Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 4

Un, Deux, Trois

J.P. Ricciardi has presided over 8 drafts as General Manager of the Blue Jays. The baseball draft, probably more than any other sport, is a crapshoot. Couple that with the large amounts of money that some players (read: Scott Boras's clients) demand and the better players aren't necessarily the ones that go earliest in the draft. In spite of this, though, the draft is obviously one of the most important parts of the baseball season for the GM and can definitely make or break them.


In the first round, shortstop Russ Adams was taken with the 14th overall pick. Adams progressed quickly through the minors and made his big league debut as a September call-up in 2004. He impressed, knocking 4 home runs in only 78 plate appearances. Hopes were high heading into 2005, but Adams failed to deliver. Aside from a grand slam hit off of Jonathan Papelbon late in the '07 season that Jamie Campbell likes to bring up whenever Adams' name is mentioned, his Toronto career never amounted to anything. After a brief 17th chance earlier this season, Adams was released and is now in the Padres system.

The second round saw pitcher David Bush picked with the 55th pick. Bush would be called up in 2004 also and was inserted into the starting rotation. He acquitted himself nicely, with a 5-4 record and 3.69 ERA in 16 starts and was penciled into the rotation for 2005. He fell off a bit, however, as his ERA went up almost a run. The following off-season, he was included in the deal that brought Lyle Overbay to Toronto and has had mixed results in the Milwaukee rotation ever since.

Only 4 other players picked by the Blue Jays have seen the majors. Adam Peterson appeared out of the bullpen in 3 games in 2004, putting up a 16.88 ERA in only 2.2 innings. Peterson was then traded to Arizona in exchange for Shea Hillenbrand and has not pitched in a big league game since. Jason Perry, selection number 176, was sent to Oakland in a minor deal that sent John-Ford Griffin to the Blue Jays and eventually ended up in the Atlanta organization. The outfielder appeared in 4 games for the Braves in '08. Drafted in the 18th round, reliever Jordan De Jong had a cup of coffee with the Jays in '07, pitching in 6 games. Finally, right hander Dewon Day who was the 776th young man selected in 2002 spent some time in the White Sox bullpen in 2007 and posted an ERA in the 10s.

From a talent standpoint, this probably wasn't a great start for Ricciardi. No late round hidden gems and his first first rounder never panned out. However, flipping Bush into a useful part like Overbay and Peterson into Hillenbrand into Jeremy Accardo take some of the sting out.

Of course, part of rating a draft is looking at who he didn't take. Notables taken before the Adams pick include B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, and Joe Saunders. Players that were still available when the Blue Jays picked that were also taken in the first round include Scott Kazmir (who was drafted immediately after Adams), Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, James Loney, and Matt Cain, among others. Looking at names like Kazmir, Hamels, and Cain hurts, but both were high school pitchers and the Blue Jays at the time were not going to take a chance on such a player. College players like Swisher and Joe Blanton, however, would have been nice upgrades over what the team received from Adams.


Ricciardi's second draft saw his team picking 13th over-all, a pick he used to draft another shortstop, Aaron Hill out of LSU. Hill was first called up in 2005 and played all over the infield, including 35 games at third base in place of the injured Corey Koskie. His numbers continued to rise (aside from an injury shortened '08 year), and he has put together a very solid 2009 year so far, setting a club record already with 20 home runs at second base and making his first all-star team.

A pitcher was taken in the 2nd round with the 50th pick as Josh Banks was welcomed into the Blue Jay family. Banks would appear in 3 games in 2007, starting 1, and was waived during the '08 year. Picked up by the Padres, he was released by them on his birthday this season.

Another pitcher was selected in the 3rd round with the 80th pick. Shaun Marcum was drafted out of Missouri State and was a solid member of the team's starting rotation in 2007 and most of '08 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He appears to be on track for a return at some point late this season.

Three more selections from this draft have appeared in bigs. RHP Jamie Vermilyea (260) appeared in 2 Blue Jay games in '07 and is currently a free agent. Tom Mastny (320) was traded to Cleveland in the John McDonald trade and had a 6.13 ERA in 80 games over 3 season with the Indians and is now playing in Japan. Finally, Ryan Roberts (530) appeared in 17 games combined for the Jays in 2006 and 2007 as a utility player and has caught on in Arizona in that role this season.

Both Hill and Marcum have been solid major leaguers so far, with only injuries slowing them down. Although Marcum provides good quality for a 3rd round pick, there were also no diamonds in the rough uncovered in this draft, either.

Looking at the first round overall, Hill may be one of the best picks. Top notch fielding and very good offense from a middle infielder, he ranks right up there with other hitters taken like Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, while no pitchers taken have really stood out yet, aside from Chad Cordero (who hasn't pitched since early 2008) and maybe Chad Billingsley


This year, armed with the 16th pick in the draft, David Purcey was taken in the first round. Purcey has posted solid numbers in the minors, and has had some very good starts in the majors, but has yet to put it all together.

Zach Jackson was taken in the sandwhich round with the 32nd pick as compensation for Kelvim Escobar signing with the Angels. Jackson was another part of the trade that brought Lyle Overbay to the Jays, and has yet to catch on in the majors, pitching in 22 games over the past few seasons with a 4-5 record to show for it.

The second round saw catcher Curtis Thigpen selected with the 57th pick. Thigpen spent some time in '07 and '08 as the Jays back-up catcher, posting an OPS of .586 and was sent packing to Oakland before the start of the '09 season.

Adam Lind was then drafted in round 3 with the 83rd pick (also a compensation pick from Anaheim). Lind impressed in a brief September audition in '06, took a slight step back in '07, but really took off once Cito Gaston was brought in as manager midway through the '08 campaign. He has 30 home run potential and could hopefully be a middle of the order threat for the team for years to come.

Casey Janssen (117) and Jesse Litsch (717) are the only 2 other players from that draft class who have appeared in the big leagues. Although both have suffered from various injuries, both have proved to be decent picks, especially Litsch.

Although guys like Thigpen and Jackson didn't pan out, being able to include Jackson in a trade for a good player like Overbay looks nice. Also, picking up the Litsch that deep into the draft, the 24th round, was the first late round pick that paid off for Ricciardi.

Notables taken in the first round prior to Purcey that year include Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and Stephen Drew. Superior players taken after the Jays drafted include Philip Hughes, J.P. Howell, and Huston Street. Purcey still has potential to be a solid major leaguer, but with guys like Lind, Janssen, and Litsch having made contributions to the big club, this was a very decent year for the Jays.


Ricky Romero, a lefthander, was the team's first selection, 6th over-all. Although it appeared that Romero's career had stalled in the minors, he has broken through this season and is a leading contender for American League Rookie of the Year.

The only other draft pick from this class that has appeared in the bigs so far is Robert Ray. It's too soon to tell if he'll be a solid player, however.

The success of this draft hinges almost completely on Romero. Looking at the players taken before him, guys like Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ryan Braun have all been All-Stars. Also, the player taken directly after him was Troy Tulowitzki, a shortstop in Colorado who had a tremendous rookie season and helped the Rockies to the World Series in '07 and it's been said that then-Assistant GM pushed hard to draft him, but was overruled. However, injuries hampered Tulowitzki's sophomore season (although he has bounced back nicely this year). Unfairly or not, Romero will be judged on his success compared to Tolowitzki and the decision on whether or not it was the proper pick may be debated for years.


'06's first pick came 14th over-all and was outfielder Travis Snider. It was a departure for Ricciardi, as it was the first high school player he'd taken in the first round as Toronto GM. Snider would be called up late in the '08 season and had a good month of September, solidifying his place in the plans for 2009. He had a very good first few weeks of the '09 season, but then fell into a slump which saw him sent down to AAA. Snider has all the potential in the world and could very well be a 30 home run threat. There will be questions, though, that he was brought up too early, especially if he struggles again once brought back up.

Some very good talent like Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Lincecum was taken in the first round of this draft, although the only player taken after Snider who has made any sort of impact in the majors is Joba Chamberlain.


Armed with 2 first round picks, 16th and 21st over-all, the Jays took 3B Kevin Ahrens and catcher J.P. Arrencibia. Both project as top prospects in the organization

The next pick the team had was a supplemental pick, which was used to pick Brett Cecil with the 38th pick in the draft. Cecil is currently in the rotation in the big leagues and has had some decent starts mixed in with some not so good ones. The 145th round pick of the '06 draft, Brad Mills, has also seen some action in the major leagues, but struggled in 2 career starts and is currently in Las Vegas. The final pick from '07 who has appeared in the big leauges so far is Mark Rzepczynski, the 175th pick. He has also shown some potential and is currently in the starting rotation due to injuries.

The success of this draft will hinge on how well all the first round picks the team had fare. With Cecil the only one to appear in the majors so far, it's still too early to judge the success or failure of the '07 draft.


It's obviously far too early to judge this class just yet. In fact, Ricciardi may be long gone before we know how good or bad it ends up being.

The Jays farm systems seems to be ranked in the middle of the pack most places, so I guess that doesn't say a whole lot about Ricciardi's drafting ability. Although he has drafted some very good players like Hill and Lind and others with potential like Snider, Cecil, Romero, and others, it hasn't really translated to much at the major league level.

I think, overall, like much of Ricciardi's general managing career, he's been decent, at best, in the draft. With Russ Adams as the only really black mark on his record (so far).

Up next, we'll take a look at the players who Ricciardi has let leave during his time in Toronto.

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