Continuing with our farm system review project, we move on to the Toronto Blue Jays. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON LIST. This is not a new list. These are pre-season grades and rankings.
1) Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline A-: 3.66 ERA in 71 innings for High-A Dunedin, 62/32 K/BB, 49 hits allowed, 2.30 GO/AO. Reports about his stuff remain very impressive, but performance is inconsistent due to command problems. Still young at 21.
2) Roberto Osuna, RHP, Grade B+: 5.53 ERA with 51/11 K/BB in 42 innings for Low-A Lansing before going down with elbow problems.
3) Marcus Stroman, RHP, Grade B: 2.96 ERA with 92/21 K/BB in 76 innings, 60 hits allowed for Double-A New Hampshire. He's been excellent; 24/4 K/BB in his last two starts.
4) Sean Nolin, LHP, Grade B: Strong performance all season for New Hampshire, 2.94 ERA with 86/23 K/BB in 80 innings, 73 hits. Got crushed in major league spot start, but more chances will come.
5) D.J. Davis, OF, Grade B-: Hitting .255/.348/.468 for Bluefield in the Appalachian League, 17 walks, 48 strikeouts in 141 at-bats. Showing more pop than expected, but strikes out a lot and is still learning to use his speed efficiently. High ceiling but long-term project.
6) Daniel Norris, LHP, Grade B-: 5.55 ERA with 70/37 K/BB in 62 innings for Lansing, 70 hits. Not as bad as last year and the talent is still there, but you never know when he'll blow up. He will remain in the picture due to his age (20) and raw ability but the range of potential outcomes is very wide.
7) Matt Smoral, LHP, Grade B-: Serious control problems, 18 walks in 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League. Not unexpected for a 6-8 high school pitcher who missed most of 2012 with a foot injury. Years away from helping.
8) A.J. Jimenez, C, Grade C+: Hitting .280/.328/.366 with 12 walks, 28 strikeouts in 164 at-bats in Double-A. Very skilled defensively, lacks power at this stage, age 23.
9) Santiago Nessy, C, Grade C+: Hitting .232/.297/.371 in 151 at-bats for Lansing, 11 walks, 36 strikeouts. Power, plate discipline, and defense have all been disappointing.
10) John Stilson, RHP, Grade C+: 1.87 ERA with 35/13 K/BB in 34 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Good season, looks like he can help in major league bullpen soon.
11) Alberto Tirado, RHP, Grade C+: 1.72 ERA, 25/11 K/BB in 31 innings for Bluefield. 18-year-old Dominican throws hard and has a good changeup, working on command and breaking ball, high ceiling but a long way off.
12) Chase DeJong, RHP, Grade C+: 3.13 ERA with 34/4 K/BB in 32 innings for Bluefield, 38 hits. Second rounder from '12 draft showing excellent command, more polish than Tirado but physical ceiling is not as high.
13) Christian Lopes, 2B, Grade C+: Hitting .256/.310/.362 for Lansing, 29 walks, 63 strikeouts in 390 at-bats. I felt he was capable of better, still young enough at 20 to do so.
14) Adonys Cardona, RHP, Grade C+: 6.65 ERA, 24/10 K/BB in 22 innings, 34 hits for Bluefield, age 19. Intriguing 3.50 GO/AO. Another live arm that is a long way from helping.
15) Kevin Pillar, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .312/.368/.467 with 28 walks, 60 strikeouts in 468 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; 20 steals. 32nd round pick has outplayed numerous players with better physical tools. Age 24, worthy of a major league trial but it remains to be seen how much slack he'll get.
16) Mitch Nay, 3B, Grade C+: I like him; hitting .319/.393/.458 with 18 walks, 22 whiffs in 144 at-bats for Bluefield. Defense shows some promise as well, doesn't turn 20 until next month. Stock up.
17) Tyler Gonzales, RHP, Grade C+: Overmatched in the Gulf Coast League, 10.61 ERA, 7/10 K/BB in 9.1 innings. Throws hard but not living up to 2012 supplemental first round status at this point due to command.
18) Franklin Barreto, SS, Grade C+: Hitting .275/.328/.428 with 10 walks, 29 strikeouts in 138 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League. Rough on defense at this stage, but tools are here, just 17, holding his own with the bat.
19) Jeremy Gabryszwski, RHP, Grade C+: 2.25 ERA with 29/8 K/BB in 56 innings for Vancouver in the Northwest League, 44 hits. Throws strikes, pretty ERA, age 20, but the strikeout rate is quite low. Transition to full season ball next year will be illuminating.
20) Andy Burns, INF, Grade C: What I wrote pre-season: Potential sleeper prospect hit just .248 in Low-A, but he's got power, speed, some defensive ability, and decent overall tools, making him someone to watch in a system that is suddenly looking thinner. Results: He destroyed High-A (.327/.383/.524 in 248 at-bats) but hasn't been as good after moving up to Double-A (.208/.269/.383 in 154 AB). Still, this season has put him on the radar at least.
OTHERS: Anthony Alford, OF; Jacob Anderson, OF; Javier Avedano RHP; Danny Barnes, RHP; Ryan Borucki, LHP; Andy Burns, INF; Taylor Cole, RHP; Matthew Dean, 3B; Yeyfry Del Rosario, RHP; Jeremy Gabryszwski, RHP; Ryan Goins, INF; Chris Hawkins, OF; Chad Jenkins, RHP; Jairo Labourt, LHP; Deck McGuire, RHP; Griffin Murphy, LHP; Dalton Pompey, OF; Dwight Smith, OF.
The Blue Jays traded much of their farm system pre-season to make a pennant run but it hasn't worked, resulting in a 50-60 record, last place, 16 games back, and a farm system devoid of talent in the upper levels. Heavy recent investments in high school pitching and tools players over polish have yet to yield dividends, and most of the talent in the system is clustered among long-term projects at lower levels.
The best guy at the upper levels is Marcus Stroman, who should be ready for a major league trial next year. Sean Nolin and John Stilson are also capable of helping out the pitching staff, while Jimenez, Pillar, and Burns have shots as role players. Stroman is the only one of this group that I'd comfortably rate as an impact talent.
Infielder Shane Opitz, has had a good year in A-ball but I don't think he projects as a starter. Aaron Sanchez is promising but erratic and at least a year away. Outfielders Dwight Smith and Dalton Pompey have been the highlights of a very disappointing 48-62 team at Lansing in the Midwest League.
The short-season levels are more interesting. Both Vancouver and Bluefield are playing well and the Bluefield roster in particular has a lot of intrigue, with Nay, Davis, Dawel Lugo, and several live arms on the pitching staff. That's the Appy League, of course; even the best of those guys is several years away. The failure to sign first-round pick Phil Bickford rankles, but the Jays still brought in some high-ceiling guys in late rounds in lefty Jake Brentz and first baseman Rowdy Tellez.
Overall, the Jays knew their farm system would take a hit with all the trades. They've shown the ability to restock quickly, but the system currently doesn't rank among the elite in the game.