The Toronto Blue Jays had a simple strategy headed into the first round of Major League Baseball's first-year amateur draft.
Take the best players available.
Mariners draft Canada’s Gareth Morgan
Michael Saunders is the Seattle Mariners’ Canadian outfielder of the present. Gareth Morgan might be the future.
The Mariners, with the 74th overall selection, made the 18-year-old Morgan the first Canadian selected at this year’s annual draft of collegians and high schoolers on Thursday night.
A student at Blyth Academy in Toronto, Morgan is the highest Canadian high school player taken in the draft since 2010 when the Texas Rangers chose catcher Kellin Deglan (Langley, B.C.) 22nd overall.
"I'm honoured that the Mariners selected me and it's also very special to be the first Canadian to be taken in the draft," said Morgan from his home in Toronto where he was following the draft with his family. "I have worked very hard throughout my career for this moment and I'm excited for what the future holds.”
Morgan is a four-year member of Baseball Canada’s junior national team and has competed in such tournaments as the 2011 under-18 World Cup qualifier in Colombia, 2012 under-18 World Cup in Korea and 2013 under-18 World Cup in Taiwan.
In 2011, a 15-year-old Morgan was the youngest player to participate in the prestigious Under Armour all-American game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. And last August, he was the first Canadian to play in the Perfect Game all-American contest at Petco Park in San Diego, Calif.
Morgan, who flew west to work out for the Mariners on Tuesday, has signed a letter of intent to play for the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Raleigh, N.C.
— Doug Harrison, CBCSports.ca
Toronto selected right-handed pitcher Jeff Hoffman ninth overall and catcher Max Pentecost 11th overall on Thursday, making the most of the Blue Jays' two high draft picks.
"When you're picking this high you just have to take the best talent," said Blue Jays scouting director Brian Parker. "I think we're comfortable with where we are and what we're going to do going forward.
"These two picks, we lined up our board and we took the best two players."
Toronto also took right-handed pitcher Sean Reid-Foley 49th overall.
The 21-year-old Hoffman was undrafted out of high school and earned a 3.26 earned-run average over three seasons with East Carolina University. He had 211 strikeouts in 251 innings pitched.
Surgery hurt value
Hoffman was touted as a top-five pick in the draft, but his value dropped after he had Tommy John surgery on May 14.
"We've done a lot of research since his surgery, really poured over the medicals and poured over everything with him and everything we could get our hands on," said Parker. "We've done a lot of background work and we're comfortable with where everything stands with him.
"We just felt the talent was too big to walk away from. This guy was going to go top three, top four picks prior to his injury. We just felt that even with the Tommy John this was a good gamble for us."
For his part, Hoffman is determined to complete the rehabilitation of his arm and begin his professional baseball career with the Blue Jays.
"Obviously with everything that happened, it was a little bit of a disappointment when it all went down, when I found out I needed the surgery," said Hoffman. "But I didn't really let that feeling hang on for too long. I wanted to keep that positive attitude and get right back to it as quick as I could.
"Once I went under the knife and got the surgery I just got right back to work and got back to the rehab and now I'm just excited to get back to business with a great organization."
Pentecost, also 21, was previously drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2011. The six-foot-two, 191-pound catcher has hit .342 through three seasons at Kennesaw University with 12 home runs.
"He's an athletic, two-way position player and we like the bat," said Parker. "There's a lot of positives with him. A guy at a premium position that can help out offensively and defensively is something that attracted him to us."
Toronto had the 11th pick in the 2014 draft after the Blue Jays failed to sign right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford last year. Parker does not expect that signing Hoffman and Pentecost will be a problem, however.
"We've already done some background stuff with both," said Parker. "Max is actually still playing, so we can't do anything with him until his season is done. ... We're going to wait for him on that, for him to finish his college season, then we'll get going with him.
"Same thing with Hoffman, once the draft wraps up we'll start moving forward and taking the steps we need to get him done.”