My Top 20 Blue Jays prospects heading into the 2011 season.
I know that someone just put up a Blue Jays Top 20 list but I have been working on this for a while and wanted to get it out there. This is my first attempt at a Top 20 list so let me know what you guys think.
1) Kyle Drabek (RHP)- Not much more to be said at this point. He had a very successful season in New Hampshire followed by 3 major league starts in which he showed impressive stuff and flashed 3 plus pitches. His fastball has great tail to it and generally sits in the 93-96 MPH range inducing a lot of weak contact. He compliments that with a plus curve with late, hard bite, a hard 90-92 MPH cutter with great movement and a developing change. The K rate in AA was a little lower than you would expect, but after seeing his stuff in the bigs it doesn't worry me. His fastball and cutter create a lot of weak contact early in AB's and I think the strikeouts will come. I see him as a cog in the Jays rotation for years to come.
2) Zach Stewart (RHP)- Stewart is right there with Drabek in my eyes. Not quite as good, but not that far off. He sports a fastball with heavy sink that can reach 95 mph, a nice hard slider, a change up that is steadily improving and a curveball that is currently a work in progress. Throwing strikes will be the key to Stewart's success and following the mechanical adjustments he made mid-season last year he was lights out. Some see Stewart as a future pen arm but I think starting is his calling card.
3) Carlos Perez (C)- This ranking may seem too aggressive to most people but I love Carlos Perez. He simply doesn't have many, if any holes in his game right now. He is viewed as a good defensive catcher with quick, smooth actions behind the plate and an accurate throwing arm that resulted in throwing out roughly 50% of attempted base stealers. On the offensive side of things, Perez makes good contact and shows an advanced approach and knowledge of the strike zone at the plate. This results in a fair share of walks and limits his strikeouts. He shows good gap power now and may develop more home run power as he matures, as he is still just 19. Also, Perez has surprising speed and athleticism for a catcher which contributed to his league high 8 triples in the NYPL. We will have to see how things go for Perez as he moves up the organizational ladder, but as of right now there are no red flags that give me cause for concern.
4) J.P Arencibia (C)- Arencibia had a strong rebound season in the PCL following Lasik eye surgery to repair his vision. He sports true plus power and his defence has improved to the point were it is considered at least average. He still has problems with plate discipline and strikes out too much but he did see a slight increase in his walk rate this season. I see J.P as an above average major league catcher capable of some 30 HR seasons.
5) Deck McGuire (RHP)- McGuire, taken in the first round of this past Junes draft is a big, durable, polished pitcher with 4 above average pitches. His fastball generally works in the 91-93 MPH range to go along with a hard slider, good change and curve. His ceiling is that of a #2/3 in the show and I see Deck working his way through the system pretty quickly with his mix of stuff, poise and polish.
6) Asher Wojciechowski (RHP)- Another big, strong college pitcher taken by the Jays in this past draft, Wojo throws harder than Deck with a fastball that sits in the 93-96 MPH range. He compliments that with a very good slider and had a strong, yet brief showing in the NYPL. However, he lacks an elite third pitch and some see him as a future closer. I have enough faith in his change up (and with the originations ability to develop a pitcher's change up) to see Wojo as a possible #2 starter in the future.
7) Travis d'Arnaud (C)- d'Arnaud started his season off strong hitting .328/.362./.547 in April but then injuries took their toll and back problems limited him to just 71 games this year. I still have faith in d'Arnaud and reports on his defence are positive but with Arencibia ahead of him and Perez and Jimenez breathing down his neck, next year will be big for Travis.
8) Adeiny Hechavarria (SS)- This one is tough for me. Hechavarria was signed to a 4 year, 10 million dollar contract by the Blue Jays this summer as a defector from Cuba. Starting his season in Dunedin, Hechavarria hit just .193/.217./.292 in 41 games while simultaneously adjusting to an entirely new country, language and lifestyle. Despite the struggles Hech was promoted to AA and did show improvement, hitting .273/.305/.360 in 61 games for the Fisher Cats. He also showed some good speed with 13 steals in 16 attempts. His defence is his biggest asset, as Hechavarria is right amongst the best defensive shortstops in the minors. However, plate discipline is a problem for Hech right now and he hasn't really shown any power yet. Call it a gut feeling, but I think that Hechavarria will continue to improve as he grows more accustomed to North America and put forth a strong season next year.
9) Henderson Alvarez (RHP)- Alvarez was looking to build on his strong 2009 season this year and things didn't exactly go as planned. He spent the year in Dunedin and posted a 4.33 ERA and a 4.01 FIP while allowing 11 H/9. However, he was still just 20 this year and used his mid 90's fastball to induce a good amount of groundballs. It is also worth mentioning that Alvarez was pretty unlucky with a BABIP of .344 this year. I liked what I saw at the futures game and being that Alvarez is just 20 he has time to develop his secondary offerings.
10) Anthony Gose (CF)- Gose is an extremely good athlete and sports some of the best pure tools in the minors. He has plus speed, a plus arm and is purported to be an excellent defender in center. Coming to Toronto in a trade with Houston for Brett Wallace, Gose hit .255/.360/.426 for Dunedin as one of the youngest players in the league. If Gose is going to be successful as a future top of the order hitter he has to work on his plate discipline as he does not walk enough for a player with his profile and strikes out far too often. Also, his base running needs to improve as he did manage to steal 45 bases this season but was also caught 32 times. The Jays essentially bought themselves a lottery ticket with Gose and time will tell whether or not they cash in.
11) Jake Marisnick (CF)- Another toolsy center fielder with good speed, Marisnick had a solid debut season in the GCL before skipping Auburn and landing in Lansing to end the season. Will have to see how bat holds up at higher levels.
12) Aaron Sanchez (RHP)- I love Sanchez and see him ranking much higher next year. At just 17 years of age he can already dial his fastball up to 94 MPH with plenty of projection left in his 6'4 frame. He also has the makings of a plus curve and is developing his change. After signing, he reported to the GCL where he struck out 28 batters in just 19 innings with a 2.57 GO/AO ratio. As with many young pitchers he lacks command right now, walking 17 batters in his 25 innings of work this year and that will need to be refined for Sanchez to take the next step.
13) Eric Thames (LF)- Thames made a great transition from A ball to AA this season hitting .288/.370/.526 while leading the Eastern league with 27 HR. His defence is reported to be pretty weak right now so his bat will have to carry him and right now it is.
14) Chad Jenkins (RHP)- Jenkins was kind of blah in his first minor league season and didn't move quite as quickly as some expected given his polish. However, he did show good control this year walking only 1.47 per 9 in Lansing and only 2.60 per 9 in Dunedin. He also used his hard, sinking fastball to produce a lot of grounders. If he can develop a better feel for his secondary offerings and miss a few more bats Jenkins will have more success in the future.
15) Gustavo Pierre (SS)- Pierre is another raw athlete signed as an international free agent in 2008. He has drawn comparisons to Hanley Ramirez from Frankie Piliere and his tools are exciting. He will need to continue to work on converting his tools into baseball skills to become a successful major leaguer and at just 19 years of age he has time to develop.
16) Brad Emaus (3B)- Emaus had a strong season this year in both AA and AAA showing a good approach and a strong eye at the plate. However, his defence is said to be bad and he lacks the power you want to see from a prototypical 3B prospect. This makes it hard for me to predict a future position for Emaus and is why he doesn't rank higher.
17) Adonis Cardona (RHP)- Signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela, Cardona was given a record bonus of 2.8 million this year by the Blue Jays. At just 16 years of age his fastball already touches 94 MPH with a lot of projection left in his frame. His curveball has the potential to be plus in the future and I'm sure the Jays will develop his change. I look forward to seeing Cardona progress in the coming years.
18) Noah Syndergaard (RHP)- Drafted in the supplemental first round of this years draft, Syndergaard was one of the youngest players in the draft and has a lot of projection left in his 6'5 body. He has the chance to develop a plus fastball/curve combo and become a very solid pitcher in the coming years.
19) Andrew Hutchison (RHP)- Hutchison may come as a surprise on this list but I like what he has done thus far. Drafted out of high school in 2009, Hutchison used a fastball that sits in the 90 MPH range and a good change to induce a 2.30 GO/AO ratio in Auburn while striking out a batter per inning. Promoted to Lansing for his final 5 starts of the season Hutchison walked 7 and struck out 19 in 23.2 innings with an ERA of 1.52.
20) Dickie Thon Jr. (SS) - Drafted in the 5th round of the draft this year, Thon signed for 1.5 million (first round money) and projects to stay at short long term. He has good speed, makes solid contact, and plays a sound short. He has good tools and his father is a former major leaguer which never hurts. Players with good tools who project as an everyday shortstop are hard to find and that is why Thon makes the list.
Just Missed: David Cooper, Joel Carreno, Mike McDade, Markus Knecht, Kellen Sweeny, A.J Jimenez.
There's probably some guys I'm forgetting so feel free to point them out too me. Who do you guys think is too low? Too high? Also, good to look at this teams system and see how far they have come in such a short period of time. Obviously not the best system in baseball but much better than even a year ago.