The Toronto Blue Jays farm system put themselves back on the map this past summer. While it may not necessarily be elite or deep, all eyes will be on the rise of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Bo Bichette.
Their Top 10 provide some exciting prospects, but who else made some noise in 2017?
(UPDATE: Originally Conner Greene was on this list, but he was traded to the Cardinals on January 19. He was replaced by Zach Jackson below.)
Danny Jansen, C
Jansen has been around for a bit, drafted out of high school in the 16th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. While the Blue Jays have some catching prospects a bit more eye-catching in front of him, Jansen is one that’s worth keeping tabs on.
The 22-year-old climbed from the Florida State League to Triple-A this season and was at the best of his career at each stop. He posted an .884 OPS behind an impressive .323/.400/.484 slash line across all three levels. He doesn’t have the power attributed to the typical catcher, especially with a 41 percent batted ball ground ball rate. Still, the right-hander showed pop in his first full, healthy season, smashing 25 doubles and 10 home runs, nearly all to his pull side.
Jansen also doesn’t strike out, walking more times than he struck out this season (40:41). He has matured each season behind the plate. His receiving skills have improved, although he was never a liability, allowing only four passed balls and four errors. He has an average arm, and only threw out 24 percent of his base runners, but that could improve.
He isn’t a Top 10 catching prospect, but he could become a serviceable backup in Toronto much sooner than later.
Thomas Pannone, LHP
I didn’t know much about Pannone until I was asked to do a write up on him at the All Star Game this season. After both watching and speaking to him, he quickly became one of my favorite under-the-radar pitching prospects in the game.
The southpaw began the season a member of the Indians, but found himself in New Hampshire to end the season. He began the year with over 35 innings of shutout ball, and ended the season on a high note as well. Overall, Pannone was 9-3 with a 2.36 ERA an 1.00 WHIP. He struck out 149 in 144.2 innings, while only walking 36. He won’t light up the radar gun, but he can throw strikes with all of his pitches.
Pannone has all the makings of a back-end of the rotation big league pitcher. He can toss innings, he has confidence to throw his average stuff for strikes, and he seems to have that winning mentality. Pannone is aware of his stuff and won’t try to overpower opponents, but uses deception and break to get them chasing. It will be interesting to see how he handles the International League, but he could be Toronto bound late next year.
Zach Jackson, RHP
Jackson is a solid reliever who was at his best in the Florida State League in 2017. John Sickels described him as having a “classic bullpen and approach” in his midseason review and that is pretty spot on.
Now 23-years-old, taken by the Blue Jays in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Jackson was closing out games for Dunedin by the end of last season. He converted all four of his save opportunities posting a 2.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while striking out 43 in 31 innings, walking 18 over the same span.
Therein lies a major issue with Jackson, as he has struggled with command before as well. Some feel it’s issues with his release point, others with repeating his delivery that leads to the spotty command. Having not seen him enough personally, it’s hard to say.
What we do know is that he has a solid, biting curveball — arguably the best in the system — and a hard fastball that gets the job done when he’s on. He has history on his side, with a successful career at Arkansas and two nice stints in the minors. He should be a solid piece for the Blue Jays.