Blue Jays Draft Report Card

Analyzing Toronto's 2008 draft




QUICK TAKE
For the third straight year, the Blue Jays spent most of their early picks on position players. David Cooper was one of the 2008 draft's best pure hitters, and Toronto bolstered its stock of power hitters (Sobolewski, Thames, Valdez) and athletes (Wilson, Brisker, Crouse).
POSITION PLAYERS

BEST PURE HITTER: 1B David Cooper (1) showed off his sweet lefthanded swing and hand-eye coordination by topping .300 at three different levels, batting a combined .333/.399/.502 and ending the summer in high Class A. The Jays think he'll develop at least average power as he gets stronger.  >>  BEST POWER HITTER: OF Eric Thames (7), who has yet to make his pro debut because he tore a quad muscle late in the college season. 3B Mark Sobolewski (4) and C Jonnathan Valdez (17) also have plus raw power.  >>  FASTEST RUNNER: The Blue Jays have clocked OF Kenny Wilson (2) in 3.7 seconds from the right side to first base on a bunt, and he has recorded sub-4.0 times on full swings. Wilson, who worked on switch-hitting in instructional league, stole 25 bases in 28 tries in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.  >>  BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Sobolewski has a strong arm and good range at third base, though he needs to cut down on his throwing errors, often the result of dropping his arm. Tyler Pastornicky (5) is a rangy shortstop with a plus arm and reliable hands. Toronto likes C Antonio Jimenez's (9) potential behind the plate.

PITCHERS

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Chris Holguin (14) has the best pure velocity, maxing out at 96 mph. RHP Danny Farquhar (10) can run his fastball up to 94 and achieves good life while varying his arm angle. RHP Andrew Liebel (3) has excellent command of a heater that tops out at 93, and RHP Dustin Antolin (11) has the same peak velocity and nice sink.  >>  BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Liebel and RHP Bobby Bell (18) have plus changeups. The best breaking ball in this crop is RHP Evan Crawford's (8) curve.

ODDS AND ENDS

BEST PRO DEBUT: Bell, who had Tommy John surgery at Rice in 2007, had a 0.88 ERA, 11 saves and a 43-0 K-BB ratio in 31 innings while reaching low Class A. Opponents hit just .140 against him.  >>  BEST ATHLETE: Toronto added a fast-twitch athlete in Wilson and two guys with strength and speed in OFs Markus Brisker (6) and Michael Crouse (16).  >>  MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: RHP Jason Roenicke's (19) father Gary, uncle Ron and brother Josh all reached the majors, as did Pastornicky's dad Cliff. Crouse's father Ray was a running back in the NFL and Canadian Football League.  >>  CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Cooper has an advanced bat, while Liebel's command and Farquhar's deception help their causes.  >>  BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: Valdez is a lefthanded-hitting catcher with power, average arm strength and raw receiving skills. Antolin intrigues the Jays as well.  >>  THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY: Toronto signed its first 25 draft picks. The highest-ceiling player it missed out on is C Justin Dalles (26), who took his arm strength and power potential to South Carolina.