Very quietly, the Toronto Blue Jays have built one of baseball’s most promising farm systems. Heirlooms Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette top off a system ripe with players of all caliber.
Among this group are a slew of catchers with prospects on a big league future in Toronto. Russell Martin’s monstrous contract ends with a $20 million guarantee in 2019 before the Canadian will hit the open market.
That’s just two seasons away and while there’s a chance the Blue Jays will still want Martin back in 2020 at age 37, Toronto has stacked up catching prospects to succeed him.
Max Pentecost is a long way from his days as one of baseball’s best young backstops and went untouched in December’s Rule 5 Draft. A trio of shoulder injuries have derailed the career of the 2014 11th overall pick, but when healthy he has shown the elite hitting potential he possesses. A move to first base could hinder his overall value, but bode well for his long-term forecast. Pentecost, the closest to the majors of the group, will turn 25 on March 10th.
Another first round catcher in the system, Reese McGuire was selected 14th in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Pirates and unceremoniously traded with Francisco Liriano’s salary at the 2016 trade deadline. Knee surgery sidelined the defensively touted catcher for a chunk of 2017 but he’s healthy now and having just turned 23 on March 2nd, will get a full-time crack at Double-A this season.
Perhaps the most favorable of outlooks on the Toronto catching prospects is now bestowed upon Danny Jansen. Unlike Pentecost and McGuire, Jansen was not a first-rounder. In fact, the 22-year old was a 16th round pick in 2013, signed out of the Wisconsin high school ranks for $100,000.
Like Pentecost and McGuire, injuries have been an issue for him. A broken hand and a hamate injury hindered him out of the gates, but his numbers are too great to be buried under health concerns. Antonymic of McGuire, the bulk of Jansen’s developmental work will be defensive, with his bat already ahead of the curve.
Even with several catchers in tow, the Jays spent two top picks in the 2017 MLB Draft on the position. In the second round, the organization tabbed Hagen Danner. Once a pitching prospect, he’s a catcher for now and the youngest of the five.
Danner is a project, now only moving behind the plate full time. But in a system loaded with prospects at his position and many levels to distribute them, the 19-year old will have all the time he needs to develop.
Riley Adams, 21, was a third round pick in last year’s draft. A black belt in karate, Adams is similar to Jansen in makeup. His bat is worrying none, his tools behind the plate the point of emphasis.
For Short-A Vancouver, he slashed .305/.374/.438 in his first 52 pro games, flashing the offensive spark while also impressing talent heads with his defensive handiwork. It’s a long way to go for Adams, but like Danner, there is no rush whatsoever.
The numbers game certainly favors the Blue Jays at the catching position. Now, we wait to see who becomes the successor to Martin and how the five are eventually dispersed on the Toronto depth chart.
Stay tuned in the coming days for John’s 2018 Blue Jays list. The discussion is currently open for business.