An overview of the Blue Jays’ gameplan for their first round pick in the 2024 MLB Draft

The MLB Draft begins this Sunday, with the first round kicking off at 7:00 pm EST and flowing into the All-Star festivities for all 20 rounds. The Blue Jays have 21 picks this year, gaining a selection after the fourth round when Matt Chapman signed with the San Francisco Giants this past offseason and their first selection comes at the #20 spot. The Jays have selected twice in this spot before, using the pick on right-handed pitcher Chad Jenkins and last season on high school infielder Arjun Nimmala.

The industry consensus amongst draft analysts is that the Blue Jays system needs some serious restocking, as the group collectively sits on the wrong side of the halfway mark regarding strength and prosperity compared to other teams. There are a few reasons for this – a couple of top players are starting to become regulars in the big leagues, some have been traded away in recent years (Austin Martin, Gunnar Hoglund, Simeon Woods-Richardson to name a few), while others have faltered as of late and are sliding down the charts whether it be injury or poor performance.

Overall, the Jays have some fun names in the upper levels such as Ricky Tiedemann, Addison Barger, and the recently suspended Orelvis Martinez but the farm system as a whole could use a significant boost this draft year to put the Blue Jays back on the right side of the mark. Word on the street is that the Blue Jays are leaving no stone unturned in regard to their first pick and have checked in on quite a few players at the college levels, mostly at the plate versus pitchers.

With all this in mind, what are the top needs for the Blue Jays in terms of players at this year’s draft?

College Level Arms

The Blue Jays have used their last two first-round picks on high schoolers in Nimmala and Brandon Barriera after three seasons of selecting college-level players.

There is always a lot of upside when it comes to prep school pitchers, especially with the various showcases and training programs geared towards development at such a young age. With this upside also comes a lot of risk, as players continue to develop and navigate the professional world before being allowed to drink in a college bar – sometimes players pan out, sometimes they don’t; it’s the name of the game.

With this in mind, a college pitcher should be high on the Blue Jays’ radar this time around – someone with a bit more work under their belt who has some experience against more established bats through a few years of college ball and some summer work as well. The goal would be to have a more established arm hit the ground running in single-A baseball and be able to work through the farm system at a quicker pace compared to a prep arm that will need a lot more fine-tuning to grow and develop.

That’s not to say a college pitcher is an immediate slam dunk signing – with T.J. Zeuch and Jon Harris being recent internal reminders – but for a Jays farm system that is looking to have some more pitchers into the higher levels of the minors sooner than later, a college arm suits the needs of the organization more than a prep arm especially considering the bad luck that has fallen on recent draftees in Barriera and Landen Maroudis, who both underwent Tommy John surgery this year.

The downfall this draft year for the Jays is availability near the top, as there are only six college pitchers ranked within the top 25 prospects board per MLB Pipeline, meaning other teams looking for a college arm could see some names come off the board early.

That’s not to say that the Blue Jays aren’t afraid to go a bit down the rankings to find the right arm but they could pivot with their top pick for another need and use some of the other top-round picks (2-5 area) to add some college arms instead similar to last year when they took Juaron Watts-Brown and Connor O’Halloran in the third and fifth round respectively before diving back into position players.

Potential fits: Brody Brecht (Iowa) / Jurrangelo Cijntje (Mississippi State) / Trey Yesavage (East Carolina)

Adding Some Catching Depth

Over the years, the Toronto Blue Jays have a steady track record of internally producing MLB-level catchers.

Both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk worked their way up through the Jays system as well as former top prospect Gabriel Moreno, who was traded away to address other needs for the big league squad. Kirk and Moreno weren’t drafted by the Jays but the premise remains the same – the Jays organization has some history on their side in terms of positive movement on developing catchers.

While that development has proven fruitful in recent memory, the well seems to have run a bit dry – only one catcher is featured on the Blue Jays’ top prospect list (Franklin Rojas – #29) and the higher levels of the minor leagues are filled with a majority of journeymen who were brought in from outside the organization outside of 26-year-old Phil Clarke. Adding a backstop into the mix this draft year could provide some benefits for a club looking to churn out another Jansen, especially if the veteran Jays catcher leaves this offseason.

In terms of available players, a few catchers are hovering around the 20th spot and who could slot in at single-A/high-A to finish out the season. There are more college-level backstops near the top of the board compared to prep catchers, which again seems to be geared more toward what the Blue Jays are looking for. There will always be the question of longevity, as many players who start their careers behind the plate sometimes find themselves in the outfield corners or at first base over time but the gamble might be worth the risk in terms of finding another long-term backstop.

Similar to the college pitcher idea mentioned above, the catching depth isn’t at the peak compared to other positions in terms of depth, so other teams looking for help behind the plate could beat the Blue Jays to the punch before they even step to the podium.

Potential fits: Walker Janek (Sam Houston) / Malcolm Moore (Stanford) / Caleb Lomavita (California)

Outfield, Outfield, Outfield

It has been quite some time since the Blue Jays developed an MLB calibre outfielder. The current core group consists of guys that the club either signed or traded for and the Jays have not internally produced an everyday outfielder in quite some time, seeing more flops than success stories.

While players like Alan Roden and Will Robertson are trying to break that narrative this season, some additional help from this draft year is not a bad idea for a club that continues to try and move some of their infield prospects into the corner outfield spots to try and fill in gaps on the active roster.

The bigger question when it comes to draftable outfield talent is high school versus college, as quite a few college options are hovering around where the Blue Jays are slated to pick although a few upside high school outfielders are lurking in the area as well.

If this article has been any indication, the Jays’ pick seems to be more geared toward experience compared to a longer project and with the level of college outfield talent around the 20th spot, it seems like an easier decision for the Blue Jays if they decide an outfielder is needed.

Given the number of outfielders near the top of the draft board, the Jays may stand a better chance of getting the player they want with the depth at the position this draft year as well compared to a pitcher or catcher.

Potential Fits: Vance Honeycutt (North Carolina) / Ryan Waldschmidt (Kentucky) / Carson Benge (Oklahoma State) / Seaver King (Wake Forest)

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Title: An overview of the Blue Jays’ gameplan for their first round pick in the 2024 MLB Draft
Author: Tyson Shushkewich

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