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Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: Mid Tier Love Part 2

I have had to re-position my goals somewhat when it comes to this list.  Originally, I hoped to get it done prior to the Vancouver Canadians luncheon.  That was a long time ago.  Now the hope is that everything is tied up sometime in mid March.  I’m sure we’ll wait with baited breath.

I’d also said I was going to split these in 10 player chunks with minimal player blurbs.  Turns out I say a lot of stuff that isn’t necessarily true.  The player profiles kept getting longer and longer.  So to avoid any reading induced comas I’ve split the middle tier into chunks of five.

I have to admit, this group probably caused the most angst.  Both in where I should position them and where I think they stand in the organization.  Unlike the two previous posts (see 21-30 and 16 through 20) this piece isn’t littered with younger prospects with huge ceilings — outside of number 12 of course, but he presented his own set of problems.  One was traded for during the off-season so will wait to get a full read on him while three were 2013 Northwest League Champions Vancouver Canadians who were well thought of then but struggled a bit in 2014.

This season will go a long way in deciding if they remain prospects or are shuffled off of the board entirely.

11 LHP Jairo Labourt – Labourt jumps 12 spots on the ranking boards, despite being demoted from Lansing, for one simple reason.  You can’t give up on big, power pitchers who throw from the left side and are struggling to iron out their mechanics.  Call it the Daniel Norris paradigm.

If you read some of my charting series a theme to Jairo’s problems started to emerge.  When he was working downhill, using his trunk effectively he was very effective.  This was pretty obvious looking at his stats in Vancouver.  He missed a lot of bats, striking out 27.5% of the hitters he faced.  He also improved his walk totals to a not quite so ugly 4.67/9.  That will have to come down even further though if he’s to be successful in 2015.

Unless the Jays get aggressive with a Dunedin assignment, the Dominican native will need to learn to work in the cold of Lansing.  Something he struggled with last year.  I saw it first hand in Vancouver on a miserable June day.  After a shortish rain delay and in persistent drizzle, Labourt mailed it in a bit when returning to the mound.  It’s not just the mechanics that need ironing out but his mental game needs some fine tuning as well.  Another failure in the Midwest League could see him plummet next year.

2014 Ranking – 23

2015 Team – Lansing

Vancouver Canadians Chances – I really hope not….

12 OF Anthony Alford – Since I started writing about baseball, Mississippi two sport start Anthony Alford has probably been my second favourite muse to Dan Norris.

He presents a very interesting conundrum.  An extraordinarily gifted athlete with a gorgeous swing from the right side and plus plus speed, there’s a lot to dream about.  However, like fellow Mississippi prep product and 2012 draftee D.J. Davis, Alford was drafted more for his athletic ability then any polished baseball skills.

So why is Anthony here while I’ve kicked Davis off of the list entirely?  Especially after Alford struggled in Australia, striking out over a third of the time?  Because the former Ole Miss football player has only 110 plate appearances in his minor league career while Davis has over one thousand.  With Alford we can still dream that the athleticism is converted into baseball chops.

A surprising invite to major league camp has me thinking the Jays will be aggressive with Alford, having him start the season in the Florida State League.

2014 Ranking – 29

2015 Team – Dunedin

Vancouver Canadians Chances – See above

13 2B Devon Travis – I have to admit, this was a tough one for me.  Baseball America had Travis as their numero uno Detroit Tigers prospect.  They were outliers though.  When we had BP’s Chris Mellen on the podcast, he couldn’t have been more ‘meh’ in his assessment.  But when Bernie Pleskoff came on the show he was effusive in his praise.  Obviously Bernie and Chris probably look don’t agree all that often, but still, you see my dilemma.  There’s a lot of differing viewpoints out there.

Despite some literature out there saying Travis has a shot to win the 2B job out of spring, I don’t think that’s the case.  Toronto will go with a  Maicer Izturis, Danny Valencia, Munenori Kawasaki combo while Devon gets at least half of season of triple A at bats in Buffalo.

Hopefully that allows us to get a bit more of a read on what the Jays acquired in Travis.

2014 Ranking – NR

2015 Team – Buffalo

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

14 3B/1B? Mitch Nay – I put a question mark after Nay’s position as what he eventually ends up playing will go a long way to deciding exactly what kind of prospect he is.  If he’s a first basemen then he’s in the 20’s.  So far though, I’ve heard enough from various sources (he only DH’d when in Vancouver) to believe that the 2012 supplemental round pick has the athleticism to stick at third.

And that’s why he’s at 14.  The reason he dropped from 7?  His inability to show any improvement in his ‘game’ power which was his calling card coming out of high school.  As a pro, we’ve talked positively about his approach, which was apparent last year in Lansing when the Arizona native put up a 0.49 BB/K ratio and .342 OBP.

Unfortunately he only slugged .389 for a .104 ISO.  That’s not good enough.  Especially for someone that shows such ‘easy power’.  After a late season promotion to Dunedin in 2014, Nay will be back in Florida (after spending time at major league camp) in 2015.  A league where power hitters go to die.  Should be interesting.

2014 Ranking – 7

2015 Team – Dunedin

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

15 SS Dawel Lugo – Another prospect with prodigious power who has so far struggled to unlock it.  Whereas Nay has shown some great patience, Lugo will swing at anything and everything.  That mindset gives watchers a chance to see his incredible hand-eye coordination but unfortunately means that Lugo is rarely hitting his pitch.  When he does, he can barrel it.  It just doesn’t happen often enough.

Recently I used a great fangraphs article to rank the Blue Jays minor league players by WAR.  I was surprised how low Lugo came in.  But if you look at his 2014 offensive output I suppose it’d not surprising at all.  His wRAA was -14.2!!  He’s a decent shortstop, but let’s be honest, if Lugo doesn’t hit then Dunedin may be Dawel’s final station stop.

2014 Ranking – 9

2015 Team – Dunedin

Vancouver Canadians Chances – Non-existent

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