Back to school for Jays

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

If all goes as planned, the Blue Jays will dip into the high school ranks today with their first-round pick.

The Jays hope to select Travis Snider, of Everett, Wash., with the 14th overall pick in the annual June draft of high schoolers and collegians, which begins today.

The two-day draft is conducted via conference call and concludes after the 50th round tomorrow.

The Jays had shown early interest in Matt Antonelli, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons' third baseman.

The Jays, who don't have a second- or third-round pick, for signing free agents B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett, will pick Snider if the high-priced arms are gone.

Righty Luke Hochevar, a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005, changed his mind after agreeing to a $2.98-million US bonus. He pitched for the Fort Worth Cats of the Independent Central League this spring.

The Kansas City Royals have the first pick and are believed to have agreed to a pre-draft deal last night.

The Royals fired general manager Allard Baird and have hired Dayton Moore as the GM from the Atlanta Braves, who doesn't start work until Thursday.

Every team needs pitching and lefty Andrew Miller, a consensus No. 1 prospect, is looking for a $4-million bonus. He could fall as could righty Tim Lincecum from Washington University.

High schoolers have never been big on Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi's agenda, who also has UCLA Bruins lefty David Huff and first baseman Matt Laporta of the Florida Gators high on the Jays board.

Only once in his first four years have the Jays selected a high schooler before the 10th round -- Brian Grant, of Goldsboro, N.C., in the seventh round in 2002.

The Jays have not selected a high schooler with their first pick since 2000 when Tim Wilken chose outfielder Miguel Negron of Puerto Rico.

Other high schoolers taken over the years by scouting directors Bob Engle and Wilken who were tabbed No. 1 over the years fared better: Alex Rios, Felipe Lopez, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, Shannon Stewart, Kevin Witt, Shawn Green and Steve Karsay.

As for Snider, he'll either be the second- or third-best high school position player to go the draft and he's respected as the best hitter. Snider showed it as he led Jackson High School to a 25-0 record, hitting .538 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder has signed a letter of intent to attend Arizona State University. He established his reputation as a premier prospect at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., in 2005.

Some scouts regard Snider as the most advanced bat of any high schooler. He has an excellent approach to hitting and as a left-handed hitter has been compared to Brian Giles.

Snider is the best hitter to come out of the Pacific Northwest since Grady Sizemore received a $2-million signing bonus from the Montreal Expos in 2000.

First baseman-outfielder Kyle Orr, of Victoria, B.C., is expected to be the top Canadian selected after an impressive workout for the Dodgers.

The top local players will be Whitby outfielder-first baseman Jonathan Waltenbury and Etobicoke shortstop Kyle Gilligan of the Ontario Blue Jays, as well as Mississauga outfielder Jonathan Baksh, of Florida Tech.


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