TORONTO – The symbolism in the selection of Braden Halladay by the Toronto Blue Jays extended right down to when it happened – the 32nd round – in a respectful nod to the late Roy Halladay and the family he left behind.
Regional crosschecker Matt Bishoff and area scout Brandon Bishoff spoke to the family in advance of the pick Wednesday to inform them of the planned gesture. Braden – a right-hander just like his dad – committed to Penn State a year and a half ago and has no plans to change course and turn pro, but it’s not uncommon for teams to use later-round picks as a way to honour people tied to the organization.
“It was really a group thing, something we had talked about doing to really just signal to them and acknowledge them as part of the Blue Jays family, and specifically Braden,” said amateur scouting director Steve Sanders. “We’re certainly excited to watch him go play in college and hopefully be in the same situation a few years from now.”
Roy Halladay, of course, was a Blue Jays first-round pick, 17th overall, in 1995, going on to become one of the franchise’s most iconic pitchers. Affectionately known as Doc, he died in a November 2017 plane crash and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously next month.
Braden Halladay was born in Toronto and grew up in Blue Jays clubhouses, eventually pitching for Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, Fla., where his dad served as pitching coach.
Thank you @BlueJays for drafting me in the 32nd round today! It’s a great honor! It’s with mutual understanding that I’ll still be honoring my commitment to Penn State! I look forward to college and bettering myself as a player and person, thank you to all who have supported me! pic.twitter.com/tUcKWZESPl
— Braden Halladay (@BradenHalladay) June 5, 2019
Last year, he also suited up for the Canadian junior national team and pitched against the Blue Jays in the annual spring exhibition game in Dunedin, Fla.
“He’s a good player,” said Sanders. “He’s got a feel to pitch, we feel like he’s set up to have a lot of success at the next level and certainly excited to watch him pitch at Penn State. He’s got a good delivery, we saw him pitch last year down in Dunedin against the Jays, competes really well. As he grows into his frame and grows into his stuff, he’s certainly set up to have a lot of success at Penn State.”
Added GM Ross Atkins: “We obviously know the family well, know him well and spent time with him. He’s headed to Penn State and we are glad to have drafted him.”
The Blue Jays drafted four other Canadians, starting with third-rounder Dasan Brown on Tuesday, with outfielder Jean-Christophe Masson of Lévis, Que., added in the 26th Round, catcher Owen Diodati of Niagara Falls, Ont., in the 29th and outfielder Noah Myers of Wyoming, Ont., in the 30th. In all, 25 Canadians were chosen over the past three days, a significant jump over the 18 selected last year.
“We were excited obviously for Canadian players this year, one as high as the third round in Dasan,” said Sanders. “All really interesting players. Noah Myers who is down at Wabash, 70-plus steals this year, really impressive speed. Obviously Diodati and Masson with power. And Dasan, really a very tooled-up player on both sides of the ball. … Really excited about the opportunity to take those guys and there’s certainly a special meaning, not only for us but also for them to be selected by the Blue Jays.”
The Blue Jays used their first-round pick, 11th overall, to grab right-hander Alek Manoah from West Virgina and selected another six-foot-six pitcher in the second round, high-schooler Kendall Williams out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Both he and Brown have college commitments but the Blue Jays are believed to have made inroads with both players.
“We’ve already exchanged some information that gives us a great deal of confidence or we wouldn’t have taken them there,” said Atkins.
Manoah, who is expected to report to Dunedin, Fla., with other draftees for physicals Thursday, is likely to end up with short-season A Vancouver after building up, pitching in short stints after carrying 108.1 innings during the college season. The Blue Jays treated Nate Pearson similarly after he was drafted in 2017.
“That’s the most likely scenario. We’ll see,” said Atkins. “The physical needs to occur, he needs to sign but in that scenario where he signs early, he hasn’t been pitching in a while, to build him back up would be the way we would go about it and that would be a decent model.”
As an advanced college pitcher, Manoah has a chance to move quickly and bolster a farm system lacking in arms, something Atkins said “certainly was” part of the appeal.
“It’s always our goal not to bias a decision and to ensure we’re making the best decision,” said Atkins. “At the same time, that is an area that we felt could benefit from adding and adding an advanced college pitcher was the ideal scenario. But we also had to ensure that it was the best talent available at that selection time and it was. We were hopeful he would be there at our pick and he was.”