Photo credit: John Lott
I used to do a whole lot of writing about Blue Jays prospects, and the various things that various gurus and people who had actually seen them play were saying about them, but that hasn’t been the case for quite a while now. The Jays’ farm system, quite frankly, just hasn’t been that interesting.
That is, if you’re like me and are really only interested in potential impact prospects.
There are all kinds of guys with interesting backstories and intriguing long-term ceilings and tales of perseverance that provide plenty of grist for the prospect content mill, but that’s true of every organization’s collection of prospects, and personally I need something more than a feel good story about a guy reinventing himself in Lansing or with a gaudy stat line in the Gulf Coast League
Perhaps I’m just a soulless ghoul! But the way I prefer to think about it is that I’m a fan of the big league sphere, and it’s really only when guys get close to that sphere, or look like they’re getting close, or look like they one day could be something truly special in it, that I start to take notice. Especially in seasons like this one or last year, when the big league team is so good that minor leaguers are more fodder for trades than they are anything we need to be dreaming on.
But Jays fans at the moment, though we’d rather not think about it, probably do need to be dreaming a little bit on some big talent percolating up from the farm. With all the free agents the club stands to lose this winter, and the huge cost it would take to replace every single one of them, the ability to fill needs on the cheap is massive.
If the club can replace R.A. Dickey, Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd, and Drew Storen, who combined will be paid $23.25-million by the Jays this season, with guys who are making the league minimum or are at least reasonably cheap and halfway decent place-holders (as they’ve essentially done by keeping Justin Smoak), that will go a long way to helping them retain — or at the very least not be completely decimated by the loss of — their free agents of actual consequence: Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Saunders, and (to a lesser extent) Brett Cecil.
That’s a lot to ask of a farm system that remains a bit thin following last year’s big trades, and of a front office that has been noticeably conservative compared to their predecessors when it comes to handling their prospects. But there genuinely is talent there to dream on, and it’s starting to get closer to being a factor at the big league level.
For example, Baseball America has updated their list of the top Jays prospects, and it features quite a change near the top from the one that was released last December. Though the top nine names on the list remain the same, the order hasn’t.
Rowdy Tellez, who is crushing it in Double-A this season, has leaped over last year’s top pick, right-hander Jon Harris, into sixth spot. And right-hander Sean Reid-Foley has jumped from fifth all the way to the top spot.
Has Reid-Foley been that impressive this season? Apparently! Although it’s only been good enough to get him to 84th on BA’s mid-season top 100 list — just a couple spots ahead of system-mates Anthony Alford (86th, thanks to an injury-plagued disappointment of a season with the bat), and Conner Greene (90th, who has been worse in his second attempt at Double-A than he was in his first).
Still, he has dominated at Dunedin in his second go-round there. And one assumes he’s mostly only there a second time because he was sent back to Lansing to start the season as part of the system-wide deceleration of prospects. But evidently they could only hold Reid-Foley back so long, as BA says he’s “trending up as a power arm with front-of-the-rotation potential.”
Tellez, meanwhile, “could complement the righthanded-heavy Jays lineup soon if there’s a spot for him at first base or DH.”
That’s all sounding pretty nice! Maybe not so nice as to think the front office will actually pencil them into the lineup next season (as part of a contending club, that is), but who knows? Mid-season? This September? Trade bait to find guys with term that will help keep the Jays’ window open in 2018 and beyond?
There are a lot of possibilities still, I guess. But about that trade thing… not to take too much of a left turn, but as I was writing this, the Mariners and the Cubs completed a trade that will send Mike Montgomery, the former Royals 6th overall pick who is having a nice season as a lefty reliever (and spot starter), to the Cubs for the rather Tellez-like Dan Vogelbach (with a couple of triple-A right-handers changing hands as well).
I’m not versed enough in the prospect world at the moment to tell you which of those two essentially-positionless hitters has more value (apart from the fact that Vogelbach is closer to the big leagues, a couple years older, and so carries less risk), but I’ve seen people suggesting I’m crazy for implying Tellez isn’t clearly better and others suggesting I’m crazy for implying Vogelbach isn’t clearly better. That doesn’t mean it’s a wash, and that’s not to suggest they have the same value to their teams, either — Vogelbach is clearly blocked on the north side of Chicago, while Tellez is… not necessarily blocked here — but if they’re close, that suggests the Jays would be looking at a pretty underwhelming return for one of their very best prospects.
It sure does seem like it’s a seller’s market right now! Which… uh… means that maybe we shouldn’t get all that used to dreaming on these top guys in the system after all.
Speaking of Reid-Foley (which… weren’t we?), ICYMI, John Lott visited Lansing to speak with Reid-Foley earlier in the season, and wrote an outstanding piece for us, which I can’t recommend enough.