beede-tyler_584

Blue Jays first-rounder Tyler Beede, 18, has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and an above average changeup, scouts say. He went 7-1 with 114 strikeouts in 56.1 innings this past season. ((Courtesy Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com))

The Toronto Blue Jays prioritized pitching for the third straight year in the Major League Baseball draft.

On Monday, the Jays selected right-handed high school pitcher Tyler Beede with their first pick, 21st overall. Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos took righty Deck McGuire in the 2010 draft with the 11th overall selection. In 2009, Toronto nabbed Chad Jenkins with its first pick

Beede, the ace of Lawrence Academy's pitching staff in Massachusetts, is touted as having an impressive array of pitches  and a major-league ready build.

At six foot four and 200 pounds, the 18-year-old has a fastball that hits the mid-90 m.p.h. range and scouts say he has an above-average changeup. He went 7-1 with 114 strikeouts in 56.1 innings last season.

While Beede boasts an impressive physical stature and an intimidating arm, the Jays were most attracted to his attention to detail on the mound.

"It's a really advanced delivery," said Toronto's amateur scouting director Andrew Tannish. "He's a full wind-up guy, he's got great tempo, it's a high leg kick, it's a great stride, long stride down the mound with a real quality follow through."

Tannish also said the youngster was willing and able to add new pitches to his repertoire, citing his yet-to-be perfected curveball as his newest weapon.

"It's a pitch that he has a feel for," Tannish said. "Certainly it still needs some work, but he's got good rotation and depth. He can throw it for a strike.

"I believe, in time, he'll have the ability to backdoor it."

Some time is exactly what it may take for the Blue Jays to sign Beede, who has already committed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville — a fact not lost upon the Jays' brass. In actuality, Tannish sees it in a positive light, even though he says he believes the youngster wants to play in the big leagues.

"[Vanderbilt] is a quality institution, it's a good program," said Tannish.

Toronto had seven of the first 78 selections in the draft, due to the glut of free agents leaving the Blue Jays' ranks this past off-season. Closer Kevin Gregg, catcher John Buck, catcher Miguel Olivo and lefty reliever Scott Downs all jumped ship via free agency, leading to compensatory picks in 2011 for the Jays. 

The Jays utilized those selections by taking outfielder Jacob Anderson 35th, righty Joseph Musgrove 46th and snagging outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. and Kevin Comer, a right-handed pitcher, with the 53rd and 57th overall selections respectively.

Earlier in the night, the Pittsburgh Pirates made UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole the first-overall pick.

With files from The Canadian Press