For this weeks edition of the farm system highlights, I’m going to start all the way at the bottom and work my way up but before i do, we’re now past the midseason point so that means I get to indulge myself (and you?) in an actual prospect ranking update. Rather than use the chart this time, I’m just going to do a list format so as to add a comment to each, so this might get a bit longer than usual.
1. Bo Bichette (SS) – If he’s still here (and healthy) by the start of August it will be odd. The buzz is that he’s coming, and he should.
2. Nate Pearson (RHP) – all and only a matter of getting those innings in.
3. Jordan Groshans (SS) – progress halted by lingering foot issues but all the reviews are very positive. Already on published top 100 lists.
4. Cavan Biggio (2B) – on track to graduate from this list at the All Star Break.
5. Patrick Murphy (RHP) – as covered by Shi Davidi, Murph was cruising on the fast track to the majors until officials ruled his delivery had an illegal move. The talent is still there, but the attempt to adjust on the fly led to some bad outings.
6. Eric Pardino (RHP) – yet to pitch in a game that counts this year, the team naturally exercising an abundance of caution here.
7. Alex Manoah (RHP) – May pitch today, or soon, as the GCL begins play, he’ll be in Vancouver as soon as they can get him there. Newly drafted players are always tentative rankings but this feels about right.
8. Anthony Alford (CF) – in April one might have been tempted to lose faith, but since then he’s reclaimed his spring momentum and one would think he has to be closing in on forcing a promotion.
9. Orelvis Martinez (SS) – not yet assigned to a short season team, but presumably will start the season stateside since the DSL has been in play for weeks.
10. Adam Kloffenstien (RHP) – Another “big ol’ boy” – said to have Stromanesque confidence, and the talent to back it up.
11. Hector Perez (RHP) – the only think causing doubt was always control. It’s probably never going to be ideal, but it’s only been a real issue once in his last 10 outings. That’s an encouraging pattern.
12. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP) – there’s an argument to be made that he should have slipped lower than this, like Perez it’s a matter of staying in the zone and at that he’s very inconsistent still. But there could still be a dominant end-game reliever in here even if the starter thing fails.
13. Alejandro Kirk (C) – might be a bit high here but a catcher with solid and improving defense and seemingly the unstoppable ability to hit is something to be highly regarded.
14. Griffin Conine (RF) – I’m trying not to over-react to a relatively small sample, but there was a time when he was speculated to be drafted in the upper half of the first round. Connecting the dots between that scouting and what he’s doing in 2019 is pretty exciting.
15. Gabriel Moreno (C) – again, this may be aggressive, but much the same reasoning applies. A talented 19 year old catcher in full season ball who walks as much as he strikes out? Sign me up.
16. Kevin Smith (SS) – pretty unanimously a top 10 talent in the spring, he’s hit .147 since mid-April with no sign of getting over the hump in sight.
17. Kendall Williams (RHP) – This year’s second round choice, not assigned a team yet, likely lands in the GCL, ranking is tentative of course.
18. Riley Adams (C) – overall line at AA depressed by a 3 for 35 slump, but that’s not reflective of the previously demonstrated ability to hit.
19. Miguel Hiraldo (SS) – I’m kinda low on him compared to some others, but he’s very young and playing in Bluefield so time will tell.
20 Maximo Castillo (RHP) – Four members (now) of the D-Jays rotation will be mentioned in this top 30, and you could put them in various orders. I’m leaning a bit towards max here because he’s been doing well consistently here while still only 20.
21. Yennsy Diaz (RHP) – he’d be several spots higher if he could just nail it down consistently instead of this on-again/off-again pattern.
22. Logan Warmoth (SS) – in danger of playing himself off this list, he instead played himself into a promotion to AA. It’s too early to tell if he can handle it.
23. Cullen Large (3B) – was on the fast track for his own promotion to AA before he separated his shoulder. The man can clearly hit if he can stay on the field.
24. TJ Zuech (RHP) – arguably I’ve let too many pass him by here while he was hurt. I still worry about the lack of strikeouts in terms of major league potential, but there’s a fairly good chance you see him in Toronto this season.
25. David Paulino (RHP) – rating him on health, he wouldn’t make the top 50 in the org, maybe not the top 50 pitchers, but when he pitches he’s good.
26. Joey Murray (RHP) – maybe not the best raw physical talent in the D-Jays rotation, but very much the best results. A fast riser.
27. Nick Allgeyer (LHP) – like Murray, not on anyone’s top 30 list in the off-season, but jumped onto the radar with impressive results in Florida.
28. Josh Winckowski (RHP) – another 20 year old just arrived (yesterday) in this (Dunedin) rotation, having proved all he can in Lansing.
29. Graham Spraker (RHP) – people with an intimate knowledge of the team might order these pitchers in Dunedin differently, Spraker ended up last among them mainly on K-rate (I had to use something!)
30. Jordan Romano (RHP) – may be really reaching here, good RP don’t typically make prospect lists, but the buzz about him in Toronto sells me on the idea that this is not too aggressive.
Others considered: CF Cal Stevenson, CF Forrest Wall, LHP Zach Logue, INF Santiago Espinal, RF Will Robertson, INF/OF Otto Lopez, OF/1B Ryan Noda, CF Chavez Young, RP Jackson McClelland, INF Leonardo Jimenez
Now, a brief look at the teams . . .
The Baby jays begin play today, and while their rosters are tentative early as recent draftees get settled into the rosters they are going to spend some time on, the MiLB site up has an initial roster up. First rounder Alek Manoah is on it, presumably until he gets a passport in hand, so are three other pitchers from this just-past draft (15th rd Michael Dominguez, 16th rd Jackxarel Lebron, and 37th rd Andrew McInvale). Being a HS pitcher Williamson will be here if and when he pitches in a pro game anywhere. Recently added to this team is intriguing Venezuelan catcher Javier D’Orazio who was the second highest paid J2 signing by the Jays last summer (admittedly they spent the big majority of their budget on Orelvis Martinez) and who racked up a .924 OPS in his 13 games in the DSL this year. The rest of the listed names (as of Sunday night) are unremarkable, but Martinez is a pretty good bet to open here, along with draftee Dasan Brown when he signs, SS Glenn Santiago (10th) and OF Nick Neal (11th).
The hottest start here, beside D’Orazio, belong to 2b Adrian Montero, a 17 year old Panamanian, who’s hitting .293 and has walked 9 time against two strikeouts in 13 games. SS Emanuel Sanchez and CF Gabriel Martinez are other interesting players here. The one pitcher distinguishing himself so far is 17 year old RH reliever Edgar Castro. In 17 IP (over 5 games so even though he hasn’t started yet they may ultimately see him as one) he’s walked 4 and struckout 17.
Only six (team) games in and newly drafted Eric Rivera is channeling Cal Stevenson’s 2018 performance. On Sunday he walked four times which is a big part of his .924 OPS of course. But good or bad, the sample sizes here are just too tiny to say anything about.
C/1B Yorman Rodriguez is hottest out of the gate among the hitters, but no one has more than eight games played so stats are unhelpful for even a surface observation. He doesn’t have a history that suggests legitimate prospect. The other hitters I’ll be watching early are 4th Round RF Will Robertson and 6th round SS Tanner Morris. On the mound, Adam Kloffenstein has been impressive as has a lesser known 2018 pick, 34th rounder Grant Townsend – 2 hits, 4 walks, and 14 K in 8.2 IP.
This squad still features only two top 30 players, so on the full season teams, let me just note the news of folks note on the top 30. Otto Lopez came off the IL as hot as he went on, going 5 for 11 over the weekend. 1B Jake Brodt still sits near the top of the leaderboards but he’s having a miserable June. Nick Podkul, 2B, got moved up to Dunedin as the Lugnuts came out of the break. All or nothing catcher Hagan Danner (9 HR for the team lead but hitting a paltry .177) had an explosive run through the first 10 days of June, then went back to missing most everything (two singles in his last 21 AB). I’ll also acknowledge here that I was certain Griffin Conine was going to be promoted at the break – he wasn’t.
On the mound, they did lose their best SP, Josh Winckowski, to the D-Jays and what’s left behind, other than a couple of relievers, is a staff full of inconsistency. Currently injured Josh Haitt had a good run going through April and may. A couple of stumbles in June might be related to the injury.
Counting the injured Large, two hitters and five pitchers here made my list. Beyond that, the most noteworthy players here are outfielders Cal Stevenson (steadily improving after a slow start), Ryan Noda (doing the opposite) and Chavez Young (who’s been better in the last 25 games slashing .274/.299/.476/.775). Another OF, one that no one considered much of a prospect anymore, Demi Orimoloye is having a heck of a June (.915 OPS) so far but I’m going to give it more time before I take it as a sign he’s figured something out.
Justin Dillon, the oldest and least (statistically) impressive of the rotation got promoted to AA bullpen in the wake of an injury in New Hampshire, which opened a spot for Winckowski who had an impressive debut yesterday. So did RP Dany Jimenez whom I’ve somehow not mentioned in this space before despite his having racked up 47 strikeouts in 25.1 IP for the D-Jays. Possibly the next to catch that flight would be Brad Wilson who’s been dominant in the closer role. That’s the think about making a prospect list, even once I get to 30 names and another 10 honorable mentions, there are yet more guys you really should know about – Wilson is one of them.
Seven listed players are on this team, counting the injured Murphy. Beyond those, particularly on offense, there’s less news. The improbably hot May of Nash Knight has turned to a predictably cold June. Forrest Wall, who is at least an actual prospect, is also slumping. Brock Lundquist is having a pretty good June though not as good as his May. Interestingly, 1B/OF Chad Spanberger is having a hot June after having been pretty awful previously.
Nate Pearson missed his last turn with a mild groin strain, apparently the org is hopeful he’ll make a start in the coming week. LH Zach Logue, who just missed the list, continues his quiet efficient success. Jon Harris is back but, frankly, Dillon will probably produce better results. If they were moving him to the ‘pen I might say keep an eye on him just because you never no but . . . WAY down the list at this point.
Five from the list are playing here, but I’m going to break the pattern a bit and mention the going’s on with a couple of them. In nine games since Bo came off the DL, he’s hitting .342 with a .980 OPS. No rust detected. The Alford watch continues – since May 1 his line is now .308/.385/.465/.851, and that’s in 42 games played over that period. The other offensive mainstay at the moment is Socrates Brito. For the month of June his OPS is .933 which, at some point the Jays may yet have to figure out if he can find a way to bring his bat with him to the majors. You might be impressed to notice the Bisons are 14-3 since losing both ends of a June 5 doubleheader.
Pitching wise there’s still a lot of chaos for a hot team, but TJ Zuech pitched great in the first AAA start of his career this week, Thomas Pannone was even more dominant in his first AAA start of 2019, and the Bisons are getting good bullpen work lately from some key players. Of interest is notoriously wild Zach Jackson. He walked 13 in his first 17 IP this season, and 6 in his last 20. And also only 6 hits. And 20 strikeouts. and TWO earned runs (that’s a 0.90 ERA). It might be just a hot streak but if this guy actually has figured out how to stay in the zone, you could easily see him in Toronto this year and for some years to come.