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Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: Cream of the Crop

Man, it’s been a long, hard slog but we’re now dragging ourselves (with a knee needing surgical repair) over the finish line.  And only three-ish months late, well done Charlie.

Before I get into the final five and their implications for the Jays in 2015 let’s do a bit of a review.  Similar to last year, I’ll eventually (sometime this summer??)  compare my list to the other main players in the prospecting game, but if you want to go back and see what I said about the previous 25, check them out: 30-21, 16-20, 11-15 and 6-10

A lot has been made about the importance of this season to the future of current general manager Alex Anthopoulos.  With President, and AA advocate, Paul Beeston on his way out, who knows what the new boss will have in store.

Winning will obviously help.  You can’t overlook Alex’ draft record though.  With the opening day roster bearing that out.  Every member of my top went north with the big club.  I know it’s easy for me to say that AFTER the roster was announced, but you’ll have to trust me that this list was done back in January.  So I was not unduly influenced by the strong springs from a couple of 20 year olds.

And to prove it (somewhat) I’ve left my predictions for their 2015 team from the original outline I did for this post back in February:

Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: Cream of the Crop
http://blogs.vancouversun.com/?p=176078Cached

26 Feb 2015

1 RHP Aaron Sanchez – I love the fact that this position is creating so much debate within the Blue Jays community.  How can you not love the fact that you have two potential front of the rotation starters who are 22, and unlike years past are not in the lower levels of the minor leagues?  Both will start the season with Toronto.  If I really wanted to be wishy washy I could label Sanchez and Norris as 1A and 1B but nobody would ever call me that.

Sanchez gets the one spot simply because I think, with his stuff and frame, he has the potential to be a front of the rotation stud.  A guy with a 95-97 mph fastball that runs like a 2-seamer, spike curve, and developing change and cutter.  Ya, mine.

2014 Ranking – 1

2015 Team – Toronto

Vancouver Canadians Chances – He was here for the luncheon!

2 LHP Daniel Norris – Everybody knows the story.  Lansing pitching coach Vince Horsman, a renowned advocate of establishing fastball command, wouldn’t let Norris use his offspeed pitches for the first half of 2013.  He got hit hard, people jumped off the prospect bandwagon.  The process worked though, as the Tennessee native put together a great second half before racing through three milb levels in 2014 to make his major league debut.

Whether Marcus Stroman’s spring injury (hard sigh) was reason Norris made the rotation out of spring or he pitched his way there is irrelevant.  The Jays need him to pitch well, and often, with 160 innings the floor.

As Gregg Zaun said, the addition of a change that runs away from right-handers could mean he pitches in the league for 20 years.  I still think his fastball will be his most important pitch.  If he can command that, I truly believe he’ll be a rookie of the year candidate.

2014 Ranking – 3

2015 Team – Toronto

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Maybe he’ll stop through with the van on way to Tofino for some surfing.

3 OF Dalton Pompey – The highest ranked position player and one of only three in the top 10.  Showing how much value (and work) the Jays see in drafting high upside pitchers.

That being said, Pompey, and really all the players in this top 5, are a testament to the Jays scouting team under GM Alex Anthopoulos.  While the two guys ahead of Dalton were bonus babies and expected to one day be mainstays on this list, Pompey was a project taken in the 16th round.

The scout who suggested Toronto take him was impressed with his ability to adjust to every level he got to.  After some injuries affected his early pro career, 2014 was the year ‘Pony’ proved that scout to be very smart.  Destroying Florida State League pitching for half a season before, after a sluggish start, figuring out the Eastern League and finally proving he was good enough for triple-A.

The Jays gave him a good long look in September and the departure of Colby Rasmus without replacing him had all of us assuming the starting centerfield job was Pompey’s to lose.  Another assumption most made is that all Dalton had to do was run and catch to make him a useful piece in the Jays lineup.

But if he could adjust to three different minor league levels in one season, who’s to say he can’t go one step further in 2015?

2014 Ranking – 19

2015 Team – Toronto

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Maybe some day as a ‘legend’?

4 RHP Roberto Osuna –  I’ve always been a huge Osuna fan which makes him far less of a surprise in this spot (check out the story I did predicting my 2015 top 10) then who I have in the 5 hole.  Roberto was the first truly great pitcher I saw in Vancouver which lends a bit of credence to my west coast bias.  But when you see a guy come in and throw a low to mid 90s fastball and a split change that had Northwest League hitters literally fishing it was pretty easy to fall in love.

Speaking to those that saw him in Arizona, the velocity had returned post-Tommy John but the location and ‘pitchability’ quotient that had people raving was behind the curve.  As I said on our last podcast, I didn’t think this would end up being a problem and the Jays would get aggressive with Roberto and send him to New Hampshire.  Of course, with the benefit of me being ridiculously late in writing this series up, my ‘aggressive’ prediction looks somewhat pedestrian.

The ‘Boss’ is currently making big league hitters look a bit silly.  But where does his future lie?

2014 Ranking – 4

2015 Team – New Hampshire

Vancouver Canadians Chances – the fourth straight ex-Canadian who won’t be back

5 RHP Miguel Castro – A bit of an unknown quantity after only making his Stateside debut in 2013 Castro’s 2014 was nothing short of remarkable.  First, a couple of easy observations.  Miguel is really really tall, and very very skinny.  So there’s room for both projectability but also the worry that he may be susceptible to injury.  He can sling it.  His fastball explodes on the hitter, easily touching the mid to upper 90s with good, late arm-side run when he gets on top of it.  He also has a pretty good idea where it’s going, despite his long limbs and ‘moving parts’ delivery.  There has been some worry that he catches too much of the plate, relying on pure velocity to keep hitters in the lower leagues guessing.  From what I saw, he was pretty good at hitting his spots with the fastball but like many younger pitchers, the secondary offerings need work.

And that’s what will decide his ultimate ceiling.  Right now his slider can be a bit flat and slurvey, especially when he loses his arm slot and gets underneath the ball.  His change shows nice separation velocity-wise but the movement can be lacking.  As he advances up the ladder, better hitters won’t be as fooled by what can sometimes be described as a slower fastball.  If those pitches don’t develop to at least an average level then Castro may be pegged as a bullpen arm.  One Alex Anthopoulos has stated we could even see in Toronto in 2015.
As one scout told me though, ‘the kid can throw it 99, they have time to teach him a breaking ball’.  Will be very interesting to see how that develops.
(editor’s note: the writeup above was one I did in December and sent to a more professional scout/writer for his opinion.  He was on board with my observations about Castro although he did say I was a bit verbose.  A common problem.  In that regard, I’ve left it in tact while also adding in a quote from catcher Josh Thole from spring training below)

The way that he commanded his pitches, that’s what impressed me more than anything,” said Thole. “Not that he throws 100 (m.p.h.) or what not, but throwing a breaking ball and not just throwing it but knowing what he wants to do with it. And when he did make a mistake with it, you could see him making the adjustment on the next pitch. And that shows a lot about a pitcher, about who he is.”

2014 Ranking – 18

2015 Team – Dunedin (only because AA has basically told us)

Vancouver Canadians Chances – We hardly knew him

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