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Draft Report Card

Gabe Gross
Photo: Bob Libby

Best Pro Debut: OF Gabe Gross (1) batted .302-4-15 at high Class A Dunedin, then drilled three homers in 11 Double-A games. OF Tyrell Godwin (3) didn’t play as a University of North Carolina senior but stepped right into pro ball and hit .368-2-15 in the short-season New York-Penn League. 2B Nick Tempesta (26) batted .335-8-46 at Rookie-level Medicine Hat.

Best Athlete: Godwin’s tools made him a two-time first-round pick, by the Yankees in 1997 and the Rangers in 2000. He agreed to sign with Texas for $1.2 million, but the deal fell apart after a physical revealed that he was missing an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Godwin had surgery and is running as well as ever, plus he has power potential and his instincts seem to have improved. He also played running back and cornerback for two years with the Tar Heels’ football team. Gross started six games at quarterback for Auburn as a freshman and was a standout high school basketball player. OF Luke Hetherington (9) was a Washington state champion wrestler and star wide receiver in high school.

Best Hitter: Gross was one of the top three or four college hitters available. Godwin certainly opened some eyes with his NY-P performance.

Best Raw Power: It’s Gross and Godwin in a 1-2 finish again. 2B/SS Mike Rouse (5) has good pop for a middle infielder. C Tim Whittaker (38) led the Southeastern Conference with 21 homers during the spring, and he’s also a quality receiver.

Fastest Runner: Godwin can take a full swing and still get from the left side of home plate to first base in 4.0 seconds. He set a North Carolina record with a 100-yard kickoff return against Stanford.

Best Defensive Player: Rouse and SS Lee Delfino (6) are quality middle infielders.

Best Fastball: The Blue Jays have seen RHP Brandon League (2) throw 98 mph, a figure exceeded by only the Royals’ Colt Griffin among 2001 draftees. RHP Chris Sheffield (4) never could hold a regular job in the University of Miami’s rotation, but he throws 90-95 mph and has a mid-80s slider. RHPs Brendan Fuller (13) and Darren Heal (22) didn’t have much success in college at South Florida and Oklahoma State, respectively, though both can touch 95. Toronto also picked up RHP Mark Perkins, an 18th-round draft-and-follow who peaks at 96.

Most Intriguing Background: The Blue Jays believe in bloodlines and proved it by taking five players with baseball relatives. 1B Ernie Durazo’s (12) brother Erubiel hit a key National League Championship Series homer for the Diamondbacks. Unsigned OF Sean Gamble (11, Oscar), SS Isaac Iorg (18, Garth) and OF Jon Ashford (20, Tucker) all have fathers who played in the big leagues. Issac’s father is Toronto’s first-base coach, and the Blue Jays employ unsigned 2B Kenny Holmberg’s (49) dad Dennis as a Dunedin’s hitting coach. Toronto also drafted twins, RHPs Mark (29) and P.J. McDonald (43), but didn’t sign them.

Closest To The Majors: Toronto soon will have to trade Raul Mondesi or Shannon Stewart in order to make room for Gross, who will start 2002 in Double-A.

Best Late-Round Pick: Fuller or Iorg, who’s the same kind of player that his father was.

The One Who Got Away: Gamble is a legitimate center fielder with a sweet lefthanded swing and power potential. He’s playing at Auburn, where he could help replace Gross in the heart of the lineup.

Assessment: New ownership expanded the Blue Jays’ draft budget after the club spent first-round picks the previous years on Puerto Rican outfielders it could sign for well below market value. First-year scouting director Chris Buckley reaped the benefits, scoring with Gross, League and Godwin with his top three picks. The Jays showed patriotism by drafting eight Canadians, including Delfino and LHP Sean Grimes (8) in the first 10 rounds.

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