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Jays gear up for first Draft of Anthopoulos era

Jays gear up for first Draft of Anthopoulos era

TORONTO -- When Alex Anthopoulos strolled into the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park last week, it was noticeable. The invisible general manager had materialized, likely returning from a scouting mission for a brief meeting with the Blue Jays.

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Anthopoulos has been on the move non-stop since taking over as Toronto's front office leader at the end of last season, and lately he has been moving even faster as the First-Year Player Draft looms. The young GM is always a phone call or text message away. Locating him in person is often another story.

"We've already started to have preliminary meetings in certain parts of the United States," said Anthopoulos, when asked about his part in the organization's Draft preparation.

That narrows down Anthopoulos' most recent location to somewhere between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In some ways, that is not an exaggeration, considering Anthopoulos has been trying to cover as much ground as possible, seeing as many players as he can in person, with the June 7-9 Draft just around the corner.

Live coverage of the Draft on MLB.com will begin at 7 p.m. ET on June 7.

Anthopoulos will argue that the coming Draft is no more important that any other he will oversee in his time as the Blue Jays general manager. Given the long-term blueprint he is working with, Anthopoulos is right, too. But, with such a high volume of picks early on this year (10 selections within the first four rounds), the opportunity is undoubtedly greater for Toronto this June.

"Potentially, you could say there's greater significance on it for the fact that we have more picks," Anthopoulos said. "But each Draft is important and we have to treat it that way. It's going to be a major component of what we do going forward and currently."

This is another opportunity for Toronto to inject its farm system with young talent. In December, the GM reeled in three former first-rounders -- Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace and Travis d'Arnaud -- in the trade that sent ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Last month, the Jays made waves on the international market by signing highly-touted Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.

Now, the Blue Jays boast more high-round Draft picks than any other club.

Toronto has the 11th overall pick in the first round and then three selections in the first sandwich round. The Jays received the 34th pick as compensation for shortstop Marco Scutaro signing with Boston as a Type A free agent. The 38th pick comes from not signing Draft pick James Paxton last June and the 41st selection is compensation for catcher Rod Barajas (Type B) signing with the Mets.

In the second round, the Jays then have the 61st pick, along with selection Nos. 69 and 80. Those last two are compensation for not signing '09 draftee Jake Eliopoulos and an additional pick for Scutaro. The Jays were in line to receive a first-round selection for Scutaro until the Red Sox signed former Angels pitcher John Lackey, who was a higher-ranked Type A free agent.

The Jays then have pick No. 93 (third round) and the 113th overall selection in the second sandwich round -- compensation for not being able to sign Jake Barrett in last year's Draft. The 126th overall pick (fourth round) will round out the first 10 picks for Toronto, putting the organization in an opportune position.

As Anthopoulos is quick to note, though, more picks does not always equal more future big leaguers.

"It all comes down to the evaluation," Anthopoulos said. "We won't know the quality until years down the road, when we get to look back to see where we were right or wrong in our evaluations."

Since assuming the role of general manager, Anthopoulos has taken steps to build a scouting sytem that will hopefully help the Blue Jays achieve a higher rate of success. He promptly reorganized Toronto's front office and overhauled the organization's player development and scouting staffs.

Anthopoulos more than doubled his professional scouting department, increasing the staff to 21 members from 10 a year ago. On the amateur side, the Jays now have 24 area scouts -- compared to 14 last year -- and five regional crosscheckers after having none in 2009. Toronto now has three national crosscheckers as well.

"From a Draft standpoint," Anthopoulos said, "You're always limited in the amount of days you have leading up to the Draft, especially in the spring. With the manpower we have, we at least feel like we've been able to be at certain guys' starts, get more games, get more at-bats, maybe get practices, things like that.

"We're still evaluating our staff, too," he continued. "We just feel like with more looks, we should have a better opportunity to see some things. It's hard sometimes. You might go see a guy for four at-bats and he walks three times in a high school game, or lines out, and you're going off a workout or practice or batting practice and it's a harder look.

"With the way we have things set up, we should have multiple looks at different times, which helps us piece it all together."

Anthopoulos has tried to be present as much as possible to help his new scouting director, Andrew Tinnish, and the rest of the Jays' staff prepare for the upcoming Draft. That means taking trips to ballparks around the country, watching multiple early-round possibilities and meeting with his evaluators to discuss direction.

According to Anthopoulos, that approach is vital for this season and next year, giving the general manager a chance to learn more about his staff and providing time for everyone involved with the Jays to grow accustomed to the new system in place. Anthopoulos said his travel itinerary might be less hectic a few years from now.

Then again, with his passion for scouting, Anthopoulos might continue to vanish as quickly as he appears.

"I've always enjoyed going to see players," Anthopoulos said. "That's something I think I'm always going to want to do."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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