06/07/08 12:46 AM ET
Jays confident about their picks
Toronto uses 2008 Draft to address needs, refill system
By David Singh / MLB.com
"Obviously, all 30 clubs right now feel great about their Draft because they got players they wanted," said Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde. "We're no different. We feel really good. And I'll tell you, we feel good that we [got] some things the system needs.
"Right at the top with David Cooper, an advanced bat, is something the system could really use."
The Jays used their first selection -- 17th overall -- to select Cooper, a first baseman out of the University of California-Berkeley. The 21-year-old has been praised for his patience at the plate and his ability with the bat. In 56 games with Cal this season, he hit .359 with 19 home runs and 55 RBIs.
With Cooper addressing Toronto's need for a big bat, the Jays used their second pick on Kenneth Wilson, a player who has amazed the organization with his speed.
"Wilson can absolutely fly," said Lalonde. "He's a top-of-the-charts runner. He probably immediately becomes the fastest guy in the system. This kid can really run. He's as quick as we've seen, certainly this year."
The Jays selected Wilson, a center fielder from Sickles High School in Florida, with the 63rd overall pick. The 6-foot, 165-pounder stole 26 bases and scored 37 runs in his senior season.
Toronto used its third pick to select its first pitcher, right-hander Andrew Liebel (95th overall). The 22-year-old from Long Beach State University averaged nearly eight innings per start in his senior season, posting an 8-4 record with a 2.22 ERA, 97 strikeouts and 19 walks over 117 1/3 frames. Standing at 6-foot-1, his fastball clocks in between 87-91 mph, and he also features a slider and a changeup.
While the Jays used five of their first six picks on position players on Day 1 of the Draft on Thursday, Toronto used the middle rounds during Day 2 to stock up on pitching.
"We did try to back up [Thursday] -- that was kind of position-player-heavy -- with some arms [on Friday]," Lalonde said. "Not just to get arms, but as we saw, those were arms we really liked."
Blue Jays' top five selections
|17.||1B||David Cooper||UC Berkeley|
|63.||CF||Kenneth Wilson||Sickles HS (Fla.)|
|95.||RHP||Andrew Liebel||Cal St Long Beach|
|129.||3B||Robert Sobolewski||U of Miami|
|159.||SS||Tyler Pastornicky||The Pendleton School (Fla.)|
|Complete Blue Jays Draft results >|
From rounds 10-16, the Jays had a string where they only used their picks on pitchers. Of the 44 picks Toronto made in the Draft, a total of 23 were used on pitchers -- 14 right-handers and nine lefties.
However, drafting center fielders with speed was the key topic of discussion for Lalonde following this year's Draft. With its sixth pick, Toronto selected Markus Brisker, another high school center fielder from Florida. In the 16th round, the Jays selected a Canadian player, center fielder Michael Crouse. Crouse, a 17-year-old native from Coquitlam, British Columbia, was a player the Jays coveted.
"Really [a] great-bodied kid," said Lalonde, referring to Crouse. "He actually looks like [current Blue Jays center fielder Alex] Rios, physically.
"[Crouse is] a bit of project," Lalonde continued. "He's going to take time and development and patience, but you can really dream on him. He's got a really high ceiling."
In total, the Jays selected one second baseman, one third baseman, two first basemen, two shortstops, five catchers and 10 outfielders (five of whom were center fielders).
Drafting center fielders with the ability to run is not something that the Jays tried to do on purpose, according to Lalonde. Instead, the Draft just worked out that way.
"As we looked at some of the strengths of the Draft, center field was actually what we thought was an area of strength and depth," he said. "So it's not that we specifically said, 'Hey, let's take center fielders.' It's more along the lines, 'Hey, the next guy on the board is a center fielder who can fly, let's take him.'
"Speed is something our system really needed, so we think we gave it a pretty good injection of speed."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.