It’s been a trying enough time lately for us Jays fans, with an array of losses, Cavan Biggio struggling in his first weeks as a major leaguer yet being told already by manager Charlie Monotyo he needs to be the clubhouse leader and Teoscar Hernandez, one of the worst fielding outfielders ever to take the field in the blue-and-white now being annointed as the new Centerfielder. Not to mention aging Edwin Jackson,who gave up 10 earned runs a few days back and has an ERA of over 11 being told he’s still in the rotation because in the words of the manager, “we don’t have anyone else.”
So, as much as the desire is there to comment on those things, or on Marcus Stroman going off on another one of his “me-I-me-me” rants and dissing his teammate Randal Grichuk online, let’s try to find a bit to be happy about as Jays fans. Starting with the recent draft, in which MLB figures Toronto made out among the top six teams with their drafts.
Their first round pick is hard to dispute. For years, Toronto seems to have been obsessed with “big” hard-throwing pitchers. Yes, Justin Verlander is 6’5” and of course, going back a ways, Randy Johnson was somewhere between “too tall to go through doors” and “Jolly Green Giant” but there also have been more than enough great pitchers of more normal dimensions. Take little Stroman, mouthy and sometimes lacking a filter between his brain and texting fingers, but still a fine, hard-working pitcher at 5’8”. All that said, I think we have to expect the Blue Jays first pick, Alek Manoah is a good one.
The lad from West Virginia U. is 21, 6’6” , maybe 6’7”, weighs in about 260, which the team admits puts him in the rare category of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda among current MLB starters size-wise. But the right-hander has a fastball coming in at 95 regularly, 98 in a pinch, and a “plus slider” according to Baseball America. With his Mountaineers college team he was a pretty solid 9-4, 2.08 ERA and 144 Ks in just 108 innings this spring… me too, I had no idea they played that many games in university ball!
Anyway, Manoah is big, strong, has three good pitches apparently and – not to be undervalued- seems excited to be a Blue Jay and is already interacting nicely with Toronto fans on social media. At 21, I would project him to throw a few innings this summer in an A-club like Vancouver and be ready for AA next season. I like the pick and can only hope it ushers in a new-’90s for Toronto. In the 1990s, the Blue Jays managed to draft in the first round Shawn Green in ’91, Chris Carpenter in ’93, Hall of Famer Roy Halladay in ’95 (nice addition to that story, they picked his son Braden this draft in the 32rd round) and Vernon Wells in ’97. By the 2000s they’d gone on to such first round trivia answers as Gabe Gross, Russ Adams and Miguel Negron who collectively would make a pretty OK beer league softball team in some small towns.
I have a few more reservations about their second round pick, yet another big pitcher, Kendal Williams. The Florida high school kid is 6’7” and strong but there’s a whole lot that can go wrong in the probably six years between him picking up his $1.4M cheque and potentially being ready to pitch in the Majors. Third round pick Dasan Brown is also a teen, but he’s a speedy outfielder and a hometown boy who played for Canada’s Junior National Team. Obviously there’s also a lot that can go wrong there also, but his signing bonus is lower and outfielders are a little less likely to have career-limiting injuries when young than pitchers, and as a (suburban) Torontonian, he’s not a bad addition and Lord knows, right now the Jays are weak in the outfield!
They are a long ways off but they could be important names for Toronto in years to come.
To try to keep a positive spin, next we’ll look at the best ever… the Blue Jays best players ever to set foot on the astroturf.