|Jim Callis' Quick Take|
|The Blue Jays obviously have adjusted their draft strategy, as they took four high schoolers among their first seven picks. It's easy to like a draft with seven picks in the first two rounds, but I really do like this draft. Texas high school third baseman Kevin Ahrens and Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia were a nice start in the first round, addressing specific needs, and all three supplemental first-rounders--Maryland lefty Brett Cecil, North Carolina high school shortstop Justin Jackson and Louisville righty Trystan Magnuson--were good values. Florida high school second baseman John Tolisano (second round) can really hit, and Texas outfielder Eric Eiland (second round) is very athletic. Eiland was very interesting for the Jays, who in the past wouldn't have taken a prepster who didn't have a good spring.|
TORONTO--The Blue Jays used their first pick on a high school player for the second year in a row, altering a trend in which they had concentrated on college players since J.P. Ricciardi's first draft as general manager in 2002.
This year it was shortstop Kevin Ahrens out of Lamar (Houston) High with the 16th pick, an impressive hitter with defensive limitations that will likely make him a better fit at third base.
Last year the Blue Jays took Travis Snider with their first pick (14th overall) and have no reason to regret the choice; he's hitting .335/.376/.520 in his first full pro season with low Class A Lansing.
The Blue Jays took catcher J.P. Arencibia, 22, with the 21st overall pick. The junior righthanded hitter from Tennessee hit .330/.450/.545 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 191 at-bats. The Blue Jays felt that he might have gone higher in the draft had he not started the season with a muscle strain in his back.
Ahrens, a 6-foot-2, 180 pound switch-hitter, is considered one of the top high school hitters in Texas and has drawn comparisons with the Braves' Chipper Jones.
"He has all the indicators for future offensive success," scouting director Jon Lalonde said. "He’s played against top-level competition. He's swung the wood bat. He's a terrific young man. Excellent defensive tools in terms of arm strength, great hands. He probably ends up at third base down the road with a chance to be really, really good over there. Character is something we really value and this is a character kid."
Ahrens, 18, hit .426 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in his senior year and signed a letter of intent to attend Texas A&M. He said he expects to sign with the Blue Jays. And although he feels he can make the transition to third base, he is not ready to give up playing shortstop.
"In high school I've mostly been playing shortstop but in the summertime I actually traded positions with a teammate of mine," Ahrens said. "We switched playing third base and shortstop. I haven't had much experience playing third base but I'm comfortable converting to third base in the future. But I want to try and prove that I can play shortstop in pro ball."
Ahrens is a natural righthanded hitter but has successfully become a switch-hitter and Lalonde said it is difficult to tell that he isn't a natural lefty.
"I started switch-hitting when I was young but I never really started doing it until about my sophomore year in high school," Ahrens said. "I've gotten really comfortable doing it and I think it provided a good way to improve my status in the draft. Overall, switch-hitting is one of the best things I’ve ever done."