It has been awfully quiet in Blue Jay land this off-season, and for those of us who are prospect obsessed (unhealthily so) that’s pretty good news. Furthering the positivity, there have been rumblings of late that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has yet to find any value in the trade market, which may convince him to hold on to his top tier prospects.
Of course, this could all change in the blink of an eye.
However, if you look at how Toronto’s roster is constructed, their pitching prospects could have a very valuable role to play. With Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ set for free agency in 2015 and R.A. Dickey the year after, trading Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman for three years of Jeff Samardzija would create a pitching vacuum in 2016. Assuming the lower level arms aren’t ready yet and that all four of the names above aren’t re-signed (especially true of Dickey and Happ) you are once again
Unless they have committed free agent dollars in the meantime to fill those gaps, the Jays would find themselves again trading prospects to fill our their rotation. A cycle they’d need to break. Sooner or later they need to fill spots from within. Hoping for a bounceback season from a roster that severely underperformed in 2013 may just leave the Jays better off, not only in 2014, but beyond.
After recently wrapping up my Toronto Blue Jays top prospect list, and with no names being dealt, I thought it was worthwhile comparing my list to those that get paid to write about this sort of thing.
(as an aside, if any readers out there are outraged at my lack of remuneration for the sterling work done, donations would be accepted, either in Canadian dollars or beers. Beercoin as we call it around the Caskey household)
Although I can’t say this with 100% certainty, I’m willing to bet that, like me, the writers below don’t get a chance to see all the names on their list. They rely on an extensive network of scouts and coaches they trust to give them the information they need to make an informed decision. This may lead to certain biases towards leagues, teams, etc. where they may believe the source more valuable.
The individual may also lean towards high upside arms over say corner infielders, creating a positional bias. I also think that writers look to get ‘ahead of the curve’ on a young name or two which leads them to stick to their guns over intervening seasons. An example is Marc Hulet’s love of Dalton Pompey. He pegged him as a sleeper prospect two years ago and I believe he’d have him on the list regardless of what he did this past season.
Having said all that, this is still an interesting exercise. And all done with a smile, as despite disagreeing on a prospect here and there, all the commentators agree on one thing. The Jays organization is still very deep, and potentially very good.
|1||RHP Aaron Sanchez||Aaron Sanchez||Marcus Stroman||Aaron Sanchez|
|2||RHP Marcus Stroman||Marcus Stroman||Aaron Sanchez||Marcus Stroman|
|3||LHP Daniel Norris||Mitch Nay||Alberto Tirado||DJ Davis|
|4||RHP Roberto Osuna||Daniel Norris||Daniel Norris||Mitch Nay|
|5||CF D.J. Davis||Roberto Osuna||Sean Nolin||Franklin Barreto|
|6||SS Franklin Barreto||Alberto Tirado||A.J. Jimenez||Daniel Norris|
|7||3B Mitch Nay||A.J. Jimenez||Franklin Barreto||Roberto Osuna|
|8||LHP Sean Nolin||D.J. Davis||D.J. Davis||Alberto Tirado|
|9||SS Dawel Lugo||Matt Smoral||Chase DeJong||Dawel Lugo|
|10||3B Andy Burns||Sean Nolin||Jairo Labourt||Sean Nolin|
|11||RHP Alberto Tirado||Franklin Barreto|
|12||LHP Matt Smoral||Kevin Pillar||On the Rise:|
|13||RHP John Stilson||Dalton Pompey|
|14||RHP Tom Robson||Tom Robson||Clinton Hollon|
|15||C A.J. Jimenez||Jairo Labourt||Mitch Nay|
|16||RHP Chase DeJong||Miguel Castro|
|17||SS Richard Urena|
|18||RHP Miguel Castro|
|19||OF Dalton Pompey|
|20||1B Rowdy Tellez|
|21||2B Christian Lopes|
|22||3B Matt Dean|
|23||LHP Jairo Labourt|
|24||RHP Clinton Hollon|
|25||OF Dwight Smith Jr|
|26||C Santiago Nessy|
|27||RHP Adonys Cardona|
|28||LHP Jacob Brentz|
|29||CF Anthony Alford|
|30||LHP Shane Dawson|
I won’t go through every name for fear of putting readers to sleep, but a few themes.
The Stroman versus Sanchez debate is interesting. Three of the four lists like the potential of Aaron Sanchez. His loose, easy delivery, lean frame, and ability to hit 95 mph seemingly in his sleep scream ace material. Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus has soured on the Californian somewhat though, pointing to his high walk rate in his minor league career and questioning his make up or ‘ballsack attribute’. He still believes Sanchez has all the tools, there is just more needed to put them all together to reach the ceiling everyone else dreams of.
There is less risk with Stroman. As his floor, right now, is as an elite closer with the potential to be a middle to upper rotation starter. Parks likes Stroman’s fortitude on the mound, the four potential plus offerings, and believes he has the physical make up and delivery to survive as an undersized starter.
This is a big year for both right-handers, with Stroman looking to make a contribution in Toronto while Sanchez needs to take a step forward in New Hampshire ensuring he doesn’t stagnate developmentally.
The placement of Mitch Nay is interesting. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs and Clint Longenecker from Baseball America were both very high on him while Parks’ report questions the ability to stick at third. “If you really like the bat, the defensive limitations won’t bother you much, but if he has to eventually move to first base, the bat needs to be a heavy player for him to have value.”
I really wish we got to see him play the field during his time in Vancouver. Would have made this a lot easier. The reports I got do suggest that Nay is athletic enough and has the arm to stick at third, while Longenecker states, if need be, that he could play right field passably.
Both Baseball America and Fangraphs aren’t as concerned with the defensive work, tending to focus on the bat, with both stating he has the potential to become a middle order basher that gets on base and has 70 grade power. Hulet even goes as far to say that Nay could eventually ‘challenge Stroman as the best draftee from the 2012 class’.
As I wrote previously, Baseball America were all over the Jays Appalachian league affiliate in Bluefield ranking seven B-Jays in their top 20 prospects by league. I think that’s why you see D.J. Davis and Franklin Barreto so high on Longenecker’s list. They are very enamored with both players ultimate ceilings, whereas both Parks and Hulet like the players, but would like to see tools put in the toolbox before ranking them higher. Both arguments have merit. If you’re focused on ceilings, both Davis and Barreto as well as Dawel Lugo who didn’t make the BP or fangraphs lists are through the roof. They all have holes as well, which carries inherent risks to future floors.
Similar to BAs love of Bluefield, BP are massive buyers of some of the younger arms in the system. Parks says this about Alberto Tirado. ‘Tirado is a beast in the making, with three pitches that could end as plus offerings. His stock is going to soar when he shoves in full-season ball, and when the command starts to refine, look out. This is an impact prospect that could develop into an impact major-league starter.”
Someone to keep an eye on in 2014. Unfortunately I don’t think C’s fans will be able to do it in person.
Parks is also big on Jairo Labourt and Clinton Hollon, praising Labourt’s work ethic after losing a lot of weight and increasing his velocity while everyone seems high on Hollon’s athleticism.
Some more quick hits. Everyone agrees that Daniel Norris made some big strides last year after disappointing his first pro campaign. Left-handers that throw mid 90s and have two potential plus off-speed offerings are looked on very kindly.
Despite a tweet from Hulet which questioned Tom Robson’s actual ceiling, after I asked him about the Ladner native (apologies, I can’t find the tweet in question), we both ranked him fourteenth with Hulet liking the velocity jump in his fastball and his plus change up.
Chase DeJong is another that may move quickly. Parks likes his arm action and ‘feel for his craft’, saying “Dejong has a chance to emerge as a top 101 prospect in the game. If the fastball starts to tick up, look out.”
While BA had him as a late cut from the top ten, they still see a huge upside from the Californian right-hander. I truly need to make some contacts in Lansing this season.
Finally, 2012 Canadians alumnus Roberto Osuna dropped across the paid writers boards after his Tommy John surgery. All weren’t quite as confident as myself that the Mexican righty would return to the same levels after his elbow surgery, with Parks questioning his make up. Saying he has “concerns about his already high-maintenance body, and how a prolonged recovery process could affect his physical form.”
I doubt the Blue Jays will give any negative news during the recovery process but will be worthwhile listening to any and all chatter from Dunedin to see how positive (if at all) the reports are.
I could write about this all day, but let’s leave it there. If more thoughts arise, a second post won’t be difficult to justify. One thing that we need to make very clear. All three of the pundits whose list I included are very high on what the Jays have. True, there are a lot more tools than finished products, but 2014 will be a very exciting year to invest oneself on the various Blue Jay affiliates.