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It was no surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays selected left-hand pitcher Ricky Romero in the first round of the 2005 Amateur Draft.
"All of baseball knew the Jays wanted the best left-hand pitcher available in the draft" one Scouting Coordinator told InsideTheDome.
"Look around, there's just not many left-handers out there," Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "We think we have three quality ones. For us to go into the free-agent market and try to get pitching, it's something we find is always over-priced."
Romero is still playing in the postseason and the Jays will begin contract negotiations with him as soon as his playing season is over.
"The area scouts for the Jays do a good job of making sure they understand what it will take to sign a player they draft in the early round."
"I want to get a deal as soon as possible," said Romero through a conference call following the draft. "I just want to be out there facing hitters, competing. That's what I love to do. I want to try to be in the big leagues as soon as possible."
Romero is expected to receive a signing bonus between $2.3 million and $2.6 million.
One Scouting Coordinator told ITD before the draft that the Jays would focus on hitting after the first round, but did not draft as many position players as we expected. They did go for power in the third, fourth and sixth rounds. As was the case in 2004, the Jays went with college seniors following the first round and are expected to sign both players without a problem. Brian Pettway, the Jays third round selection, focused on conditioning after his junior season with Ole Miss and as a result dropped 20 pounds. In the fourth round the Jays went for pure power as they drafted Ryan Patterson for LSU. Patterson hit 60 home runs in his four-year career with LSU, however, some scouts worry whether his power will carry over in the professional ranks.
"He is very raw and needs work, however, with the proper instruction he could turn into a good power threat" said one Area Scout from the Midwest. "We also had him on our draft board, but we viewed him as a fifth through tenth round selection."
According to one Area Scout the Jays are expected to spend $650,000 - $765,000 million on the two picks combined.
Sixth and Seventh Round "Steal"
You could make the case that the Jays went with a pair of over-drafts in rounds three to five, however, you can't make that point with the sixth round selection of the Jays. Catcher Josh Bell was surprised he remained on the board for so long, but for now he just wants to move on.
"I was hoping I would go a little bit higher, but it is a great opportunity and I won't pass it up."
Bell has been moved around his entire collegiate career playing first base, third base and even pitching. This season the merry-go-round ended and Bell remained behind the plate for the majority of the season. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 59 runs while hitting .338. As a two-way player his sophomore season, Bell hit .274 with 10 home runs and went 3-3 with a 4.75 ERA from the mound. The Auburn product sounded disappointed that his pitching career would be coming to an end.
"I was drafted as a catcher and that is where I am planning to play. I hope to pitch in my career but I am definitely working on playing as a catcher."
In the seventh round the Jays went searching for another player that had dropped on the day and found a junior right-hander from Texas A&M. Robert Way was the 206th overall selection after compiling an 8-6 career with 155 strikeouts and 40 walks in 146 innings of work. Ray entered his junior season with momentum after being a Top 15 prospect in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2004. The hard-throwing right hander posted a 1.93 ERA, while striking out 57 batters in just 32.2 innings of work. He allowed 21 hits and issued 18 walks that summer. However, Ray got off to a bad start this season and scouts began to turn away slightly. He allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings his first start of the season and then allowed six runs in his next three starts, spanning 13 innings. Rey then moved to the bullpen and began to pitch better. He re-entered the starting rotation and picked up a victory against Oklahoma State near the end of the season allowing two runs on three hits in 7 2/3 innings of work with nine strikeouts. He was back on the scout's radar, however, a poor showing against Baylor and Texas his final two starts of the year meant he would not be drafted as early as scouts projected following last summer.
Chance in the Ninth
In the ninth round the Jays selected right-hand pitcher Paul Phillips from Oakland University. When healthy Phillips hits 94 MPH on the gun with a slider in the 83-86 MPH range. However, he had labrum surgery late in 2003, and has not fully regained his old velocity according to one scout. Some reports have Phillips returning back to school, though one Area Scout from the Northeast that we spoke with did not agree with that assessment.
"From my understanding, Paul wants to sign as soon as possible and enter professional baseball."
Phillips was expected to be drafted within the first five rounds of the draft.
A Pair of Twins
The Jays drafted a pair of twins in the tenth and fourteenth round, though not brothers. Right-hander Josh Sowers is the twin brother of Jeremy Sowers, the Indians 2004 selection, and Sean Stidfole and his twin brother both pitched for Penn State this season. Sowers, who went 6-1 with a 2.10 ERA for Yale this season, is a soft-tossing right-hander with a high 80s fastball and a good slider.
"This is what I've wanted to do since I started playing baseball," said Sowers. "I'm excited to be drafted and be with a team that I know has a good farm system and room for ascension in the ranks."
There is a chance that Stidfole will not sign and return for his senior season with Penn State.
Can't Hurt to Try
The Jays went with a reach in the 17th Round when they selected Tyler Norrick from Southern Illinois. Norrick who was projected to go in the first five rounds was disappointed about slipping and told scouts after the fifth round not to draft him.
"Clubs were calling me after the fifth round, and I basically told them `no,'" Norrick said. "I like it at Southern, and I have no problem going back for my senior year. I told teams they needed to make it worth my while for me not to go back."
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