MLB Minute – Blue Jays, Draft and Implications for Toronto

Each week JFtC takes snapshots of the MLB landscape through as a Blue Jays fan might see them. This week: MLB Draft Combine and Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments about new stadiums in Oakland and Tampa Bay.

Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase

Major League Baseball has taken the Draft Combine to another level in 2022.

After debuting the joint MLB / USA Baseball showcase in 2021 at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, the league decided to move the event to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. After limiting the invite list to 88 players who had competed in the new MLB Draft League last season, the Draft Combine expanded the field to include 255 of the highest ranked prospects — including 20 of the Top 30 prospects from the MLB Pipeline rankings. In addition to on field activities, amateur players will have opportunities to meet with MLB team executives and scouting directors. The on field assessments emphasized pro-style workouts and drills along with a high school showcase. To entice prospects to consent to comprehensive pre-draft medical examinations, MLB & the MLBPA negotiated a guarantee of 75% of assignment pick value signing bonuses to all that underwent the examinations. MLB Network was an active partner in the Draft Combine, airing more than 12 hours of live combine coverage, including more than 6 hours of live assessments, drills and interviews on Friday night.

After years of cloaked secrecy, MLB has embraced the Draft Combine as an event to spotlight players who will soon join the professional ranks. The NFL has made their draft combine as important as the draft itself. Rather than rely on specialty publications like Baseball America and its website content to serve as reference points after the draft is completed, the comprehensive combine partners with amateur baseball and the Players Association to lend faces and stories to the draft selections. For the diehard fan, the combine coverage feeds the need for as much information as possible to follow the futures of their teams. More importantly, by putting the most talented players on display it allows younger players from Little League to scholastic sports to see what they must work on to be considered a legitimate draft prospect.

The Blue Jays front office was present in San Diego, though as is to be expected very little information has been made public. The Blue Jays first 5 picks will come across the first 3 rounds; Toronto owns the 23rd Overall pick in the first round. Their 6oth Overall pick in the 2nd round will be supplemented by 2 Compensation Round picks (# 77 and # 78) granted after losing Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray through free agency. The most recent MLB Pipeline Mock Draft shows the Blue Jays adding to their depth at the middle infield positions by selected Jett Williams, a high school shortstop from Rockwall-Heath HS in Texas (ranked # 26 by JFtC contributor Jim Scott recently posted his annual Draft Preview series where he reviews players listed in multiple mock drafts (be sure to read all 3 parts of his draft series.

An intriguing prospect emerged during the Draft Combine that the Jays should consider with one of the 3 selections they have in the second round. Jurrangelo Cjinte, a 19-year old native of Curacao who moved to the US to advance his baseball opportunities, has been scouted as a switch-hitting shortstop with projectable power. But what sets Cjinte apart from any prospect in recent memory is he is also a switch pitcher who routinely switches from right handed to left handed during games and can throw 90+ with BOTH hands. While he is a natural left-hander, he grades out highest as a righty who tops out at 92-96 MPH and demonstrates exceptional command of 4 pitches from that side of the rubber. In interviews Cjinte made it clear he hopes to be a two-way player as a pro and he has demonstrated a poise and confidence that will endear him to any GM and Farm Director.

Commissioner Rob (Right Said) Manfred spoke this week about the prospects of an International Draft being implemented. Noting that the latest CBA negotiations set a July 25th deadline to reach an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Manfred continued to stress a sense of urgency regarding the issue. “Our concern and I think this has been well documented over time, is situations where clubs make commitments to players before they’re technically age-eligible to sign,” Manfred said. “There are individuals involved in those negotiations that take a really significant piece of compensation that really should be going to the player, off the top.”

MLB has targeted millions of dollars to help curb the corruption surrounding the international free agent market, but still believes an international draft would be the most affective solution to the problems of eliminating graft and exploitation of young talent outside of North America. Manfred had previously used an international draft as a way to move towards easing the competitive balance concerns the Players Union and fans have complained about. Given the Commissioner’s reference to the International Draft during his post-owners meeting presser, prospects are not looking good for an agreement before the July deadline.

Toronto has long been at the vanguard of the international free agent market. Pat Gillick used international signings as a key foundation for transforming an expansion team into a world champion. Under Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, the club has emphasized the acquisition of international talent through the works of Tony Lacava; Senior Vice President, Player Personnel. and Andrew Tinnish; Vice President, International Scouting & Baseball Operations. So it would seem that the implementation of the International Free Agent Draft would compromise the Jays’ abilities to capitalize on their prowess. While the failure to implement such a draft will not have a direct impact on trades this year, moving forward the Blue Jays would lose a potential trade piece- International Bonus Pool Money. International bonus money is tradeable under previous Collective Bargaining Agreements. Each club’s bonus pool was divided into four “slot” increments and teams were able to acquire no more than 50 percent of their original pool size. The lure of adding to their International Bonus pool allotments often reduces the level of prospect and 40-man roster capital needed to complete trades.

Blue Jays fans should follow news about the International Amateur Free Agent Draft closely.

This weekend’s series against the New York Yankees shows how important- and thrilling- a June series against a division rival can be. The Friday night blowout loss to the Bronx Bombers seemed to be a crushing blow to some Blue Jays fans. But it got us thinking about other memorable June moments in the history of the Yankees-Blue Jays rivalry:

June 22, 1990- The longest game ever played in Toronto sees the Blue Jays lose to the Yankees 8-7 in 15 innings. Time of game- 4 hours 53 minutes.

June 18, 1991- Yankees pitchers pick off 3 Blue Jays. Scott Kamieniecki picked off Devon White at first and Joe Carter off 2nd base and reliever John Habyan picked off Roberto Alomar to end a 7th inning rally during a 4-2 loss at the Sky Dome

Now this next tidbit did not occur in June, but it will take some of the sting out of the 12-3 loss to New York on Friday:

September 10, 1977- The expansion Toronto Blue Jays defeat the eventual World Champion New York Yankees 19-3 at Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays hammered Catfish Hunter and 4 New York relievers for 20 hits, including 2 home runs from Roy Howell and a solo shot by Ron Fairly. The Yankees committed 4 errors while Jim Clancy logged a complete game with just 96 pitches.

Here’s to another memorable winning moment against the Yankees in the Rogers Center September 26th-28th.

*Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.


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