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Blue Jays shift gears to close out Draft

Blue Jays shift gears to close out Draft

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Blue Jays shift gears to close out Draft
The Blue Jays shifted their approach slightly on Wednesday's third and final day of the First-Year Player Draft, targeting more collegiate athletes and position players.

Three of the first four picks Toronto made on Wednesday were position players from the American college ranks, including shortstop Austin Nola who was the team's first selection of the day in the 31st round.

Nola joins his brother, Aaron, a pitcher from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, La., who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 22nd round on Tuesday.

Despite the early shift, stockpiling pitchers was still the primary goal for Blue Jays scouting director Andrew Tinnish on Wednesday as he added eight more arms to his already impressive bounty of young pitching prospects.

For Tinnish, there is no such thing as having too much pitching.

"Every year in free agency or at the end of the season ... 30 clubs are always looking for pitching," Tinnish said. "Pitching is a premium. We line our board up on ability, but certainly we have a lot of interest in trying to acquire pitching."

Right-hander Tyler Beede was the team's first overall selection on Monday night out of Lawrence Academy High School in Massachusetts. The tall 18-year-old has some of the best mechanics of any pitcher in the Draft, armed with a lively 93 mph fastball.

Draft Central

His arm action and mechanics are in tune with what one would expect from a college pitcher in his 20s, meaning Beede could easily step in to the Blue Jays' Minor League system. But it will take a steep price tag to sign him away from Vanderbilt University, where he has committed to pitch next season.

Left-hander Daniel Norris -- believed to be one of the best southpaws in the Draft -- was the team's biggest coup in the third round, 74th overall. The 18-year-old throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s with excellent command and mixes it with a plus-curveball and a still-developing changeup.

He will also command a large signing bonus in order to join the Blue Jays instead of playing at Clemson University.

"I feel pretty good about the players we selected," Tinnish said. "Hopefully we'll be able to sign a lot of these guys and add some quality players to our system."

In all, the Blue Jays selected 55 players in the Draft, 31 were pitchers and 28 from the high school ranks. Toronto was especially aggressive in the early rounds, going after young, high-ceiling players who could be difficult to sign.

Nine of the Blue Jays' first 10 picks were high schoolers and 10 of the first dozen were pitchers. With their 25 picks through the first 20 rounds, the Blue Jays selected 18 pitchers and 21 players out of high school.

The challenge with high school players is that most of them have signed letters of commitment to colleges and universities, meaning they can drive a harder bargain in contract negotiations by threatening to go to college and re-enter the draft the following year.

Last year the Blue Jays signed 35 of their 56 picks, including their top 13 selections. The 2010 crop cost the team $11.6 million, but with so many highly touted high schoolers taken this year, that number could rise.

The Blue Jays have until August 15 to sign this year's Draft picks.

"It's going to be a long summer. It was last year and I don't see anything different [this year,]" Tinnish said. "We're excited about the opportunity to have selected some of these guys, but at the end of the day, you need to sign them."

Toronto changed gears in the back end of the Draft, taking 16 position players and 21 college players with its final 30 picks. Many of those players are in their early twenties and, if signed, will be deployed to help fill out the Blue Jays Minor League system.

"You get to a point where you need to get players that are going to get out quickly and help your Minor League clubs," Tinnish said. "But even those guys that we took, we took them with our area scouts having gut feels on those guys."

Shane Farrell, the son of Blue Jays manager John Farrell, was selected in the 46th round and Jacob Wakamatsu, son of bench coach Don Wakamatsu, was drafted in the 48th round.

The Blue Jays were the most active team among Canadian prospects, drafting seven players from north of the border including fourth-rounder Thomas Robson, who was the first of 35 Canadians selected in the Draft.

"We're definitely happy with the Canadians that we got," Tinnish said. "I do have a soft spot in my heart for Canadians -- being Canadian and growing up in Canada. That said, these guys do have talent, they have ability, they have upside."

Thursday's Draft picks

• 949. Austin Nola -- SS, Louisiana State University
Nola was the starting shortstop at LSU for three straight seasons and was previously drafted by the Rockies in the 48th round of the 2008 Draft.

Nola is best known for his defensive abilities, but is also a patient hitter who batted .320 (83-for-259) with 16 doubles, two triples, five homers, 52 RBIs and 50 runs scored in 2010.

• 979. Kevin Pillar -- CF, Cal State Dominguez Hills
The 22-year-old Pillar broke out in 2011, his senior year at Cal State, leading the team in most offensive categories and hitting .369 (73-for-198) with 21 doubles, three triples, six homers and 36 RBIs. He set an NCAA Division II record in 2010 with a 54-game hit streak.

• 1009. Kramer Champlin -- RHP, Arizona State
The 6-foot-6 Champlin started a team-high 16 games for Arizona State in 2011, going 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA. He led the Sun Devils with 91 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings pitched.

Champlin throws a high-80s fastball, a cutter and a breaking ball. He was previously selected by the Rays in the 37th round of the 2008 Draft.

• 1039. Luis Munoz -- C, Northwestern
Also known by the first name, Aaron, Munoz is renowned for his defensive play behind the plate, leading the nation and setting a school record at Northwestern with 13 pickoffs in 2010. He also threw out 41 percent of base stealers in 2010 (26 of 64).

• 1069. Jerrick Suiter -- RHP, Valparaiso High School
The 6-foot-3 Suiter throws a fastball with movement that touches the low 90s, a mid-70s slider and a high-70s changeup that he uses as his best out pitch. The 18-year-old was named co-MVP of the Duneland Athletic Conference this season and has committed to pitch for Texas Christian University next year.

• 1099. Andrew Sikula -RHP, Marshall University
Sikula was a reliever and closer in his first two seasons at Marshall before moving to a starting role in his next two. The 22-year-old started 13 games in 2011, finishing 2-6 with a 5.42 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. He ranks fourth in the Marshall University record books with 201 career strikeouts.

• 1129. Leslie Williams -- RHP, Northeastern
The 22-year-old Williams hails from Scarborough, Ontario and attended Birchmount Park Collegiate in Toronto.

He was previously ranked by Baseball America as the top Canadian in the 2007 Draft before attending Northeastern for four years where he was transitioned into a pitcher. He went 5-6 as a senior, with a 3.98 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 95 innings.

• 1159. Nico Taylor -- RF, Northwood University
Taylor led Northwood in hitting in 2011, batting .418 (89-for-213) with 21 doubles, 6 triples, 9 home runs and 66 RBIs. The 21-year-old also stole 17 bases in 19 attempts.

• 1189. Chris Cox -- RHP, Canisius College
A St. George, Ontario native, Cox boasts a fastball that has hit 95 mph. The 22-year-old has made 41 career apprearances as both as starter and a reliever for Canisius and has the third-best strikeouts per nine innings rate in school history.

In his senior season, Cox pitched out of the bullpen, going 1-1 with two saves and a 0.69 ERA. He struck out 14 batters in 13 innings.

• 1219. Nick Baligod -- OF, Oral Roberts University
The 23-year-old Baligod led Oral Roberts offensively in 2011, batting.364 (90-for-247) with 21 doubles, seven home runs and 41 RBIs. He was successful on all 15 of his stolen bases attempts and drew 32 walks versus just 23 strikeouts in a team-high 61 games.

• 1249. Cody Bartlett -- SS, Washington State University
• 1279. Shane Davis -- LHP, Canisius College
• 1309. Jake Eliopoulos -- LHP, No School
• 1339. Colby Broussard -- RHP, Faulkner University
• 1369. John Coy -- 1B, Wichita State University
• 1399. Shane Farrell -- RHP, Marshall University
• 1429. Austin Davis -- 3B, Central Columbia High School
• 1459. Jacob Wakamatsu -- CF, Keller High School
• 1489. Charlie LaMar -- LHP, Clearwater Central Catholic High School
• 1519. Eric Brown -- RHP, University of British Columbia

Arden Zwelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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