has led to the belief that he could develop into a frontline starting pitcher.
"First and foremost, I'm a pitcher that is going to pound the fastball in there until the other team proves they can hit it," Hoffman said. "I'm going to pitch heavy with the fastball, I'm going to pitch in with the fastball and once they prove that they can hit that, I'm going to spin the changeup and the offspeed pitches in the zone. When I get those pitches in the zone, any given day, I'm going to be able to compete and win."
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
By all accounts, Hoffman's surgery under the watchful eye of the renowned Dr. James Andrews was a success. There's a long road ahead, but he recently began riding a stationary bike and the rehab is officially underway. Hoffman won't be able to pitch until next season, but for this type of talent, the Blue Jays were more than willing to remain patient.
Prior to the injury, Hoffman went 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA for the East Carolina Pirates. He struck out 72 and walked 20 over 67 1/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .216 average. Hoffman became the highest draft pick in ECU history for any of the major sports leagues. The previous high was Theodore Edwards, who was taken with the 21st overall pick by the NBA's Utah Jazz in 1989.
"This is an athletic, power, college arm that offers up even more upside once he gets into pro ball," Parker said. "It's a guy we liked coming in, we thought for most of the spring we wouldn't even get a chance to take this player.
"When the injury happened, it was something we jumped on and made sure we did all that we could, researching the medical, getting with the kid, and everything. It's something we're excited about."
The Blue Jays also will have quite a bit of leverage in the upcoming contract negotiations. Hoffman is a college junior and will be motivated to reach an agreement instead of being forced back into the Draft as a senior when he's still working to come back from a lengthy rehab stint.
The recommended slot value for the ninth pick is $3,080,800 and Toronto has an overall bonus pool of $9,458,500 to use in the first 10 rounds. If the Blue Jays can save even a little bit of money early in the Draft, it could then be used on a player who has a lot of upside, but comes with signability concerns in later rounds.
The willingness of early picks to sign has been a hot-button topic in Toronto since 2012. Toronto has been unable to reach an agreement with its top overall selection in two of the past three years. Hoffman was asked about that signability issue Thursday night, and while most draftees tend to remain vague, he didn't seem to hide what his intentions are.
"After the Blue Jays took me I was very excited. I'm looking forward to getting something done and as soon as the Blue Jays are ready, me and my family are going to sit down and we're going to try and get something done as soon as possible," Hoffman said.
Blue Jays select RHP Reid-Foley to close out Day 1
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays potentially got themselves a major steal on Day 1 of the First-Year Player Draft by taking right-hander Sean Reid-Foley with the 49th overall pick.
Reid-Foley was ranked the 18th-best prospect in the Draft according to MLB.com, but he fell out of the first round and even dropped until midway through the second at least in part because of signability concerns.
The 18-year-old has a commitment to Florida State University and now the Blue Jays will try convincing him to turn pro. The 49th overall pick comes with a recommended slot value of $1,128,800, but it's very possible Toronto will be able to offer more than that.
The Blue Jays took right-hander Jeff Hoffman with the ninth pick and catcher Max Pentecost with the 11th pick. Both players are college juniors and likely won't have a lot of leverage in their negotiations. If the Blue Jays are able to save some money on either pick -- or selections on Day 2 of the Draft -- they could then turn around and up the offer to Reid-Foley.
Toronto has a bonus pool of $9,458,500 to work from in the first 10 rounds, which ranks fourth overall. Hoffman, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery, has a recommended slot value of $3,080,800 while Pentecost is at $2,888,300. There would appear to be a chance for some flexibility there and that could go a long way in convincing Reid-Foley to sign.
Reid-Foley likely was hurt by the fact that the early stages of this Draft were expected to be stocked with a lot of high school arms. There were 17 pitchers taken in the first round compared to 13 position players and the deeper the Draft goes it becomes more difficult to convince a player to sign instead going to school.
The native of Florida typically throws low-90s velocity and has the ability to top out at 95. A low-80s slider is his best secondary pitch he he also throws a curveball and a sinking changeup. He has above-average command and there's a belief that he would project as a future mid-rotation starter.
Reid-Foley also fits into the prototype of what Toronto typically looks for in its starting pitchers. He's 6-foot-2 and has a lot of athleticism which is the type of model the Blue Jays almost always seem to follow. For the past three years, with the exception of right-hander Marcus Stroman in 2012, all of the pitchers the Blue Jays have taken in the first 10 rounds have been at least 6-foot-1.