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Blue Jays 2002 Draft Overview

By John Manuel
May 13, 2002

Scouting Director: Chris Buckley (first draft: 2001).

2000 Draft (First three rounds, picking 24th)
1a. Miguel Negron, of, Caguas, P.R.
1b. Dustin McGowan, rhp, Long County HS, Ludowici, Ga.
2a. Peter Bauer, rhp, South Carolina
2b. Dominic Rich, 2b, Auburn
3. Morrin Davis, of, Hillsborough HS, Tampa

2001 Draft (First three rounds, picking fifth)
1. Gabe Gross, of, Auburn.
2. Brandon League, rhp. St. Louis HS, Honolulu.
3. Tyrell Godwin, of, North Carolina.

2002 Draft
Blue Jays pick 14th in rotation.

Overview
General manager J.P. Ricciardi was hired to run the Blue Jays in part because of his reputation as a talent evaluator with the Athletics. Oakland's approach stressed skills as much as tools, and the Blue Jays have a history of finding players who fit that description, as well as raw talents more typical of organizations like the Pirates.

Few teams have the track record of the Blue Jays' current draft hierarchy, which starts with Tim Wilken, Chris Buckley's predecessor as scouting director and current vice president of baseball operations. Pat Gillick hired Wilken as a scout in 1979, and Wilken became scouting director in 1995 after years as a crosschecker; Buckley followed the same path in the organization.

A former college assistant coach, Buckley has worked closely with Wilken the last several years, first as trusted lieutenant and now as the man in charge. They're a big reason the Blue Jays led major league organizations with 66 players appearing in the big leagues in 2001 who were originally drafted or signed by Toronto. Recent Jays successes include first-round picks such Vernon Wells (1997) and Felipe Lopez ('98); international signees such as Cesar Izturis (Venezuela, '96); draft-and-follows like second baseman Orlando Hudson (43rd round, '97); late-round finds like Jay Gibbons (14th round, '98); and nondrafted free agents like righthander Scott Cassidy.

Buckley's first draft made Wilken jealous. In the previous two years, budget restraints helped force Wilken's hand in selecting raw Puerto Rican high schoolers (Miguel Negron, Alexis Rios) with the organization's first pick. It's not that Toronto didn't spend money; it just couldn't give out huge first-round bonuses, instead choosing to spread its money around to draft-and-follows (righthanders Brandon Lyon, Cam Reimers, Aaron Dean).

Last year, Buckley got the player he wanted in the first round in Auburn slugger Gabe Gross. Buckley also snagged premium talent in subsequent rounds with righthander Brandon League and outfielder Tyrell Godwin, who was twice picked in the first two rounds ('97 Yankees, '00 Rangers).

The Blue Jays lean toward taller pitchers like Chris Carpenter and Gary Glover, and multi-tooled athletes such as Wells and Godwin. Wilken and Buckley also like to joke about their fascination with football players and two-sport players, from Wells and Godwin to Chris Weinke and former NBA player Mark Hendrickson, though this year's draft isn't too deep in such players.

The question for this draft will be how much Ricciardi will change the organization's approach. As those 66 big leaguers attest, Toronto's scouting department ain't broke, but Ricciardi was hired to fix the Blue Jays. It's logical to assume he would bring his philosophy to the draft as well.

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