Blue Jays applying player development lessons from last year’s success stories

Photo credit:Niall O'Donohoe - CSPlusBaseball
Chris Georges
12 days ago
Every Major League team has a handful of players who came through their Minor League system as mostly unheralded prospects and eventually earned their way onto the biggest stage.
For the Toronto Blue Jays, you can look no further than last season to find the most obvious example in Davis Schneider. Excluding the cancelled 2020 season, the mustachioed left fielder — and occasional second basemen — navigated through six minor league seasons, only once appearing on MLB.com’s Blue Jays top 30 prospects list (28th in 2023).
Blue Jays farm director Joe Sclafani notes that he learned a few things last year that he plans to take forward with him in 2024 and beyond. Sclafani mentioned that finding players that “do things the right way, check all the boxes, intangible pieces, work hard, are a good teammate” may be less talked about elements of a player’s total scouting profile. On the other side of things, we’ve seen players with outstanding tools fail to make an impact at the big league level for a variety of reasons.
If you look at Schneider’s numbers through the Minor Leagues, you’ll notice that he was consistently solid year in and year out. His profile may not have been flashy enough to get him noticed as a prospect, but he continued to work his way up to eventually contributing in Toronto. In Schneider’s case, as in many other success stories like him, there’s another side to things that you won’t find in the box score.
Former Blue Jays and current Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos said in a recent interview that his evaluation of players goes well beyond what can be gleaned from the box score:
“I’m so much about the person now. [Former Blue Jays GM] Pat Gillick talked about when he started that it was 70% talent, 30% makeup/character. And over time, it was 60/40. I feel like I’ve gone to 55% talent, 45% makeup/character.”
In a sport like baseball, players need to have the mental fortitude to grind their way through 162 game seasons, all while developing good relationships with fellow players and coaches along the way. This is not exactly something that can easily be understood by people who may be on the outside of an organization looking in. This may also partly explain why some players are able to fly under the radar and work their way up to the big leagues while more prominent prospects may end up hitting a wall at some point.
Who may be the next David Schneider? Of course, this is hard to say. If you are looking for somewhat of a prototype, keep an eye out for players that are consistently solid across the board, but may be missing an elite trait. The one guy that comes to mind in this regard is New Hampshire Fisher Cats outfielder Devante Brown. Despite going undrafted out of NC State, Brown got off to a torrid start in Dunedin in 2022 (.926 OPS), while continuing to hit well in 2023 across high-A and AA ball (18 homers in 99 games). You’d be hard-pressed to find him on any Blue Jays prospect lists, but Brown may have the right mix of consistency and makeup to help out in Toronto one day.

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