Picking up where I left off yesterday…
Famously the home of the cream of the prospect crop in the Jays system, if you go 40 deep, Buffalo actually edges them out by two, but it is indeed the top-heavy team.
Start with #1 prospect Austin Martin, fresh off playing in Sunday’s Future’s game. He was building momentum in June before getting hit in the helmet with a pitch on June 24 and missing the next eight days going through concussion protocol. You can’t draw much of a conclusion the six games since but really, there’s a reason he’s #1.
Taking my cue from some of the professional commentary I’ve seen, I bumped up catcher Gabriel Moreno to #3. Given that he’s likely to be on the IL recovering from that thumb injury for more than a month to come, I’m just calling out his name and moving on because you know.
It’s a bit of a slide that Jordan Groshans is #7, but you shouldn’t read that as him having disappointed. For a 21-year-old with a total of 109 professional games, playing at AA, a .751 OPS is fine. It’s not failure, the slide is more about the great success of a few that were close behind him. Still, he was gaining some momentum in June (.827 OPS) but has been a bit cooled off in the few at-bats he’s gotten in rain-soaked July.
That brings me to #11 Otto Lopez For a lightly recognized 2B with some helpful defensive versatility Lopez had a nice little year in 2019. He could be found mostly in the teens on most of the professional pre-season prospect rankings. And yet he’s stepped up to a whole other level this year. And reportedly he’s enjoying his time, and developing well, play CF which has been his secondary position this year, the only one other than 2B in which he’s played as many as 10 games.
One of the biggest jumps on my list comes in at #18: Samad Taylor. Partly that’s because I was really on the low end on him. Most of the long lists had him at best down close to 40 but I basically just floored him at 50 because they kept telling he had unrealized talent. Turns out, HE DID! His best previous work was hitting .300 in NY-Penn League in 2017 (before the trade from Cleveland) which was mildly intriguing. But I can’t dismiss half a season of .961 OPS and defensive versatility that now goes beyond 2B to LF, 3B, and CF.
Another big jump is moving Vinnie Capra up to #29. On one hand, I worry some about a small sample relative to his previous lacklustre career. But I’m supposed to overlook a .355/.421/.570/.992 slash line while I give Taylor his due? Can’t do that. Remains to be seen if he’s figured something out or is simply on a helluva hot – but temporary – run. At #39 is Tanner Kirwer, who’s played mostly RF but has appearances at all three outfield positions, based mostly on being the best hitter in Vancouver before his promotion.
The pitching review here is shorter. There’s overall #4 Simeon Woods Richardson who was rolling for the first seven weeks or so of the season but he’s on a three-game streak of NOT good which has jacked up his ERA into unfamiliar territory (5.53). He pitched well in the middle three innings of his five-inning outing Saturday so maybe he’s close to getting his groove back. But that was his last turn before leaving to join the Olympic team so put a pin in this for a bit. And, well, that’s it.
Vancouver of Hillsboro
The Van C’s sports only five of the top 50, least in the system for full-season teams, and only two highly ranked. Like Buffalo, this is a team that features more listed pitchers than hitters, of which there are but two. At #30 is Will Robertson. But the LH hitting OF has been on the IL since May 11 and there’s not much to say about 23 at-bats. The other is infielder Tanner Morris at #38. Morris has gotten better month over month, with an OPS in May of .667, in June rising to .786 in June, and so far in July, he’s slashing .270/.378/.514/.892 while getting time at 2B, SS and third.
As you may have guessed, the aforementioned highly ranked prospects are starting pitchers. Last year’s second pick CJ Van Eck comes in at #10 is #15 Adam Kloffenstein. Still the youngest pitcher on this roster, Kloff has had a very up-and-down year. His first three starts were very nice, then he got absolutely brutalized twice in a row. He seemed to find his footing, albeit with too many walks, in the next two and then lost the plot again. So far in two July starts he has a 3.27 ERA and has held opponents to a .211 BA but four walks in eleven IP is not where he wants to be. Patience is very much the watch word with him.
After him, we go all the way down to #36 Adrian Hernandez who, to be honest, I feel like I’m shortchanging but relievers are hard to rank really high. But this may be the most under-the-radar performance in the system. His K/9 is a pretty insane 16.1 (62 in 34.2 IP). It’s true the BB/9 is an unacceptable 5.45, but if you’re striking guys out at that rate even with poor command, what kind of stuff must you have? I feel like one of my colleagues who actually do remote-scout these guys needs to spend some time looking at this guy. Since moving up to Vancouver he has ONE earned run allowed in 16.2 IP and his walk rate has dropped by half from what it was in Dunedin.
Just behind him at #37 is Luis Quinones, who, being a starter, I feel like I could make a case for reversing these two but, as they say, rankings get fuzzy this far down the list. I’m not here to argue that there’s much difference in upside between, say, Robertson and Morris. Like Hernandez, Quinones has proven to be a strikeout machine (15.1) that keeps runs off the board, but he has even more uncertain command (9.29) and I can’t cite the progress that I can with Hernandez as he moved up a level.
Remarkably, although this is clearly a function of the obsessive length of the list, and partly the bloated pitching staff, the D-Jays have a system leading 14 names on the list. The stud, of course, is #6 Orelvis Martinez who’s steadily improved his outcomes over the course of the season. His season OPS is now up to .824 (ETA: After his best game of the year last night, 7/14, in which he went 4 for 5 with 2 homers, you can make that .872 now – but I didn’t update the rest of these numbers to reflect that) which is up almost 100 points from where he stood on June 8. And while the sample is small he’s been especially hot in July with a 1.050 OPS. I’ve slipped Miguel Hiraldo down to #13, preseason he was in everyone’s top 10 including mine, not to say he’s failing but relative to the work of some others he’s lagged behind. His season (so far) peaked a month ago with a .761 OPS. His OPS since then is .677 mostly due to not much power output.
Close behind at #19 is Leo Jimenez. Like Hiraldo, he’s light on pop so far (though coaches think that will come) having only 5 doubles in his 133 AB but he’s putting the bat on the ball and showing a keen eye (he has a .435 OBP). Conversely, BABiP says he’s getting some luck too. All three of these were signed as and can play, SS but Hiraldo has been mostly shifted to 3B and Jimenez gets his at-bats at second when Martinez is at short. Young Canadian Dasan Brown is at #23. Having played on 11 games since coming off the IL, you can’t really say you know more about him than you did in March.
Among the pitchers, the highest-ranked player would be Sem Roberrse at #20. The Dutch Master (ya like that? I’ma just speak that out into the world for future use) had some early inconsistency among the bursts of awesomeness, but there’s more of the latter than the former lately. His season ERA is 5.15, but 4.00 since the first of June. In that time, he’s accumulated 27 IP in his last six outings, while striking out 31 and walking 7 and allowing 21 hits. I have the injured Yosver Zulueta at #25, the Cuban spring phenom who was hurt in his first game this season.
Also injured is #28 Nick Frasso. Last year’s fourth-round choice only got four innings over two appearances in May and is on the 60 Day IL. He hasn’t pitched since May 27. I don’t know the nature of the injury, but Zulueta is still not officially on the 60 even though his injury was thought to be season-ending, but they didn’t hesitate to put Frasso on there.
It’s worth noting in conclusion that the Dominican League teams started playing this week. But the MiLB website makes keeping up with the performance of complex league players irrationally difficult so I imagine I’ll let the sample size grow and not say much about them until August.