TORONTO — Amateur scouting director Steve Sanders wouldn’t tip his hand Thursday on the type of player the Toronto Blue Jays might be looking for with the 12th overall pick in next week’s MLB Draft.
Mock drafts from the Bleacher Report and MLB are predicting that Wisconsin high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic will go at No. 12, while the CBS Sports website thinks Stetson University pitcher Logan Gilbert will get the nod.
“Our focus is really on getting the best player available to us and it’s hard to anticipate where that player is going to come from — whether it’s a college or a high school player — or what position that guy is going to play,” Sanders said on a conference call.
Former Toronto reliever Duane Ward and scout Matt O’Brien will represent the Blue Jays on Monday night in Secaucus, N.J., during the first two rounds of the draft.
Rounds 3 through 10 are set for Tuesday and rounds 11 through 40 go Wednesday. Auburn University right-hander Casey Mize is a favourite to go first overall to the Detroit Tigers.
The San Francisco Giants have the second pick and the Philadelphia Phillies own the third overall selection. Toronto also has a second-round pick at No. 52 and a third-rounder at No. 88.
The 2017 draft was the first with the Blue Jays for Sanders, a former assistant director of amateur scouting with the Boston Red Sox.
“If anything I think we’ve all learned that inevitably there are surprises,” Sanders said. “Just like us, there are 29 other teams that are meeting this week and are putting their boards together and are coming up with those same plans. It’s very, very hard to predict what’s going to happen.
“So as much as we can sometimes speculate and plan on things that may be slightly more or less likely to happen, in reality until those names start coming off, we really try to plan for everything.”
Toronto had two first-round picks last year. The Blue Jays selected shortstop Logan Warmoth at No. 22 and pitcher Nate Pearson at No. 28.
“The process is really the same,” Sanders said. “Unless you’re picking (first), what happens in front of us is out of our control. We’re certainly monitoring the landscape of what could possibly happen ahead of us.
“Our job, whether we’re picking 12th or 30th, is to really just be prepared for every possible scenario that could play itself out so that when it is our turn to pick, we’re able to execute that plan that we’ve put together and have put a lot of time and thought and resources into.”
The Blue Jays have worked to restock the farm system in recent years. A number of top prospects — notably blue-chipper Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — are excelling at the minor-league level and the future looks bright.
But Sanders said that will have little impact when it comes to making decisions at the draft table.
“I would just say that where our current depth is in the minor-league system probably won’t play much of a role in terms of what player we’re targeting,” he said. “But instead we’re just really focused on taking the best player available to us at each pick, especially up near the top of the draft.”
The Tampa Bay Rays (16th, 31st, 32nd, 56th, 71st) and Kansas City Royals (18th, 33rd, 34th, 40th, 58th) lead all teams with five picks on the first day.
The draft selection order is determined by the reverse order of finish at the close of the previous season. Toronto picked up the 12th selection after finishing with a 76-86 record last year.
“We certainly look at this as a tremendous opportunity to pick this high in the draft,” Sanders said. “While I think we’d all like to be picking 30th as a result of success at the major-league level, being afforded the opportunity to pick where we are this year, I think we’re really excited that we’re going to be able to add an impactful player to the organization and somebody that we’re going to be really excited about come this time next week.”