logo image

Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects: The Bottom Third

Right around a year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays sent their fans in a tizzy by pulling off a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins for some names that carried some star power. Of course, those same names had just finished in dead last with the Marlins, but that was inconsequential for excited Jays fans. Toronto was in win now mode and saw a window opening up in the American League East.

Of course, to land those fish, and, in a separate deal, reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, quite a few members of the Jays highly rated farm system needed to be spent.

A year on from the deals, it’s easy to use hindsight to say they weren’t the best trades Alex Anthopoulos ever made, but for all the damage they did to the farm system, the money the Jays spent in the international market and asset collection through the stockpiling of draft picks means that the system isn’t as barren as many would have you believe.

In fact, in doing my top thirty list, I became pretty excited about what the future holds. Both for the Jays and the Vancouver Canadians who should be the beneficiaries of some of these developing prospects.

As I haven’t seen the bulk of these prospects in person, my write ups are usually cobbled together from various online scouting resources as well as people I know who have seen them live. I will also try to predict the 2014 landing place for the players as well as the chances we’ll see them at the Nat next summer.

Without further preamble, let’s get to the bottom (but not least) on our list:

21 2B Christian Lopes – After having played 59 games in his 2012 pro debut the Californian more than doubled games played in 2013. For his first 50 odd games, Lopes was lights out, averaging over .300 and hitting 4 of his 5 home runs. I’m not sure if he started to tire after that, but his last three months were poor, with his OBP hovering around the .300 level and his slugging percentage virtually non-existent. It was a worrying trend from a player who will live and die off of his bat. Having only just turned 21, Lopes is still reasonably young which may see him repeat at Lansing, although I would not be surprised if he makes the jump to Dunedin in 2014.

2014 Team – Dunedin

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

22 1B Matthew Dean – After struggling in his pro debut season, moving to first base to accommodate Mitch Nay, and getting off to a rocky start in 2013, you could be excused for writing off Dean’s prospect status. However, some mechanical adjustments he’d been working on since extended spring training began to bear fruit in July and only got better in August where Texas native put up a 1.040 OPS which had him leading the league in that category. As a converted third basemen, Dean is a good defensive first basemen with a strong arm. Will be very interesting to see how he reacts to full season ball.

2014 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

23 RHP Clinton Hollon – the Jays 2013 second round pick, an elbow injury meant Hollon signed for the very minimum, 40% of his slot value. It was thought that the injury would delay his pro debut for a year but it was not as bad as thought and he threw just over 17 innings between the GCL and Bluefield. The GCL results were particularly encouraging as he gave up zero earned runs with ten punch outs through twelve innings. Hollon throws a mid 90s fastball with a hard, late biting slider. Both pitches project to be plus, which, with his smaller frame and max effort delivery, may mean he converts to the bullpen sometime in the future (or maybe not, see Stroman, Marcus). For now, he’ll continue to start, working on a change to complement the two power pitches.

2014 Team – Bluefield/Vancouver

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Good

24 LHP Jairo Labourt – Big and projectable, Labourt was signed as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. After struggling a bit in his 2012 States side debut, Jairo took a big step forward with Bluefield in 2013. He cut down on his walks, which upped his K/BB ratio to a healthy 3.21. He also lowered his hits per nine which led to half a run coming off his WHIP. Labourt was called up for the Northwest League playoffs, starting game one of the final series. He impressed, striking out ten over five and two thirds. Labourt throws a low 90s fastball which he does a good job keeping down with run and sink. His second offering is a potentially plus change that has good arm-side fade. He throws his slider to hard at times, but it does miss bats. His size and repeatable delivery should hopefully means he stays in the rotation.

2014 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Decent

25 OF Dwight Smith Jr – after starting the season in extended, Smith Jr got the call to Lansing as injury cover and had himself a pretty good season. His .753 OPS led all Lugnut outfielders in that category. My issue with Dwight is a lack of a position. He doesn’t profile as a corner outfielder nor is he good enough defensively to play center. Currently he only really fits as a fourth outfielder, limiting his overall ceiling.

2014 Team – Dunedin

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

26 C Santiago Nessy – A solid to above average defensive catcher who has some serious pop, it looked like Nessy was ready for a break-out season in 2013. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out like you’d hope as the Venezuelan took a step back. Part can be attributed to a concussion suffered early in the season, which limited his at bats, but I’ve also read about holes in his swing that won’t be easily rectified. I would guess Nessy will repeat the Midwest League in 2014, if in fact he is still a Jays farmhand, being a Rule 5 possibility.

2014 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

27 RHP Adonys Cardona – Another Venezuelan, Cardona signed for 2.8m in 2010 and thus far hasn’t lived up to the figure. Struggling to throw strikes and limit baserunners in his three pro seasons, a balky elbow saw him shut down early in 2013, limiting him to twenty-five innings pitched. Only reading the stats, you’d call the right-hander a bust, but from the scouting reports, the ‘experts’ are still very high on his arm. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s, occasionally hitting the upper 90s. He has an advanced feel for his change, with great fade and sink. He misses bats, he just too often misses the plate as well.

2014 Team – Vancouver

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Good

28 LHP Jake Brentz – Sticking with the Jays philosophy of picking high risk/high reward players in later rounds, they tabbed Brentz in the 11th and overpaid his slot by 600k to get him to forego his scholarship. He was actually committed to the University of Missouri as a hitter but wowed scouts when he threw in a high school tournament and hit the upper 90s with his fastball. As we’ll see later in the list, power arms from the left side are expensive. The risk for Brentz is huge as he has hardly pitched, his secondary offerings are a work in progress at best, and he struggles to hit the strike zone. However, he has a projectable body, is very athletic, and has the aforementioned electric heater. Could rocket up this list next season or never be heard from again.

2014 Team – Bluefield

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Average

29 OF Anthony Alford – This will be Alford’s last chance for me if he makes no progression next year. He still thinks himself more of a football player than baseball player and one more year of only 30 odd pro at bats will see him fall too far behind the curve. If the Jays decide to get aggressive with him and give him a taste of full-season ball then he could theoretically get 300 or so plate appearances before heading back to school. What he does with those will tell us more than the past two seasons combined. He’s probably the best pure athlete in the Jays system and if fully focused on baseball, would fly through the levels. Questions is, will that focus ever materialize.

2014 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Good

30 LHP Shane Dawson – Making my list as much for his determination as his ability. Getting to see the Drayton Valley, Alberta native live, I was impressed with his drive, the kid just hated to lose. Initially, I couldn’t figure out his stuff, but again, after a live viewing, it became more apparent. He may not have plus velocity but his delivery is deceptive and his ability to change speeds, not just with his change up, but also mixing his fastball velo kept hitters off balance. His career 11/3 K/9 and 4.80 K/BB ratios shows he obviously has the ability to miss bats, how that will play in full-season ball is the big question. And that assignment is predicated on the elbow and shoulder injuries he suffered from near the end of the 2013 season which kept him out of the Instructional League.

2014 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Good

Dawson warms up in the bouncy castle (image courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

Dawson warms up in the bouncy castle (image courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

Leave a Reply