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Blue Jays Draft Report

By Larry Millson
June 4, 2002

TORONTO--The Blue Jays did have an interest in taking Vancouver, B.C., lefthander Jeff Francis with their first pick.

But when Francis went ninth overall to the Rockies, the Blue Jays--who picked 14th overall--settled on middle infielder Russ Adams from North Carolina.

Adams is a shortstop who also has played second base. Some scouts project him as a second baseman if he becomes a major leaguer.

Scouting director Chris Buckley said Adams--21 and a lefthanded hitter from Laurinburg, N.C.--will likely be given the chance to play shortstop until he proves he should play elsewhere.

"I think he should be given the opportunity to play shortstop, and I'm not so sure he can't play there," Buckley said. "He is a well above average runner, and he is a very good baserunner. He's a very solid, solid player."

"This guy is a good player," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "This guy reminds me a lot of a Walt Weiss, the guy we had in Oakland who came out of the same school. Very athletic. One thing I love about him is that the kid drew a ton of walks. It shows he has plate discipline already. He's done it in the Cape Cod League with the wooden bat, so he's ahead of the game.

"I think we'd let him play his way off short. You don't want to take a guy and just label him. I signed a guy that no one thought would play in the big leagues, Mike Bordick, and he played 13 years at shortstop. This kid is very instinctive. He's a breath of fresh air, because it's nice to talk to kids who the number one thing on their list is just to play baseball. The nice thing about this kid is that he's nice enough to stay in the middle of the diamond."

As for Adams, he said he feels comfortable playing shortstop or second base. "Wherever the Blue Jays say is best for me is fine," he said.

Last summer he was named the top professional prospect in the Cape Cod League and was MVP of the league's all-star game.

He found playing in the Cape Cod League a valuable experience.

"The biggest movement for me as far as getting adjusted (will be) hitting with wood and, more than that, just getting adjusted to playing seven nights in a row," he said. "Making sure that you're getting the work in that you need, and getting the weightlifting done and trying to eat right. To make sure you're doing the best you can to stay physically and mentally ready to play was probably the biggest thing for me up there, and probably one of the most helpful experiences I've gone through.

"I just didn't go up there to say, 'Hey, I played in the Cape Cod League.' I went up there with a purpose, and that was to make myself better and hopefully open some eyes, and fortunately I was able to do that."

Adams saw the Blue Jays play the Red Sox last year when the Cape Cod League all-stars were at Fenway Park.

Adams was following the draft on the internet Tuesday when his computer ran down before the 14th pick was reached. So he ran to a neighboring uncle's house to use his computer. By the time he got his uncle's computer running, though, the draft was at the 20th pick. "He's not as fast as we thought," Ricciardi said.

Actually, Adams was ranked by Baseball America as the second-fastest college baserunner in the draft and the second-best college athlete in the draft. His 93 steals were third in school history.

The Blue Jays took righthander David Bush with their second pick, the 55th overall.

Baseball America ranked Bush, a reliever at Wake Forest, second to Bryan Bullington as the college pitcher closest to the majors.

"He's been dominant where he is," Buckley said. "I would say a short guy in the bullpen, a semi-power pitcher. Maybe he'll get a chance (as a starter), but I think ultimately his role will be at the end of the game in the bullpen."

The Blue Jays went with college pitchers with their second through sixth picks. "I like college kids because I think they're closer to playing in the big leagues and you have more of a proven record," Ricciardi said.

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