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Blue Jays select pitcher Hoffman and catcher Pentecost in amateur draft

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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.

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.

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."

Reid-Foley is a six-foot-three, 216-pound pitcher coming out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla.

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."

Hoffman made it clear that he was also ready to negotiate right away.

"As soon as the Blue Jays are ready, me and my family are going to sit down and we're going to try to get something done as soon as possible," said Hoffman.

On Thursday afternoon Hoffman tweeted that he was going to watch Toronto play the Tigers in Detroit as the "perfect way to spend the day" leading up to the draft. When asked if he thought he'd be a part of the Blue Jays organization by the end of the day, he laughed at the coincidence.

"I had hoped that I was going to be a part of that organization, but I didn't know for sure yet," said Hoffman. "But I was sitting down to watch (Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander), one of my favourite pitchers in the game.

"Now that I look back on it it's kind of crazy how that all went down."

Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter.

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