New set of challenges emerges for Blue Jays with top picks signed

MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi says if the Blue Jays are buyers at the deadline, they should go after a lefty reliever that is controllable past one season, but a guy like Jed Lowrie wouldn't be bad to fill another hole.

TORONTO – Now that the Toronto Blue Jays have officially signed first-round picks Logan Warmoth and Nate Pearson, a new set of challenges emerges both for the team and for its newest players.

The Blue Jays scouts who identified and signed Warmoth and Pearson are already turning their attention ahead to the next wave of draft-eligible players. This week, for instance, they’ll watch top high schoolers at the Tournament of the Stars in Cary, N.C. to prepare for 2018.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays’ player development department has already welcomed dozens of new players to its ranks, including the first 14 players selected. Now that they’re officially Blue Jays, the player development staff’s charged with making the most of their talent.

Then there are the top picks themselves, who will head to Dunedin, Fla. before they’re assigned to a Blue Jays affiliate, likely short-season Vancouver. By the sounds of it, both Warmoth and Pearson are eagerly awaiting the chance to challenge themselves against more advanced competition.

“It’s a dream come true,” Warmoth said. “I just can’t thank this organization enough.

Added Pearson: “I’ve been chasing this dream since I was five years old.”

Warmoth, a shortstop selected 22nd overall out of North Carolina, arrives in Toronto with a reputation as an all-around player who can contribute offensively and defensively. The 21-year-old offered a similar self-assessment when asked to describe his game Wednesday.

“Playing good defence first and then spraying the ball around the field—not trying to get too pull-happy,” he said on the field at Rogers Centre. “Trying to get my pitch to hit and then drive it.”

Starting Thursday, the Blue Jays will look to further the development of a player who has progressed rapidly in recent years. Though Warmoth wasn’t drafted at all out of high school, he established himself as the top college shortstop in his draft class in his three years with Tar Heels.

“We’ve seen a steady progression with him since we started scouting him,” amateur scouting director Steve Sanders said earlier this month.

Pearson, selected 28th from the Junior College of Central Florida, jumped up draft boards when he hit 102 mph in a bullpen session. Recent gains in velocity cemented his status as a first-round pick, but he’ll need much more than pure velocity to succeed as a starter.

The Blue Jays like his delivery, and see promise in his off-speed pitches including a change-up that Pearson identifies as his best secondary offering, a hard slider, and a curve. The 20-year-old sounds flexible about his future, but hopeful that he can keep starting as long as possible.

“Overall I want to get to the big-leagues,” he said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll be good.”

Best-case scenario, Pearson can sit 95-96 mph as a starter, refine his secondary pitches and follow in the footsteps of another tall right-hander who pitches in the AL East.

“I really like Chris Archer,” Pearson said. “I grew up a Tampa Bay Rays fan, so watching him throw and go about his business, that’s who I want to model my game after.”

That’s a lot to ask, but if you can ever dream it’s on first-rounders like Pearson and Warmoth. Now they’ll get to work with player development staff while Blue Jays scouts watch prospect after prospect in anticipation of doing it all over again next year.

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