By: Burke Granger
Three times in the preceding five years leading up to the 2016 draft, the Blue Jays have failed to sign a high draft pick. The unsigned club consists of Tyler Beede (1st) in 2011, Phil Bickford (1st) in 2013, and Brady Singer (2nd) in 2015. This past draft was more successful however, as the Blue Jays signed each of their first thirteen picks.
First Six Selections
Round 1, Pick 21: T.J. Zeuch – RHP – Pittsburgh. Signed for $2.175 MM, Zeuch was one of the more impressive pitchers I saw last spring, as detailed in this report. Towering at 6’7″, Zeuch leverages his size with a high three quarter delivery and generates impressive arm side run on a fastball that sits 93-95 mph. While the fastball might currently be Zeuch’s only true standout pitch, his slider, curveball and changeup all rate as at least average.
Round 2, Pick 57: J.B. Woodman – OF – Mississippi. An unsigned 40th round pick (NYM) out of Edgewater High School (Fla.) in 2013, Woodman chose school. After a rough go of it at the Cape Cod League in 2015 where he struck out 51 times in 128 at bats, he tied fellow 2nd rounder, Florida’s Peter Alonso, with the SEC lead with 14 HR in 2016. While Woodman only hit 4 HR in a 229 AB professional debut, he did manage 20 doubles and slugged .445.
Round 2, Pick 66: Bo Bichette – SS – Lakewood H.S., St. Petersburg, Fla. Bo’s father Dante was a 4 time All-Star during a 14 year career and his older brother Dante Jr. was a supplemental first round pick (51st overall) of the Yankees in 2011. While his glove and arm are adequate, the younger Bichette will likely move off of shortstop due to a stocky 6’0″ 200 pound frame. Signed for $1.1MM, Bichette had perhaps the best professional debut of any Blue Jay draftee, hitting .427/.451/.732 in the rookie level Gulf Coast League with 15 of his 35 hits going for extra bases.
Round 3, Pick 102: Zach Jackson – RHP – Arkansas. The knock on Jackson has always been his ability to throw strikes. His walk rate actually got worse as his college career progressed, going from 4.43 per 9 as a freshman to 6.79 per 9 as a junior. Jackson dominated as a sophomore going 5-1, 2.10 ERA, 13.35 Ks per 9 and 9 saves which earned him a spot on the Collegiate National Team. He was unable to repeat that success last season, as his ERA ballooned to 5.09 and his numbers regressed across the board. If the Blue Jays are able to reign in Jackson’s control, he could move quickly as a leverage inning reliever. Complementing a mid-90’s fastball that touches 97, Jackson has a true power 12-6 curveball that generates swings and misses.
Round 4, Pick 132: John Palacios – OF – Auburn. Palacios bounced around in college, starting at Stoney Brook before transferring to San Jacinto Junior College (Texas) then finally to Auburn. While Palacios yielded center field at Auburn to Anfernee Grier with whom the Diamondbacks selected 39th overall, Palacios played center in his professional debut and has the tools to stick there. In that 50 game debut, Palacios hit .330/.397/.426 while stealing 8 bases.
Round 5, Pick 162: Cavan Biggio – 2B – Notre Dame. Like Bichette, Biggio has MLB bloodlines. His father Craig is a member of the 3000 hit club and was a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee. Biggio doesn’t do anything poorly but he doesn’t have a standout tool either. Biggio walked as much as he struck out in college and continued to show on base acumen as a professional, recording a 1.06 K/BB rate in a 238 at bat debut split between the Northwest and Midwest League’s.
Five months after the draft, this class looks good for the Blue Jays. If the draft were to be redone after observing the professional debuts, Bichette would likely have been a first round pick. While Zeuch may not have #1 upside, his expansive repertoire makes him a relatively safe bet as a mid-rotation starter.