I recently had the pleasure of tipping back a few pints with a fellow Blue Jays blogger where, funnily enough, the conversation revolved mainly around Toronto’s affiliates. Specifically, we picked each others brains for what we thought our respective 2015 Jays top prospects list could look like. Neither of us had the time (or inclination in my case) to actually do a mid-season ranking. But both of us are definitely starting to formulate ideas to where our lists could head come this off-season.
With the Canadians still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot and, inevitably, their fourth straight Northwest League title, it does seem a bit early to be talking prospect lists. I think, with the season some of these kids are having, people have been getting excited. I know I have. Outside of Lansing, there’s been some very good stories in the Jays system this year.
As I said above, I don’t necessarily want to do a complete ranking but I do want to get the ball rolling. So I’m going to take last year’s list and make a snap judgement as to whether that player could rise or fall come 2015. There is still a month of the minor league season to go as well as the Arizona Fall League, Instructional league, etc so opinions may change but I think, for the most part, what is laid out below is what will happen.
As you can see, I’ve graduated both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. That saves me, even if Sanchez doesn’t complete his rookie eligibility, from arguing about who is number one. Norris or Sanchez. Both have had excellent 2014s. Sanchez should break camp as a starter for the Jays in 2015. Norris may not be far behind.
So isn’t Norris now number one by default? Well, I’ve ‘ballooned’ — those that have Ballooned are guys that have been far better than expected and their stock will shoot up as a consequence — him simply because he’s had an unbelievable season. Dominating in Florida, before putting up a 12.4 K/9 ratio in New Hampshire. He’s only just been promoted to Buffalo. Will be interesting to see how the Bisons use him. The Jays may be looking at having him up as a reliever sooner rather than later.
Now comes the interesting part. Two through six are going to be very difficult to sort out. I think a lot of lists will have ex-C and full blooded Canadian Dalton Pompey at 2 (or 3, depending on how they interpret Sanchez). His season definitely warrants a look. For me, however, if Roberto Osuna stays healthy and pitches well for Dunedin over the final month and playoffs you’re looking at a 2015 assignment to New Hampshire. He’ll be 20 and have already sat out a season to Tommy John surgery. That’s incredible.
I know Pompey missed a lot of time in his career to injury as well, only really having full seasons both this year and last, but I just think, right now, that Osuna has more upside.
So then the three hole will be reserved for a bat, just which one. Ex-C Pompey or current C and youngest player in the NWL Franklin Barreto. This one is going to be tough. Obviously, since Pompey only played 11 games for Vancouver, of which I witnessed just two, I’ve seen far more of Franklin. So I may be biased a bit, but wow, how can you not love Barreto’s bat? Even his outs are impressive. Rarely does he not barrel up the ball.
People will argue that Pompey plays a premium position at a very high level while Franklin may eventually have to move off short. That may very well be true, but with the Venezualen’s athleticism I still think the sky is the limit. This one will be hard.
Two 1994 born pitchers will balloon their way into the top 10. I’ve always been high on Matt Smoral. I think, similar to Norris, the Jays have tried to overhaul the 6’8″ lefty’s mechanics. That, plus the fact he didn’t pitch for a year after breaking his foot was always going to mean he was a bit of a project. Well, after struggling to find the zone in his first pro season things are trending up in Bluefield. He’s cut his walk rate virtually in half, while increasing his K/9 to an unreal 13.63 (as an aside, if I move the qualifying level to 30 innings pitched, that would have him leading the league by a whopping 2.65/9!! And he’d lead the league in FIP with his 2.33). All this while putting up with an above average .365 BABIP. Man, I may be talking myself into top 5 right now.
I have a feeling Canadians fans may miss out on Smoral but at least we got to see 6’5″ righty Miguel Castro. He’s an absolute rake at 190 pounds so there is definitely some projection there. And anybody that can run his fastball up to 98 consistently is going to get noticed. Having seen three levels last year, Castro is 2/3s of the way there this season, having been promoted to Lansing after putting up some excellent numbers in the NWL, including a 9.48 K/9 and 1.11 WHIP. All this as the 3rd youngest starter in the league. People are starting to take notice. With some even calling Castro the best arm in the Jays system.
The last Ballooner on the list is Richard Urena. A supposed ‘glove first’ shortstop that Jason Parks said is probably better defensively than a lot of MLB’ers, Urena has been tearing up the App, slashing .322/.364/.460 through 41 games. He also just ended a 25 game hit streak where he put up a .361/.410/.509 line.
He still needs to shove through the final month to cement his position but consider this. 2013 NWL playoff MVP and purported power corner infielder Mitch Nay slugged .470 through his first 41 games in the App, a mere 10 points higher than Urena, and Nay was 19. Urena is only 18. In fact, he’s a day older than the guy who is blocking him in Vancouver.
|2014 Rank||Name||2014 Team(s)||Direction|
|1||RHP Aaron Sanchez||N.H./Buff/Tor||Graduated|
|2||RHP Marcus Stroman||Buff/Tor||Graduated|
|3||LHP Daniel Norris||Dun/N.H./Buff||Balloon|
|4||RHP Roberto Osuna||GCL/Dun||Riser|
|5||CF D.J. Davis||LAN||Lead Weight|
|6||SS Franklin Barreto||VAN||Balloon|
|7||3B Mitch Nay||LAN||Dropper|
|8||LHP Sean Nolin||BUFF||Evenish|
|9||SS Dawel Lugo||LAN||??|
|10||3B Andy Burns||N.H.||Dropper|
|11||RHP Alberto Tirado||Lan/Van||Dropper|
|12||LHP Matt Smoral||BLU||Balloon|
|13||RHP John Stilson||BUFF||Lead Weight|
|14||RHP Tom Robson||LAN/D.L.||Dropper|
|15||C A.J. Jimenez||N.H./Buff||Dropper|
|16||RHP Chase DeJong||LAN||Dropper|
|17||SS Richard Urena||BLU||Balloon|
|18||RHP Miguel Castro||Van/Lan||Balloon|
|19||OF Dalton Pompey||Dun/N.H.||Balloon|
|20||1B Rowdy Tellez||BLU||Evenish|
|21||2B Christian Lopes||DUN||Dropper|
|22||3B Matt Dean||LAN||Evenish|
|23||LHP Jairo Labourt||Lan/Van||Evenish|
|24||RHP Clinton Hollon||DL||Evenish|
|25||OF Dwight Smith Jr||DUN||Evenish|
|26||C Santiago Nessy||Lan/Dun||Dropper|
|27||RHP Adonys Cardona||LAN/D.L.||Lead Weight|
|28||LHP Jacob Brentz||GCL||Riser|
|29||CF Anthony Alford||Blu/Lan||Riser|
|30||LHP Shane Dawson||LAN||Evenish|
I know I’ve got question marks besides Lugo. The third member of the young shortstop triumvirate, I really don’t know what to make of him. He’s been very good in spurts for Lansing, then goes through some real funks. I’ll probably end up giving him a pass considering it’s his first full season State side. Speaking of which. Will be very interesting to see how Barreto handles the Michigan cold next April.