OAKLAND — As have all professional sports drafts, the baseball draft has turned into something of a cottage industry. Blame the Internet or 24-hour sports news or player agents or maybe global warming.
Used to be, and not very long ago, that the baseball draft was a non-story 364 days a year, with a 10-paragraph wrapup on draft day, citing a collection of names nobody had ever heard of and, in most cases, would never hear of again.
Now the draft is a 365-day industry. It doesn’t yet approach the hype of the NFL draft or, at least in Canada, the NHL draft but the amount of information is enough to make your eyes glaze over.
That’s why the world was all a-twitter last evening in anticipation of the baseball signing deadline for this year’s draftees. Yes, there’s a lot of money at stake and that tends to get people’s attention.
5% make it
In all the excitement, we need to remember there is one thing that hasn’t changed: one of every 20 — or about 5% — of the hopeful young men who sign professional baseball contracts, will play even one game in the major leagues. That is the number quoted to me by Pat Gillick 25 years ago. From there, the odds get astronomical when talking about players who last a year, five years or a 15-year career, which makes a lot of the money that was spent on this draft class, wasted. The clubs know that, but that’s the price of doing business.
The Blue Jays got their man on Monday night when the No. 11 pick, Deck McGuire, signed on the dotted line for a reported $2 million. He may, or may not, one day be included in that rare 5% grouping, but one thing is certain: Unless he has Mike Tyson for a financial advisor, he should be set for life.
However he makes out, his baseball profile fits the mold of the kinds of pitchers Alex Anthopoulos wants in his big-league rotation: Big power pitchers with a command of the strike zone.
Last week, in a Sports Illustrated interview, Anthopoulos talked about what is required in the AL East when facing the patient veteran hitters that populate the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
“You need pitchers who can get strikeouts and strikes in the strike zone,” Anthopoulos said in that article. “All the lineups are really selective and will make you come into the zone. That puts a premium on the ability to get strikes in the strike zone.”
McGuire fits that profile, in much the same way that last year’s No. 1, Chad Jenkins, does.
“I’m a four-pitch guy, my fastball is 90-94 and I do my best to run it and sink it,” said McGuire in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
“Sometimes it co-operates, sometimes it doesn’t. I try to locate my pitches, I won’t overpower anyone for the most part, but I try to locate as well as anyone. I have a changeup and breaking ball and I use them sometimes to set up other pitches, but I’d say my strikeout pitches are my fastball and slider.”
McGuire doesn’t know when and where his pro career will start but if you use Jenkins’ first year as a profile, you probably won’t go too far wrong.
Jenkins, a late sign whose bread-and-butter is also a hard sinker, went to instructional ball last fall and was invited to spring training where he made a good impresion with the Jays last February. He started his minor-league season at Lansing, the club’s low-A affiliate and will finish it at Dunedin in high-A.
McGuire went right down to the wire before signing with the Jays. He had the option of going back to Georgia Tech for another season and, until draft day, that’s all he had been thinking.
“The Jays area scout (Eric McQueen) was a Georgia Tech grad himself, we talked last fall and he did a good job letting me play and not hounding me all the time,’ said McGuire. “Then on June 7, he congratulated me after the draft.”
As time went on, McGuire started realizing where his future lay.
“I just felt like I was ready to get my pro career started,” he said. “When it came time to make that executive decision, I felt it was the right time for me. They had their dollar amount and we had ours, we were able to talk it out and meet in the middle.”
Now the heavy lifting begins, not just for McGuire, but for the entire draft class, as they try to prove their worth.