Getting right to the chase tonight:
1. Travis d'Arnaud, 22, C, 6'2" 195
I won't be the first to observe, with this writing, that Travis d'Arnaud, while certainly a coveted player, was clearly the "third man" among the three prospects the jays ultimately obtained from the Phillies for Roy Halladay.. It's been reliably reported that the Jays have had their eye on d'Arnaud all along, penciling him in as their third draft choice (and #38 overall) in the 2007 draft before the Phillies took him at #37. In 2008, in his first full season, d'Arnaud impressed scouts while playing in the Phillies system with stats that, looking back, ought to look very familiar to Blue Jays' prospect hounds. let me show you something kinda neat. Here are two players, refereed to as A & B - one of course is obviously d'Arnaud. Both players played some or all of their age 19 season in short-season ball.
A: .305/.367/.464/.831; 239 AB, 18 doubles, 1 triple, 6 homers, 23 walks, 39 strikeouts
B: .298/.396/.438/.834; 235 AB, 11 doubles, 8 triples, 2 homers, 34 walks, 41 strikeouts
Both players then advanced to to full season low-A ball in their age 20 season:
A: .255/.319/.419/.738; 482 AB, 38 doubles, 1 triple, 13 HR, 41 walks, 75 strikeouts
B: .256/.320/.355/.675; 383 AB, 17 doubles, 6 triples, 3 homers, 37 walks, 74 strikeouts
The valley was a bit lower for the second guy, particularly in terms of power production, but still - that's kinda spooky, no? Make a note - the second guy is Carlos Perez, don't forget about him. Anyway, moving on.
Travis suffered another setback in 2010 when, after a very hot start, he had issues with his back that sidelined him for over a month, the reoccurred later and shortened his season. overall he only played in about half the team's games that year. That provoked a lot of question, including for me, about how he'd hold up over a full season behind the plate. This year he put those fears to rest and made himself into one of the 3 or 4 best catching prospects in baseball, one of the very best prospects in his league, and one of the very best in the Jays loaded system.
2. Anthony Gose, 22, CF, 6'1" 190
(played most of season at 21)
In the Baseball America report on the best prospects in the Eastern League, mega-prospect (and #1 draft pick) Bryce Harper was #1, as you might expect. Number two? d'Arnaud. Number three? You guessed it, one Anthony Gose. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me as I seek to rank the Jays prospects this fall is Gose v. Marisnick. I have to report that I don't think there is a definitive "right answer" on that question. and you all know how much I droll over Marisnick. Gose is another product of the Halladay trade, albeit via a much more circuitous route. Gose was the player the Jays negotiated for until the last minute as the second player they wanted (after the Phillies had taken Dom Brown off the table) and it was only with reluctance that they took Michael Taylor instead (and that only after having ensured they could flip him to Oakland for Brett Wallace.
When the Phillies later included Gose in the deal which would net them Roy Oswalt from the Astros, Alex Anthopoulos didn't take time to refresh his cup of coffee before picking up the phone to convince the Astros to take Wallace for Gose.. Alex has been quoted as saying that special players at up the middle positions are very hard to obtain, which is why he went hard after Gose. The young man certainly did his part in 2011 to confirm that view. Gose still needs to refine the hit tool a bit more, and his power progress is not complete (one assumes the Jays prefer him to have SOME pop in his bat) but his walk rate was excellent (particularly for a guy who struck out over 150 times) and he stole an incredible 70 bases (against only 15 CS) which was second only to Cincinnati's "Flash" Hamilton. (yes, I just made that nickname up - just go with it ok?).
Some have speculated Gose could be in a Jays uniform by late next summer, but I'll make the argument that the Jays will go slow with him because they have no less than four players they need to sort out in LF next year, two of them you guys who still have upside that needs exploring. Colby Rasmus will be a fixture in CF as well. Barring injury, I'm going to suggest that Gose might well return to NH for most of the first half of the year and get a mid-season promotion to AAA - and quite possibly begin 2013 there as well and wait for events to unfold in his favor. Another year and a half to see what comes of Rasmus and snider (and to a lesser extent Thames) will give them a much better basis for deciding how the go forward in this embarrassment of riches (made the more-so by the fact that Marisnick will, even taking one level at a time, be only a year or so behind him.
3. Moises Sierra, 22, RF, 6'0" 225
Sierra was signed out of the Dominican in 2005, and was a guy with tools who was still in need of a ton of refinement over the first three seasons. in 2009 he took his first significant step forward, boosting his BA over 40 points, and his OBP over 60 points from the previous season. After finishing the season hot he appeared poised to really break out in 2010, before a series of injuries devastated that season. In 2011, he came back healthy and consolidated those gains while adding in a decent helping of previously-missing power. Still, make no mistake, Sierra still has some noticeable rough edges. He's got the best OF arm, possibly, in all of professional baseball but he's not rated a great defender overall (though he's got the tools to be); he's very quick, but not a skilled base-stealer (16 steals, 14 times caught); the batting average could still tick upwards a bit. He was second on the team in homers (to d'Arnaud) but he faded in July and August so stamina might have been an issue coming off a lost season. if he plays well in Vegas (assuming he's not traded) then he adds another name to the crowded OF situation in the Spring of 2013.
4. Mike McDade, 22, 1B, 6'1 260
McDade is no one's idea of svelte, but he earned a reputation as an excellent fielder for the league champion FisherCat squad. and early in the year it looked as if McDade might just be defying those who pointed to his bad body and putting himself on the prospect map. During the first half of the season he had an .880 OPS and 14 homers (in 88 games). After the break, his production crashed. He hit only 2 homers (in 37 games) and posted a .561 OPS over that stretch. That's some massive regression. The mitigating factor here is that reports suggest he played the entire second half with a bum knee (I know I don't know why he didn't get it treated either) and there's a reasonable possibility they knee is what killed his offense. If the first half effort was a treue representation, then seeing how hoe lights up Vegas should be a treat next year.
5. Yan Gomes, 24, C, 6'2" 215
Overlooked in a system which had, until JPA graduated, no less than 4 excellent catching prospects, Yan Gomes just kept plugging along doing what he does. The Brazilian turned Tennessee Vol (he took over from JP as the starting catcher for the Volunteers) started slow, and was forced by the presence of d'Arnaud to get more at-bats than he would otherwise have liked playing 1B and DH. Still, the 2009 (10th round) draft pick picked it up and by the end of the year was rivaling McDade in production. Consider this comparison of counting stats, if you pro-rate Gomes to the same number of at bats as McDade:
McDade: 484 AB - 136 H - 37 doubles - 16 homers - 74 RBI - 28 BB - 104 K
Gomes: 484 AB - 121 H - 32 doubles - 23 homers - 89 RBI - 44 BB, 132 K
Gomes, in my opinion, has a shot to be a fairly decent reserve catcher in the big leagues some day.
and on the mound...
1. Henderson Alvarez, RHP, 21
Alvarez served notice on the AL so effectively this season that i frankly am not sure how many words I need to bother with here. But what you need to know, if you don't, is that Alvarez has impeccable control, is a ground-ball machine, works very quickly and has a ton of confidence. At the moment he has two excellent pitches and his third one is still a work in progress, but he's gotten such great results with the two that if the third is never more than a show-me pitch then he will still be fine. don't, however, expect him to ever get up into the 8 or 9 K:9 ratio neighborhood. He probably could if he wanted to, but he's taken a page from Doc and he realizes that a quick ground ball out conserves pitches and allows him to go deeper into games. It's exciting to contemplate the idea that he's done with the minor leagues.
2. Joel Carreno, RHP, 24
Another pitcher who had no problem with the AL, though in his case in the bullpen, Carreno has battled the perception he wasn't this good his whole career (in contrast to Alvarez who's been on our radar for years). He's been a starter his entire career before coming to Toronto but it's been the common perception that if he reached the majors it would be as a reliever. He's been a remarkably consistent high-strikeout pitcher, who did have an uptick in walks in 2011, but counterbalanced that with a noticeable drop in hits per nine so that his WHIP was perfectly in line with the previous three seasons. His major league sample of 11 innings is far too small to read anything into, but there's no reason to think given his career in the minors that he can't at least be a solid reliever.
3. Chad Jenkins, RHP, 23
The Blue Jays' first round pick in 2009 (20th overall), Jenkins has been plagued by skepticism from prospect watchers pretty much from draft day onward. It's not that he's a BAD pitcher, it's just that he consistently gives the impression of having a relatively low ceiling. Fans tend to expect their first rounders to be better than 4-5 starters, so he's battling the perception of having been over-drafted, and also it doesn't help that other pitchers are blowing past him on the prospect charts. Jenkins, too, is a ground-ball pitcher with less than eye-popping strikeout numbers, and it would be unfair to praise that quality in other pitchers without recognizing that it can be an effective style if executed well. Another concern is his weight. It's been observed that he doesn't seem to be a big fan of conditioning, and when you combine that with the fact that he ran out of gas in both 2010 and 2011 (his ERA over his last 5.11, whereas his ERA in AA on August 11 was 3.81) it's hard to discount the possibility that it's affecting him.
4. Chad Beck, RHP, 26
There is perhaps no more unlikely guy to appear on any of these lists than Chad Beck. Beck was the organizational filler guy we got from Arizona for David Eckstien. It's true they had had their eye on him, having drafted him in the 43rd round of the 2004 draft (and failed to sign him) but expectations had to have been low. His numbers in the D'Backs chain were not anything to disrespect, but he spent his first year for the Jays as a 24 year old starter in Lansing and was not very good at all. Pitching mostly in relief the next year in Dunedin, he was considerably better - but he was 25 in A ball so no one much noticed. This year, people did. No less an unofficial scout than Pete Rose told Alex personally that Beck could do well in the majors. Apparently he's refined his offerings in the last year or so and a lot of Jays people are impressed with him enough to consider him a candidate for the 2012 bullpen in Toronto.