Remember when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted pitcher Ricky Romero sixth overall ahead of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in 2005?
OK, let’s not go there for the umpteenth time because that would mean explaining the left-handed Romero’s drastic fall from Blue Jays ace to minor league hurler with an unsightly 11.84 earned-run average in five starts at triple-A Buffalo.
Did we mention Tulowitzki went 5-for-5 on Wednesday night to raise his season batting average to .349, with two home runs to give him 15 on the season?
We’re not supposed to talk about this, remember?
Well, looking forward, Toronto picked southern California pitcher Phil Bickford with the 10th overall pick Thursday night and fellow right-hander Clinton Hollon from Kentucky at No. 47 to kick off in this year’s three-day draft of high schoolers and collegians. Action continues Friday at 12:30 p.m. (rounds 3-10) and Saturday at 1 p.m. (rounds 11-40).
The 17-year-old Bickford is six-foot-four, 200 pounds, and can throw a 96-mile-per-hour fastball that Toronto's director of amateur scouting, Brian Parker, says is polished.
Bickford led his high school club to its division championship, where he struck out 18 batters in the final, including 11 in a row. Bickford finished his senior season with a 1.72 earned-run average, allowing 44 hits and recording 159 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings.
Hollon, at six-foot-one, 195 pounds, is said to have one of the best arms of this draft class and possesses a mid-90s fastball and plus-slider. The 18-year-old is considered by some as a potential late-inning, closer type.
The Blue Jays don’t have extra selections this year like they did the previous three drafts with a combined 15 picks as the recent collective bargaining agreement changed all of that.
But Parker will follow the lead of his predecessor Andrew Tinnish, now the assistant to general manager Alex Anthopoulos in Toronto, and seek high ceiling talent.
"We’re looking for athletes who can impact the game both offensively and defensively," he told Sportsnet recently, "and we’re looking for young arms that can pitch at the top of the rotation."
Draft at a glance
WHEN: Started Thursday at 7 p.m. ET and continues for 40 rounds over three days in Secaucus, N.J. Rounds 3-10 will be held via conference call with teams Friday, and rounds 11-40 on Saturday.
WHAT'S NEW?: Competitive balance rounds give 10 teams with lowest revenues and 10 teams in smallest markets opportunity to obtain additional picks through lottery, which was held last July. Lottery determined six picks immediately after first round; remaining eligible teams went into another lottery for six picks after second round.
ON THE CLOCK: Teams have 1 minute to make picks in second second round, second competitive balance round and rounds 3-10. Rest of draft will have selections without delays.
SIGNING DEADLINE: Teams must sign their drafted players, other than college seniors, by 5 p.m. ET on July 12.
— The Associated Press
A year ago, Toronto opted for speed with the 17th overall selection, picking outfielder D.J. Davis, an 18-year-old high schooler out of Wiggins, Miss.
He’s at Blue Jays extended spring training and probably headed to the Vancouver Canadians (Class-A, short season) later this month.
Future leadoff hitter?
A potential future leadoff hitter, Davis was the fourth-ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system entering the 2013 season, according to MLB.com.
Toronto went with pitcher Marcus Stroman with the 22nd selection in 2012 and he’s pitching for double-A New Hampshire this season. Stroman, who has drawn comparisons to former major league reliever Tom "Flash" Gordon, is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts for the Fisher Cats with 16 strikeouts and four walks over 15 innings pitched. He was used as a reliever last season but the Jays project him as a starter.
Stroman didn’t return to the mound until May 19 after serving a 50-game suspension for taking a banned over-the-counter stimulant.
Nine of the top 20 Blue Jays prospects from 2012 as ranked by MLB.com now belong to other organizations. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud and right-hander Noah Syndergaard are with the New York Mets after being part of the R.A. Dickey trade last December.
Toronto also moved left-hander Justin Nicolino, outfielder Jake Marisnick and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to Florida in the November 2012 trade that brought veteran pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle along with shortstop Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays.
Outfield prospect Anthony Gose, who made the jump to the major last season (56 games), has appeared in 13 games this season, mostly in a pinch-hitting role, and has a .304 average. He was returned to Buffalo on Thursday and will continue his development at triple-A after reserve outfielder Rajai Davis rejoined the team earlier this week following an injury.
Left-hander Sean Nolin, a sixth-round pick in 2010, made the jump from double-A to Toronto for a spot start on May 24. The man Anthopoulos said could be a potential impact arm could have an increased role later this season.