Elliott: Jays sit 11th paying six-figure bonuses to Canadians

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By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

Canada’s Team eh?

Maybe at the store where you buy your merchandise.

Maybe at the window where you buy your tickets for the games.

Yet, on the summer sandlots and indoor facilities where high schoolers dream of getting drafted, getting signed and having a chance, Your Toronto Blue Jays are waaaay down the charts.

In John Manuel’s Baseball America’s Mock 1.0 he mentions Kentucky Wildcats’ OF Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) as a possibility for the Blue Jays to take with the 12th over-all pick ... but quickly points out how the Jays have never selected a Canadian with their first pick.

“This all could line up well for the Jays to take a Canadian in the first round, which has never happened in club history. Tristan Pompey of Kentucky, whose older brother Dalton has played in the majors with Toronto, wouldn’t be a big reach here at 12. But other college bats, at this juncture, make more sense, particularly those who performed better with wood in the Cape Cod League this summer. That list starts with Wichita State’s emerging Greyson Jenista.

PICK: Greyson Jenista, OF/1B Wichita State 

Manuel sees Pompey sliding to 19th over-all and the St. Louis Cardinals. 

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Six-figure signings for Cannadians

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Where do the Blue Jays sit overall when it comes to giving out cash money to Canadian kids?

Well, we can’t really narrow it down to the last $1,000 bonus, but a strong indicator of who pays the most comes when examining the six-figure bonuses. Our analytic department from Ormond tracks cash payouts of $100,000 or more. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the most, ringing up the cash register at $6,905,000 US, thanks to Canadian citizen Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Tex), who was given $6.5 Million and three others. 

The Seattle Mariners, thanks to the efforts of scout Wayne Norton (Port Moody, BC), spent $5,557,500 on eight players, led by $2 Million to Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) and $1.9 Million to RHP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.).

The San Diego Padres were next with $5,327,045 on four players, led by $3,963,045 to RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) and $830,000 to Kevin Nicholson (Surrey, BC).

Your Toronto Blue Jays sat 11th behind the Pirates, Mariners, Padres, the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. 

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The top three Canadians drafted in June signed six-figure signing bonuses.

None were drafted by the Blue Jays.

RHP Landon Leach (Pickering, Ont.) of the Toronto Mets signed with the Minnesota Twins for a $1.4 million US bonus in Minneapolis after undergoing a physical. He had been scouted by Walt Burrows (Brentwood Bay, BC). It was the 11th highest bonus ever given a Canadian. 

INF Adam Hall (London, Ont.) of the Great Lake Canadians signed with the Baltimore Orioles for $1.3 million. He was scouted by Chris Reitsma (Calgary, Alta.) and signed by O’s scouting director Gary Rajsich. As a scout in 1996 Rajsich signed Reitsma with the Boston Red Sox. Hall’s was the 12th highest bonus paid a Canadian.

And RHP Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont), who pitched for the Toronto Mets and the Ontario Blue Jays, went in the seventh to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was given a $147,500 bonus by scout Marty Lamb.

The highest bonus the Blue Jays ever gave to a Canuck ... well, you would have to go down to 26th over-all ... and RHP Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver, BC) of the University of Louisville. That’s when the Jays gave the relative of former Chicago Black Hawks star Keith Magnuson’s $462,500 in 2007. 

Now, in fairness there were eight players that the Blue Jays never had a shot at:

High schooler RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Tex.) second overall in 2010 to the Pittsburgh Pirates; LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) of the Whalley Chiefs, fourth overall to the Baltimore Orioles in 2002; RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) from Stanford, eighth to the San Diego Padres in 2016; LHP Jeff Francis, (North Delta, BC) of UBC ninth to the Colorado Rockies in 2002; RHP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) of the Academy Baseball Canada, 11th to the Seattle Mariners, 1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays, 12th to the Miami Marlins in 2015; Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) of the Langley Blaze, 16th to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 and RHP Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) of the Calgary PBF Redbirds, 28th over-all to the Atlanta Braves in 2015.

While Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi would have taken Francis if he had the chance the Jays passed on future major leaguers like INF Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) a second rounder who went to the Cincinnati Reds in 2002, RHP Blake Hawksworth (North Vancouver, BC) from Bellevue Community with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, INF Scott Thorman (Cambridge, Ont.) of Team Ontario, a first rounder in 2000 by the Braves and SS Kevin Nicholson (Surrey, BC) of Stetson College, who went to the Padres in 1997.
  
Plus, prospects like RHP Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, BC) of UBC, ranked 12th and C Andrew Yerzy (Toronto, Ont.) of the Toronto Mets ranked 16th by MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Diamondbacks prospects, OF Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) of Langley Blaze, No. 4 in the Cardinals system; recent drafts such as OF Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays with the Mariners, C Kellin Deglan (Langley, BC) former Langley Blaze now in the New York Yankees system, plus recent drafts RHP Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.) of Ontario Blue Jays with the Minnesota Twins and CF Miles Gordon (Oakville, Ont.) of the Great Lake Canadians, Leach and Hall.

And other drafts LHP Jeff Degano (Surrey, BC) selected from Indiana State by the New York Yankees, Reds RHP Kyle Lotzkar (Tsawwassen, BC) of the Langley Blaze selected by the Reds; Ntema Ndungidi (Montreal, Que.) from ABC drafted by the Orioles and LHP Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, Ont.) of the Windsor Selects selected by the Yankees.  

The largest amount that the Toronto Blue Jays have given a Canadian high schooler is RHP Tom Robson, (Ladner, BC) of the Langley Blaze, who was given $325,000 -- which is the 37th highest.

The others in the class of 2017 gaining six-figure bonus were Leach, Hall, Pop (Brampton, Ont), RF Jonathan Lacroix (Montreal, Que.) given $125,000 by the Houston Astros after he went in the 12th round from Seminole State, plus OF Eric Senior (Toronto, Ont.), Jared Young (Prince George, Ont.) and RHP Jordan Scheftz (North York, Ont.). Senior, a 13th rounder from Midland College, Young a 15th rounder from Old Dominion and Scheftz, a 23rd pick from Central Florida, each received $100,000.

This June, the Jays drafted two players: OF Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park, Alta.) in the 20th round from Niagara University and OF Cooper Davis (Mississauga, Ont.) in the 25th. The Jays gave Kirwer $40,000 but Davis went to Vanderbilt.

Whether it was the late Bobby Prentice, Kevin Briand, Bill Byckowski or Jamie Lehman, Blue Jays Canadian scouting directors have not been given a lot of power early in the draft. They evaluate and then in come the crosscheckers, who have seen players in Florida, Texas, California and over rule them. Lehman had to fight tooth and nail for Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) ... in the 16th round. This trend has gone on since 1977.

Yes, the Blue Jays have drafted 12 players and spent $2,202,500, but were not in on the top player most years. Three times since 1991 have the Jays grabbed the top player: RHP Tom Robson (Ladner, BC) Langley Blaze in 2011, LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) University of Kentucky in 2009 and SS Lee Delfino (Pickering, Ont.) of Team Ontario in 1998. Robson signed, while the Jays did not come to terms with either Paxton or Delfino. 

“I don’t want to say it is easy going against Canada’s team when it comes to Canadians, but they don’t really concentrate on drafting the top guys, which makes it easier for us,” said an opposing scout last July.

The Jays Canadian scouts knew Ryan Dempster was going to be a keeper, but a California-based scout based Dempster last on the list of pitchers heading into the 1996 draft.

They knew Justin Morneau would be a big leaguer three springs later. Yet when the California scout came to see Morneau he walked three times and popped up.

“It was great when Pat Gillick was there, he cared about selecting a Canadian,” said an ex-Blue Jays scout. “But after that we had troubles getting anyone above us to show interest in a Canadian."

And besides first-round expectations that Baseball America has for Tristan Pompey, Perfect Game Scouting Service has Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) rated 22nd among the top 100 high schoolers in North America.

While we realize it doesn’t make sense to draft players based on their passport it doesn’t make sense to seemingly dismiss the best from an entire country.

Top payouts by the Jays
To a collegian: RHP Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver, BC) University of Louisville $462,500 2007. 
To a high schooler: RHP Tom Robson, (Ladner, BC) Langley Blaze $325,000 2011

Total signing bonuses to Canadians who were paid more than $100,000.
1. Pirates $6,905,000 (Jameson Taillon, Austin Shields, Eric Wood and Tom Boleska)
2. Mariners $5,557,500 (Gareth Morgan, Phillippe Aumont, Tyler O’Neill)
3. Padres $5,327,045 (Cal Quantrill, Kevin Nicholson, George Kottaras)
4. Orioles $5,291,800 (Adam Loewen, Adam Hall, Travis Seabrooke)
5. Braves $3,787,700 (Michael Soroka, Scott Thorman, Adam Stern
 
6. Brewers $3,556,700 (Brett Lawrie, Demi Orimoloye, Alexandre Periard)  
7. Twins $3,10,6500 (Landon Leach, Jordan Balazovic, Jesse Crain, Justin Morneau)
8. Reds $3,076,000 (Joey Votto, Kyle Lotzkar, Miles Gordon)
9. Marlins $2,652,000 (Josh Naylor, Chris Leroux)
10. Cubs $2,315,900 (Rob Zastryzny, Ryan Kellogg, Wes Darvill)

11. Blue Jays $2,202,500 (Trystan Magnuson, Tom Robson, Marcus Knecht)
12. Rockies $2,187,000 (Jeff Francis, Lars Davis)
13. Rangers $1,965,000 (Kellin Deglan, Charles Leblanc, Ryan Dempster and Mike Nickeas)
14. Diamondbacks $1,910,800 (Andrew Yerzy, Curtis Taylor, Jake Polancic)
15. Cardinals $1,750,000 (Blake Hawksworth, Malik Collymore)

16. Yankees $1,420,000 (Jeff Degano, Evan Rutckyj, Cory Stuart)
17. Dodgers $897,500 ((Kyle Orr, Steve Nelson, Jeff Hunt)
18. Astros $775,000 (Abraham Toro-Hernandez and Brock Dykxhoorn, Evan Grills)        
19. Tigers $773,700 (Chris Robinson, Jacob Robson, Daniel Pinero)
20. Indians $685,000 ((Nick Weglarz, Robbie Vael, Jordan Scheftz)

21. Royals $475,000 (Kevin Chapman and Mitch Hodge)
21. White Sox $475,000 (Aaron Myette, Bryan Saucedo)
23. Phillies $435,000 (Steven Inch, Ben Pelletier)
24. Red Sox $425,000 (Chris Reitsma)
25. Mets $245,000 (Jonathan Malo, Guillaume Leduc)

26. Expos $230,000 (Martin Mainville, Shawn Hill)
27. Rays $140,000 (Brad Furdal)
28. Giants $105,000 (Brooks McNiven)
29. Nationals $100,000 (Eric Senior)
30. The Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels have not signed any Canadians to six-figure bonuses.

Major leaguers in bold.