MLB Draft History: A Look At Blue Jays' Very Best First Round Picks
The MLB Draft is just a day away and for the Jays, the anticipation is palpable.
After suffering through almost an entire decade of J.P. Ricciardi's mostly inept stewardship, Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays new GM, heads into his first draft looking to put his stamp on this team.
With three first round picks (11th and two in the supplemental round), Toronto has a great opportunity to inject some legitimate talent in to the team's minor league system.
After putting together a mock draft and an analysis of the Jays needs (links provided at the end of this slide show) I decided to have some fun and look at the best first round picks in team history.
Here we go.
10. Felipe Lopez - 8th Overall in 1998
Now before you start going all Kobe Bryant on me and cry foul, I left off players who are still in the early parts of their careers like Hill and Romero.
Lopez makes this list for two reasons: His career year of 2005 when he hit .291/23/85 with 97 runs and 15 stolen bases and the fact that he's carved himself out a lengthy MLB career that seems to still have 3-5 years of life left in it.
Known as a reliable, if not outstanding, utility infielder. Lopez has the ability to hit the occasional home run and is still a threat to steal.
9. Billy Koch - 4th Overall In 1996
This picture says it all.
Regularly hitting 100 mph on the gun, Billy Koch had one of the best fastball's the league had seen in a long, long time. In fact, he was regarded as one of the most dominating pitchers in the game when he was at his best.
In spite of his battles with control and composure on the mound, he still continued to post improving save numbers (31, 33 and then 36) from 1999 to 2001.
Continuing a trend he started with Felipe Lopez where he meticulously rid his team of the previous regimes draft picks, J.P. Ricciardi traded Koch to Oakland for Eric Hinske.
However, whether it was injuries, inconsistency or reported steroid use, Koch flamed out after a brief stint with Florida in 2004.
A short career perhaps but when he was dialed in he was a lot of fun to watch.
8. Ed Sprague - 25th Overall In 1988
Ed Sprague's numbers don't tell the whole story as to why he's 8th on this list.
Sprague made his debut in 1991 and was a part of the 1992 and 1993 World Series championships. He is particularly remembered for hitting the game-winning home run in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1992 Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Statistically, Sprague's best individual year came in 1996 when he hit .247 with 36 home runs and 101 runs batted in.
However, he was never a consistent power threat and the closest he came to duplicating those numbers was a 22/81 season in 1999 while with the Pirates.
Srague was named in the Stockton Record as having used steroids and although he was often prickly with both fans and media alike, Jays fans will nonetheless best remember him for taking a Jeff Reardon fastball over the left field fence.
7. Alex Rios - 19th Overall In 1999
After two years of teasing with his potential, Rios began to show why the Blue Jays valued him so highly.
By the time the All Star Game came calling (he was selected as a reserve), Rios was 1st in the league with a .359 average, along with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs.
However, due to a staph infection he developed just prior to the Game, Rios was forced to sit out. The ailment eventually scuttled the remainder of his season as he struggled to get healthy.
Being able to complete the next two seasons, healthy, he finally proved his worth:
In 2007 Rios hit .297/24/85 with 114 runs and 15 stolen bases while the next year he hit .291/15/79 with 91 runs and 32 stolen bases.
However, the next two seasons Rios started to slump badly. Not only was his offensive poor but his defense was best categorized as lazy, or disinterested.
When you factored in his ridiculous 6 year $64Million contract, the boo birds soon became relentless.
He was released by Toronto in August of last year and picked up by the White Sox. This year he's having a renaissance of sorts, hitting .313/12/28 with 35 runs and an eye popping 17 stolen bases.
He's only 29 so Rios still has time to find consistency and put together a nice career.
6. Vernon Wells - 5th Overall In 1997
Another J.P. Ricciardi contractual nightmare. In fact, the back-loaded seven year $126 Million deal might be the worst contract ever.
However, if you ignore the money issue you'll notice that Wells is a pretty good ball player. If you're angry, blame Ricciardi.
Wells is a stellar center fielder and won consecutive Gold Glove awards in 2004, 2005, and 2006 and could be on his way to another this season.
2003 was his coming out party as he lead the league with 215 hits, 49 doubles, and 373 total bases (to go along with a .317 batting average, 33 home runs, 117 RBI and 118 runs).
If you ignore only the 2009 season, his yearly averages are .283/25/92 with 86 runs.
Every team in the league would want that kind of production (although only Ricciardi and Steinbrener would pay $126 Million dollars for it).
This season, Wells is having a career year hitting .307/14/38 with 36 runs.
I won't go as far to say he's earning his money, but he made us stop talking about his contract (almost).
5. Shannon Stewart - 19th Overall In 1992
In Stewart's first full season with the Blue Jays in 1998, he hit .279/12/55 along with 90 runs and a career high 51 bases.
Stewart immediately became a catalyst at the top of the Toronto lineup, providing speed and base-stealing ability, as well as some power and clutch-hitting.
In every season from 1999 to 2002, Stewart batted .300 or higher and scored over 100 runs. He also showed some unexpected power, hitting 21 HRs in 2000.
In 2003, J.P. Ricciardi traded Stewart to the Twins for Bobby Keilty.
That's not a misprint. Seriously, how did J.P. keep his job for so long?
Stewart played five more seasons, mostly injury shortened, and finally called it a day as a Blue Jay in 2008.
4. Lloyd Moseby - 2nd Overall In 1978
Known as "Shaker" to fans and teammates, Moseby made his major league debut on May 24, 1980 and after some growing pains early in his career, established himself as the Jay's franchise Center Fielder.
Moseby developed into a well-polished batter, fielder and base-runner, knocking in nearly 100 runs on several occasions and regularly stealing 30-plus bases.
In the mid-80s he was part of arguably the best outfield in the American League, playing center field between George Bell and Jesse Barfield.
Moseby's best season was in 1987 when he hit .282/26/96 with 106 runs and 39 stolen bases.
Always a fan favorite, Lloyd was perhaps one the classiest players to ever wear a Blue Jay uniform.
3. Shawn Green - 16th Overall In 1991
Shawn David Green is the first player on this list that can be called a legitimate Super Star (although Wells is getting paid like one).
Green's rookie year was 1995 when he played in 121 games. Even though he finished 5th in AL Rookie of the Year voting, he stil hit .288/15/55 and set Blue Jay rookie records with 31 doubles, 14 game hit streak, 50 extra base hits and a .509 slugging percentage.
1998 was Green's break out year as he became the first Blue Jay with a 30/30 season.
He also became the tenth Major Leaguer to hit 35 or more home runs and steal 35 or more bases in a season, joining among others Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez.
1999 was Green's best, and last, season as a Jay. He hit .307/42/123 along with 134 runs and a .588 slugging percentage. He also led the league in doubles with 45, extra-base hits with 87, and 361 total bases.
He hit a home run in every 14.6 at bats.
After the season, he was awarded a Gold Glove Award for his defense, and a Silver Slugger Award for his offense, and came in 5th in the voting for MVP.
Traded to the LA Dodgers in the off season to avoid losing him as a free agent, Green enjoyed five more highly productive seasons before winding his career down with stops in Arizona and New York (Mets).
At the time of his retirement, Green was one of only four active players with at least 300 home runs, 1,000 runs and RBIs, 400 doubles, a .280 batting average, and 150 stolen bases. The others were Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Gary Sheffield.
As if that wasn't enough, Green was known to have one of the strongest and most accurate arms in baseball. In 1998, he recorded 14 outfield assists.
2. Chris Carpenter - 15th Overall In 1993
This was an extremely tough call as Carpenter clearly had his best seasons as a Cardinal. Shawn Green could easily have been here but this list is about draft picks, not all time Blue Jays.
Carpenter played 6 very inconsistant seasons here in Toronto. However, his issues can easily be partly blamed on being shuffled between the pen and rotation for the first three years.
As would become the hallmark of his career, Carpenter was also injured. A lot. The worst coming in the 2002 season.
Carp was placed on the DL three times that year with the last one in August where he would remain for the remainder of the year.
In his infinite wisdom, JP Ricciardi low balled Carpenter with a minor league deal that off season which he declined, making him a free agent.
The Cardinals picked him up a few months later and the rest is history.
2004 Comback Player of the Year
2005 NL Cy Young Winner.
And JP still kept his job.
When you consider the next name on this list you can't help but wonder what could have been.
1. Roy Halladay - 17th Overall In 1999
My love for this man is well documented. He is quite simply, the greatest pitcher of the last decade.
In his second career start, against the Detroit Tigers on September 27, 1998, Halladay had what would have been the third no-hitter ever pitched on the final day of a regular season broken up with two outs in the ninth. The culprit? A Bobby Higginson solo home run.
After a few up and down seasons, Halladay had his breakout, finishing with a 19–7 record, while posting a 2.93 ERA with 168 strikeouts in 239.1 innings.
The next season he cemtented his name in team lore as the 3rd Blue Jays pitcher to win a Cy Young and the 2nd home grown pitcher (Pat Hengten the other).
He finished with a 22-7 record along with a 3.25 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Including the win total, Halladay also led the league in innings with 266, complete games with 9, shut outs with 2 and a 6.38 strikeout to walk ratio
Only three other pitchers in MLB history have ever matched Halladay's 2003 season. Using the benchmarks of 200 innings pitched (min), 20 wins (min), 200 strike outs (min), and 40 walks (max), only Walter Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Halladay and Cy Young himself have done it.
The other three did it once but in 2008, Doc did it again.
His work ethic, toughness and class endeared him to fans and teamates alike. When all is said and done, Roy "Doc" Halladay might end up the single greatest Blue Jay of all time.
Good luck in Philly, Roy. Win yourself a World Series.
Honorable Mention: John Cerutti - 21st Overall 1981
Cerutti's career as a pitcher was very modest when measured against the previous slides. However, he did win the Jays first ever game at the Sky Dome (now Rogers Centre).
He's on this list because of his career as a broadcaster and the fact that he was arguably the nicest guy to ever wear the Blue and White.
After his playing career, Cerutti made the transition to the broadcast booth, making his debut on April 1, 1997 as a color commentator on CBC Television, staying with the network through 2002.
He spent the next three seasons as a lead analyst with Rogers Sportsnet.
Cerutti was scheduled to cover the last game of the 2004 season but missed an 11:00 AM meeting.
After nervous phone calls from staff and friends, the police had to be brought in to break open the door of his Toronto hotel room.
He was found without any vital signs. His death at the age of only 44 was officially declared to be of natural causes, apparently due to heart arrhythmia.
The Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America paid tribute to John Cerutti in November, 2004, giving him its annual Good Guy Award and renaming the honor for him.
The Award has been handed out every year since Toronto's inaugural season in 1977, and is given annually to an individual who best exemplifies a positive image for baseball.
John Cerutti was known and admired for his exemplary character, good will, and sportsmanship.
Personally, he was and still is one of my all-time favorite color guys. Sharp mind, very informative without pandering and never sycophantic.
We miss you Johnny.
These are your 2008 Beaches East C Division League Champs. Recognize.
Anyways, here are a few Blue Jays and MLB Draft related links: