Blue Jays have often struck gold in past Drafts
From Hallday and Stieb to Olerud and Barfield, Toronto has found many gems
Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft is just a few days away, which means another group of young talent will soon join the Blue Jays in the hopes of one day playing at Rogers Centre.
Before that can happen, each player must embark on a lengthy journey through the Minor Leagues that will almost assuredly come with its fair share of ups and downs. There are no guarantees in this sport, but every so often an organization can find a diamond in the rough that ultimately becomes one of the game's next stars.
The 2014 Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Sometimes that talent can be found in the first round, and other times the organization sees something other teams don't and uses a late pick to grab a future cornerstone. With that in mind, let's take a look at the best player the Blue Jays have taken from rounds 1-15 in franchise Draft history.
Round 1: Roy Halladay, 1995
Halladay is arguably the best homegrown talent the Blue Jays have produced. He picked up a pair of American League Cy Young Awards and was an eight-time All-Star before retiring at the end of last year. He pitched during an era that was defined by offense, yet that didn't stop him from finishing with a 3.38 ERA and 203-105 career record. He ranks second in Blue Jays history in wins (148) and strikeouts (1,495) and third in ERA (3.43) and innings (2046 2/3). Honorable mentions go to Chris Carpenter, Shawn Green and Vernon Wells.
Round 2: David Wells, 1982
Wells enjoyed most of his success outside of Toronto, but he did win 15 games for the Blue Jays in 1991 and was part of the World Series championship team the following season. He was a three-time All-Star and finished his 21-year career with 239 victories and a 4.13 ERA. Wells left the organization as a free agent following the '92 season, but he eventually returned in 1999 as part of a trade for Roger Clemens. Wells won 35 games with the organization from 1999-2000 but will be remembered most for his time with the Yankees. Honorable mention: Derek Bell.
Round 3: John Olerud, 1989
Olerud was one of the most underrated players during the Blue Jays back-to-back World Series crowns in 1992-93. He was often criticized for a lack of power, but in his prime the native of Seattle was one of the best pure hitters in the game. Olerud won the AL batting title in 1993 with a .363 average and finished with 2,239 hits over the course of his 17-year career. This round is a bit of a toss-up, as a strong honorable mention also goes to left-hander Jimmy Key, who was one of the best pitchers in franchise history. Key ranks fourth in wins (116), tied for first in ERA (3.42) and fourth in innings pitched (1695 2/3).
Round 4: Casey Janssen, 2004
The Blue Jays haven't enjoyed a lot of success in the fourth round of their Drafts. The most logical choice here is current Toronto closer Casey Janssen. The native of California has established himself as one of the more reliable relievers in the game. He isn't overpowering by any means, but he continues to prove that pinpoint location can easily overcome other physical limitations. Janssen converted all but two of his 36 save opportunities in 2013 and is having similar success this year. Honorable mentions are hard to find here, but one could go to right-hander Xavier Hernandez, who made 363 appearances in the big leagues.
Round 5: Dave Stieb, 1978
Stieb is neck and neck with Halladay when it comes to discussing the best pitcher in franchise history. An argument could easily be made for both, but here's what we do know: Stieb ranks tied for first in franchise history in ERA (3.42) and leads in wins (175), innings pitched (2,873) and strikeouts (1,658). He'll always be remembered as one of the best pitchers of the 1980s, and for his fiery temper on the mound. The highlight likely came in 1990, when he finally got an elusive no-hitter in a game vs. the Indians after some close calls. An honorable mention goes to Pat Hentgen, who won 19 games during the '93 World Series run and picked up a well-deserved AL Cy Young Award in '96. Infielder Michael Young also deserves a mention here after a 14-year career in the Major Leagues, which included 2,375 hits with 185 homers and 1,030 RBIs."
Round 6: Pat Borders, 1982
This is another round where the Blue Jays haven't had a lot of success over the years, but they did use their sixth-round pick to grab their starter catcher of the so-called "Glory Years." Borders wasn't known for his offense, but he was one of the best defenders of his generation. His ability to block balls in the dirt went unmatched by any of his peers, and his personal highlight came in 1992, when he was named Most Valuable Player of the World Series. Honorable mentions aren't easy to find here either, but the runner-up would be Scott Livingstone, who played in 673 games in the big leagues.
Round 7: Casey Blake, 1996
Blake is the easy choice here, but none of his success came in Toronto. He made his debut with the club in 1999, then proceeded to bounce around several teams before finding a home with the Indians in 2003. Blake spent six years with that organization before moving on and becoming a versatile option for the Dodgers. He recorded 1,186 hits in his career with 167 homers and 616 RBIs. Honorable mention goes to Cris Carpenter (not Chris Carpenter mentioned above), who appeared in 291 games in his career for the Cardinals, Marlins, Rangers and Brewers.
Round 8: Evan Crawford, 2008
This is one round where the Blue Jays haven't had any success at all. The only name fans might recognize is that of Crawford, who made a handful of appearances for Toronto in 2012. He currently pitches in Double-A Birmingham of the White Sox organization after previously being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays.
Round 9: Jesse Barfield, 1977
Barfield was part of a star-studded Blue Jays outfield in the 1980s that also included George Bell and Lloyd Moseby. Barfield spent nine years in Toronto before he was eventually dealt to the Yankees for left-hander Al Leiter. Barfield ranks third in franchise history for games played (1,032), sixth in homers (179) and seventh in RBIs (527). His best year came in '86, when he was named to the AL All-Star team and finished with 40 homers and 108 RBIs. Honorable mention goes to Glenallen Hill.
Round 10: Ryan Freel, 1995
Freel was drafted by the Blue Jays in 1995 but spent years mired in obscurity before getting a big break with the Reds in 2003. He signed with Cincinnati as a free agent and eventually went on to have a successful six seasons with that organization. Honorable mention goes to catcher Yan Gomes, who could eventually find himself at the top of this list. Gomes was traded to the Indians, along with infielder Mike Aviles, for right-hander Esmil Rogers prior to the 2013 season. Gomes has since displayed a lot of potential in Cleveland.
Round 11: Willie Blair, 1986
The Blue Jays have never taken anyone of note in the 11th round of the Draft. Blair was as close as the organization ever got, as he went on to spend 12 years in the Major Leagues but never had a great deal of success. Blair was 60-68 with a 5.04 ERA in 1,274 career innings, which included time with eight organizations. He's now the bullpen coach in San Diego.
Round 12: Doug Mientkiewicz, 1992
The Blue Jays selected Mientkiewicz in 1992 but he never signed with the club. Instead, the first baseman opted to attend college and he was later drafted by Minnesota in 1995. Mientkiewicz went on to play 12 seasons in the big leagues and was always known as an elite defender. He also was a career .271 hitter with 66 homers and 405 RBIs who played for seven organizations.
Round 13: Alex Gonzalez, 1991
Gonzalez took over the starting duties at shortstop in 1995, when he was 23 years old. He had excellent range up the middle and a strong throwing arm, which allowed him to become an outstanding defender. He was never really able to establish himself with the bat, as evidenced by a .243 career average, but he still managed to spent 13 seasons in the big leagues, including eight in Toronto. Honorable mention goes to left-hander Ted Lilly, who would be the obvious choice here except he never signed with Toronto.
Round 14: Brandon Lyon, 1999
Lyon appeared in parts of two seasons with the Blue Jays, but it wasn't until he left the organization in 2003 that his career really took off. Lyon was picked up off waivers by the Red Sox, who turned him into a reliever. Lyon has remained in the bullpen for the remainder of his career, and he's currently pitching for Triple-A Salt Lake of the Angels organization. Despite the current Minor League assignment, Lyon has enjoyed a successful career that has included a 4.16 ERA in 681 1/3 innings. Honorable mention to infielder/outfielder Jay Gibbons.
Round 15: Drew Hutchison, 2009
Hutchison has only spent parts of two seasons in the Majors, but he is still the easy choice here. The 23-year-old offers plenty of promise, and if he can stay healthy, the upside is there to become a potential cornerstone of the Blue Jays' rotation. Hutchison likely would have gone unsigned during the 2009 Draft, but the Blue Jays could not come to terms with conditional-round pick James Paxton. That opened up some additional funds for Hutchison, who broke into the big leagues in '12 at just 21 years of age.