Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Vladimir Guerrero Jr, 3B, Grade B+: Age 17, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $3,900,000, you may have heard of his father; hit .271/.359/.449 with eight homers, 33 walks, 35 strikeouts, 15 steals in 236 at-bats against older competition in Appalachian League; normally I make a conscious effort to avoid excess hype for players at the lowest levels but there are exceptions and Guerrero is one; features power, strike zone judgment, and a more polished approach than expected; we should have every confidence in the bat; main question is defense, which was not hopeless at third base but still needs a lot of work and may not pan out in the long run if he loses too much mobility with maturity; caveat: I was a huge fan of his father and it is possible I like Jr. so much because I liked his dad. ETA 2020.
2) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Florida; posted 2.81 ERA with 130/38 K/BB in 115 innings between Low-A and High-A, just 78 hits; statistics are strong across the board and the scouting reports back them up, with 92-96 MPH fastball, two quality breaking pitches, and a below average but improvable change-up; command is usually sharp; you can make a case for an A- but his season ended early with a sore elbow and he has a history of nagging injuries, which holds his rating back just a bit. ETA 2019.
3) Richard Urena, SS, Grade B+: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; hit .295/.335/.434 between High-A and Double-A with 29 walks, 83 strikeouts in 518 at-bats; on the right day looks like a consistent .300 hitter with gap power; approach is aggressive and without a bit more patience his OBP will be very dependent on his batting average, which is one thing if you can hit .300 at every level and quite another if you drop to .260; young enough to add more power; could end up something like Tony Fernandez as a hitter; strong arm and above-average range stand out but still gets sloppy on routine plays, typical for his age; I think he’ll need two years in the high minors to work out the kinks but that still gets him to the Show at age 22. ETA late 2018.
4) Lourdes Gurriel, Jr, INF-OF, Grade B: Age 23, Cuban, signed for $22,000,000 in November; to be perfectly honest this is a placeholder grade and ranking until we get to see how he looks in spring training; despite being one of the more prominent Cuban talents reports are mixed; best tools appear to be arm strength, power potential, and defensive versatility, but opinions vary on how it will all pan out, especially with the bat; Crawfish Boxes had this report back in August. ETA unknown, check back in the spring.
5) Anthony Alford, OF, Grade B: Age 22, third round pick in 2012, hit .236/.344/.378 with nine homers, 18 steals, 53 walks, 117 strikeouts in 339 at-bats in High-A; season hampered by significant injuries including a concussion and a dislocated knee cap; got 75 at-bats in Arizona Fall League and hit .253/.349/.440; big tools with 70-grade speed and significant physical strength, although swing doesn’t translate the power to game action consistently; will draw walks but can be prone to strikeouts; exciting player to watch on the field; more defensive value than Tellez and a broader athletic base to work with but also a higher risk of failure. ETA 2019.
6) Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Grade B: Age 21, 30th round pick in 2013; hit .297/.387/.530 with 23 homers, 63 walks, 92 strikeouts in 438 at-bats in Double-A; you will likely find him behind Anthony Alford on every other Blue Jays prospect list (including this one) but Tellez is actually younger and closer to the majors and I’m more confident in his bat; power, plate discipline, and under-rated pure hitting ability; lacks range at first but not a butcher and catches what he gets to, though may be a DH long-term; projects as .270-hitter with above-average OBP and SLG, could be consistent run producer. ETA 2018.
7) Jon Harris, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 23, first round pick in 2015 from Missouri State; posted 2.71 ERA with 99/38 K/BB in 130 innings between Low-A and High-A, 111 hits; command slipped some after promotion (26/14 K/BB in 45 innings); fastball 90-94 with normally good location; best secondary pitch is strong curveball, mixed in with slider and change-up; nothing spectacular but nothing bad, either; if command holds at higher levels he can be a fine inning-eater. ETA late 2018.
8) T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from University of Pittsburgh; posted 4.50 ERA in 34 innings between GCL, NY-P, and Low-A with 38/7 K/BB and 31 hits; 6-7 right-hander with low-90s fastball that has been clocked as high as 96-97 at his best; very good curveball, with adequate slider and change-up; usually throws strikes; like Harris, he should be a fine inning-eating starter assuming his command holds as he moves up. ERA 2019.
9) Conner Greene, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 21, seventh round pick in 2013, posted 3.51 ERA with 99/71 K/BB in 146 innings between High-A and Double-A, 99/71 K/BB; throws harder more consistently than Harris or Zeuch and has a good change-up but slider is quite erratic and he doesn’t miss as many bats as he should; without a better third pitch or sharper command of everything he may wind up in the bullpen; higher physical ceiling than Harris or Zeuch but less likely to reach it; ETA 2019.
10) Justin Maese, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, third round pick in 2015 from high school in Texas; posted 2.94 ERA with 64/15 K/BB in 83 innings between Northwest League and Low-A, 79 hits; nice low-90s fastball with good action low in zone and he throws strikes with it; reports on secondary stuff vary wildly, some say he has a good slider and solid change-up but others report he relies entirely on his fastball; low strikeout rate is notable caution flag but he gives up few walks and given his youth there’s plenty of time for the secondaries to round out; ETA 2020.
11) Bo Bichette, SS, Grade B-/C+: Age 18, second round pick in 2016, son of Dante Bichette; hit .427/.451/.732 with six walks, 17 strikeouts in 82 at-bats in rookie ball; combination of gaudy numbers with MLB bloodlines will get you noticed but be wary of the sample size; good tools with plus power, plus arm strength, but unconventional hitting mechanics lead to projection questions at higher levels; probably a third baseman long-term, increasing the pressure to hit; if he keeps up the hot hitting in full-season ball his ranking will rise quickly. ETA 2020.
12) Angel Perdomo, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, signed out of Dominican way back in 2011; development was slow but took step forward in ’16 with 3.19 ERA, 156/54 K/BB in 127 innings in Low-A, 101 hits; big guy at 6-6, fastball in low-90s with higher peaks; slider and change-up very inconsistent as is his command but K/IP and H/IP rates point to his potential; big lefties who throw hard get plenty of time; may wind up in pen ultimately. ETA 2019.
13) J.B. Woodman, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from University of Mississippi; hit .297/.391/.445 between NWL and Low-A with 20 doubles, four homers, 34 walks, 85 strikeouts in 229 at-bats; lefty hitter with solid tools including 50 or 55 speed, power, and arm strength; good surface numbers in pro debut but strikeout rate was extremely high and contact issues must be addressed going forward; has potential to be a regular outfielder but may also end up as a tweener if skills develop unevenly. ETA 2019.
14) Max Pentecost, C, Grade C+: Age 23, first round pick in 2014 out of Kennesaw State; hit .302/.361/.486 with 10 homers, 24 walks, 68 strikeouts in 288 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; he’s always been able to hit for power and average and I doubt that changes, but at what position?...shoulder injuries have kept him off the field for two years and he was a pure DH in ’16; monitor reports on his catching progress in spring training. ETA late 2018.
15) Joshua Palacios, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2016 out of Auburn, nephew of former MLB player Rey Palacios; hit .330/.397/.426 in pro debut in 197 at-bats between GCL, NY-P and Low-A and this was coming off a late spring wrist injury, 18 walks, 26 strikeouts, eight steals; lefty hitter with 55-grade speed and good performance record; given his bloodlines and performance I’m surprised he doesn’t receive more attention, though he may wind up a tweener without more power development. ETA 2019.
16) Reese McGuire, C, Grade C+: Age 21, first round pick by the Pirates in 2013, acquired at trade deadline; hit .254/.335/.332 with 36 walks, 34 strikeouts in 319 at-bats in Double-A; controls zone well but lack of power makes him a weak offensive performer with little sign that will change anytime soon; renowned for defensive ability; glove will get him to the majors but without more hitting he profiles as a glove-only reserve; he is still quite young at only 21 so it may yet happen but probably not until everyone has given up. ETA 2018.
17) Harold Ramirez, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, signed by Pirates out of Colombia in 2011; came over at the deadline; hit .311/.360/.407 with 22 walks, 66 strikeouts in 383 at-bats in Double-A; hits .300 constantly with steady line drive swing but hits few homers despite 5-10, 220-pound body; gets hurt a lot and speed, arm limit him to left field, a tough profile given his lack of home run power. ETA 2018.
18) Ryan Borucki, LHP, Grade C+/C: Age 22, 15th round pick in 2012, posted 2.41 ERA in 116 innings in Low-A with 107/26 K/BB but crushed in High-A with 14.40 ERA in 20 innings, 10/12 K/BB; standard southpaw starter with heat around 90, competent change-up and breaking ball and good control but has to how he can master better competition. Fifth starter potential. ETA 2019.
19) Francisco Rios, RHP, Grade C+/C: Age 21, signed out of Mexico in 2012, posted 2.91 ERA with 108/29 K/BB in 121 innings between Low-A and High-A; average fastball in low-90s but throws strikes, mixes in workable slider but change-up needs more polish; whiff rate dipped after his promotion which matches reports that he needs to improve the secondaries; still, he’s young and he pounds the strike zone, so keep track of him. ETA 2020.
20) Zach Jackson, RHP, Grade C+/C: Age 22, third round pick in 2016 from University of Arkansas; 3.38 ERA with 23/12 K/BB in 19 innings between GCL and Northwest League, 14 hits; standard bullpen arsenal with 93-94 MPH fastball and a wicked breaking ball, a curve which draws 70 grades from some experts; command and control are erratic and durability concerns make him a reliever but he could move fast if he throws strikes. ETA 2019.
OTHER GRADE C+/C: Dwight Smith, OF
OTHERS: Angel Alicea, RHP; Danny Barnes, RHP; Travis Bergen, LHP; Cavan Biggio, 2B Will Browning, RHP; D.J. Davis, OF; Jonathan Davis, OF; Matt Dermody, LHP; Yennsy Diaz, RHP; Jose Espada, RHP; Roemon Fields, OF; Chad Girodo, LHP; Emilio Guerrero, 3B; Dusty Isaacs, RHP; Danny Jansen, C; Bradley Jones, 1B-3B; Juan Kelly, 1B-3B; Jason Leblebijian, INF; Tim Mayza, LHP; Ryan McBroom, 1B-OF; Patrick Murphy, RHP; Reggie Pruitt, OF; Jordan Romano, RHP; Glenn Sparkman, RHP
I will be with family this weekend so be civil with one another. I will be back on Monday to answer any questions and we’ll finish the team reports next week!