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Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: Entering the Top 10

It seems like every time I open up one of these prospect posts I’m re-calibrating my goals as to when I’m actually going to finish writing up the list.  To whit:

Originally, I had hoped to get it done prior to the Vancouver Canadians luncheon.  That was a long time ago.  Then the hope was that everything got tied up sometime in mid March.  Hopefully nobody was holding their breath.

Despite the tardiness of publishing the verbose write ups, you’ll have to trust me that the actual list has been set in stone for months.  And not influenced by recent spring training happenings (phenomena).  That statement will be far more relevant come the final five.

For now, we’ve got the Jays top three picks of 2014 plus a couple of ex (and future??) Vancouver Canadians.

6 RHP Jeff Hoffman – Opposite to the player one spot below, I probably have Hoffman a bit lower than most of the Jays prospect lists you’ll read.  The reason being: I don’t have enough pro information (i.e. none) on the right-hander to justify putting him in my top 5 (ahead of guys who will make an impact in high minors to Toronto this season) and as BP’s Chris Mellen told us on the podcast, it wasn’t like Hoffman wasn’t without a few kinks prior to going down to TJ surgery.  Rehab won’t be the only work Jeff is doing, as he looks to iron out a few inconsistencies in his delivery.

That all being said, without the injury, there is simply no way the Jays would have gotten him with the 9th overall pick.  He’s a power arm, with a potential ++ fastball and curve that could run to plus.  Add in his excellent change which shows good run and depth and you have a potential front of the rotation starter with three excellent offerings.

And as a last word, and one that could make me look like an idiot for having him so low.  A quote from one of the Jays catchers who has been working with Hoffman this spring:

“Hoffman is nasty”

2014 Ranking – NR

2015 Team – Dunedin

Vancouver Canadians Chances – I still say no, but Alex Anthopoulos did recently give us Vancouverites hope, saying he may start his season here.

7 SS Richard Urena – I may be a bit higher on Urena than most but, and I’ve said this many times before, I tend to favour those I’ve seen.  And the first at bat I saw from the 19 year old Dominican was a triple down the right field line.  So ya, I was pretty much in love.

Here’s what we know.  With his excellent footwork and strong arm, the consensus is that Urena is the best shortstop in the Jays system.  Unlike Dawel Lugo and, the since traded, Franklin Barreto though, there’s some concern over whether his bat will play.

And here’s where I may differ a bit from the experts out there.  Despite some hiccups — dropping both is hands and head slightly in his load — in his swing I was impressed overall.  The switch-hitter showed excellent plate coverage and a good feel for the zone.  His swing is smooth and quick.  I don’t think there’s any doubt Urena’s bat won’t match the fireworks that Barreto’s may produce one day but Richard’s will play fine at short.

2014 Ranking – 17

2015 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – He would have to struggle mightily.

8 LHP Matt Smoral – At 6’8″ and 220 pounds Smoral is obviously fairly large.  Thing is, everything about the Ohio native is big.  His feet, hands, and interestingly, according to catcher Mike Reeves, his abnormally long middle finger.  Which gives Smoral natural cut on his fastball.  Now if he can only start to spot it a bit better we’re looking at a giant lefty with a low to mid 90s cut fastball and plus slider that shows late break and great depth.

His change still needs work as it comes in way too firm and flat, but at 21 with under 80 pro innings on his docket, there is time to work on that.

Like Jairo Labourt, I’m going to use my coined phrase Daniel Norris paradigm for Matt.  Despite his mechanical flaws and very stiff front side, you can’t give up on potential power lefties.  And from all the reports I got from instructs and from spring training, he’s already showing more consistency in his release point.

I know Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro are getting all the ink so far but I really think Smoral will be in the mix as breakout prospect of 2015.

2014 Ranking – 12

2015 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – If he can’t iron out his release point this spring then he’ll be back in Vancouver to start.

9 C Max Pentecost – After having to wait a bit longer than expected, the Jays second first round pick arrived in Vancouver last July. Unfortunately, due to injury, he only caught 6 games so was tough to get a good read on him.

Bearing in mind it was a small sample size and we now know that his shoulder was banged up, here’s what I saw: his actions need a lot of work.  Setting his feet and getting down late meant he never provided a consistent target.  His athleticism cannot be questioned but he can be a bit jabby when receiving and will over rotate when blocking a ball.
His throwing was bad with most of the throws I saw bouncing to their destination.  The one pop time I did get was on the slow side at 2.17  seconds .  Again, it’s hard to be too critical with the  benefit of hindsight and shoulder surgery.
At the plate, Pentecost is very smooth with a balanced load.  His level swing plane leaves the barrel in the zone a long time.  He isn’t afraid to use all fields and showed consistent gap to gap power during his time in Vancouver.
His legs are also an asset considering his position.  I saw him beat out a swinging bunt rather easily while also getting up the line in 4.36 seconds on a double play ball.
All in, while he remains an excellent prospect, I don’t think Max will be threatening Russell Martin anytime soon.  His progress up the ladder may be a lot slower than expected.

2014 Ranking – NR

2015 Team – Injury Dependent, am guessing Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Slim

10 RHP Sean Reid-Foley – If you listen to the very first YourVanCs podcast you’ll hear a bunch of guys drooling over the fact the Jays drafted and signed, what was thought to be a first round talent, with second round money.

Maybe it’s  a bit of confirmation bias but the more you read about Reid-Foley the more people try to explain away his later than expected pick with things like poor late performances and a worrisome arm action. While that all may be true I’m going to guess the Jays are very happy with what they have.  A big-bodied power arm who flashes a plus fastball/slider combo and is aggressive in the zone.

Most of the reports I’ve read say SRF has an advanced feel for pitching.  I predicted a Lansing assignment to start 2015 which would be aggressive for a 19 year old with just over 22 innings of pro experience.  The jump from the GCL to the Midwest League is large and has proved to be the undoing of some more experienced prospects than SRF.

If he does go, he’ll need to keep the ball down and pound the zone.  The reports I’ve been getting from spring training say he’s been doing just that.

2014 Ranking – NR

2015 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Fair

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