Risk-taking in Draft has reshaped Blue Jays

Risk-taking in Draft has reshaped Blue Jays

Risk-taking in Draft has reshaped Blue Jays
TORONTO -- Under the leadership of Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays have stocked their farm system through the First-Year Player Draft by selecting high-upside players, a trend that continued in his third year as general manager.

Toronto entered the season with what many considered one of the deepest systems in the game, full of talented athletes with All-Star ceilings.

Since his arrival, Anthopoulos has sought to compete in the tough American League East by building through the Draft and trades -- often willing to take risks for the potential young talent -- as opposed to being conservative on Draft day and paying top dollar on the free market.

In recent years, the Blue Jays have revamped their system by trading for Travis d'Arnaud and Anthony Gose -- the top two on MLB.com's Top 20 Blue Jays Prospects list and by selecting a slew of pitchers since 2010, including Noah Syndergaard, Daniel Norris, Justin Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez, Deck McGuire and Asher Wojciechowski.

2012 Draft Central

Toronto got Gose, this year's Pacific Coast League-leader in stolen bases, for Brett Wallace, who the club received from Oakland for Michael Taylor. The Blue Jays acquired Taylor, d'Arnaud and No. 4 starter Kyle Drabek for Roy Halladay, a haul that greatly improved the organization's depth up the middle of the field. d'Arnaud is considered a two-way player and hit over .311 with 21 homers last season at Double-A New Hampshire and is off to a terrific start at Triple Vegas this season.

Last year the club targeted high-ceiling players again, and Blue Jays amateur scouting director Andrew Tinnish provided an update on how that crop is progressing.

"A lot of them are in extended [spring camp], which is consistent with what we've done with high school players -- and they will get out playing soon," Tinnish said.

"Players like Dwight Smith, Jacob Anderson, Christian Lopes and Matt Dean as far as the high school position players, are off to good starts. [They're] Hitting very well, playing good defense. They will get out at some point once the short season starts."

Along with Norris, who the club selected in 2011, there are a number of pitchers who are making good progress, according to Tinnish.

"Joe Musgrove, Kevin Comer, Tom Robson, Jeremy Gabryszwski -- some of the higher high school arms that we took -- have been throwing well. Norris is throwing very well, he has cleaned up his delivery a lot. We are very excited about getting him started in pro baseball."

Robson was the first Canadian to be taken off the board in 2011 and was a standout player on Greg Hamilton's Junior National Team.

Tinnish was pleased with the college signs, particularly right-hander John Stilson, who was considered to be a first-round pick but fell to Toronto after tearing his labrum a month before the Draft.

"We have some college guys that have gone out and performed very well," Tinnish said. "Andy Burns, who we took a little bit later in the Draft, has done extremely well for Lansing. John Stilson has done very well in Dunedin as a starter, which has been very nice for us to see. That was something that we wanted to see, if we could really stretch him out, and so far he has done a very good job and maintained a lot of the stuff that he had last year at Texas A&M.

"Those are some of the highlights at this point. Really, outside of college guys, there's not really too much to talk about because the high school kids haven't gotten out and played in official games yet. But they are off to nice starts."

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.