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A Lefty Lean

June 7, 2004
By Larry Millson

TORONTO--The Blue Jays took a lean to the left with their top two draft picks, taking Oklahoma lefthander David Purcey of Oklahoma with their first-round pick (16th overall) and Texas A&M lefthander Zach Jackson with their supplemental first-round pick (32nd overall).

General manager J.P. Ricciardi was delighted to get both.

"When you're picking at 16, you're at the disposal of the teams in front of you," Ricciardi said during a conference call. "Jackson was a bit of a surprise, we didn't think he would be there at 32. When he was, we were ecstatic. We feel we got two of the top four lefthanders in the country." Both will begin their professional careers with short-season Auburn.

"We're going to err on the side of caution," Ricciardi. "But within a three- to four-year period they could be pitching the big leagues." Ricciardi was concerned that Purcey, 22, listed at 6-5, 240, would have been taken before the 16th pick and that Jackson would surely be gone by the 32nd pick.

"We had a 16 and a 32, and for us it was like having two number ones, and we think we got two number ones," he said.

In comparing the two, Ricciardi said, "Purcey is a little more of an upside guy. He kind of reminds us of (Jeremy) Affeldt of Kansas City, a little bit more power. Jackson doesn't throw as hard--he probably pitches at 90, 91, 92--but he really pounds the strike zone. We think we have a little bit of a contrast--in one power, in one a little bit more control. It'd be nice, if everything works out, (that) we got those two guys pitching in our rotation at some point."

Purcey had been drafted twice before without signing. He was a 20th-round pick for the Mariners in 2001. The Yankees selected him in the 17th round in 2003 when Purcey was a draft-eligible sophomore. After a disappointing sophomore season, the Yankees made a run at signing Purcey after he went 4-1, 1.88 in the Cape Cod League. It was at the Cape that Purcey started developing his curveball and changeup, giving him compliments to his 90-95 mph fastball.

"When you go play in a wood bat league, the first of the year you're going to have great success because the hitters don't have a good feel for the wood bats," Purcey said. "But if you're still pitching good at the end of the season, you know you're doing something right."

That success carried over to this season, as Purcey went 9-5, 3.11 with 130 strikeouts and 54 walks in 119 innings, showing consistency and ace starter stuff that he had only flashed in the past.

JAY CHATTER

Jackson was taken with one of two picks the Blue Jays received as compensation for losing starting pitcher Kelvim Escobar to the Angels as a free agent. South Alabama first baseman Adam Lind was taken with Anaheim's third-round pick.

The Blue Jays took 11 pitchers and nine position players from its first 20 picks and 19 of its first 20 picks--including the first 12--were college players.

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