Blue Jays take early risks, then go conservative
DeJong, Alford highlight club's selections during Day 2
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays started off Day 2 at the First-Year Player Draft in aggressive fashion by selecting two high-upside players who appeared to be difficult signs because of commitments to prestigious Division 1 Universities.
It was a similar strategy to the one Toronto used in previous years, but this time it comes with a catch. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement put a cap on how much teams are allowed to spend before a penalty kicks in.
That didn't scare the Blue Jays away from taking Chase DeJong and Anthony Alford with their first two picks on Tuesday, but the club then appeared to offset the risk by taking seven consecutive college seniors who should be relatively easy to sign.
With seniors having little leverage in negotiations, it's very likely Toronto could sign those players to deals below the recommended slot value and any money saved could then be used to increase offers to Alford and DeJong.
The Blue Jays' third-round selection, Alford, reportedly warned teams he will not sign, but second-rounder DeJong is eager to ink a deal with Toronto and believes he will be paid above-slot value.
"I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a Blue Jay, 95 percent sure," said DeJong, who has a commitment to USC. "They will pay over slot for me. ... [I'll] be treated as a first-round compensation pick financially."
DeJong, a two-way player from Wilson Woodrow High School in Long Beach, Calif., had a 1.08 ERA and batted .400 for his high-school team this season. He represented the United States at the COPABE Pan Am 18U Junior Championship in Cartagena, Colombia, last fall and pitched the last inning in the United States' championship win over Canada. His coach on Team USA, Jim Lawler, is more than impressed with his abilities.
"This guy is going to do it," Lawler said. "He has the size and the length. Why he will make it is his maturity level. He was always asking questions of what he should do to a hitter. [Ask] how to pitch to guys. He seems like a 21-year-old.
"If he decides to go to Minor League ball, he's ready."
DeJong has a three-pitch mix with a fastball that touches 94 mph and is consistently at 92, a curveball that flashes plus, and a refined changeup that Lawler describes as his "strikeout pitch."
Both DeJong and Alford were among MLB.com's top 100 Draft prospects, but Alford may be a difficult sign as he has committed to play football at Southern Mississippi University.
If the Blue Jays can get him, he is another multi-tooled, high-upside prospect Toronto seems to consistently target.
"He is very advanced right now, very coachable, and can hit to all fields," said Alford's high-school coach Larry Watkins. "He has alley-to-alley power and he can run. He's a triples guy who will steal bases. A very explosive runner. Very aggressive running the bases. Very instinctive, and reacts very well to what is going on on the field.
"He plays the game hard and he's very talented and a great kid. Add those three together and you got something special right there."
Alford was excited to be drafted and was enjoying the moment with family, but he expressed that football is his first passion and was undecided on what he wanted to do, preferring to let the process play out.
"I didn't think it was going to be that early because I told everyone I wanted to go to college and play football," Alford said about being a third-round selection. "I just want to enjoy [getting drafted], I don't want to make any quick decisions."
If Toronto looked to be aggressive in the first few selections of Day 2, it took a more conservative approach on many of its other picks, by selecting a number of college seniors.
After Alford, the Blue Jays selected college senior pitchers Tucker Donahue and Brad Delatte, as well as third baseman Eric Phillips and outfielder Ian Parmley. Toronto then drafted three more seniors in catcher Harrison Frawley, first baseman Jordan Leyland and outfielder Alex Azor.
The Blue Jays concluded Day 2 by going back to the high-school route for their final five picks.
In order, Toronto chose outfielder Grant Heyman, left-hander Ryan Kellogg, catcher John Silviano and lefties Zakery Wasilewski and Ryan Borucki.
Kellogg was the first Canadian selected by the Blue Jays and was considered to be the top Canadian heading into the Draft. He was an integral part of the Canadian Junior National Team, which lost to DeJong and the U.S. team at Colombia, and many felt he would go higher in the Draft.
Signability issues likely dropped Kellogg in the Draft, as he's committed to Arizona State University.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound left-hander was named the ESPN Wide World of Sports Junior National Team MVP for his efforts at Junior Championship. He has a fastball that sits in the high-80s and uses a changeup as his out-pitch.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.