Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 Prospects for 2018
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 early March 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 A: Age 18, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $3,900,000; you may have heard of his father; dominated full-season A-ball at a young age, hitting .323/.425/.485 with 13 homers, 76 walks, and only 62 strikeouts in 437 at-bats; this is in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues, which are not easy places to hit; scouting reports back up the numbers, sharp strike zone judgment and 70-grade power with superb pure hitting ability; biggest surprise was defensive progress at third base; his arm works there and range/reliability were better than expected; the upside: Junior hits like his dad except with more walks and the ability to play third base; downside: he’s a human being and might get hurt or be hit by a falling piano or something; either the Number One prospect in baseball or Number Two behind Ronald Acuna; ETA 2019.
2) Bo Bichette, SS, Grade A: Age 20, second round pick in 2016 from high school in St. Petersburg, Florida; hit .362/.423/.565 with 14 homers, 41 doubles, 22 steals, 42 walks, 81 strikeouts in 448 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; holds a .372 career average with 50 doubles in 530 professional at-bats; nothing like his dad as a player, more like a possible Derek Jeter type; exceptional feel for hitting with very polished approach for his age, some of those doubles may become homers as he matures; defensive tools may be stretched a bit at shortstop; my thinking is that he could be a decent defender at short but would be truly excellent if moved to second; between Guerrero and Bichette the Jays have two of the top five prospects in baseball; ETA 2019.
3) Anthony Alford, OF, Grade B+: Age 23, third round pick in 2012, hit .299/.390/.406 with five homers, 19 steals, 36 walks, 55 strikeouts in 278 at-bats in 2017 most of them in Double-A; went 2-for-8 in the majors then broke hamate bone; former football player has rapidly developed baseball skills that make athleticism relevant on the field; 70-grade speed, 50-grade power, weakest tool is throwing arm; good feel for hitting; main problem has been staying healthy; should be multi-category contributor; ETA 2018.
4) Ryan Borucki, LHP, Grade B/B+: Age 23, 15th round pick in 2012 from high school in Mundelein, Illinois; posted 2.93 ERA with 157/36 K/BB in 150 innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A; missed most of 2013-2015 with injuries including Tommy John but has been healthy and effective for two years now; low-90s sinker plays up due to contrast with plus change-up, decent breaking ball; throws all pitches for strikes, good feel for his craft; could be a fine number three starter if health issues don’t recur; ETA late 2018.
5) Nate Pearson, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from JC of Central Florida; short leash in debut with 20 innings over eight starts in rookie ball and Northwest League, looked great through with just seven hits, 26/5 K/BB, 0.90 ERA; fastball reported at 100 MPH peak, consistently in mid-90s; also has plus hard slider; has a screw in his elbow and will need to show how he manages pro workload; some uncertainty about long-term role with doubters seeing him as more of a closer type but could be dominant starter if health holds; ETA late 2020.
6) Danny Jansen, C, Grade B: Age 22, 16th round pick in 2013 from high school in Appleton, Wisconsin; hit just .206/.299/.331 in 2015 and .218/.316/.269 in 2016 but exploded in 2017 with .323/.400/.484 line in High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, 10 homers, 41 walks, 40 strikeouts in 368 at-bats; outburst attributed to physical maturity and recovery from ’16 hand injury; excellent strike zone judgment, power has improved as he’s grown stronger; talented receiver with low error and passed ball rates, positive scouting reports on athleticism; still needs to improve throwing, caught just 24%, but all other backstop skills quite good; catcher development is weird; I’m not a skeptic overall and expect he’ll continue to get on base but I am not sure about the power; ETA late 2018.
7) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Jacksonville, Florida; problematic season in Double-A, 5.09 ERA in 133 innings with 122/53 K/BB, 145 hits; command slipped compared to A-ball performance in ’16, also saw some velocity decline, more commonly in low-90s rather than mid-90s from ’16; some indication that secondaries (slider, curve, change) regressed as well although strikeout rate remained decent; much more of a fly ball pitcher in ’17 compared to ’16, large spike in home run rate; no report of injury and he didn’t miss any starts; a puzzle; he rated a B+ entering 2017 but a downgrade is needed, how much I’m not sure but we’ll go down a notch to plain B for now, watch spring reports closely; ETA 2019.
8) Logan Warmoth, SS, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2017 from University of North Carolina; hit .336/.404/.554 during college season then .306/.356/.419 in Northwest League; line drive hitter with occasional power flash; hit well in first look at pro pitching though BB/K/AB ratio (seven walks, 33 strikeouts, 160 AB) is a mild caution flag; runs well, good arm, solid defender, not flashy but gets the job done, standard polished college infielder from a big program who could get to the majors rapidly; ETA 2020.
9) Riley Adams, C, Grade B: Age 21, third round pick in 2017 from University of San Diego; hit .305/.374/.438 with three homers, 18 walks, 50 strikeouts in 203 at-bats in Northwest League; power hitter with some concerns about contact/batting average at higher levels, although he handled his first look at pro pitching well; defensive rep in college was mixed but he had no trouble with Vancouver, throwing out 40% of runners with low error and passed ball rates; big guy at 6-4, 225 but didn’t show any problems with mobility in first look; he was also young for a college junior, doesn’t turn 22 until June; need to watch the strikeouts but I think this guy is underrated in general; ETA 2021.
10) T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from University of Pittsburgh; missed half of season with back problems; posted 3.56 ERA with 51/19 K/BB in 66 innings between rookie ball rehab work and High-A, 72 hits; 3.00 GO/AO stands out and confirms reports of heavy sinker in low/mid-90s; slider, curve, change all have promise but need more consistency; reports from Arizona Fall League were very positive, along with 3.44 ERA and 15/4 K/BB in 18 innings; mid-rotation potential; ETA 2020.
11) Reese McGuire, C, Grade B-: Age 23, long-time denizen of prospect lists, originally drafted by Pittsburgh Pirates in first round in 2013 from high school in Covington, Washington; missed much of ’17 with oblique injury but (finally) hit well when healthy, .295/.376/.483 in 149 at-bats between Double-A and rehab work, setting career highs in most categories despite small sample; shows good strike zone judgment and finally tapped into some power; young enough for it to be real but we need a larger sample for certainty; defense remains excellent; he will certainly have a major league career and probably a long one but whether that’s as a reserve or a full-time starter will depend on his hitting; it will likely be a combination of both; ETA late 2018.
12) Samad Taylor, 2B, Grade B-: Age 19, 10th round pick in 2016 by the Cleveland Indians from high school in Corona, California; traded to Jays with Thomas Pannone for Joe Smith last summer; hit .294/.335/.436 between Appalachian, New York-Penn, and Northwest Leagues, six homers, 13 walks, 48 strikeouts, seven steals in 204 at-bats; very athletic, wiry strength/some power in 5-10, 160 frame; could produce double-digits in homers and steals at maturity; needs polish at second but could be plus defender eventually; we need to see him in full-season ball but has breakout potential; ETA 2021.
13) Carlos Ramirez, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 26, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2009; originally a toolsy outfielder but hit .225/.292/.347 in five seasons and converted to pitching in 2014; this works really well, pitched 38 minor league innings in 2017 giving up zero earned runs with a 45/10 K/BB and 16 hits; promoted to majors and posted 2.70 ERA, 14/3 K/BB in 17 innings; 90-94 fastball with excellent movement, mixing in plus slider, throws strikes, looks like he can control left-handed hitters, could get a shot as a closer eventually;
14) Richard Urena, SS, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, signed from Dominican Republic in 2012; disappointing Double-A season at .247/.286/.359 with 30 walks, 100 strikeouts in 510 at-bats; promoted to majors anyway and hit .206/.270/.309 in 68 at-bats; I liked him a lot entering 2017 and the tools are still intriguing, power potential noted by 36 doubles and four more in the majors but poor plate discipline exploited by Eastern League and MLB pitchers; tools fit well at shortstop but needs more reps; still young, high ceiling but high risk as well; ETA 2019.
15) Thomas Pannone, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, ninth round pick by Indians in 2013 from Southern Nevada, over in the Smith trade; posted 2.36 ERA with 149/36 K/BB in 145 innings between High-A and Double-A, just 108 hits; finesse type with fastball 88-92, approached worked against Double-A hitters (the key minor league test) due to sharp control, plus curveball, and decent-enough change-up; easy to discount because he doesn’t throw 99 MPH but as polished lefties go he looks like a nice one; ETA 2019.
ANALYST NOTE: The Jays have a large number of Grade C+ prospects who could viably rank in the 16-20 spots. I wrote up the ones that people ask me about most often. These spots should be viewed as a tier rather than “16 is definitely better than 20.”
16) Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Grade C+: Age 22, 30th round pick in 2013 from high school in Elk Grove, California; would have been a third round pick on talent but had signability issues, Jays got him for $850,000; looked like a blessing after excellent 2016 (.297/.387/.530 in Double-A) but got off to slow start in Triple-A and didn’t really pull out until hitting .311 in August; finished at .222/.295/.333; shows good plate discipline and above-average power at his best but there have always been skeptics who are now giving out “I told you sos”; given his age it is much too soon to give up but he may need a change of scenery; ETA 2019.
17) Max Pentecost, C-1B, Grade C+: Age 24, first round pick in 2014 from Kennesaw State; hit .274/.332/.434 in High-A, nine homers, 23 walks, 62 strikeouts in 286 at-bats; career .294/.343/.452 hitter in the minors; bat has always been respected but career slowed by injuries, particularly defensively; two serious shoulder injuries have hampered him but he still threw out 45% of runners last year (albeit in just 20 games behind the plate), athletic guy, not a bad fielder at first base, could fit as role player with strong bat who can catch occasionally; ETA 2020.
18) Joshua Palacios, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2016 from Auburn; made some noise hitting .355 in Northwest League in ’16 debut but cold start in Low-A in 2017 and big news from other players in the farm system saw him move down the lists; hitting under .200 at the end of June but rallied with excellent second half (.328/.403/.421) to finish at .280/.360/.361, 42 walks, 78 whiffs in 368 at-bats, stole 12; lefty hitter with 60-speed, good strike zone judgment; solid defense; fourth outfield profile but might move beyond that if he can add some power; ETA 2020.
19) Eric Pardinho, RHP, Grade C+: Age 17, signed out of Brazil last summer for $1,400,000; hasn’t pitched yet of course; ranked quite highly on other prospect lists due to low-mid-90s fastball, reported plus curveball, youth, unusual size (5-10) and unusual background, also has good pitchability for his age; I am too traumatized by the ghost of Jose Pett and his hype back in the 90s to rank Pardinho higher in such a deep system until we see him in pro ball but the potential is clear; ETA ???
20) Ryan Noda, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Age 21, 15th round pick in 2017 from University of Cincinnati, hit .364/.507/.575 in Appy League; OBP is not a typo, he drew 59 walks in 66 games; plate discipline is exceptional but there are doubters; he never hit that well in college (.239/.370/.430 over three seasons) and doesn’t have the traditional toolsy profile to excite scouts, although he does play a reasonable corner outfield; let’s see what happens at higher levels; ETA 2021.
OTHER GRADE C+: Cavan Biggio, 2B; Maximo Castillo, RHP; Mc Gregory Contreras, OF; Hagen Danner, C; Roemon Fields, OF; Ryan Gold, C; Taylor Guerrieri, RHP; Lourdes Gurriel, 2B; Jon Harris, RHP; Zach Jackson, RHP; Tim Lopes, 2B; Justin Maese, RHP; Deck McGuire, RHP; Connor Panas, OF; Orlando Pascual, RHP; Angel Perdomo, LHP; Yorman “Not the Reds Guy” Rodriguez, C; Jordan Romano, RHP; Dwight Smith Jr, OF; Kevin Smith, SS; Kevin Vicuna, SS; Chavez Young, OF
OTHER INTERNATIONAL SIGNEES OF NOTE: Miguel Hiraldo, 3b; Leonardo Jimenez, 3B
OTHERS OF NOTE: Maverik Buffo, RHP; Andrew Case, RHP; Kacy Clemens, 1B; D.J. Davis, OF; Jonathan Davis, OF; Yennsy Diaz, RHP; Jose Espada, RHP; Jose Fernandez, LHP; Yeltsin Gudino, SS; Emerson Jimenez, RHP; Bradley Jones, 3B; Juan Kelly, DH; Zach Logue, LHP; Tim Mayza, LHP; Patrick Murphy, RHP; Eduard Pinto, OF; Reggie Pruitt, OF; Harold Ramirez, OF; Francisco Rios, RHP; Chris Rowley, RHP; Justin Shafer, RHP
I think the two guys at the top are pretty good, don’t you? I feel sorry for Dwight Smith and Cavan Biggio, two bloodline players who could be pretty useful for someone but are buried behind all this talent.
I will be around in the comments section to answer questions on Friday.