By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
In round 26, the Blue Jays went with catcher Brett Wright out of Auburn. The teammate of first overall pick Casey Mize, Wright is a 6-foot, 210 pound receiver who spent his first two years of college ball with San Jacinto junior college before transferring to Auburn. As a junior in 2018, he hit .264/.397/.503 with 14 doubles and 11 home runs, indicating that he's a catcher with some pop in his bat. Baseball America notes that he's "a patient, disciplined hitter who has walked nearly as much as he's struck out and provides solid power." While he could return to Auburn, Wright will probably sign once the Tigers are done in their College World Series run.
A rare high schooler selected in the back half of the draft, the Blue Jays used their 27th round pick to select righty Kyle Luckham from El Dorado High School in Placentia, California. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound righty competed in high school against such lights as Nick Pratto and 2017 Blue Jays second-round pick Hagen Danner. He throws in the low 90s, touching 93-94 mph and has a lively fastball with sink and fade in addition to a potential plus changeup. Many scouts project him as a reliever since his breaking ball isn't great and he has a high-effort delivery but we likely won't know more for a few more years. With a strong commitment to Cal State Fullerton, most think he'll go to college.
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays selected an infielder from the University of Texas. After selecting Kacy Clemens last year, they chose infielder/pitcher Andy McGuire in the 28th round in 2018. McGuire has taken an unusual route to being drafted. He played sparingly in 2014 with Texas as a third baseman before moving to the mound for his sophomore year in 2015. With a new head coach at Texas, McGuire transferred to University of South Carolina Aiken but decided, for health reasons, to take some time off from baseball to focus on his studies. He transferred back to Texas where he completed his degree and rejoined the baseball team for 2018. McGuire was mostly a reliever, throwing 30 2/3 innings with a 2.05 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, striking out 26 and walking 11, but he also hit .263/.383/.500 with three doubles and two home runs in 38 at bats. It's thought that the Blue Jays will put McGuire to work as a hitter rather than as a pitcher at this point.
I thought "Fitz Stadler" was a great baseball name but the Blue Jays outdid themselves by selecting Cre Finfrock, a righthanded pitcher from the University of Central Florida in the 29th round. Finfrock was a regular starter for his first two seasons, logging 175 2/3 innings between those two season before he missed all of 2017 because of Tommy John surgery. He threw 48 innings in 2018, posting a 3.56 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, striking out 50 and walking 29. Baseball America thinks that he'll be a reliever as a pro due to a "poor, short arm action and a fastball that ticks up to 94-95 out of the bullpen but sits at 90-92 as a starter." They write that "the arm action is bad enough that teams are worried that another injury is only waiting to happen." Baseball draft report writes that he's "also shown flashes of a quality breaking ball (77-84) and change (79-81), with potential average or better pitches in time."
The Blue Jays went with another college arm in round 30, selecting 6-foot-4 senior Cobi Johnson out of Florida State. Another Tommy John survivor, Johnson has already been drafted twice: once by the San Diego Padres (35th round in 2014) and once by the Los Angeles Angels (29th round in 2017). He missed all of 2017 with the surgery and came back this year to throw 20 1/3 innings with a 3.54 ERA and 27 strikeouts with 13 walks. The writers at Baseball Draft Report really like his stuff, noting that he'll sit 87-92 mph with his fastball and touch 94 with a "plus" 73-74 mph curve, an average change and he also has a cutter/slider. Since he has another year of eligibility, he could return to the draft to improve his stock even more (losing a round to his last draft season in 2017) or he could leverage his ability to return to school to get a bigger bonus than he would have last year coming off surgery without having pitched since the year before.
Selected in the 31st round of the 2018 draft, Austin Easter is already setting himself up for success beyond the baseball diamond. The senior from UNC Wilmington has graduated with a B.B.A. degree in Finance while showing improvement on the diamond throughout his baseball career. Easter had a 2.91 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 43 innings in his senior season, working almost exclusively out of the bullpen, striking out 47 and walking 13. Easter is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds so he doesn't have a particularly big frame.
The Blue Jays grabbed another pitcher with a smaller build in the 32nd round, selecting Joey Pulido, a 5-foot-9 righty out of the University of Houston. Pulido hails from Clute Texas and played for Alvin Community College before transfering to Houston. In two seasons he was a reliever and tossed 91 1/3 innings with a 3.74 ERA and 95 strikeouts, walking 34 batters and saving eight games (including six in his senior season). Pulido was decribed by head coach Todd Whitting as a "solid go-to guy," a "great teammate" and a "great competitor." Seeing a little bit of video of Pulido, he's a "drop-and-drive" pitcher who has a quick arm.
Matt Harris is another college reliever the Blue Jays selected, this time in the 33rd round, and the righty is listed at 6-feet tall and 180 pounds on the Florida Atlantic University website. The Palm Beach Gardens, Florida native went to Elon University for three years before transferring and he never put up an ERA lower than 4.38 in his freshman year at Elon. He only made three starts in his junior year and didn't play in 2017, transferring to Florida Atlantic as a fifth-year graduate student and likely felt up to competing again after an injury sustained in 2016. Coming into FAU, head coach John McCormack said that Harris "has a really good fastball and his secondary stuff is good. Very aggressive-type guy." In his comeback year, Harris logged 24 innings over 16 games with a 5.18 ERA and 1.60 WHIP, walking only two batters and striking out 26 but giving up 13.68 hits per nine innings.
The Blue Jays selected a righthanded pitcher in eight consecutive rounds (although Andy McGuire may play infield), ending with Grant Townsend, a 6-foot reliever from Oral Roberts University in round 34. The junior pitched for two years at Central Arizona College prior to coming to ORU and was named an NJCAA First-Team All American in 2017, throwing 100 2/3 innings with a 1.79 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, striking out 119 and walking only 24. He continued to rack up strikeouts at ORU, throwing 38 2/3 innings in relief, striking out 50 batters and walking 15 with a 4.19 ERA. From Lake Tapps, Washington, Townsend has another year of eligibility and could decide to go pro with the Jays or return to college for a year to increase his draft position.
In round 35, the Jays selected their second Canadian, third baseman Damiano Palmegiani who went to the Vauxhall Baseball Academy in Alberta. The high schooler hails originally from Caracas, Venezuela but his family moved to Surrey, B.C. when he was five. He returned to B.C. to play for Abbotsford of the B.C. Premier Baseball League in 2017 and played for the Canadian Junior National Team and was one of five Canadians to attend the Area Code Games in California. Palmegiani played in the Blue Jays' Tournament 12 showcase in 2016 and 2017 and has a commitment to Cal State Northridge. I would expect Palmegiani to go to school in 2018 and be eligible for the draft again in three years.
The Toronto Blue Jays selected a high school standout from California with their 36th round pick, taking Kameron Guangorena (formerly Ojeda), a 6-foot, 180-pound senior from St. John Bosco High School. Guangorena took his stepfather's name during his senior year of high school and it's very clear that, despite getting drafted by the Blue Jays, the catcher will attend Cal State Fullerton in the fall, as he tweeted that out that fact on Wednesday. He was thought of as one of the most athletic catchers in the draft and MLB.com wrote that he "can really impact the baseball showing the ability to make consistent hard contact." Scouts think that the rest of his catching game needs work but his arm strength and pop times were above average. Don't expect him to sign.
Righthanded pitcher Parker Caracci has become known for his mid-90s velocity after seemingly coming out of nowhere. A former football player in high school, he took the number 65 when his teammate Walker Wilbanks passed away after he left the 2014 season opener with severe cramping that ended up with him dying of Hyponatremia, a condition that comes from a shortage of sodium in the bloodstream. After not making the baseball team at Ole Miss for two years (sitting in the high 80s with his fastball), he pitched in Summer Ball in the Cal Ripken Summer League, winning seven games and posting a 0.70 ERA, striking out 48. When the spring came around, he was throwing harder and tossed 48 innings as a super-reliever, saving 10 games and posting a 2.25 ERA with 73 strikeouts and just 14 walks. Without having a heavy workload in his first two seasons in college, Caracci's arm doesn't have as many miles on it as many college juniors do.
In the 38th round, the Blue Jays went to Puerto Rico to select catcher Francisco Ruiz, a 6-foot, 195-pound catcher from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy. Comitted to Galveston College in Texas, the righthanded hitter has a big leg kick and looks to generate some power from his swing (as far as I could tell from a promotional video). He was rated the No. 16 draft prospect from Puerto Rico but there's little scouting material available. Ruiz was looking to get drafted but was affected by Hurricane Maria back in the winter, only able to be seen by scouts in Jupiter, Fla., as the scouts couldn't come to Puerto Rico.
In the 39th round, the Jays selected high school pitcher Cole Beverlin who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 180 pounds. He's committed to Florida State and some say that he was the first Spruce Creek baseball player to be drafted out of high school. There's not much out there about Beverlin but I did see a scouting report from 2017 that said that he has an "XL frame with long, lean present build; excellent projection remaining on body. . . Extreme crossfire delivery with very closed landing, works crossbody as a result, compact armstroke through the back to three quarters arm slot, pretty easy delivery and arm stroke throughout. Fastball worked 82-86 mph with good arm side life and occasional sinking action. . . Curveball was out pitch; thrown with excellent spin and sharpness, misses bats with pitch." In a video on MLB.com from 2017, he said that his favourite team was the Blue Jays and his favourite player was Marcus Stroman. Do the Blue Jays have an edge to sign him away from his college commitment? We'll have to see.
Drew Labounty, the Toronto Blue Jays' 40th round pick is a special case. The South Alabama shortstop suffered a career-ending eye injury after fouling the ball off his face but the Blue Jays gave the young man the honour of being selected in the MLB draft. A two-time All-Sun Belt Conference player, he couldn't play his senior season after his injury to his right eye and orbital socket in February and doctors weren't able to save the vision in his eye. Kudos to the Blue Jays for giving Labounty a thrill.
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