BY PAUL HOPE – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
With the first round of the 2012 MLB draft happening Monday night, the Toronto Blue Jays will be under pressure to add to their talented farm system.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the best draft picks in Blue Jays history.
10. Woody Williams RHP, 28th round 1988
The 732nd overall pick in the draft, Williams threw over 600 innings for the Blue Jays over six seasons, which is fantastic production coming from so far back in the draft. The best part of his career unfortunately didn’t come with Toronto, which is why he isn’t higher on my list. Toronto traded Williams to San Diego in 1998 as part of the Joey Hamilton trade. Williams would go on to become an all-star in 2003 for the St. Louis Cardinals and spent 15 years in the big leagues, sporting a 4.19 ERA in over 2,200 innings pitched.
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9. Shannon Stewart OF, first round 1992
Toronto would pick Stewart 19th overall and he would later develop into one of the best leadoff hitters in the American League during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Stewart had a .298 average as a Blue Jay, which ranks fourth in team history, and his .365 OBP ranks eighth. He also is Top 10 in team history in runs (sixth), hits (sixth), total bases (eighth), doubles (sixth), triples (seventh), extra base hits (ninth), and stolen bases (fifth).
8. Vernon Wells OF, first round 1997
Vernon Wells was the fifth pick in his draft year, and is the only top five draft pick the Blue Jays have had (they’ve had seven), that ever went on to make multiple all-star teams for them. In fact, he’s actually the only top five pick they’ve had, whose career lasted past the age of 31. The numbers he has as a Blue Jay ranks near the top in too many offensive categories to list. For the bad rap Wells got for the big contract he signed, his three all-star appearances, three Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger still rank him among the greatest Blue Jays of all-time.
7. Jesse Barfield OF, ninth round 1977
Barfield was selected 233rd overall in Toronto’s very first draft. He was their first example that they could find a player anywhere in the draft. Barfield would go on to become one of the best players in the majors from 1985-87. In those three years he would make an all-star team, win two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, a home run title, and finish inside the top seven in MVP voting twice. Overall he would spend parts of nine seasons with Toronto and appear in 1,032 games.
6. Orlando Hudson 2B, 43rd round 1997
Toronto started off the 1997 draft well with Vernon Wells, near the end of it they did pretty good too. Taken with the 1,280th overall selection, Hudson would spend four years as a Blue Jay, becoming one of the best defensive second basemen in the game. In his final year with Toronto he would be rewarded with the first of his four career gold gloves. Like Woody Williams, Hudson’s best days weren’t as a Blue Jay. He would later go on to make two all-star teams elsewhere after Toronto parted with him when acquiring Troy Glaus in 2005.
5. Pat Hentgen RHP, fifth round 1986
Hentgen was the last pick in the fifth round, 133rd overall. If you look at career WAR, Hentgen comes in at 30.0. That is more than the entire fourth round and rest of the fifth round combined that year. A three time all-star and the 1996 AL Cy Young Award winner, Hentgen is one of the greatest pitchers in Blue Jays history. He pitched over 1,600 innings and won 107 games with Toronto, which ranks him fifth in both categories.
4. John Olerud 1B, third round 1989
Olerud was taken by Toronto with the 79th pick in the draft and he made it to the majors before anybody else in that draft class. Olerud was playing in the majors less than three months after the draft and was an everyday player within a year. Everyone remembers Olerud’s season in 1993, where he flirted with batting .400 for most of the season. His .363 AVG and .473 OBP that season are still the highest in Blue Jays history. He’s also the career leader in OBP as a Blue Jay at .395 and fifth in OPS at .866. Without Olerud, does Toronto repeat in 1993? I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
3. Jimmy Key LHP, third round 1982
The 56th pick in the draft ended up becoming the best left-handed pitcher in Blue Jays history. He was the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award in 1987, a year in which he won the ERA title, and had the lowest WHIP as well. Strangely enough, he didn’t even make the all-star game that year. He would make two all-star teams in his time with Toronto, and would make two more with the Yankees and again finished runner up for the AL Cy Young in 1994. Key was instrumental in the 1992 World Series, winning Games 4 and 6. In his career ERA as a Blue Jay, he’s tied for the lowest ERA as a starter, with the guy whose number one on this list.
2. Roy Halladay RHP, first round 1995
Halladay was taken 17th overall (we can only hope Toronto makes another great pick at 17 this year) and went on to become arguably the best pitcher Toronto has ever had. Doc’s resume is amazing. Sic all star teams with Toronto, a Cy Young, and he finished top five in Cy Young voting five times. Since leaving Toronto he’s added another Cy Young to his mantle, finished runner-up another year, and made two more all-star teams. The three players taken before Halladay were Reggie Taylor, Andrew Yount, and Joe Fontenot. The three after were Ryan Jaroncyk, Juan LeBron, and David Yocum. Thank you Gord Ash.
1. Dave Stieb RHP, fifth round 1978
Stieb was selection number 106 and he would climb the ranks quickly. He made his major league debut roughly a year after he was drafted, and the following year, (his first full season in the big leagues) he would make his first of seven all-star teams for Toronto. He’s regarded by many as the most underrated pitcher of the 1980s, and some think he would have a Cy Young or two to his name had voters looked at certain statistics like they do today. Stieb is the leader in just about every category for starting pitchers in Blue Jays history, not bad for a fifth round pick.
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