I've been slow to continue these reports because I've been so caught up in The Steak that discussion of the future seemed kind of bad form, even with the certain knowledge that the hill is too high to climb. But I don't want to go so long between these lists as to lose the interest of the readers either, so I have to tear myself away from the drama for a bit.
The Jays have added a couple of intriguing alternatives at the position which seems to have been the bane of our franchise since the salad days of Tony Fernandez. But they are both young and far distant from making a major league impact. There are probably three more seasons before we can entertain the notion of an internal solution at SS (barring the not unreasonable idea of moving Hill back over).
1. Justin Jackson (20) 6'2", 175 - 1st round (supplemental) 2007
Jackson was perhaps the most maddening player in the system this year. He had massive swings in production, ranging from red-hot (in April and July) to stone-cold (in June and August) which leave evaluators like me grasping for explanations. There are a couple - he was coming off a stint on the DL during June which may have affected his performance, and it's conceivable that fatigue caught up with him in August - but it goes without saying that the Jays would like to see more consistency from such a highly regarded kid.
That said, there's a lot of raw material to work with here. J-Jack is said to wield a very-good-to-great glove, he's not a good base-stealer but he's a speedy and heads-up baserunner, he has a good eye at the plate (taking 62 walks in 121 at bats) which is impressive for a 19 year old. Physically, the easy comparison to Fernandez springs immediately to mind, and it's not entirely impossible that he would attain that level (which I hope because Fernandez is among my very favorite all-time Jays), but there's another, less inspiring comparison that jumps off the stat sheet: Alex Gonzalez.
Looking at Jackson's totals the biggest negative is easy to spot - 154 strikeouts. Everyone that remembers Gonzo remembers one thing above all: he was a gifted defender with a decent bat who would never give up the idea that he was a power hitter. The harder he tried to hit homers, the more his overall offense suffered. It may well be that we are seeing a similar situation with Jackson. We can only hope that good coaching along the way can get him to play to his strengths rather than trying to be the next A-Rod.
ETA: 2012 at the earliest.
2. Tyler Pastornicky (19) 5'11", 170, 5th round, 2008
A right handed hitter like Jackson, Pastornicky is another one of those players that deserves more notice than he's getting. The Florida high school product excels in all areas of the game except power hitting. The kid is said to have great hands, and is capable of throwing 90+ across the diamond. He has smooth fielding action and shortstop range. He has great speed and is a top notch base-stealer (27 bags in 32 attempts) and he has as many walks as strikeouts. He has the potential for doubles power when he bulks up a bit more, but he'll never be a slugger, nor should he try to be. On top of all this, he's said to have an outstanding makeup and be flowing with baseball savvy (comparable, for instance, to Aaron Hill).
ETA: late 2012, early 2013
3. Luis Sanchez (21) 5'11", 175, 46th round, 2005 (Braves)
Sanchez is a switch-hitter out of Puerto Rico, Sanchez is a well-regarded defender with a lightly-regarded bat. In June and July this season he looked like maybe he had solved that riddle but a severe August fade gave all that gained ground back. It's hard to be optimistic that he's going to hit enough to make the majors. If he does he'll be a very fringy guy.
ETA: likely never. No one you should be counting on if he does.
4. Ryan Klosterman (26) 5'11" 185, 5th round, 2004
Two years ago, Klosterman seemed to have a bright future (a cautionary note about success in the low minors). he had just had a breakout offensive season in which he'd posted an .839 OPS at Dunedin and earned a late season call to AA (where he did not embarrass himself). He was a bit old for his level at the time but not drastically so. He's a skilled smooth defender and his makeup was said to be off the charts. But in 2007 his offense totally collapsed against higher level pitching and has shown no sign of recovery.
If you haven't solved AA pitching by the age of 26, you are almost certainly not going to ever take the field as a major leaguer.
5. Pedro Lopez (25) 5'11" 205, signed as NDFA by White Sox
Lopez was once a top 10 prospect for the Chicago White Sox, but if you look at his track record, that was apparently more a function of a weak farm system than Lopez's skill set. Lopez has a 2B arm, lacks plate discipline or power, and is not a particularly good runner. Frankly, if I wasn't being compulsive about making all the lists either five or ten players in length, I would never have mentioned him.
Next time - Third Base.