Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 Prospects for 2013
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
This list is current as of January 15, 2013
1) Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline A-: Stuff is even better than Syndergaard's, three plus pitches, but needs to sharpen his control. Noah has a better balance of stuff and command than Aaron at this point, but they are very close.
2) Roberto Osuna, RHP, Grade B+: I like his delivery, I like his stuff, his control isn't bad, and he performed well out of the gate. Not classically projectable due to mature body at age 18, but he already has enough stuff to succeed if the command is there.
3) Marcus Stroman, RHP, Grade B: You have to love the stuff, 5-9 size be damned, and he knows how to use it. Will he start or relieve? He could advance very quickly in the bullpen. Don't forget he has to finish his suspension over stimulant use.
4) Sean Nolin, LHP, Grade B: I don't know why this guy doesn't get more attention. He's big (6-5, 235), has a solid fastball, good curve, change coming along, throws strikes, great performance record. Just needs to stay healthy.
5) D.J. Davis, OF, Grade B-: 80-speed and has some power, too. Will have to see how his approach develops, if his on-base skills are sufficient for a leadoff man. His speed certainly will be. Probably a five-year development project.
6) Daniel Norris, LHP, Grade B-: Despite his dismal statistical performance, scouting reports remain pretty positive, pointing to plus fastball, changeup. Breaking stuff is erratic, mechanics give him trouble and hamper his command. His FIP was 3.81, so he wasn't as bad as the 8.44 ERA suggests, but he's got work to do.
7) Matt Smoral, LHP, Grade B-: Big lefty from the 2012 draft, possibly a steal in the supplemental round though we haven't seen him pitch yet due to the broken foot that knocked his stock down. Power southpaw with impressive fastball and slider potential.
8) A.J. Jimenez, C, Grade C+: Recovering from Tommy John. Assuming that goes well, he's a solid defender with a decent bat, though he doesn't have D'Arnaud's power.
9) Santiago Nessy, C, Grade C+: I buy into his defensive skills and he's got plenty of power, but strike zone judgment is problematic. High ceiling, if he adapts well to A-ball his grade will move up quickly. Good catching depth in the system.
10) John Stilson, RHP, Grade C+: His stuff can be electric, but command is wobbly and cross-body mechanics make me cringe. I think he fits best in relief.
11) Alberto Tirado, RHP, Grade C+: Consistently good reviews for this rookie ball right-hander, who pitched better than guys with larger bonuses. Live arm, up to 94-95 MPH, and has a mix of secondary pitches to work with.
12) Chase DeJong, RHP, Grade C+: Second-round pick from California high school opened his career with 12 excellent innings in rookie ball. Superior command, doesn't have overwhelming velocity but has a better feel than some of the other arms in this range.
13) Christian Lopes, 2B, Grade C+: Solid bat with more pop than most middle infielders, polished approach. Needs more adaptation time at second base but should be at least adequate with the glove.
14) Adonys Cardona, RHP, Grade C+: High ceiling arm with great physical potential, but still struggling with secondary pitches, command, and consistency. Turns 19 next month, he's got time.
15) Kevin Pillar, OF, Grade C+: Hit .328/.378/.439 with 59 steals despite a mediocre toolset. Great instincts for the game. If you could stick his head on Jake Marisnick's body, you'd have a superstar. Pillar is probably a fourth outfielder but an interesting player.
16) Mitch Nay, 3B, Grade C+: Nay has tremendous raw power but reports on his other skills, including his defense, are mixed and he didn't play in pro ball due to injury. Could rank much higher next year.
17) Tyler Gonzales, RHP, Grade C+: Killer fastball/slider combination, but high-effort mechanics likely make him a reliever as he moves up. Another strong rookie ball arm. It will be interesting to see if the Jays handle him as judiciously as they've done with other high school guys.
18) Franklin Barreto, SS, Grade C+: Big bonus shortstop from Venezuela with speed, hitting skills. Might move to outfield but many experts considered him the top non-Cuban talent in the international market. A LONG way off at age 16, but he has a good track record in international competition which (in theory) should mean scouts have a good read on him.
19) Jeremy Gabryszwski, RHP, Grade C+: 2.35 ERA with 22/4 K/BB in 46 innings for Bluefield in the Appalachian League. Strike-throwing ability stands out and he picks up a good share of ground balls, but I'd like to see a higher strikeout rate as his breaking ball develops.
20) Andy Burns, INF, Grade C: 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.
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; Sam Dyson, 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.
Below you will find the original comment before the Blue Jays traded most of their farm system in an attempt to make a pennant run in 2013. The system is considerably weaker than it looked four months ago, but sometimes you need to cash in your prospect chips, and the Blue Jays seem to have the scouting ability to recharge the system quickly with toolsy athletes that other teams will covet.
The Blue Jays have strongly emphasized farm development under Alex Anthopoulus, and are more than willing to throw money at the players they want. That's awesome, but the results so far are dichotomous.
I really like the bushel of young pitching. Syndergaard and Sanchez are two of my favorite pitching prospects, and Osuna isn't far behind. I am also a big fan of now-traded Justin Nicolino, and if they had held onto him they would have four B+ or higher pitching prospects. Not many teams can say that. Of the Grade Bs, Stroman probably won't need much minor league time, and I think Nolin is one of the most underrated prospects around. Norris and Smoral are intriguing power lefties, and there are a bunch of lively arms in the Grade C+/C range who could advance quickly in the next year or two. Also keep a close eye on Ryan Borucki, a high school lefty from Illinois who has "sleeper" written all over him.
As good as the pitching is, the hitting looks pretty weak to me. Travis D'Arnaud is the big asset here. A.J. Jimenez and Santiago Nessy provide backstop depth behind him that most teams would envy, but there are also a bunch of serious question-marks. They have strongly emphasized tools and youth recently in the draft and international market. That's a good thing of course, but frankly they don't have a lot to show for it yet, possessing a collection of premium athletes who have raw and/or doubtful baseball skills. I am reasonably optimistic about D.J. Davis, but he's a long-term development project. Mitch Nay is an intriguing power bat, but so was Matt Dean, who didn't look anything in the Appy League like the player he was supposed to be. Jacob Anderson and Dwight Smith were also serious disappointments. All of these guys are young enough to improve, but they are starting from a pretty deep hole.
Anthony Alford may have the best toolset in the entire organization, but football and his recent legal troubles throw that investment in doubt. I do like Christian Lopes, and the emergence of non-toolsy Kevin Pillar as a valuable property was good to see. Other toolsy types with a chance to emerge include Canadian Dalton Pompey and expensive Latin American investments like Wuilmer Becerra, Richard Urena, and Dawel Lugo. 2012 bonus baby Franklin Baretto thrived in international competition and scouts (in theory) should have a very good read on his talents. There's some question about his position and he's a long way off, but it looks like he can be an impressive hitter.
If you want a sleeper, keep an eye on infielder Andy Burns, who showed a potent power/speed combo in Low-A before getting injured in July. He's under the radar but he's got tools and some skills to go with them.