A deep, deep dive into the Blue Jays 2021 draft class and some promising prospects who are on the way
Photo credit:Fisher Cats PR
3 months ago
Two words: Pitcher Heavy.
There’s a common phrase in baseball prospect circles that “you can never have enough pitchers”, and this was something that the Blue Jays took to heart heading into the 2021 draft.
Not just that, but several of these players are already in the upper minors (Double-A and Triple-A) and many of the pitchers are strikeout artists.
Let’s dive right in, because this article is long.
19th overall pick: Gunnar Hoglund (RHP)
Gunnar Hoglund was a consensus Top 10 draft pick until he needed Tommy John surgery in May 2021. Thankfully for the Jays, he fell to them at 19th overall.
Sadly, his professional career hasn’t taken off quite yet due to injury. He only pitched eight innings after recovery from Tommy John, before he was placed on the 7-day Injured List. The 23-year-old started the 2023 season on the injured list, but was activated in late May. In his three innings pitched in Single-A, he has a 12 ERA and a 4.57 FIP.
However, this was all for the Oakland Athletics. Gunnar Hoglund, as well as Kevin Smith, Kirby Snead, and Zach Logue were sent to the Bay team for Matt Chapman before the start of the 2022 season.
Hoglund is known for a solid ceiling, but is more regarded for his high floor. As long as he stays healthy, he has a chance to crack the middle of the rotation, but is a safe bet to make the big leagues in a long-man or back-end starter capacity.
91st overall pick: Ricky Tiedemann (LHP)
The then 19-year-old dominated Single-A ball, posting a 1.80 ERA and a 2.09 FIP in 30 innings pitched, along with a 44.5 K%. Clearly, he was too good for Single-A.
Could High-A contain Tiedemann? Nope. He posted a 2.39 ERA anda 2.92 FIP in 37.2 innings pitched, along a 36 K%.
Surely, Double-A could stop the 19-year-old who turned 20 before his second start? Nah. With the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2022, Tiedemann had a 2.45 ERA and a 2.23 FIP in 11 innings pitched. Despite facing advanced hitters, he had a 34.1 K%.
His start in 2023 has been a little less dominant, as he has a 4.97 ERA and 1.54 FIP in 12.2 innings with the Fisher Cats. Despite the elevation in ERA (and drop in FIP), Tiedemann has a 42.6 K%. What’s more worrisome is the career-high BB%, which comes in at 13%.
Tiedemann’s calling card is his high-90s fastball (which has nearly touched 100 mph), a sharp slider, and a changeup. Even though his BB% is elevated, he does a good job locating these pitches.
As of the posting of this article, Tiedemann is out with a left bicep injury. Per Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Bannon, he is set to return to throwing in the near future.
121st overall pick: Chad Dallas (RHP)
Unlike Ricky Tiedemann, Chad Dallas did not dominate in his 2022 debut season. The 22-year-old posted a 4.60 ERA and a 5.50 FIP in 88 innings pitched with the High-A Vancouver Canadians. He also struggled to strikeout batters with a 21.2 K%, and had an elevated 12.6 BB%.
Something flipped for the righty in the 2023 season. He repeated the level with Vancouver, where he posted a 2.03 ERA and a 3.07 FIP in 26.2 innings pitched. What’s more noticeable is the drastic increase in K%, as he had a 36.3 K% with the Canadians. The walk rate was still on the high side (11.8%), but his 24.5% is a noticeable improvement.
So much so that he earned a promotion to Double-A. He had a dominant debut with a line of 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. However, the last two games haven’t been as great. Overall, he has a 2.76 ERA and a 3.46 FIP in 16.1 innings pitched. His K% has dropped to 2022 levels (21.7%), while his BB% is actually the lowest in his professional career, sitting at 11.6%.
He throws a low-mid-90s fastball, sitting around 93 mph but touching as high as 96/97 mph. His breaking stuff is where it’s at though, as he has one of the best curveballs in the organization in my opinion. Not just that, but Dallas’ slider is sharp and hard, generating plenty of whiffs. He also throws a changeup on occasion.
152nd overall pick: Irv Carter (RHP)
The Jays over-slotted the young high schooler in this draft, and for good reason, as his ceiling is pretty high.
The 20-year-old hasn’t quite been able to put it together at the professional level. Between the Florida Complex League (FCL) and Single-A in 2022, Carter had a 5.48 ERA with a 26 K% and a 7.4 BB%. The issue was the long ball, as he gave up 10 homers in just 47.2 innings pitched.
The 2023 season hasn’t started off well for the 20-year-old, as he has a 11.74 ERA and 10.45 FIP in the 7.2 innings he’d pitched in. Moreover, he has a 15.4 K% and a 20.5 BB% which is a bit worrisome.
High school drafted players, especially pitchers, take some time to develop. While he hasn’t dominated the minor leagues yet, Carter definitely has the tools to do so in the future. His 18.6 K-BB% in his debut season is a good indication of what he can offer. His fastball sits in the low-90s, and the organization is encouraged by the slider.
I can’t write about Carter and not showcase this fantastic article by Sports Illustrated’s Ethan Diamandas. It really goes to show you the character that Carter has on and off the mound.
182nd overall pick: Hayden Juenger (RHP)
It took a year for Hayden Juenger to reach Triple-A.
After being drafted, he had a 2.70 ERA and a 1.33 FIP in 20 innings pitched with the High-A Vancouver Canadians. This saw him post an absolutely insane 45.9 K% and 5.4 BB% for a 40.5 K-BB%.
He did so well that he started the 2022 season in Double-A. There he posted a 4.02 ERA and a 5.04 FIP in 56 innings pitched. His K% dropped to 29.5, while his BB% increased to 9.3%. Moreover, he struggled with the long ball, as he gave up 12 of them in those 56 innings.
Despite that, Juenger was promoted to Triple-A in 2022, where he had a 3.31 ERA and a 5.34 FIP in 32.2 innings pitched. The K% continued to decrease, it dropped to 24.6%, while the BB% jumped to 11.9%.
Juenger, who is still only 22-years-old, started the season with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. So far, he has a 5.90 ERa and a 2.95 FIP in 29 innings pitched. What’s more encouraging is his improvement in K% (31.1%), while the BB% has dropped to 8.9%.
The 22-year-old righty offers a mid-90s slider that has touched 98 mph, a sharp slider, and a changeup with a bunch of arm-side fade. The slider is considered by scouts to be his best pitch.
212th overall pick: Jaden Rudd (OF)
Before the start of the season, I wrote an article detailing three position players that I thought could breakout in the 2023 season.
Jaden Rudd has done just that with the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays. The 20-year-old outfielder is slashing .239/.403/.376 with two homers in 150 plate appearances. What’s more impressive is just how good his eye is, as he has a 17.3 BB% and a rather low 22.7%.
It isn’t a fluke either, as he had the exact same BB% during the 2022 season with the Florida Complex League team.
Rudd has a strong arm in the outfield, is quick on his feet, and definitely has room to grow offensively. It may not be too long before he finds his way on to top prospects lists.
242nd overall pick: Hunter Greogry (RHP)
Gregory has struggled to start off his professional career. In his first full season with the High-A Vancouver Canadians in 2022, he had a 7.24 ERA and a 3.60 FIP in 32.1 innings before a season ending injury sidelined him until the Arizona Fall League. He did have a pretty impressive 27.6 K%, while his 7.6 BB% was solid.
The 2023 season hasn’t been much better for the 24-year-old. He has a 6.38 ERA and a 4.44 FIP in 18.1 innings pitched. His K% has dropped to 23.8%, while his BB% has risen to 8.3%.
Gregory has a three-pitch mix, a fastball, a changeup, and a slider. The fastball sits in the low-90s, but has touched 95 mph prior being drafted. It’s possible that the Jays decided to go down a bulk reliever role with Gregory, as they’ve done with Hayden Juenger.
272nd overall pick: Conor Larkin (RHP)
The right-handed pitcher has very limited experience pitching professionally, likely due to injury.
He pitched 14.2 innings with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2022, posting a 1.23 ERA and a 2.09 FIP. He had an impressive 35.6 K%, while maintaining a good 25.4 K-BB%.
Larkin hit a wall in High-A in 2022, posting a 7.71 ERa and a 4.41 FIP in 9.1 innings pitched. His K% also decreased to 22.5%, but his BB% also decreased to 7.5%.
The 24-year-old repeated the level to start the 2023 season, where he’s posted an 11.57 ERA and a 6.47 FIP in 9.1 innings pitched. He also has a 16 K% and a 14 BB%, not great numbers.
Like his entire professional career, it’s a small sample size and we shouldn’t come to conclusions until he pitches some more.
Per this CsPlusBaseball article, Larkin throws fastball that sits in the low 90s, a changeup, and a slider with good movement.
302nd overall pick: Connor Cooke (RHP)
Connor Cooke is going to be a big league reliever at some point in his career.
He started the 2022 season in a bulk reliever role with the Single-A Blue Jays, where he had a 4.86 ERA and a 3 FIP in 46.1 innings. He had a 32 K% at the level, but was older than the batters. Cooke was promoted to High-A, where he had a 6.75 ERA and a 4.97 FIP. Interestingly, he also had a 26.1 K% (the lowest at any level the past two seasons).
The 23-year-old repeated High-A, owning a 2.89 ERA and 2.18 FIP in 9.1 innings pitched. More impressive was his 48.7 K% at the level, while his BB% was a solid 7.7%.
He earned a promotion to Double-A, where he had a 5.69 ERA and a 5.17 FIP in 6.1 innings pitched with the Fisher Cats. Once again, he has an insane 46.4 K%, while his walk rate had increased to 14.3%. His 37.3 K-BB% ranks as the highest (tied with Hagen Danner) for pitchers in the organization with 10 innings pitched.
Cooke pairs a mid-90s fastball with one of the most disgusting sliders I’ve ever seen. The frisbee slider averaged 2746.2 RPM last season with the Dunedin Blue Jays, but has reached as high as 3000 RPM. It’s just a matter of time before he’s on the big league roster.
332nd overall pick: Trenton Wallace (LHP)
Trenton Wallace may be one of the most underrated pitching prospects in the Blue Jays organization.
He started his professional career with the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays in 2021, posting a 4.32 ERA and a 4.40 FIP in 8.1 innings pitched. He had a 30.6 K%, and a career-high 25 BB% The left-handed pitcher repeated the level to start 2022, owning a 1.11 ERA and 2.32 FIP in 40.2 innings pitched, He had a career high 36.7 K%, and a rather low 8.7 BB%.
Wallace earned a promotion to High-A Vancouver, where he had a 3.66 ERA and a 4.20 FIP in 39.1 innings pitched in nine starts. He had a fantastic 32 K%, but struggled with an 18 BB%.
Like with the start of the 2022 season, Wallace repeated the level to start 2023. This season, he had a 1.79 ERA and a 3.18 FIP in 40.1 innings pitched. While his 30.1 K% is down to the lowest it’s been at any level, his BB% has dropped exponentially to 7.1%.
Wallace ranked as my 32nd best Blue Jays prospect heading into this season. While he only sits in the low 90s, he has an incredibly funky delivery from the left side which sees him essentially pitch as side armer. Wallace has a ceiling of a backend of the rotation starter, or potentially a pretty important lefty reliever.
362nd overall pick: Riley Tirotta (1B/3B/OF)
Tirotta started his professional career with the Single-A Blue Jays, slashing .305/.429/.389 in 119 plate appearances. He had a single homer, but had a 16 BB% and a 21 K%. His 2022 wasn’t as great, as he slashed .219/.314/.368 in 283 plate appearances with the High-A Canadians. Moreover, his K% increased to 32.2% while the BB% dropped to 11.7%.
However, Tirotta has had an impressive start to his 2023 season. He repeated the High-A level, where he slashed .303/.411/.539 with three homers in just 107 plate appearances. While the K% was still rather high at 28%, his BB% increased to 14%.
Tirotta earned a promotion to Double-A, where he has slashed .300/.423/.6000 with a homer in 26 plate appearances. He already has six RBIs and five walks.
Tirotta plays first base, third base, and right field. He has a fluid swing and if he continues to hit well, could find himself in Triple-A to start the 2024 season.
392nd overall pick: Matt Svanson (RHP)
Matt Svanson started his professional career with the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays in 2021. He owned a 2.30 ERA and a 2.78 FIP in 15.2 innings pitched, as well as a 34.8 K% and a 12.1 BB%.
He repeated the level to start the 2022 season, making 9 starts in his 15 appearances. He had a 4.37 ERA and a 4.41 FIP in 59.2 innings pitched, a long with a 23.4 K% and a 7.8 BB%. He earned a promotion to High-A, where he had a 3.57 ERA and a 3.44 FIP in 22.2 innings pitched Moreover, he had a 25 K% and a very low 3.3 BB%.
The 24-year-old repeated the level to start 2023. He has a 3.48 ERA and a 2.16 FIP in 10.1 innings pitched. More interestingly is his increase in his K%, as it sits at a career high 35.7%. He also has a 7.1 BB%.
According to this CsPlusBaseball article, Svanson throws a sinker/slider mix, with the occasional four-seamer and changeup. His fastball sits in the low-90s, but has reached 97 mph. His future likely lies in the bullpen.
422nd overall pick: Damiano Palmegiani (1B/3B)
The Surrey, British Columbia native was the first position player from this draft to make it to the upper minors.
He started his professional career in the FCL, where he slashed .333/.458/.538 with two homers in 48 plate appearances. Palmegiani then started the 2022 season with the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays, where he slashed .256/.351/.508 with 11 homers in 228 plate appearances.
Palmegiani earned a promotion to High-A Vancouver, where he slashed .224/.335/.443 with 13 homers in 272 plate appearances for a 116 wRC+, the lowest at any level for him.
He started the 2023 season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, where he has slashed .264/.382/.439 with six homers in 178 plate appearances.
Power is the name of the game for Palmegiani. His total of 24 homers in 2022 ranked third amongst Blue Jays prospects (behind Orelvis Martinez and Addison Barger). Furthermore, Palmegiani has great plate discipline, never having a K% above 22.1%.
452nd overall pick: Garrett Spain (OF)
Spain’s first full season in the minor leagues was slightly below average, as he slashed .216/.320/.344 in 337 plate appearances with the High-A Vancouver Canadians. He added six homers and had an 11.9 BB% and 27.3 K%, but finished the season with a 91 wRC+.
His start to the 2023 season is a different story, as he’s slashing .324/.370/.608 with four homers in just 81 plate appearances, as well as 17 RBIs. One thing to nit pick is his drop in BB%, as his 2023 number sits at just 6.2%.
Spain is fantastic defender with plenty of range. He also has a very fluid swing, but will need to cut down on the swing and miss as he progresses up the minor leagues.
512th overall pick: Cooper Benson (LHP)
The left-handed pitcher came onto the scene in 2022 and did quite well for the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays. In 25.2 innings pitched, Benson had a 2.45 ERA and a 2.74 FIP, as well as a 35 K% and a 8 BB% for a 27 K-BB%.
Benson’s 2023 hasn’t been as good, as he has a 7.61 ERA and a 6.48 FIP in 23.2 innings pitched. Moreover, his K% is down to 18.8%, while his BB% is at a very high 20.3%.
Per Baseball Savant, Benson had a five-pitch mix while he was with the Dunedin Blue Jays last season: A four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider, a changeup, and a cutter. His fastball average in the low 90s and high 80s.
542nd overall pick: Jimmy Burnnete (LHP)
Jimmy Burnette was the second Blue Jays prospect from this draft to reach Triple-A.
The left-handed reliever had a fast ascent up the minor leagues, pitching in the FCL and Single-A in 2021. He started the 2022 season with the High-A Vancouver Canadians, posting a 3.79 ERA and a 3.56 FIP in 19 innings pitched. He also had an insane 44.7 K% with Vancouver.
He was promoted to Double-A, where he had a 4.58 ERA and a 3.36 FIP in 37.1 innings pitched. He maintained a high K% of 33.9%, but walks remained an issue as he had a 15.2 BB%.
Burnette repeated the level to start 2023, posting a 2.63 ERA and a 2.10 FIP in 13.2 innings pitched. He had a fantastic 41.3 K%, but once again struggled with a high walk rate of 14.3%.
Despite that, Burnette earned a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo a few weeks ago, where he’s allowed quite a few earned runs inthe short amount of time he’s been there.
Burnette is a hard-throwing lefty who has touched 97 mph with the fastball. Like Juenger and Cooke, it’s only a matter of time before Burnette gets an opportunity in the big leagues.
572nd overall pick: Juan Gonzalez (C)
Gonazlez technically played in Triple-A, but it was more a case of they needed players on the roster.
With the FCL Jays, Single-A Jays, and Triple-A Bisons, Gonzalez slashed .205/.329/.271 with a homer in 149 plate appearances.
Sadly, he has missed the majority of the 2023 season, as he’s had only seven plate appearances between Single-A and High-A.
What to think about the 2021 class:
The Blue Jays got a bunch of arms in this draft class. Not just that, but they also got a lot of arms that can strikeout batters.
Furthermore, the college players they drafted like Damiano Palmegiani, Riley Tirotta, and Garrett Spain could easily find themselves on a big league roster at some point in the future.
When you already have two players in Triple-A after less than two years, you know you’ve done well.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D. Once again, sorry about the lack of video in the article. It’s a Twitter issue that I hope is resolved soon. All stats are accurate as of June 2nd, 2023 at 4:46 PM.
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