06/08/07 10:41 PM ET
Blue Jays make the most of extra picks
Club had seven selections within first two rounds
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
The Jays were awarded the extra picks after losing left-fielder Frank Catalanotto, left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly, and reliever Justin Speier to free agency over the offseason.
The seven picks Toronto had in the first two rounds of the Draft were six more than they had last year. In 2006, Toronto made just two selections in the first five rounds after signing No. 2 starter A.J. Burnett and closer B.J. Ryan to multi-year contracts.
"We had foregone some picks the last couple of years for signing some free agents," said Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde. "This year to kind of get those picks back, so to speak, was really beneficial. We feel we added some depth, we added some athletic players and some arms that we like."
The Jays' first selection was 16th overall and they used it on 18-year-old shortstop Kevin Ahrens. Ahrens hit .426 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs for Memorial High school in Houston. He possesses a lot of power and is expected to be more suited playing third base at the professional level.
Lalonde says he's someone the Jays have been watching for awhile.
"He's a young man we scouted really hard," Lalonde said. "We liked him since last summer and followed his progress since then."
It marks the second straight year that the Jays have used their first-round pick on a high school player. In 2006, the Jays selected outfielder Travis Snider 14th overall. The earliest Ricciardi had selected a high schooler before then was with the 206th pick in the 2002 Draft. Since the beginning of that year, the Jays have drafted 226 college players compared to 55 high schoolers.
Toronto's second pick was 21st overall and the Jays used it on 21-year-old catcher J.P. Arencibia. He was drafted by the Mariners in the 17th round of the 2004 Draft but opted to attend the University of Tennessee instead of playing professional baseball. He ranks third in school history in RBIs (165) and fifth in home runs (33).
Some scouts have questioned his defensive ability behind the plate, but the Jays say they aren't concerned.
"Defensively, we think he'll be fine," Lalonde said. "He has all the tools to catch and we think he has the opportunity to be an offensive catcher and a leader as well."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
Of the 35 picks Toronto made, only two were used on outfielders. Lalonde says Toronto already has some young outfielders in their Minor League system that they wanted to save room for.
"We have some young Latin players in our Gulf Coast League affiliate that we want to see play," Lalonde said. "We also have some guys who are slated to go to our [split season] Auburn affiliate. You don't want to take guys just for the sake of it. You don't want to draft guys and have them go sit on the bench somewhere and be miserable."
Toronto used its third overall pick to select its first pitcher, left-hander Brett Cecil. In total, the Jays drafted four catchers, one first baseman, three second baseman, four shortstops, 14 right-handed pitchers, and seven lefties.
Of the eight high school players drafted in the first 30 rounds by the Jays, only one was a pitcher. The long-term potential of high school pitchers is tougher to predict, and Lalonde says the Jays have traditionally devoted more of their resources towards scouting other areas.
"We have a bit of a smaller scouting staff," Lalonde said. "We don't want to be the type of team that bounces in and out of that high school pitching market. I think if you're going to be in it, you have to be committed to it, and you can't do it half-heartedly. We don't want to pick and choose in the high school market and I don't think we have the manpower to go full out and necessarily see all the high school pitchers who deserve to be seen."
Three players from Ontario were drafted by Toronto: catcher Joel Collins (325th pick) of Richmond Hill, shortstop Steven Condotta (385th pick) of Mississauga, and shortstop Kyle Gilligan (835th) from Toronto.
The Jays' last pick came in the 30th round. They decided to drop out of the Draft after that round because they didn't feel there was anyone still available that really fit into Toronto's long-term plans.
"Once you've filled all your player development needs," said Lalonde, "and there's not any players on the board that your scouts have really strong opinions on, we didn't want to draft just for the sake of drafting. We want to do what's right with the young men. And if you draft them without the intention of signing them, maybe there was a club behind you that wanted to sign them or at least give them an opportunity."
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.