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What Will the 2015 Toronto Blue Jay Top Prospect List Look Like?

Back in December I wrote a piece reviewing and adding my thoughts on the Blue Jay list of three of the more respected baseball prospect writers in the game. Of course, as is usually the case, I had jumped the gun a bit, forgetting that ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law had yet to drop his list. He did so at the end of January, going on to discuss his top 100 and organizational rankings on his Behind the Dish podcast.

As per usual, he made some interesting points, especially when explaining why he ranked the Jays system 24th out of 30:

“I’m dreaming on a lot of these guys. I see the ability, I see the promise. But then, when I try to do these rankings, one through thirty, or when I’m just evaluating individual prospects, one thing I keep in the back of my mind is, ‘Would you trade this guy for that guy?’ ‘Would you trade Toronto’s system for the Orioles’ system?’ ‘Would you trade one for the other?’ And with Toronto, they kept coming out on the short end of the stick, because the fact is, the industry does not value short season players; 18-year-olds who’ve been in the Gulf Coast League, or the Arizona Rookie League, or the Appy league.”

The ‘guys’ he is dreaming on are the young, high upside talent that played so well in Bluefield and the GCL last year. Hell, we’re all dreaming on them. Of the four paid writers I’ve used in this study, all of them had a minimum of four players who have not played above short season ball with Law having the most at six. So, if only 40% of his list has any trade value according to the parameters he outlines, i.e. they would have had to have done at least one full season, then ya, I can understand why he ranked the organization so poorly.

The Jays have not had many impact prospects knocking on the door of the big team for a few years now. And with the trades of Noah Syndergaard, Travis D’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, et al, they effectively hit the reset button. Is this a long term issue though?

Let’s take a look at what next year’s top 10 may look like to see if it provides any more value.

For last year’s top 10, I amalgamated the lists from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Keith Law, and myself, ranking the players based on points accumulated. For example, Aaron Sanchez was first on four lists and second on one, meaning he ended up at 49 points:

2014 Rank Player 2014 Team 2015 Top 10
1 Aaron Sanchez New Hampshire Aaron Sanchez
2 Marcus Stroman Buff/Toronto Daniel Norris
3 Daniel Norris Dun/NH Alberto Tirado
4 Roberto Osuna Dun/AFL Mitch Nay
5 D.J. Davis Lansing Roberto Osuna
6 Alberto Tirado Lansing Franklin Barreto
7 Mitch Nay Lansing Tom Robson
8 Franklin Barreto Blu/Van Chase DeJong
9 Sean Nolin Buffalo Dawel Lugo
10 A.J. Jimenez N.H./Buff Miguel Castro

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Couple of quick points. There is only one graduation on the 2014 list, with Marcus Stroman more than likely spending the bulk of this season in Toronto. That being said, I still envision a quite a bit of movement in the top 10.

The 2015 rankings are mine alone. For the most part, I’m an optimist, which means I’ll never be a very good scout. For instance, I’ve written that I believe Tom Robson will skip Lansing and begin this season in high A Dunedin. To rank him 7th next year, I have to think he will do quite well in the Florida State League. The same goes for Daniel Norris with a Dunedin and New Hampshire prediction. Obviously that would mean he shoves during the first half of 2014.

Ranking Roberto Osuna is difficult. We have no idea what he will do in 2014. If he comes back healthy, pitches a bit in August, then throws well in the Arizona Fall League (best case scenario) then having him 5th makes perfect sense. If his rehab takes longer than expected than there is a very good chance he slides out of the top 10 altogether.

The 10th spot should really have gone to either Sean Nolin or A.J. Jimenez but I reserved the spot for one of this year’s short season studs, who as Canadians fans, we should be keeping an eye on. If they perform well in Bluefield, there is a very good chance we get to see them at the Nat at some point this year. Other names, aside from Castro, that could have taken the spot are Clinton Hollon, Rowdy Tellez, Matt Smoral, and Jake Brentz.

How can the 2015 list be valued then? With only two short-season players, we now have 80% tradeable commodities, and the very real possibility of four to five top 100 prospects. I’m guessing that puts the Jays into the upper half of the organizational rankings (provided they don’t trade all these prospects away). If the short season names I listed above graduate to full season ball in 2016 and the Jays sign both their high 2015 draft picks than you are, once again, looking at a top 10 system. Not bad for a team that apparently gutted their farm a year ago.

If you’re like me and were initially shocked with Law’s organizational rankings then by reading his explanation and digging a bit deeper, it’s quite easy to look past this year’s rankings to what will be coming in 2015 and beyond. Of course, my rosier picture is predicated on the players doing the business in full season ball. How could it go wrong?

Marcus Stroman

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