Toronto will take risks to improve

The story has been repeated many times within baseball’s chattering classes, and a version of it can also be found in the 2004 book, Chasing Steinbrenner.

TORONTO — The story has been repeated many times within baseball’s chattering classes, and a version of it can also be found in the 2004 book, Chasing Steinbrenner.

Andrew Tinnish, then a young scout for the Toronto Blue Jays, was relaying coverage plans ahead of the 2003 draft to J.P. Ricciardi that included watching little to no high school action.

“That a boy,” Ricciardi, the general manager at the time, is quoted by author Rod Bradford as saying in his reply to Tinnish. “If you’ve got absolutely nothing else going on, go to a mall or to a beach. Then, if you have nothing else going on, go to a high school game.”

Tinnish shakes his head when it’s brought up now.

“I don’t remember it being quite so dramatic,” he said.

“But it was clear back then that our emphasis wasn’t on high school players.”

Over time Tinnish has became convinced of the flaws in that approach, and when he begins making picks in his first draft as amateur scouting director today, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Blue Jays will have an entirely different mindset.

The emphasis will be on choosing players with “tools” — scouting vernacular for pure skill — rather than safer, more easy to project collegians. The Blue Jays want to draft players with superstar potential, and are willing to shoulder the potential of more bust picks to get them.

They’ll have ample opportunity, with four of the first 41 picks (11, 34, 38, 41) and nine of the first 113, the range where most of the top talent is found.

“The way we look at it is we’ll take a risk on a player that we feel has a chance to be a star,” Tinnish explained.

“Maybe it’s a 20 per cent chance to be a star versus a 75 per cent of another player being any every day player.

“I think that the every day player on our scale, which is let’s say the 50s, the 55s in the system we use, those players are easier to get through trades, free agency or minor-league free agency, whereas the players who are 70s and 80s are a lot tougher to get.

“I’m not saying they’re out there, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”

The new approach is rooted in a study Tinnish, new GM Alex Anthopoulos and others conducted tracing the roots of every big-leaguer. They found the vast majority of elite players were drafted out of high school and since the best of the best rarely made it to college, they figured they needed to pluck them after their prep years to get them.

Hence Anthopoulos’s aggressive expansion of the team’s scouting department this off-season, when he looked to poach some of the best evaluation talent around the majors from other teams. The draft will put to the test the work of 25 area scouts in the U.S., four more in Canada plus eight amateur crosscheckers.

“We’re getting more coverage than we’ve ever gotten,” said Tinnish. “We’ve got basically twice the man-power than we had in the past.

“The more you see a player, whether it’s in high school or in the big leagues, the more comfortable you get with that player. Having more scouts, I think we have a little bit of an advantage as far as just mass looks and getting more players seen … so they walk into the draft room with hopefully more conviction in the player.”

The Blue Jays also broke with another longstanding team dogma last year when they handed out some signing bonuses that exceeded Major League Baseball’s slot recommendations. The top talent often signs for well above slot money and a player’s price has been a factor in their drafting.

The US$1 million given to outfielder Jake Marisnick underlined the new aggressive approach, as the bonus was more than three times the slot recommendation of $309,600. But the Blue Jays also demonstrated a new line-in-the-sand approach in some of their negotiations by letting supplemental first-round pick James Paxton of Ladner, B.C., and second-rounder Jake Eliopoulos of Newmarket, Ont., go unsigned.

The Blue Jays received equivalent compensatory picks for Paxton, Eliopoulos, and third-rounder Jake Barrett, who also didn’t sign. All three players could be redrafted by the Blue Jays, provided they sign waiver forms granting the team permission. It’s unclear if that’s the case.

“I think it’s always a factor to a certain extent,” Tinnish said of the signability issue. “The one thing I’ll say is we’re going to line our board up on the players’ ability, and I think we’re going to smart about things, we’re going to be prudent, but at the same time we don’t want to pass up on ability.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Image from Facebook)
Rocky Mountain House store bars vaccinated customers

‘No proof the vax works and no proof it does not shed’

Bloc Québécois MP Sebastien Lemire rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 12, 2021. A Bloc Québécois MP has apologized for taking a screen shot of a Liberal MP who inadvertently appeared nude during virtual proceedings in the House of Commons last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bloc Québécois MP apologizes for taking nude photo of Liberal MP William Amos

‘I have no idea how that photo made its way into the media’

FILE - This Sunday, June 25, 2017, file photo shows TK Holdings Inc. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. A driver in South Carolina is the latest person to be killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator. Honda says that a faulty driver’s air bag blew apart in a crash involving a 2002 Honda Accord in Lancaster County, South Carolina. The company wouldn’t give details of the Jan. 9, 2021, crash near Charlotte, North Carolina, nor would it identify the person who was killed. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
South Carolina driver killed by exploding air bag inflator

Drivers can check to see if their vehicles have been recalled

Hospital staff shift the body of a COVID-19 patient on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance at a specialized COVID-19 hospital in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Low on beds, oxygen, India adds global high 314K virus cases

Government rushing oxygen tankers to replenish hospital supplies

A traveler wearing a protective mask, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, walks through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport in Boston, Friday, May 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Charles Krupa
JetBlue expanding wings with service to Vancouver from New York and Boston

JetBlue will have to compete with Canadian airlines

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people take pictures of the Olympic rings installed by the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
Olympic bodies launch competitive series in virtual sports

Olympic body hopes to reach more young people

Linda Tomlinson
Gardening: Leave the lawn until the soil is dry

Spring is arriving, Alberta style with warm days, cold days and snow.… Continue reading

Silent protests were held recently in response to Red Deer Public Schools’ decision to reject a Pride Week in favour of a Diversity Week. Some former employees at Red Deer Public are saying the decision is misguided. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Letter: School board silencing Pride Week concern

While it has been our practice to not comment on matters arising… Continue reading

Anderson scores twice as Canadiens down Oilers 4-3

Anderson scores twice as Canadiens down Oilers 4-3

New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse (5) shoots next to Indiana Fever's Kamiah Smalls during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. Nurse isn't just one of Canada's finest female basketball players, she's becoming a popular voice of the game as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian basketball star Nurse is carving out space in sports broadcasting at just 25

Canadian basketball star Nurse is carving out space in sports broadcasting at just 25

Most Read