Thursday, 24 November 2011

Top 50 Prospects: Part 2 - the Top 25

Since this is the post I'll be linking for the next year in the sidebar, let me start by including links to the previous lists:

Also, the list from last season is here.

And with that, let us indulge ourselves in a list of players Jays fans have to be thankful for (even if it's not Thanksgiving in Canada).

25. DJ Thon (20) SS [#17 last year] - The drop in ranking for Thon has more to do with the continued influx of talent along with the breakout campaigns of some other players, rather than penalizing him for his illness impinged 2011 campaign. Six of the players ranked above him were not in the Jays organization last year (on the other hand, five players graduated from the list).

24. Dwight Smith, Jr. (19) OF [ N/A] - I admit that I really overlooked this guy after the draft, and I blame that one one thing - all the lazy evaluations which said, more or less, "He's like his dad." But over time with more information, I think that sold him short. the more through descriptions make him sound like a considerably more interesting prospect than that initial description would imply.

23. Jacob Anderson (19) RF/1B [N/A] - I'm possibly giving Anderson too much credit for a really small sample in the GCL, but it was a very nice sample. In 37 pro at-bats he hit .405 and hie had a 1.098 OPS. Still, the 2011 first round supplemental pick (the highest pick after the unsigned Tyler Beede) was picked that high for a reason.

22. Chris Hawkins (20) LF [43] - Hawkins was drafted as a 3B, but the Blue Jays shifted him to LF this year and he responded with a fine offensive year. He showed good speed, good power, quality aggressive base-running (in 68 games he had 6 triples, and 14 steals in 18 attempts) as well as a respectable eye at the plate (.372 OBP).

21. Asher Wojciechowski (23) RHP [14] - Woj had a season that, on paper, looks like a disappointment. He opened the seasons strong, but the Jays felt he was relying too much on his fastball and had him make some adjustments that did not lead to a great results. By Mid-season he found the groove he was looking for (I'm unclear whether as a result of abandoning the changes or adjusting to them) and over his last 10 games looked very much like the guy the scouts had been praising (a 5 to 1 K to BB ratio for instance).

20. Chad Jenkins (24) RHP [13] - The best word for Jenkins year is "consistent" but that's as opposed to "impressive" or "breakout." Jenkins has established his pattern as a ground-ball pitcher who doesn't get the strikeouts one usually expects from a first rounder or a top prospect. I'm actually tempted to penalize him for that, he almost strikes me as the pitching version of David Cooper. But I'll be patient another year. My guess is that if he's still with the team next year, he'll have been so buried on the depth chart that he'll be dreaming fondly of a trade.

19. Roberto Osuna (16) RHP [N/A] - I readily admit I tend to give more credit to the new acquisitions than almost anyone, but how can you not be impressed by a kid who was holding his own in the Mexican League at 15! He was already 6'3" when signed and likely has added a couple of inches since then. I'm excited to see what he can do but he'll spend 2012 in the DSL so patience is required.

18. Kevin Comer (19) RHP [N/A] - Another supplemental round pick from the 2011 draft (thank you Colorado), some observers debated whether he might have been the highest upside pitcher the jays drafted this year (yes, over Beede) but like some of the other players from this draft, he was considered completely unsignable. That turned out not to be so.

17. Matt Dean (19) 3B [N/A] - This will be remembered as the boldest, or craziest, ranking on this list. Every year as the draft approaches there ends up being 3 or 4 guys that I read so much I like about that they become guys I lust after. sometimes that works out well (Eric Thames) and sometimes it fails (Justin Jackson). This year one of my favorites was Dean and i was thrilled the Jays took him. I have very high expectations. They got him late (13th round) - again a signability issue - but he was considered to be possibly a high 2nd round talent, of not even higher.

16. Adonys Cardona (18) RHP [16] - The prize of the Blue Jays international free agent class in 2010, Cardona made his stateside debut in 2011 and had just a little higher ERA than ideal, but the ratios were more than fine for a 17 year old in the GCL. There's nothing to suggest he's not progressing as expected.

15. Marcus Knecht (21) OF [33] - Mildly overshadowed by his fellow Lansing outfielders, mainly because he lacks their speed, but he led the team in walks, doubles and homers and has nothing of which to be ashamed. He'll certainly open in Dunedin in April.

14. A. J. Jimenez (22) C [15] - A lot of Jays bloggers like Jimenez a bit more than I do. Not that I dislike him as a prospect, in a vacuum, there's a lot to like. Good speed, solid doubles power, and reportedly excellent defense. But in the depth of the Jays system, particularly at the same position, he just doesn't stand out to me. I can remember years when he'd been a definite top 10 but not now.

13. Michael Crouse (21) RF [39] - Here's a guy I might be under-rating based on his draft position. There were a lot of similarities between he and the fellow who played to his right, but Crouse was a 16th rounder (2008) while the other guy was considered a huge steal in the third a year later. In fact, On August 1 he had more walks doubles, triples, and homers than that other guy, but he missed much of August with injury and was 1 for 11 upon his return. Quite possibly I've wronged him here, but the top of this list is a log-jam of worthy options.

12. Deck McGuire (23) RHP [10] - The knee-jerk thing to do is to compare McGuire's AA transition to that of other pitchers promoted before him and see disappointing results. But that was a tiny sample (only three starts before getting hurt) and it overlooks the results in Dunedin which were not at all underwhelming for a guy in his first professional season. There are guys in the system I like better (as yet unnamed) but i need to be careful to not penalize McGuire for not being them.

11. Carlos Perez (21) C [4] - Here's a guy who did have a disappointing season. I've seen quotes indicating his coaches were pleased with it but statistically he was well off his previous pace. Given the remarkable progress by some other players in the system he was bound to drop, but he still gets a ton of praise so not too far. Most are giving him a mulligan on this year.

10. Aaron Sanchez (19) RHP [8] - Here's another one of my "pet projects" - the guy Mel Queen called the best pitcher he'd scouted since Christ Carpenter - but he struggled with control at times in 2011 and in the process saw a couple of his fellow draftees pass him by on my list.

9. Daniel Norris (19) LHP [N/A] - I have an acknowledged history of spotting the first round pick a spot in the Top 10, unless the depth is staggering (which it is) but Norris wasn't a first rounder. Nevertheless, he's the recipient of so very much praise, including being widely described as a guy who'd never have reached the Jays first pick if anyone had thought he would sign, that in my mind, he's the #1 pick for 2011 no matter what the record says. This is one of those places where my ever shifting rankings shows up, as i had him at #6 right up until I started writing him up, but I can't overlook the results already in the book. I do believe in this guy though, without reservation.

8. Justin Nicolino (20) LHP [42] - Only one other player rocketed further up the chart this year than Nicolino. Made all the more valuable by his left handiness, Nicolino's year gives the appearance of one who's toying with his inferiors. in 12 starts for Vancouver he had an ERA of 1.03, a WHIP of 0.75 and a 6:1 ratio of K's to walks. And you have to be less inclined to think it's a low-minors mirage when you note he was a 2nd round pick.

7. Noah Syndergaard (19) RHP [18] - As good as Nicolino was, Syndergaard was just as good, though physically he might have a higher ceiling. Listed at 6'5" with some reports about that he's added another couple of inches, the big Texan pitched across three levels and while not quite as dominant as the lefty, the cumulative ERA was under 2.00 so he's worthy of this respect.

6. Adeiny Hechavarria (23) SS [5] - all the reports say that his bat will be just tolerable in the majors given his defense (which is a contender for "best in baseball") and dismiss his late season surge after moving up to Vegas is nothing but a manifestation of the PCL effect. But it's worth noting that his offensive turnaround starter weeks before his promotion, and that a big chunk of those Vegas games were played in Memphis and Nashville which do not inflate offensive numbers and he never slowed down. He also did well in the AFL after a slow start, hitting .308 with an .870 OPS in the last 10 games he played (albeit the AFL is also very hitter friendly). I'm not saying he's going to be an impressive hitter but I am saying he might be getting a little too much disrespect at the plate.

4.(tie) Nestor Molina (23) RHP [56] - didn't just put himself on the map, he re-drew the whole friggin thing. In his first year as a starter after three in relief, Molina walked through hitter in Dunedin with ease, then as if that wasn't enough he spent August slapping around AA at a pace that would impress Nicolino. In five starts he threw 22 innings and struck out 33 while walking only 2 and giving up a single earned run.

4.(tie) Drew Hutchison (21) RHP [19] - there's simply no way to choose between he and Molina, he started the year in Lansing and didn't find much in the way of serious opposition on any of the three levels he pitched at. And like Molina, he threw even better in a small AA sample than he had at lower levels. Either pitcher could see time in Toronto in 2012, but certainly will be candidates in 2013. If there is any thing which distinguishes them, it's that with so very many young talented candidates for the rotation that they might turn Molina into their own version of Joakim Soria even if that would be under-using his obvious talents.

3. Anthony Gose (21) CF [6] - another very hard choice here, Gose has outstanding skills in 4 of the 5 tools . . . but it's the deficiency in the fifth that left him ranked third for me. He can run like the wind, and do it smartly, he's a great fielder and has solid power (albeit, that was new this year and needs repeating) and has a cannon arm. But he hit only .253 which is not quite what you'd want for a future lead-off hitter. If he hit .300 he'd be a contender for the top 10 prospects in baseball.

2. Jake Marisnick (21) CF [9] - Edges Gose almost entirely because he hit .320 this year. While batting average is a less than ideal stat, a developing prospect needs to put the bat on the ball and Marisnick did that. He's not quite as fast as Gose, and probably has a tic less arm, but he's a more well rounded player. He's some seven months younger than Gose, but hasn't been pushed as fast through the minors. My hunch is he's a slightly better bet to be an All-Star and a somewhat lesser bat to flop than Gose.

1. Travis d'Arnaud (23) C [11] - the definition of a break-out year. d'Arnaud went from a year which was hindered by a back injury which led some to worry if he was physically able to hold up to the rigors of the position, to winning the EL MVP in convincing fashion. Even though the Blue Jays now have on their roster perhaps the best young catcher they've ever developed, the speculation is already abroad that his days are numbered until d'Arnaud forces the Jays to open the position.

And there you have it. To acknowledge historical reality, it's generally true that the majority of highly ranked prospects DON'T in fact go on to be above average major leaguers, but with that said, I truly feel that the team has 18-20 guys who are, in an average year or an average system, easily "top 10" prospects and over 40 guys who have legitimate potential to be average or better major league players. it's hard to describe the remarkable depth.

Last year the Kansas City system got high praise for having several really high ceiling guys, which would be an aspect they had over this list in the judgement of most observers, but for sheer depth of really good guys, it's hard to imagine it ever getting any better than this.


The Man With The Golden Arm said...

Rock solid job as always.

gabriel said...

Brilliant write-ups, really great analysis. Hech isn't as high on my list, but you hit the nail on the head in terms of his progress with the bat; makes me think I might be ranking him too low.

I really hope Osuna is in Florida this coming year for extended ST and the GCL; given his stuff and signing bonus, I don't see any reason to keep him in the DSL.

Glad to see some willingness to go with your gut on some choices as well (Dean).