By Bob Elliott
There has not been this much talk about Canadians in this many draft war rooms since the Montreal Canadiens made it known they might deal their first pick for the right offer prior to the NHL draft.
Mississauga first baseman Josh Naylor is being discussed by the Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs.
Calgary right-hander Mike Soroka could go early to the Baltimore Orioles -- if he does not go to the Toronto Blue Jays.
And outfielder Demi Orimoloye of Orleans, Ont. and the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians was the best player at the Area Code Games last summer. Orimoloye slipped a little this spring, but was impressive on last month’s trip to the Dominican Republic with the Canadian Junior National Team.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherrington spent two days watching Naylor with the Junior National Team in Florida this spring.
Marlins top scout Craig Weissmann, their new vice president, player personnel, hired away from the Oakland A’s, was in Ottawa last month to see Naylor play for the Ontario Blue Jays.
The Red Sox select seventh over-all and again at 81st.
The Marlins chose 12th, 50th and 85th.
The Cubs are interested in Naylor but not likely with the ninth pick. They pick 47th and 82nd.
Soroka had been clocked at 94 MPH regularly and was so impressive when he faced the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin he was invited up to the press box to meet with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, the GM’s top set of scouting eyes Dana Brown and scouting director Brian Parker. Yet on his first start in the Dominican he was at 89, but in his final start his velocity was back in a 15-up, 15 down-inning.
Since the Jays signed free agent Russell Martin they will be spectators for the first round which consists of only 26 selections due to other off-season movement. Toronto’s first pick, compensation for losing Melky Cabrera to the Chicago White Sox, is the 29th over-all.
Soroka’s personal pitching coach is former big leaguer Chris Reitsma. The man who selected Reitsma 34th over-all in 1996 is Gary Rajsich, the Orioles scouting director.
Reitsma is in the Orioles war room in Baltimore. How many pitchers eligible this year have their personal pitching coach in one of the 30 draft rooms?
The Orioles select 25th, 36th, 68th and 102nd.
There could be anywhere between zero and three first rounders, but there could be double-figure Canucks in the first 10 rounds as the highly-respected Baseball America has 10 going in the first 10.
Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis went in the first nine over-all picks in 2002. That year nine players, including Joey Votto went in the first 10 rounds.
The high for Canucks in the first 10 rounds came in 2007 when Phillippe Aumont went in the first round to the Seattle Mariners, followed by Kyle Lotzkar, Trystan Magnuson, Lars Davis, Mitch Hodge, Evan Hildebrandt, Guillaume Leduc, Tim Smith, Chris Kissock and Joel Collins.
Commissioner Rob Manfred steps to the microphone inside the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. as the Arizona Diamondbacks have the first pick, then the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, Houston again and then the Texas Rangers.
“This is could be one of the strangest draft ever,” said one scouting director, “four of first five picks are by teams who could go off the board (save for the Rockies) with their picks.”
Sitting and waiting and re-arranging their draft board in the Jays war room have been assistant GM Tony LaCava, amateur scout Chuck LaMarr, pro scout Perry Minasian, Latin America scout Ismael Cruz, minor-league director Charlie Wilson, minor-league co-ordinator Doug Davis, Joe Sheehan of research and development, operations analyst Jason Pare, Brown, Tinnish, Parker and Anthopoulos.
When it is the Jays turn Parker will phone vice-president Jay Stenhouse at MLB Network studios and former all-star centre fielder Vernon Wells will announce the selection.
Besides Soroka, the Jays scouts have been seen most often at games of Florida Gators shortstop Richie Martin; outfielder Donnie Dewees of North Florida, high schoolers right-hander Dakota Chalmers of Gainesville, Ga., RHP Donny Everett, Clarksville, Tenn. and OF Eric Jenkins, Cerro Gordo, N.C.