TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are expected to take an aggressive approach during the First-Year Player Draft for the second consecutive year.
Toronto spent $11.6 million on signing bonuses in 2010, the third-highest amount in Draft history. That allowed general manager Alex Anthopoulos' scouting department to go after some high-end talent that may have dropped because of salary demands.
The club won't say exactly how much it is willing to spend this year, but it is expected to be another high sum. That means the Blue Jays likely will go after the best players possible and worry about their signability factor later.
"I think we're in a position to be competitive and go after players we want to get," Andrew Tinnish, director of amateur scouting, said.
"When Alex gave me the job, he told me to go out and be aggressive. That's kind of the philosophy that I [took] into my coverage last year and also this year. We will probably line the board up that way."
Tinnish also has the added bonus of having had his scouting team in place for a full calendar year before the Draft. In 2010, Anthopoulos was in the middle of his first full season as GM and was still putting his imprint on the team.
The club now has everything in place, and its 25 area scouts have been working at full capacity. That is expected to pay dividends, especially considering the cluster of picks Toronto has in the early rounds.
The Blue Jays have seven selections in the first 78 picks of the Draft, second only to the Rays.
"I think, from a philosophy perspective, we have a better handle on things as a group," Tinnish said. "We had a lot of first-year scouts last year who are a little more seasoned now and have a better feel for their job and what to do. We have a better understanding of each other and how we evaluate and, more than anything, what we're looking for."
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round.
MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.
In about 50 words
As he did his first, Anthopoulos' second Draft includes a surplus of early-round picks. He has seven selections (21, 35, 46, 53, 57, 74 and 78) in the top 80, compared with eight in the top 100 a year ago.
The Blue Jays received that boost in picks following an eventful offseason, with compensation picks for catchers John Buck and Miguel Olivo, left-hander Scott Downs and right-hander Kevin Gregg.
"My sense of the Draft is it's going to be very strong in the top 10 picks. ... Sounds like there could be some really good impact guys in the top 10, and maybe from 11 all the way through the sandwich round, you could get the same guy. You might get very [similar] quality in the sandwich [round] that you would with the 18th selection in the Draft." -- Anthopoulos
Last year, the scouting department used its first pick (No. 11 overall) on established college pitcher Deck McGuire. The club then used its following selections to target high-ceiling, higher-risk players who either came from prep schools or priced themselves out of some teams' budgets.
A similar strategy could be expected this time around, as Toronto is likely to once again devote a large sum of money toward the Draft.
That could open the door for a pair of left-handers to be considered. Tyler Anderson (Oregon) is one possibility, as he has very good command and is expected to make a quick rise to the Majors. Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech) is another prominent arm in a Draft that has a lot of college pitching depth.
If Toronto opts to go with a position player for its first selection, then outfielder Josh Bell and third baseman Javier Baez could be options.
The Blue Jays used six of their first eight picks in the 2010 Draft on pitchers. All of those pitchers were at least 6-foot-3, as the club appeared to put an emphasis on athleticism and durability.
That doesn't mean Toronto will follow a similar path this year, though, since Tinnish said the pitchers taken last year just happened to be available when the club made its selections.
"I think it was a matter of how the board lined up and who was available when it came time to pick," Tinnish said. "We don't have a specific philosophy where we take pitchers that are 6-foot-3 or taller or super-athletic.
"Certainly, those are elements that we like, but there are exceptions to every rule in this game -- guys like [Dustin] Pedroia, guys like Tim Collins -- so at the end of the day, we factor pretty much everything in."
The Blue Jays appear to have an impressive amount of depth on the mound in the Minors. Four of the organization's Top 10 prospects -- as ranked by MLB.com -- are pitchers, but that won't have any impact on whom Tinnish targets this time.
Tinnish is expected to go after the best available player, with little regard for a specific position or overall organizational needs.
"I think Alex's goal is to build a sustainable winner, and it's not about getting a guy that moves quickly or necessarily that super-high-ceiling guy," Tinnish said. "It's about that best available player, the player that we have lined up when it's our turn to pick. That's the goal, that's the focus."
The Blue Jays made a relatively safe decision by selecting McGuire with their first selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The Georgia Tech junior had a decorated NCAA career and was considered one of the most polished arms available.
The club then used a large portion of its following picks on younger players who came with a higher amount of risk but also a very high ceiling for talent. That could happen again this year, but Tinnish doesn't feel it's necessary to balance high-risk picks with low ones just to minimize potential repercussions down the road.
"The guys with a higher ceiling, there's going to be more risk involved," he said. "Do you need to balance it by taking some lower-risk guys? I don't think so.
"You take the player you feel like is going to have the most impact at the big league level. There is more risk involved with an Aaron Sanchez or a Noah Syndergaard versus a Deck McGuire, but a lot of that is because of age."
Recent Draft history
Top prospect Brett Lawrie is hitting .354 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 52 games at Triple-A. He was selected 16th overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft by Milwaukee, and he immediately became Toronto's top position player after being acquired during the offseason in a trade for No. 1 starter Shaun Marcum.
Lawrie leads the Pacific Coast League in hits (79), extra-base hits (38), doubles (15), runs (51) and total bases (151). His Major League debut is expected to come in the very near future, perhaps as early as Friday, depending on how quickly his injured left hand heals after being hit by a pitch.
Outfielder Adam Loewen is taking the long road back to the Majors after being selected No. 4 overall in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft as a pitcher. Loewen was expected to develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter, but a series of injuries derailed his career.
The 27-year-old is now trying to make it as an outfielder. He spent a full year at Double-A New Hampshire in 2010 and is now excelling at Triple-A Las Vegas. After a slow start, he hit .358 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in May.
In the show
Three players have made their Major League debuts this season, and two are products of the First-Year Player Draft.
David Cooper was the first player to debut with Toronto this season, appearing in 13 games and hitting .121 with one home run and five RBIs. He seems to have recovered from his disappointing 2009-10 seasons and has posted an average of just below .400 for Las Vegas this year.
Eric Thames also made his Major League debut this season. He received the promotion after hitting .342 with six home runs and 30 RBIs in 36 games for Las Vegas. He fell all the way to the seventh round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft because of a leg injury but established himself as a promising prospect moving forward.