Position players in the Blue Jays system to keep an eye on
1 year ago
Last week, I took a look at some impressive pitchers the Blue Jays have in their system. Next up, I’ll go through and talk about the position players that fans should keep an eye on.
Spencer Horwitz is a 24-year-old first baseman who the Blue Jays drafted in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB Draft. He’s been one of the Buffalo Bisons’ top performers this season.
He was drafted in the 24th round in 2019 by the Jays and has quickly risen through the ranks as one of the team’s top infield prospects. Currently, Horwitz is not on the 40-man roster and is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this summer. Therefore, the Jays will need to clear a roster spot for him soon or risk losing him to a team in need of a solid hitting first baseman.
Standing at an even 6’0″ and 190lbs, Horwitz is an interesting prospect. He’s been in the Blue Jays’ system for roughly three years now and is a hitting machine, slashing a .266/.377/.391 line in Triple-A this season in addition to being one of the best hitters on the team. He started the year in Double-A where he had a great approach at the plate posting a BB% of 14.6 and a K% of 19.2%. This above-average approach at the plate is his main calling card, as the first baseman also had a wOBA of .407. In addition to having a good approach at the plate, he had 22 walks to 33 strikeouts this year. This is his most impressive skill and is what will be his main calling card in the majors.
Defensively, Horwitz is being used primarily as a first baseman but has been used at other parts of the diamond. While he is primarily used at first base, he has been used at LF and second base at times. This is because the Jays value defensively versatility (see Cavan Biggio) and being able to move away from an anchor position for the Jays (Vladdy being played at first base), Horwitz’s best way to get regular playing time in the majors would be for him to either DH or play one of these other positions. Unless they DH Vladdy more, but that creates its own problems with Kirk and Springer. Horwitz is not much of a runner with only three stolen bases on the year. But he has only one error on the year at first base so there is likely hope he can move around the diamond.
Horwitz’s main calling card will be his bat. This year he has a WRC+ of 112 which is amazing. Mixed in with his ability to hit for contact and get on base, and there is a solid hitter here. One issue with Horwitz is that he lacks power which he will need to develop especially for the position he plays and who he would potentially replace in the lineup. His two homers in Triple-A A are cause for worry in addition to his low ISO of .125 (.140 is considered average in MLB), which means he might not hit for many extra bases.
In conclusion, Horwitz is a name to keep an eye on. He’s only 24 and shows a lot of promise at the plate, but since he’s blocked on the big-league roster as a first baseman, his future might be as a piece in a trade.
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Addison Barger is an infielder who primarily plays 3B/SS for the Double-A affiliate New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Barger is not on the 40-man roster as of writing this and is also eligible to be picked in the Rule 5 Draft this winter. Recently promoted, he has a great bat hitting 301/.364/.507 on the season. The left-handed hitter was picked in the sixth round in the 2018 draft and looks like a real steal for the Blue Jays.
Barger’s hitting ability is his main calling card. His numbers indicate he is a pull hitter, and when he makes contact goes far with his .206 ISO and 21 home runs split between High-A and Double-A (in fact he’s hit seven of those home runs in basically half the number of games in double A), so clearly, he can still hit for power in a higher league against tougher competition. But as outlined in the first paragraph, he’s much more than a swing-and-miss power hitter, he has good contact skills as well (.301 batting average). He also has decent line drive rates, which are important for generating consistent hits.
While Barger is a solid hitter, he does have some weaknesses. For example, his strikeout rates in the past have not always been the prettiest. While his K% peaked last year between single and high A (31-32%), they have declined to around 26% for this season between High-A and Double-A. While it is still high, for a guy who hits as much as Barger does, I would lean on the side that this is acceptable. In addition to his strikeout rates, his walk rates stand at 8.6% which is ok. He is getting better at taking pitches as he has seen 35% of the pitches being balls in High-A while in double A that rate has improved to 37%. He has seen around half the number of pitches in Double-A than in High-A, it is encouraging, nonetheless. His offensive production though has not really been affected by these numbers since he owns a wRC+ of 136, and a wOBA of .380. In addition, he has an OPS of .872. So, he is a major contributor regardless.
Defensively there is room for improvement. While he has played a lot of shortstop throughout the minors, he has not always been very consistently there. He has a total of 21 errors in his time playing in the minors. In addition to these errors, he has an additional 15 at third in 412.2 innings. While errors may not be the perfect way of determining a player’s prowess on defense, it still gives me an indication of whether a player is underperforming. However, he is still only in Double-A, and I am sure he is working to become more dependable in the infield. He also has some speed on the basepaths with 9 stolen bases on the year while being caught stealing 4 times. So, while Barger has room to grow on defense, there are potentially some more ways to use Barger on the base paths in the future.
I find Barger an interesting player because if he can figure out his defense while still slugging the way he has been this year, he could rise through the prospect pool quickly.
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Gabriel Martinez is another guy that may be catching people’s eyes this season. Starting out in rookie ball this year, he has now found himself in High-A Vancouver.
The right-handed outfielder sits at an even six feet tall and has been one of the hottest hitting Jays prospects in the system. Signed in 2018, he has been slowly brought up through the system and is looking like a stud in High-A. At only 20, he is on average two years younger than those in his league. I will start Martinez’s analysis with his hitting.
Martinez is known for his power-hitting prowess. His underlying numbers indicate he has raw power-hitting abilities. His average exit velocity is 86mph and his hardest hit ball was 108.8 mph (Courtesy of Brennan Delaney and his spreadsheets!).
In addition to his 13 home runs this year, in 296 PA he had an ISO of .196 which would indicate he can hit for extra bases (in limited at-bats). To this end, he also slashed a line of .288/348/.483. While some scouts have not believed fully in his hitting abilities, he did so on a BABIP of .314 indicating he wasn’t getting extra lucky. His OPS in Low-A was also a great .832. This is to say that Martinez was doing so well he earned a promotion to High A where he has continued to rake at an even higher clip! He is now slashing (in 62 at-bats mind you), .355/.437/565, and an OPS of 1.001.
It’s without a doubt that his bat has reached a new level. His WRC+ in High A is now standing at 178 and a wOBA of .445. Martinez has proven to be a big bat in the order and while his BABIP is up to .435 which would indicate perhaps some regression on those numbers, he is still a legit talent. His other numbers indicate that he tends to pull half the balls hit which says he gets good contact on most balls he hits. At the same time, it leads to room for improvement to spray the ball across the field so as not to be trapped by the shift. His line drive rates look consistently just shy of 20% on the season, which is a good indicator of getting reliable hits, and manages to walk around a 9.8% on the season with a K% of 19.7%. While that is around average, his bat is so good that it will keep him in the lineup in the future.
So, Martinez’s hitting skills are good, and has a future value of 40+, is there any downside to him other than being inexperienced? Well, he is not known particularly for his defense, there is hope for him to nail down either corner outfield spot. He has three errors on the year in left field, however, with his speed being fine, there are some indications that he will be just fine on that end. He is eligible for the rule 5 draft this summer so he might be needed to add to the 40-man roster to avoid being selected in the future.
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Cade Doughty is the last player I will analyze for this article. Originally selected by the Detroit Tigers in 2019 in the 39th round, Doughty declined and returned to LSU where he was one of the top performers in the SEC. The son of former LSU catcher Richard Doughty, Cade put his name back in the draft in 2022 and was picked 78th by the Toronto Blue Jays. Doughty primarily plays 2B/3B and played some shortstop in college, but his main calling card would seem to be his bat.
At 21 years old, Doughty was assigned to Dunedin prior to this season and has been hitting the seams off the ball. As of writing this article, he is slashing .282/.393/.606 with an OPS of .998 in 84 PA. While this is an extremely small sample size, this is his rookie year so this is the best competition he has faced to date, so drawing conclusions should be reserved yet encouraging. With an outstanding ISO of .324, he has been hitting for power this season, this is proven by his six home runs. Doughty also finds other ways to be productive on offence with his wRC+ standing at 180 and a wOBA of .450.
Doughty’s hitting grades out at around 50 on the 80 scale so there is some expectation his hitting will be slightly above average in productivity over the longevity of his minor league career. Another encouraging sign of his development is that his plate discipline is good. He sees roughly 37% of his pitches to be balls with a BB% of 10.7% and a K% of 19, he has above average approach at the plate this season.
As for his ability to field, he is described by scouts as having above average arm with quick hands which will bold well for fielding him at either infielder spot. While he is said to have good speed, he has not shown that too much this season with only three stolen base attempts and one caught stealing. He has committed three errors on the season which will need a bit of fine-tuning before reaching the higher levels of the minors.
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