Part I: Early Results of 2004 Draft a Success

Draft experts say it can take up to five years to fully analyze how a draft for a baseball team shaped out. When you take a look at the 2004 draft of the Toronto Blue Jays 15 months after the selections were made you begin to think what this crop will produce in the future. Four players from the first eight rounds have already reached the Double-A level, and when you take a look at just the first eight rounds you see some of the most impact players the farm produced this season.

First Five Rounds

The Blue Jays made five selections within the first three rounds of the draft. They had supplemental picks in the first and third rounds. David Purcey was the first selection of the Jays in the 2004 draft and he certainly ranks among the top prospects in the organization this year. Purcey is a tall, left-hander with tremendous potential and his only weakness right now is his lack of command. The 23-year-old walked fifty-six batters in ninety-four innings while pitching for the Dunedin Blue Jays but also struck out 11.09 batters per-nine-innings in the Florida State League, as opponents hit .229 off him. Purcey received a late season promotion to Double-A and made eight starts for New Hampshire going 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA. Opponents hit .205 off him in forty-three innings of work, as Purcey issued twenty-five walks and recorded forty-five strikeouts. If Purcey can work on his command issues his productivity could be as a top of the rotation starter in the American League.

The second selection for the Jays came in the supplemental round with Zach Jackson, another left-hander. Jackson began the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays and went 8-1 with a 2.88 ERA in ten starts. He ended his Dunedin season with six consecutive victories and allowed just six walks while issuing forty-eight strikeouts. Jackson was then sent to pitch with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and went 4-3 with a 4.00 ERA in nine starts at the Double-A level. The left-hander received another promotion in mid-season and this time it was at the Triple-A level. The promotion to Syracuse to as a bit of a surprise, however, Jackson's stuff was much better than his record indicated for New Hampshire (he had one horrible start in which he allowed 7 runs in 3 innings of work). The left-hander made eight more starts with Syracuse and went 4-4 with a 5.13 ERA. The stint with Syracuse showed us that Jackson is not quite major league ready and will need another 100 innings at the Triple-A level to be ready for the major leagues.

In the second round the Jays selected catcher Curtis Thigpen out of the University of Texas. Thigpen began the season with the Lansing Lugnuts and was third on the catching depth chart behind Guillermo Quiroz and Robinzon Diaz. However, the youngster proved he has the bat behind the plate that most organizations look for their catcher to have. Thigpen played in just seventy-nine games with Lansing and hit .287 with five home runs and thirty-five runs batted in. The performance was good enough for a promotion, but with Robinzon Diaz blocking him at Dunedin, and Diaz not performing well at that point, Thigpen surpassed him on the depth chart. The Texas product skipped the Florida State League and made the jump to Double-A New Hampshire as he proved he could handle that level. Thigpen played in thirty-nine games and hit .284 with four home runs and fifteen runs batted in.

In the third round the Jays selected Adam Lind, a pure left-hand hitter in which many said would not hit for power. Lind has one of the best swings from the left side of the plate and his bat is considered to be his strongest tool. However, over the second half of the season Lind also showed he can hit for power, and we believe his power production will increase. In 126 games, Lind hit .313 with twelve home runs and eight-four runs batted in. Lind scored eighty times on the season and hit a league high forty-two doubles, while striking out just seventy-seven times in 495 at bats. We believe as Lind gets more comfortable at the professional level and grows into his body his doubles will turn into more and more home runs. Regardless, the Jays have a solid hitter in their system and one they should be proud to have.

The Blue Jays also selected Danny Hill with their supplemental pick in the third round. Hill began the season with Lansing, but earned a quick performance as he showed he was too advanced for the Midwest League. The right-hander went 1-2 with a 2.04 ERA in seventeen innings as he recorded eleven saves. Hill finished the season with Dunedin and went 3-2 with a 3.22 ERA in fifty innings of work. Hill should begin the 2006 season with New Hampshire and is a ground ball pitcher who will always make contact and will not strike out many hitters.

In the fourth round the Jays selected a pitcher several might have taken a second glance at when they first saw his collegiate stats. Right-hander Casey Janssen was not your prototypical college pitcher who dominated his opponents to earn himself an early round selection, but rather a four-year college pitcher who did not begin pitching fulltime until later in his collegiate career. However, the scouts say Janssen's ability to pitch and his inexperience on the mound only told them he has room to grow. During his second season of professional baseball Janssen jumped from Low-A to Double-A and finished his season a combined 13-4 with a 2.19 ERA. The right-hander made nine starts at Double-A New Hampshire and showed his remarkable control by issuing just four walks in forty-three innings of work while pitching to a 2.93 ERA. Janssen certainly could begin 2006 with Triple-A Syracuse, however, might find his way back to the New Hampshire roster depending on how the numbers game works out.

In the fifth round the Jays selected shortstop Ryan Klosterman. The 23-year-old did not have a great overall season as he hit .241 in 129 games with the Lansing Lugnuts, however, he did lead his team in home runs, runs bated in, and led the organization with thirty stolen bases. Although his thirteen home runs and sixty-nine runs batted in were good signs for a shortstop he did not pick up his average until later in the season. Klosterman hit just .222 in April, .195 in May and .202 in June before finding his groove the final two months of the season, when he hit .281. The shortstop found his way on the Dunedin roster for their playoffs, but did not play and should begin 2006 with Dunedin.

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