Here’s Part 1, we’ll pick up right where we left off…
15. Rikelvin De Castro – SS – 18: Got the high bonus in the 2019 J2 class of Blue Jays signings ($1.2m) based on flashy defensive tools and potential to eventually hit. But the latter is going to take considerably time and effort. A year behind the similarly skilled Jimenez, he’ll surely spend him time on a complex team, probably in the DSL. It will take years to get a full read on whether he was worth the bonus.
14. Otto Lopez – INF – 22: Jumped on everyone’s radar with a batting title at Low-A Lansing in 2019, his calling card is capable defense at multiple positions (he played SS, 2B and both OF corners in 2019 but may be best at 2B) and good bat-to-ball skills with untapped offensive potential beyond simply making contact. He’s got a solid opportunity to be a serviceable MLB utility man but he grades high on baseball instincts and some observers feel he has a shot to be more than that.
13. Eric Pardinho – RHP – 20: The one time Top 10 prospect is one year out from Tommy John and at the stage where he’s throwing but not yet roster ready. The staggered minor league season works to his advantage, as he’ll be 14+ months out and may be assigned to a team that starts play in early May. In my pitching preview I pegged him for Vancouver because I’d thought his surgery was more like 18 months back, as is he will almost certainly begin at Dunedin to be close to the medical staff when he’s ready to be activated, with a mid-season promotion if things go well on both performance and health. He’s a very smooth pitcher with advanced pitchability for his age and if his velocity comes back as good (or better than) before he’ll be back in the Top 10 soon.
12. Estivan Machado – SS – 18: Signed in the same class as De Castro, he wasn’t the top-bonus high profile guy but he seems to have turned out to be the higher upside prospect. He has the glove skills for SS but look at how BA described his offense: “Machado combines an exciting mix of quick-twitch athleticism, tools and skills that translate in games. The switch-hitter’s swings are fast, short and direct from both sides of the plate. His plate discipline is advanced for his age, leading to a high contact rate and consistent quality at-bats.” They also see potential for average power and speed. This is one to watch, but settle in because he’s probably going to be in the GCL at best this year. So sometime around 2026 to see how it turns out.
11. Adam Kloffenstein – RHP – 20: Reportedly just missed the Alternate Site squad last summer, the Jays allowed him to play for an ad hoc league in Texas (against, usually, considerably older competition) and soak up wisdom from fellow Texan Roger Clemens. At 6’5″ 245 he’s an official member of the Jays “Big ol’ Boy” Club (yes, I’m trying to make that a thing, why do you ask?) and he has a good feel for pitching that not all big men manage, and a mid-90’s fastball that still may have so growth potential. He’ll be back at Vancouver this season to start.
10. Miguel Hiraldo – SS/2B – 20: The Jays highest paid J2 signing in 2017, his prospect shine got a little overshadowed by the guy who got the biggest bonus in 2018 but he has potential in his own right, He had a strong Appy League season in 2019 and when he came to instructs last fall it was obvious he’d been working on his conditioning and was visibly leaner. He features bat speed and good contact for a player his age along with power potential. On the other hand, of all the high profile international signings who were signed as shortstops, he’s maybe the most obvious candidate to slide over to 2B. He probably would work better at third than short as well but there are others who seem more likely to slide in that direction. Almost certainly he’s at Dunedin most of not all of the coming season.
9. CJ Van Eck – RHP – 22: Toronto’s second choice in last year’s abbreviated draft, a polished product already with four solid pitches who, according to Law, may have pitched himself into the first round with a full college season. He has an impressive fluid delivery, a low 90’s fastball and an above average 12-6 curve. Unlike the other pitchers drafted last year, who don’t have a long track record of starting, he’s very much projectable as a starter. And certainly advanced enough to pitch at High-A to start.
8. Gabriel Moreno – C – 21: As I write this, a few days before publication, it’s Moreno’s 21st birthday and even at a relatively young age (admittedly Jays fans have become accustomed to prospects being great before they can legally drink) likely no hitter in the system, even fellow catcher Alejandro Kirk, excites scouts, player development, and other observers as much as Moreno. One, Scott Mitchell I think but it might have been Law, said on a radio hit that he could be a potential #1 in the system down the road. Reportedly the two young catchers were, one or the other, part of the ask in basically every trade negotiation in the last year. Even though he hasn’t an official at-bat above Low-A, he was widely described as the best hitter at Rochester last summer and the story goes that even Bo Bichette’s eyes popped at his performance. He still needs to refine the technical side of his catching skills but with so many catchers with major league talent above him the Jays can afford to give him a couple of seasons to polish because he has the physicality to do it.
7. Alek Manoah – RHP – 23: Along with Nate Pearson, he’s the inspiration behind my “Big Ol’ Boy” riff. At 6’6″ 260, it’s no shock he can run his fastball up to 98 and he pairs it with a putaway slider that together could make him a successful late inning reliever in the majors right now, and a change that’s not far behind. But the Jays wisely see the makings of a front-end starter and will try to make that happen. Manoah was taken 11th overall in 2019 and even that appears to be a steal. He could likely start the year in AA and succeed but given the previously described depth, unless and until injuries open the door, he may well start the year at Vancouver with a bag already packed for promotion. I could imagine, just for an example, a scenario in which a major league pitcher gets hurt, say late May early June, Thomas Hatch moves up to fill the slot, Joey Murray slides up to AAA for which he’s likely already ready, Manoah follows suit filling Murray’s turn, and Pardinho comes off the IL to pitch in Manoah’s former turn. Alternately, I’m being too conservative with some of my Opening Day predictions.
6. Orelvis Martinez – SS – 19: Bigger than most all of the other Latin SS in the system, Martinez has the skill set to play the position well except for iffy range but might slide to 3B at some point or, given the prospects ahead of him, even to RF. But it’s his potential all-star bat that’s got the team excited. He has tremendous bat speed and generates impressive exit velocity with genuine power potential. He does need to refine some of his hitting mechanics but he has time. Even with that flaw he’s sitting on the cusp of being a top 100 prospect within the next year or so. He also could be the Jays #1 prospect when Martin graduates. Probably something like 2025 for an ETA.
5. Simeon Woods Richardson – RHP – 20: Ready to be tested at AA, SWR has advanced polish and feel for pitching particularly given his age. He’s athletic, shows a consistent delivery and potentially plus control. He uses four pitches well, though most of them could be better with some polish and while the package is exciting some feel he needs a dominant pitch to be more of a complete pitcher. Some suggest he COULD possibly reach Toronto by late-season but unless be forces their hand, there are a lot of older prospects to sort through before they get to him. Both he and Manoah could be legitimate options in ’22 though.
4. Alejandro Kirk – C – 22: at this point you probably know most everything you need to about the “bad body” catcher that has a wildly improbably ability to put the bat on the ball and not chase bad pitches. He’s a capable catcher, certainly well enough to not let it hold back his bat. He came to Florida having shed noticeable weight (there’s less reporting about this than Vlad’s offseason so I’m not sure anyone outside the org knows how much). Keep your eye on Reese McGuire. Imagine, for example, they could trade him and, say, TJ Zuech to the Pirates for Colin Moran – which is my elaborate way of saying he might have positive value despite his weak glove because of his outstanding defensive game. But by whatever means, a McGuire exit puts Kirk on the major league roster. Another alternative is the recently announced taxi squad which must have at east one catcher. If McGuire who’s out of options, CAN be assigned to the taxi (I don’t know how rules deal with that) then Kirk could break camp in the majors.
3. Jordan Groshans – SS – 21: The 12th overall pick in 2018 was questioned in some quarters at the time as a possible reach, but is now considered a steal at that slot. The big drawback, of course, is the lack of professional at-bats. He’s played a mere 71 games in the organization, only 23 of those in full season ball, but he impressed everyone at the ATS last summer and will almost certainly start out at AA with visions of barnstorming his way to the majors this season. That’s possible but more likely the team thinks 2022 is more realistic. A shortstop to this point, he’s the very personification of an ideal major league 3B and observers who like to drop comps mention names like David Wright and Josh Donaldson. Already ranked #34 on BA’s top 100 list, he’s not yet peaked out his potential as a prospect.
2. Austin Martin – ? – 21: That “?” doesn’t imply he has limited defense but considerable versitility. The Jays have been looking at how he plays SS (he’d have to end up better than Bo there), he has the talent to play an above average CF but the next 2-3 seasons at least are the province of George Spring on the major league team. He played some 3B in college and did well, though that might be where you want Groshans, and most observers think he could be an All-Star 2B. In my future fantasy Groshans on Bo’s right and Martin on his left is a helluva thing. He’ll turn 22 before any seasons starts, but he’s super advanced given age and lack of pro at-bats (albeit the Vanderbilt program is considered as good as pretty much any high minors team). BA describes him thus: “Martin is a well-rounded, intensely competitive player with quick hands and a short, direct swing geared for line drives. He has excellent hand-eye coordination which leads to a high contact rate and good plate coverage, with no problems barreling high-end velocity. Martin’s bat speed and swing efficiency allow him to let the ball travel deep before deciding whether to swing which, along with his keen eye for the strike zone, helps him get on base at a high clip.” Getting the possible #1 or 2 prospect with the fifth pick a significant steal in every one of the five drafts held under Atkins’ leadership (Martin, Manoah, Groshans, Pearson and Bichette)
1. Nate Pearson – RHP – 24: Normally Pearson would have lost his eligibility for this list last year but a quirk built into the special rules meant that days on the DL didn’t count in terms of Rookie eligibility. There’s little I can say here about Pearson that you surely don’t already know and much of it have seen with your own eyes. He has true No. 1 upside if he can avoid more health injuries, and there’s a world in which he could turn out to be the jays most valuable starter THIS season. The red flag of course is that he’s never pitched more than 102 innings in a season and so they will have to manage his exposure and likely figure out a scheme to keep him at no more than140-150 IP.
The fun thing is that between the 40-man roster and non-roster invitations, 20 of these 30 guys will be in camp days from now. Actual game action incoming soon. Fun!