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Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 prospects for 2016

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Anthony Alford
Anthony Alford

Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 Prospects for 2016

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 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!

All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS

Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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.

1) Anthony Alford, OF, Grade B/B+: Age 21, hit combined .298/.398/.421 with 27 steals, 67 walks, 109 strikeouts in 413 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. Former college football quarterback turned attention to baseball and thrived, works counts, shows gap power, uses speed well on bases and outfield. Main question is homer potential though he’s strong enough to develop it. This grade is admittedly a bit conservative, but I want to see how he slots on the Top 50 list before making a final determination. Better than 50/50 he winds up at a B+.

2) Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Grade B-/B:
Age 20, hit combined .289/.347/.454 between Low-A and High-A, 38 walks, 84 strikeouts in 401 at-bats. Big raw power with good pure hitting skills, defense limited but good reason to be increasingly confident about his bat. Probably won’t rank this highly on other Blue Jays prospect lists but you’ll see the logic if you keep reading, even if you disagree with it.

3) Richard Urena, SS, Grade B-/B:
Age 19, hit .266/.289/.438 with 15 homers, 13 walks, 84 strikeouts in 384 at-bats in Low-A. Developed power faster than expected, but at the expense of his on-base ability which was marginal to begin with. Needs to find a balance there. Better defensive reliability in ‘15 but with evidence that his range is already declining, making him much less attractive if he can’t stay at shortstop. Higher pure athletic ceiling than Tellez with defensive premium, but bat is much riskier.

4) Conner Greene, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 20, posted 3.54 ERA with 115/39 K/BB in 132 innings between Low-A, High-A, Double-A. Low-90s heat but touches higher, projectable enough for that to grow, throws strikes, good change-up but breaking ball needs work. Potential number three starter.

5) Vlad Guerrero, Jr, OF-3B, Grade B-:
Age 16, hasn’t played yet after signing for $3,900,000. Enormous power potential with strong bloodlines though overall tools aren’t as good as his father’s. Jays moving him to third base which seems dicey to me but perhaps he can handle it, bat will certainly play elsewhere if he can’t. Hard to rank such a young player with no pro performance record to show how the tools translate into skills, but could be top prospect in the system a year from now.

6) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, posted 3.69 ERA with 90/43 K/BB in 63 innings in Low-A, 5.23 ERA with 35/24 K/BB in 33 innings in High-A. Midwest League sources loved his fastball but critiqued secondary pitches, mechanics, command, polish and were not surprised he struggled after being promoted. Upside: number two starter or excellent closer. Mid-point: erratic middle reliever. Downside: flames out in Double-A with injuries or command failure.

7) Jon Harris, RHP, Grade B-/C+:
Age 22, 2015 first round pick from Missouri State University, posted 6.75 ERA with 32/21 K/BB in 36 innings, 48 hits in Northwest League. Very disappointing debut, both stuff and command were considerably weaker than college scouting reports indicated. Might have just been tired but stamina was already a question. Mid-rotation arm if he rebounds.

8) Justin Maese,RHP, Grade B-/C+:
Age 19, posted 1.01 ERA with 19/6 K/BB in 36 innings in rookie ball, 2015 third round pick from high school in El Paso, Texas, very athletic, projectable, already in low-90s and threw strikes in rookie ball, secondary pitches need work. There are parallels to both Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard at the same stage of their careers but don’t tell anyone I said that.

9) Max Pentecost, C, Grade B-/C+:
Age 22, first round pick in 2014 out of Kennesaw State missed season with shoulder injuries. When healthy, shows excellent plate discipline with moderate power and unusual athleticism for a catcher. Future will depend on shoulder rebound.

10) D.J. Davis, OF, Grade C+:
Age 21, similar to Alford as toolsy outfielder with football background and super athleticism but skills aren’t nearly as refined, hit .282/.340/.391 with seven homers, 21 steals, 39 walks, 119 strikeouts repeating Low-A. High ceiling but needs a lot of time to work out the skills.

11) Clinton Hollon, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 21, posted 3.38 ERA with 45/22 K/BB in 59 innings in Low-A/short-season-A, can hit 94-95 with impressive breaking ball, developing change-up, athletic, recovered quickly from Tommy John. Negative: season ended early due to PED suspension which will stretch into April. Number three starter upside.

12) Angel Perdomo, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 21, 6-6 lefty who has developed slowly but has high upside with 90+ fastball, good change and workable slider, 2.60 ERA with 67/30 K/BB in 69 innings in rookie ball. Needs better command, will leap forward if that comes.

13) Mitch Nay, 3B, Grade C+:
Age 22, hit .243/.303/.353 with five homers, 32 walks, 75 strikeouts in 391 at-bats in High-A. I keep thinking power will come and it keeps not happening, but he makes contact and is physically strong, raw power is still there. Strong throwing arm, glove decent enough to stay at third. Haven’t given up yet.

14) Dwight Smith JR, OF, Grade C+/C:
Age 23, hit .265/.335/.376 with seven homers, 47 walks, 64 strikeouts in 460 at-bats in Double-A. Tweener, lacks power for outfield corner but glove fits best in left, controls zone well which still gives his bat a chance to be useful in a role slot.

ANALYST NOTE:
From this point on, you could literally rank the Grade Cs and the Others of Note in almost any order you wish. The guys I chose to write about here are just ones I find interesting for various reasons. We can discuss the others in the comments section.

15) Matt Dean, 1B, Grade C
: Age 23, hit .252/.313/.410 with 14 homers, 36 walks, 139 strikeouts in 478 at-bats in High-A. Good power numbers for Florida State League but low OBP, high strikeout approach combined with defensive limitations makes a tough profile.

16) Andy Burns, INF, Grade C:
Age 25, hit .293/.351/.372 with 38 walks, 69 strikeouts in 478 at-bats in Triple-A. Older prospect, versatile, strong throwing arm, didn’t show past power in Triple-A but maintained batting average and OBP, would slot well as bench guy for many teams.

17) Taylor Cole, RHP, Grade C:
Age 26, posted 4.06 ERA with 128/55 K/BB in 164 innings in Double-A, 174 hits. WARNING: Scouts don’t like him much, doesn’t throw hard for a right-hander, will not rank this highly on other lists if he even shows up on them. That said, he is similar at the same stage of his career to Matt Shoemaker and Chris Heston, older strike-throwing non-prospect right-handers who were durable and eventually made enough adjustments to be valuable, at least for a while. Put a competent defense behind this guy and something nice might happen.

18) Shane Dawson, LHP, Grade C:
Age 22, posted 3.03 ERA with 120/32 K/BB in 128 innings in Low-A/High-A. Despite strong numbers scouts are skeptical as he lacks a plus pitch and relies on moxie, but this is less of a handicap for a lefty than a righty and he is still rather young. Sleeper type.

19) Jose Espada, RHP, Grade C:
Age 18, fifth round pick from Puerto Rico this past spring, posted 3.41 ERA with 31/8 K/BB in 34 innings, 25 hits in rookie ball. Significant sleeper, average velocity at this point but a good curve, throws strikes, polished, fastball may improve. Higher upside than Cole or Dawson but further away.

20) Joe Biagini, RHP, Grade C:
Age 25, Rule 5 draft from Giants, posted 2.42 ERA with 84/34 K/BB in 130 innings in Double-A, 112 hits. Heavy low/mid-90s fastball and a good change-up but breaking stuff is questionable, reflected in low strikeout rate. I think he could be very effective in the bullpen.

OTHERS OF NOTE: Deiferson Barreto, 2B; Ryan Borucki, LHP; Travis Bergen, LHP; Yennsy Diaz, RHP; Roemon Fields, OF; Chad Girodo, LHP; Dan Jansen, C; Ryan McBroom, 1B; Blake McFarland, RHP; Rodrigo Orozco, OF; Reggie Pruitt, OF; Tom Robson, RHP; Hansel Rodriguez, RHP; Lane Thomas, INF; Carl Wise, 3B

Trades and graduations have put this system into a downphase but much of their talent is very young and could improve quickly. I’ll be in the comments thread Thursday discussing the system.