Blue Jays select Warmoth, Pearson with first-round draft picks

Ben Nicholson-Smith joins Eric Thomas to talk the pair of picks the Toronto Blue Jays had in the first round of the MLB draft.

TORONTO – It will be years before the Toronto Blue Jays can definitively say how they fared in the 2017 draft, but they were pleasantly surprised to land North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth, hard-throwing right-hander Nate Pearson and high school catcher Hagen Danner with their first three picks Monday.

“We couldn’t be happier with how the draft unfolded,” Steve Sanders said after overseeing his first picks as Toronto’s amateur scouting director.

Warmoth, a right-handed hitter and thrower, established himself as a complete player in three years at North Carolina. MLB’s scouting report describes the 21-year-old as an above-average hitter and runner who can mix in some power, control the strike zone and provide solid defence at shortstop.

Warmoth wasn’t drafted out of high school, but his development in three years at North Carolina made an impression on those who watched him play.

“He really took a step forward in a number of facets,” Sanders said. “We’ve seen a steady progression with him since we started scouting him.”

“He’s not even close to the same player he was when he got here,” Tar Heels baseball coach Mike Fox told Scout.com in April. “He works and wants to be really, really good.”

There’s been some suggestion that Warmoth could change positions even though he’s considered the top college shortstop in the draft, but the Blue Jays expect the Orlando, Fla., native to remain at short.

After selecting Warmoth 22nd overall, the Blue Jays landed Pearson with the 28th pick. The six-foot-six 20-year-old consistently threw his fastball around 97 mph at the Junior College of Central Florida, even touching 100 mph at times.

Beyond the fastball, Pearson mixed in a slider and a curveball, two pitches that are considered works in progress compared to his heater. Intrigued, the Blue Jays expect to develop Pearson as a starter.

”It’s really good stuff,” Sanders said. “Special-type stuff across the board.”

With their second-round pick, the Blue Jays selected Danner, a California high schooler who has potential as a catcher and a right-handed pitcher. The 18-year-old UCLA commit can touch 94-95 mph off of the mound but it’s his potential behind the plate that intrigues the Blue Jays most. When they spoke to Danner about catching full-time, he seemed amenable to the possibility.

“We see him as a really strong catcher both defensively and offensively,” Sanders said.

Thanks in part to the extra first-round pick as compensation for the departure of Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays have a total spending pool of $8,231,000, 13th largest among all teams.

A year ago the Blue Jays selected right-hander T.J. Zeuch with their first-round pick before grabbing standout hitter Bo Bichette in the third round. At that time Brian Parker was in his final year as Toronto’s amateur scouting director.

The Twins made California high school shortstop Royce Lewis the top pick in the country Monday. The draft continues Tuesday with rounds 3-10 and concludes Wednesday with rounds 11-40.

Once the selection process ends, Sanders expects the Blue Jays to be able to reach agreements with their top picks before the July deadline for signing players.

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