Buckle up folks, this is going to be a long one. I thought about doing the relievers as a separate post but that would give you the impression that they are more highly regarded than they are. the truth is the best relief prospect is usually no better than the 15th or so Starter prospect, and most of the best major league relievers were not relievers in the minors. So I'll list them in this post after dedicating the thousands of words necessary to cover the deep SP list.
Let me take a moment to note here, as I'll have to do in the Top prospect list, that there are guys who ":feel" like prospects still who have lost their rookie eligibility and so do not qualify. particularly, in this case, Henderson Alvarez (who'd be #1 on this list if he hadn't broken that threshold) and Kyle Drabek (almost impossible to properly rank anyway)
1. Drew Hutchison (20) RHP - It's difficult to speak highly enough of Hutch's record as a professional so far. The 15th round steal has been nothing short of phenomenal. As a pro he has 42 starts, ranging from short-season to AA in just 2 seasons. in that body of work his SO/BB ratio is 4.33; his SO/9 is 9.7 and his BB/9 is 2.2; his ERA is 2.52 and his WHIP is 1.03 over a total of 218 IP. If there is a cautionary note it's that he more than doubled his IP total from 2010 to 2011, which os often regarded as inadvisable - but you were never going to be able to stick to the +20% rule when his 2010 total was under 70IP anyway.
2. Nestor Molina (22) RHP - This might be viewed as a mildly aggressive ranking given that Molina is 22 and most of the other highly ranked guys played all or most of 2011 at age 20 or less. But Molina, despite having played his first professional game as a pitcher (he's a converted SS) at 18 was only recently moved into the rotation and has fewer professional starts than Hutchison does (27 v. 42). But what starts! In particular look at his five starts to finish the season after being promoted to AA New Hampshire. his ERA was 0.41, giving up a single earned run in 22 IP. He also K'ed 33 while walking TWO in those five games. And this at the end of a season in which he exceeded his previous career high in IP by 50. Overall his rates in 2011 were even better than Hutchson's. It's only the smaller sample of starts which has him slightly behind Hutch on this list.
3. Daniel Norris (18) LHP - another aggressive ranking here, and no maybes about it. This is based entirely on the flood of praise directed his way in the wake of the Jays landing the supposedly unsignable "best HS LHP in the draft" this summer. I'm sure there will be strong arguments made for going with the professional results of the next three guys on the list before I note Norris, but none of them came into the draft with the clippings Norris did.
4. Noah Syndergaard (18) RHP - Reviewing the 2010 draft class I certainly swooned over the praise for another guy in that class, and still think highly of him, but a lot of good things were said about the 6'5" Syndergaard as well and so far he's gotten out of the gate better. He's done all you could ask for in his first full professional season and his growth curve seems to still be trending upward. In 11 starts spread over three levels he posted a sub-2 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 9.2 SO/9 to go with a 1.09 WHIP. Expect more good things next year beginning at Lansing and possibly following the rapid promotion path that Hutchison took in 2011.
5. Aaron Sanchez (18/19) RHP - Sanchez, who turned 19 in the middle of the 2011 season, was the object of my swooning affection this time last year and as much as I still love his upside, the big (6'4") righty didn't match Syndergaard's production in 2011. Sanchez has dealt with some mechanical problems with his delivery which has created control issues. He's shown flashes of brilliance but until he gets that problem solved he's going to lag behind his classmates.
6. Justin Nicolino (19) LHP - There might be a small element of bias in not putting Nico ahead of Sanchez on this list, because it's hard to find any fault with the lefty's first year. The Jays held Nicolino far longer than i would have in Vancouver when he seemed to be owning the league, but he did get 3 starts in Lansing at the end of the year and did fine work in a small sample. In Vancouver he had an ERA of 1.33, a WHIP of 0.85, an insane H/9 rate of 5.8, 10.8 SO/9 and 1.9 BB/9 while opposing batters hit a tiny .156 off him. The 6'3" Nicolino is listed at a mere 160 and it's possible that he still has some growth yet in his physicality. Certainly there are no red flags when it comes to projecting continued success.
7. Deck McGuire (22) RHP - the 2010 first round pick has suffered more by comparison to the insane production of those above him on this list more so than by actual under-achievement on his part. Seen in a vacuum, McGuire did pretty much exactly what you'd expect in a first professional season in which he was aggressively started off in Hi-A ball. He posted almost a K per 9 with a solid ERA and a somewhat higher than ideal WHIP (though far from awful at 1.21) fueled by somewhat too many walks while making 21 starts in Dunedin. After his promotion to NH he made three respectable starts before being shelved with a minor injury which kept him out of action for a month. His ERA there was a bit high as AA hitters made better contact off him but the sample size (under 21 IP) is far too small too make you worry much.
8. Adonys Cardona (17) RHP - The Venezuelan bonus baby was in his first year stateside in 2011, pitching in the Gulf Coast league. As one might expect, there was some inconsistency but the indicators were strong, as were the reports. He could use more control, but his K rate was strong and I think given what he was paid to sign, there's every reason to expect big things.
9. Kevin Comer (18) RHP - Some observers considered it just as big a coup for the Jays to steal him away from Vandy as it was to land Norris and some scouts thin he's at least as good a prospect. For some reason, maybe just a latent resistance to believe that every move is pure gold, I've resisted buying into that entirely - but I can't ignore that he's good enough to at least provoke such high praise either.
10. Roberto Osuna (16) RHP - the nephew of former Major Leaguer Antonio Osuna was holding his own in the Mexican League at 15. He was considered no worse than the 4th best international player signed this summer and right now he's being rated all on tools and ability. He's very unpolished but with effective coaching could be a special player.
11. Chad Jenkins (23) RHP - Some are concerned about Jenkins' perceived lack of conditioning and his propensity towards a ground-ball, low-strikeout result and wonder how he'll play at higher levels. But his numbers are not bad, so much as they are something less than most fans hope for from a first round pick. In another organization one might expect him to be a perfectly serviceable #4 or 5 starter. given the competition with the Jays, it's hard to imagine a path from where he is to the major league rotation. I anticipate he'll be included in a trade at some point.
12. Asher Wojciechowski (22) RHP - Woj is listed at the same height and weight as Jenkins, but I've yet to hear anyone question his conditioning. Possibly they are put together differently. Still ,it's difficult to resist the urge to compare them. Their K rate was almost identical and the BB rate was pretty similar too. Woj gave up considerably more hits but there's a caveat to that. He started the season in fine fashion and, sometime in mid-May, the team tried to change something about his delivery which, whatever the intent, fouled up his fastball command and let to a lot of balls up in the zone. This persisted throughout June (his combined ERA for May and June was 7.81) , but once he overcame (or abandoned?) that he reverted to form and finished the season strong posting a 3.18 ERA in his last ten starts. For some reason i've had a hunch all along that Woj will end up a power reliever rather than in the Jays rotation (if he's not traded at some point) and I still lean towards that view.
Other guys to watch who stand to be quite good:
John Stilson (20) RHP - if he recovers from injuries suffered in colege
Joel Carreno (24) RHP - marginal as a starter prospect, could be a very good reliever in 2012
Sean Nolin (21) LHP - took huge leap forward in 2011
Mark Biggs (18) RHP - described as a steal in the 8th round, another "hard sign" guy
Joe Musgrove (18) RHP - i might be under-rating this guy
Mitch Taylor (19) LHP - 7th rounder from 2010, bit of a sleeper in this group
Griffin Murphy (19) - disappointing first season, still good potential
Jario Labourt (17) LHP - just getting started, well regarded though
Even more guys who deserve a mention: Myles Jaye, Jeremy Gabryszwiski, Tom Robson, Anthony DeSclafani, Manny Cordova, Sam Dyson, Tyler Ybarra
When you can construct a solid Top 20 prospects while only mentioning starting pitchers, you know you are doing something right.
1. Joel Carreno (24) RHP - mentioned above, much more promising in the 'pen
2. Chad Beck (26) RHP - lots of praise from observers for long-shot guy
3. Alan Farina (24) RHP - will miss all of '12 recovering from TJ surgery
4. Danny Farquhar (24) RHP - not as impressive in '11, still has interesting arsenal
5. Trystan Magnuson (26) RHP - big guy, middling stuff, reminds you of Rauch in some ways
6. Danny Barnes (21) RHP - dominated at Lo-A, remains to be seen how he handles advancement.
7. Evan Crawford (24) LHP - solid ratios in AA, doing quite well in AFL
8. Matt Wright (24) LHP - high K/low BB numbers in Dunedin show promise.
9. Dustin Antolin (21) RHP - first year back from TJ, next year will be key
10. Daniel Webb (21) RHP - highly regarded in draft, couldn't pull it together as starter, Jayssiad to love his upside as reliever.
Others to watch - Ron Uvideo, Aaron Loup, any of a number of SP who might ended up converted to relief along the way. Particularly Stilson and Dyson who'd come much faster as relievers.
(subject to proofing tomorrow)