Blue Jays Diversify Portfolio

With seven of the draft’s first 56 picks, the Blue Jays were positioned to supplement a farm system that had ranked in the bottom third of baseball in each of the last two seasons. And that was before Adam Lind lost his prospect eligibility early this season.

It looks like they have done just that.

Toronto snagged accomplished college players with three of their first seven picks and promising high school bats with the remaining four picks.

Moving to address a lack of impact talent on the infield, the Jays used the 16th overall pick on Houston prep third baseman Kevin Ahrens, a switch-hitter with power who’s drawn comparisons with Chipper Jones.

They turned the loss of Type A free agent Frank Catalanotto into shortstop Justin Jackson, a strong defender from the same North Carolina high school as Cameron Maybin.

The Blue Jays grabbed two more high schoolers in the second round: John Tolisano, from Florida, and Eric Eiland, another Houston-area product. Tolisano, who like Ahrens is a switch-hitter, played shortstop as an amateur, but below-average hands and poor footwork will likely push him to the outfield. There’s an outside chance he can play center field, and if he were able to develop into an adequate defender there, he’ll enhance his value. The speedy Eiland is billed as the best high school athlete to come out of the Houston area since Carl Crawford, but he struggled with left hamstring problems in 2007.

Toronto wasn’t done there. Scouting director Jon Lalonde and his staff also added two of the more intriguing college arms available in Maryland lefthander Brett Cecil and Louisville righthander Trystan Magnuson. Cecil’s body, arm action and stuff have all improved significantly during his college career, and he ranked among the Cape Cod League’s top 10 prospects last summer. The 6-foot-7 Magnuson, a fifth-year senior, is still learning body control, but he dominated all season coming out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.

No Blue Jays draft would be complete without a college catcher going in the first few rounds. Toronto used the second of its two first-round picks this year on Tennessee backstop J.P. Arencibia, one of Team USA’s top hitters last summer. He joins Curtis Thigpen (Texas, second round, 2004), Josh Bell (Auburn, sixth round, 2005) and Brian Jeroloman (Florida, sixth round, 2006) as college catchers in the system.