The books are now closed on the Blue Jays 2012 draft class

When the Blue Jays acted Ryan Borucki On Sunday, following his call-up a week ago on Tuesday, it was not only the departure of the longest-serving player in the organization but another milestone. Borucki was also the last remaining member of the 2012 MLB draft class in the organization, closing the 2012 draft class books for the Blue Jays exactly 10 years to the date the draft began on June 4, 2012.

The 2012 draft was a transition point as it was the first in the era of slotting and hard draft spending pools. After 81-81 in 2011, they were 17th overall pick and they also had 22nd overall pick for failing to sign the 2011 first-rounder Tyler Beede.

It was also the last draft where it was common to collect extra early picks from lost free agents last winter. The Jays were masters at it under Alex Anthopoulos and this was their final bite of the apple to take advantage of that gap. They had three sandwich picks in finishes 50th, 58th and 60th overall from losing Type B free agents Frank Francisco, jon smokeand Jose Molina (They were hoping to get picks for Type A free agents KellyJohnson but he accepted the arbitration offer after the new CBA changes froze his market).

Overall, with five picks in the top 60, the Blue Jays provided one of the larger draft pools and opportunity sets, although they weren’t picked anywhere near the top. It was the exciting days of the Lansing Three and expectations and anticipation were running high as early returns from the 2010 and 2011 spending spree were enticing. While several players’ careers aren’t quite dry yet, we can now look back at what the Jays have accomplished.

I’ve listed all the conscripts who made it to the big leagues, as well as those who didn’t make it but received significant bonuses. All WAR numbers are the average of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, with four totals relevant in my view. The first is the player’s total career WAR to date. The second is the WAR, which is produced during the years of team control, which is essentially what teams pay for with bonuses. The third, “WAR Draft,” is the subset of what goes directly back to draft, thus excluding anything after the original contract was severed (by publication, free agency, etc.). The finale was produced for the Blue Jays. The last column is the remaining year of control for the player because while the books are closed for the Blue Jays, they are not completely closed for the players.

The Blue Jays signed 33 of the 44 players they selected. Despite already having one of the larger pools in the draft, they made the strategic decision to essentially punt their picks in rounds 4 through 10 with senior signs, raising about $1.5 million to redistribute elsewhere. Most of it went on Matt Smoral, Anthony Alford and signing Borucki. So her draft class basically consisted of betting on eight players who received big bonuses, as well as seven others on Day 3 who received ~100,000 bonuses that did not count towards the pool (none counted).

Above, DJ Davis was a flop, never really hitting in the low minors and failing to hit double A. It’s doubly painful considering the next election was Corey Seeger to the Dodgers, followed by Michael Wacha (who had a fine career). The other big what-if is this Luke Giolito went to Washington a pick earlier after sliding down the board and seemed like a typical Anthopoulos gamble. Remarkably, that’s the only reason why the Nationals pick ahead of the Jays Chris Sale missed a save in the final game of the 2011 season and the Jays defeated the White Sox.

In contrast, Markus Stroman proved incredibly valuable. I remember Jim Callis (then of Baseball America) not quite pounding the table on the draft show, but saying he was being unduly put down because of his height. Shortly after the Jays banged him and despite the hiccups of the PED suspension, Stroman quickly rose through the ranks in the big leagues as a frontline starter in 2012.

The bets on high school compensation picks didn’t go down either. The tall (literally at 6’8”) stepper was Smoral, but he struggled with injuries and never got on the track. Mitch Nay also dealt with injuries and was a solid performer who rose up the chain, but never again (he’s had a few good years in the upper underclasses since then). Tyler Gonzales was an underdog who didn’t practice at all and was out of baseball two years later.

The promise came from first instead Chase de Jong, then Alford (once he focused on baseball), and finally Borucki when he recovered and started climbing the ladder around 2016. De Jong’s solid stuff and command led to good success in the lower minors but saw him lay flat. Reaching the majors alone is a formidable achievement, albeit ultimately essentially as an up-or-down replacement level pitcher.

Not long ago, Alford looked like a brilliant bet on tools as he emerged as a top 100 prospect. But between injuries, a stagnation in top minors and an influx of outfield players in 2018-19, the opportunity never really presented itself and he ended 2020 without an option and pushed himself out of the roster mid-season as the Jays claimed. Ultimately, it doesn’t look like he’s going to put it together and deliver on the promise and hoped-for fame.

Thus, Borucki was the last hope for a second significant major league contribution. The Jays fell off the draft board in the spring due to an elbow injury, took a flyer in the 15-hit round and landed it with the very bottom of their draft pool. He eventually needed Tommy John, and other arm problems prevented him from making it to short-season ball until 2016. He then rose quickly through the minors and looked like a plausible mid-rotation or backend starter with a quality mix.

That’s exactly what he was when he debuted in the second half of 2018, posting a 3.87 ERA in 13 starts as one of the few bright lights as the Jays tore down the roster around him. Unfortunately, 2019 mostly ended on a write-off due to injury, and the Jays decided his future was a short-term helper. His speed was increasing and he even had a good winning streak in 2020 but the batting throw wasn’t there.

In the end, I can’t help but wonder if he’s just not cut out to be a two-pitch max-effort guy. His previous success was based on pitchability (and a very good turn). I’m curious to see what will become of his career as he is already the second most successful conscript of 2012.

It’s also worth noting that there are still ties to the 2012 draft attribution within the organization. Stroman returned Anton Kay as well as Simeon Woods-Richardsonwhich in turn was part of the package for Jose Berrios. De Jong (along with Tim Locastro) brought back the extra international pocket money from the Dodgers to mitigate penalties for landing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. And of course brought back Borucki last Tyler Kennan.

A total of five players from this class made it to the majors, as well as three of the non-signed players (Cole Irvin, Daniel Zamora and recently faced Jose Cuas). Mitch Nay could plausibly finish sixth at some point. As the saying goes, regular quality makes a draft successful, and the Jays certainly got the former with Stroman.

In that sense, it could be considered a success, but having so many extra early picks raises the bar for success significantly. The lack of any kind of supporting depth contributions is glaring. This was an opportunity to lay a foundation for the future and in the end it’s disappointing to produce fewer than 20 drafts of WAR. Overall, my grade would be in the C/C+ range.

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