Well hello. Welcome to my first post to BlueJays Nation where I’ll be a contributing writer for the coming season writing mostly, but not exclusively, about prospects and the farm system as was my custom at my previous home at BPToronto.
As you might expect, the best place to start is with the plethora of Top Prospect lists available this time of year. Like who knows how many fans of prospect watching, I make my own (really long) list. But to be completely honest I’m not a scout and don’t get to see that many of these guys play so my list is based on opinions formed from reading the commentary of those who do have more player evaluation skill than I do. One aspect of that process is that I use published rankings to form a consensus list, in the manner of college sports team rankings. I separate the sources into “professional” outlets with high credibility and “amateur” sources which, to be fair, are not always less credible than the “professionals” but you have to make some judgement call. So I’m starting the year off with a series of posts based on those lists. Today I’m looking at the consensus top 30 from the pro sources, of which there are six: Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB Pipeline, Fangraphs, Keith Law at ESPN, and Baseball Toronto (standing in for the lamentable loss of John Sickel’s annual lists).
Next time, I’ll do the same thing for the amateurs, 14 sources including myself, and compare & contrast how it matches up to the pro list. After that, I’ll preview each full season minor league team and which of these prospects will potentially be assigned where, along with other potentially interesting names or stories. For the lists, in the interest of word count, I won’t give you a deep commentary on each – if you’re a prospect hound I’d be repeating a lot of stuff you’ve already read and it’s for certain some of these source lists will have much finer detail than I can cram into this post. So let us begin.
(Rank – Player – position – age – 2018 level)
30. Alejandro Kirk – C – 20 – Bluefield — short, thick, “bad body” guy but was surprisingly impressive on both sides of the game.
29. Yennsy Diaz – RHP – 22 – Dunedin — Reports say eventual reliever, but was effective as a starter and will stay there as long as that holds.
28. Elvis Luciano – RHP – 19 – rookie league — You’ve read a lot about the Rule 5 pick by now, the trick is can they keep him?
27. Logan Warmoth – SS – 23 – Dunedin — 2017 first pick had a bad, injury marred, year. Needs to re-establish momentum. Given positional crowding, may move to 2B at some point.
26. Thomas Pannone – LHP – 25 – Buffalo/Toronto — one of the features of this list that stands out from years past is how many of these guys are on the doorstep of the majors. Over 1/3 of these names have appeared in the majors or could debut this year. Pannone is seven IP from graduating from this list.
25. Chavez Young – CF – 21 – Lansing — Lower round draft choice flew under most radars for a while but his 2018 season got him considerable notice. Still has skeptics but also a lot of believers.
24. Rowdy Tellez – 1B – 24 – Buffalo — generated a lot of excitement with his hot stretch in Toronto late last summer, and he’s a very easy guy to crush on and root for because of his personal story and his marvelous name.
23. Ryan Noda – OF/1B – 23 – Lansing — On the surface a “3 true outcome” guy because he walks a ton, strikes out to much, and has respectable power. He’s more than that, but he’ll have skeptics until he does the walk/power thing in the high minors.
22. Reese McGuire – C – 24 – Buffalo – I’ll be honest, he looks like he’s going to hit like Luke Maile at best and that isn’t a profile that excites me, but BOY do they rave about his defense.
21. Gabriel Moreno – C – 19 – GCL/Bluefield — I obsess over Blue Jays prospects, but this time last year I hadn’t read a single word describing who this guy was or what he brings to the team. Like the aforementioned Mr. Kirk, he used his first season to rectify that.
20. Leonardo Jimenez – SS – 18 – GCL — Posted a good but not eye-popping season last year, but it was impressive to hold his own stateside as most J2 signnigs start in the Dominican. Gil Kim never misses a chance to rave about him which seems significant.
19. Billy McKinney – OF/1B – 24 – Toronto — Assuming he breaks camp with the Jays, he’ll lose his eligibility for this list upon he completion of his third game. The ongoing experiment with 1B can only help his standing if he proves capable.
18. Patrick Murphy – R – 23 – Dunedin — pitched well enough for a promotion last summer but given he’s not accumulated that many professional innings (due to a series of injuries) the let him ride in the FSL. He’ll look to prove he’s for real in AA.
17. Miguel Hiraldo – SS – 18 – GCL — many lists seem to conflate him with Orelvis Martinez since both were the highest bonus guys among Jays signings in their respective J2 classes and both are shortstops (for now) with potentially plus offense. But there’s a distinction. See below.
16. Trent Thornton – RHP – 25 – AAA — List makers were surprisingly higher on Thornton than you might have guessed, finishing as high as #10 on one list. Might be the breakthrough pitcher for the Jays this year.
15. Griffin Conine – RF – 21 – Vancouver — We still haven’t seen enough of a sample to know for sure how he’ll translate to the pros. Given his substance use suspension, we won’t start gathering more data until the last week of May.
14. Orelvis Martinez – SS – 17 – DNP — that distinction? Hiraldo signed for a relatively modest $750,000, but Martinez took $3.5 million to land (for comparison, Vladdy signed for $3.9 million) which suggests that Martinez is expected to be a considerably better player.
13. Hector Perez – RHP – 23 – New Hampshire — part of the return for Roberto Osuna, the question on everyone’s mind is whether he can harness his control enough to avoid a shift to the bullpen (where he has the potential to dominate).
12. TJ Zuech – RHP – 23 – New Hampshire — currently sidelined with an oblique strain which is one of the more difficult injuries to predict a recovery from. Very likely to start the year on the Buffalo or New Hampshire DL.
11. Cavan Biggio – 2B – 24 – New Hampshire — there’s a glut of potential middle infield options at the top of the Blue Jays system and while not everyone will be successful, the pressure is growing for the team to sort out who goes where. Biggio isn’t regarded as a premium infield defender so a move to 1B or the OF seems not impossible.
10. Anthony Alford – CF – 24 – Buffalo — An awful injury-marred 2018 has depressed, but not crushed, his prospect status but he’s still the best high-minors option for the OF if he puts it together and I believe he will, if he can stay healthy.
9. Adam Kloffenstein – RHP – 19 – GCL — The team handled him with kid gloves last summer so we’ll get our first real look at the guy this year. Evaluators are impressed with the potential though, three lists had him at #8.
8. Sean Reid-Foley – RHP – 23 – Buffalo — one of several guys on the cusp, if enough of them push for an opportunity I could envision the Blue Jays dealing two or three veteran starters (if they have value) in July and plugging guys like SRF, Thornton, Pannone and others into the open spots see how they hold up on an extended trial.
7. Kevin Smith – SS – 22 – Dunedin — another guy that the teams executives never miss a chance to rave about, and another one of those pieces they may have to find a way to fit together in a year or two.
6. Jordan Groshans – SS – 19 – GCL — unexpectedly high praise for the kid after the initial post draft reaction was basically “Y’all sure about that?” He got great reviews on both sides of the ball but some see a move to 3B. Might be the guy that eventually makes them comfortable with moving Vlad over to 1B.
5. Eric Pardinho – RHP – 18 – Bluefield — The Brazilian bonus baby pitched, and pitched very well in the Appy League at 17, which is rare. When the top three graduate off this list, any one of the next three could be the next #1.
4. Nate Pearson – RHP – 22 – Dunedin — thanks to a horribly placed comebacker last April, Pearson lost essentially his first go at a full season. All eyes will be on him this summer.
3. Danny Jansen – C – 24 – Buffalo — sometime in May he’ll graduate off this list. Assuming things go as planned, of course. No matter what they say, he’s gong to be the regular starter when the season opens.
2. Bo Bichette – SS – 21 – New Hampshire — Obviously I have nothing new to tell you about Bo the Flow. Except that I, for one, am skeptical that they will run the same service time game on him that they are running on Vlad. if he forces the issue at AAA he’ll be up in August.
1. Vlad Guerrero, Jr. – 3b – 20 – Buffalo/New Hampshire — The unanimous #1 across all lists, of course. as Bo was the unanimous #2. What do you expect me to say here, I mean really? What I’m NOT going to do is talk about THAT.
Be looking for the next list to drop soon.