Fact OR Fiction v1.6

Welcome to another installment of Fact OR Fiction here at InsideTheDome. In this segment we field certain statements from fans to be answered by our Blue Jays expert Lee Ferguson. He will debate on the topic and provide you with reasonable evidence that answers the question - Fact or Fiction? In this week's edition Lee analyzes if picking Cal State Fullerton lefty Ricky Romero is the right choice for the Blue Jays.

FACT OR FICTION:

Picking Cal State Fullerton lefty Ricky Romero is the right choice for the Blue Jays.

For those of you that don't know, the lives of many young ballplayers across the globe will change this week with Major League Baseball conducting its 2005 First-Year Amateur Player Draft this Tuesday. The search of the next Alex Rodriguez or Mark Prior begins and the treacherous road thru the ups and downs of minor league systems everywhere starts.

The Toronto Blue Jays, to say the least, have had a very good track record of drafting in the first round in previous years. Just take a look at the prominent names in this list; Shawn Green, Shannon Stewart, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Felipe Lopez, Alex Rios and Aaron Hill.

The first five names on that list are regular major leaguers and key players on their respective teams, while the following three look to achieve that same status with a few more years of experience under their belt. So it's no wonder as to why the Blue Jays organization ranks as one of the best at producing major league talent.

In fact, the Toronto Blue Jays led all teams in the majors this year with 42 players on MLB active rosters that were originally signed by their organization. The next closest were the Los Angeles Dodgers with 39 players. So what that should tell you is that if you're a young baseball player entering the draft this season, you have to be either good enough to make it on your own with another club, or it would be wise to want to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.

So as we look ahead to this years draft class, it appears to be well balanced in both pitching depth and positional players. Sure it doesn't match up and compared, talent-wise, to drafts of years passed, but it's pretty fruitful either way you slice it.

The Toronto Blue Jays, with a dismal record last season of 67-94, will select sixth this year in the Amateur Draft. In the previous four draft years, the Blue Jays have selected a player out of college – the last three under the new regime of General Manager J.P. Ricciardi. In the last three drafts, the Blue Jays had taken two shortstops and two pitchers. If you're wondering why four players instead of three, its because the Blue Jays had one first rounder and a compensation pick last season for losing Type-A free agent Kelvim Escobar. They used those two picks to select left-handers David Purcey out of the University of Oklahoma and Zachary Jackson from Texas A&M. The two years prior to that, they chose shortstops Russ Adams and Aaron Hill.

This year, many observers have the Blue Jays selecting another left-hander, this time from Cal State Fullerton Ricky Romero. They have been seen heavily scouting the 6'1" lefty but we have seen this type of ploy before. Rewind back to the 2003 draft where the year before they selected shortstop Russ Adams. That summer, the Jays had followed left-handed pitcher Brad Sullivan everywhere. Every scout in the league believed Sullivan was destined to be a Blue Jay, but little did they know it was another young shortstop out of Louisiana State named Aaron Hill that they truly coveted. Sullivan ended up with the Oakland Athletics.

Could this year be another diversion? Are the Blue Jays really holding their cards close to their vest and bluffing on Ricky Romero? It would definitely make sense, and I'll tell you why. With the Jays minor league system is filled with many solid pitching prospects, and there is a glaring need for some bats. Last year, the top organizational player in their system hit only 23 HR's. That man was Glenn Williams, who is no longer with the Blue Jays organization and is now playing for the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

Another key area to focus on is actually at the parent club Toronto Blue Jays and ask yourself the following question – which position is in the most need of an upgrade? A position that cries out to me for help would be behind the plate. Sure we have Gregg Zaun and he's performed adequately, but who is really behind Zaun, pushing for playing time? Ken Huckaby? No. Joe Depastino? Who?? Andy Dominique? Not likely. Well how about Guillermo Quiroz? Hmmm, I'm not so sure about that.

Quiroz, a highly touted prospect ever since he signed as an undrafted free agent out of Venezuela, has stalled ever since his breakout campaign at Double-A New Haven in 2003 where he batted .282 with 20 HR's and 79 RBI. He was all set to prepare his one-way flight to Toronto but suffered a collapsed lung. He's been injured now for the past three seasons and the Blue Jays can only wait so long before turning to Plan-B.

Now fast-forward to Tuesday – Draft Day. With presumably Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman and Cameron Maybin off the board, should anyone now be surprised if the Toronto Blue Jays selected Catcher Jeff Clement out of Southern California? I don't think so. The man can hit, and he also plays an ‘in demand' position at catcher. Jeff could very well be the next power hitting catcher in the majors, following in the footsteps of Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. Clement had an outstanding year at the dish hitting .352 with 13 HR's and 50 RBI. He also displayed a keen eye at the plate, walking 44 times to only 40 strikeouts. Clement's defense has improved as well, as he's thrown out 24 of 35 would-be base stealers a 69% average, a twenty-nine percent increase over the previous season.

While there would be nothing wrong in selecting Romero, the Blue Jays minor league system desperately cries out for power bats and Clement fits the bill, as well as the position most needed of an upgrade. So as the hours countdown to draft day, the more and more the crystal ball becomes clearer with this week's statement ultimately being – FICTION!

Tune in next week as we turn our attention back to the major league club and one of Toronto's brightest rookies – Aaron Hill!

If you would like to submit a statement for our Fact or Fiction segment please email us by clicking the Contact Us button on the bottom left of the main page.

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