Obviously the very top of this list looks different than it would have a month ago, when Justin Nicolino would have been the clear #1. Still the guy who inherits the top spot is deserving, and a rising star in the Blue Jays system. I've debated with myself quite a bit concerning the top three on this list, conflicted over the weight to give to various factors which i consider in balance with each other. Ultimately the separation between the top 3 guys is razor thin.
1. Sean Nolin (12/6/89) - In the final analysis, i simply had to weigh more heavily in favor of upper level success. So very many highly touted guys flame out before they ever reach AA. Many others find that they blow through the lower levels and have difficulty conquering the upper level competition. Nolin has steadily improved his status as he's advanced through the system and is now, according to Anthopoulos, on the cusp of being a big-league contributor. That proximity weighed as the tiebreaker when ranking the top of this list. Both ofthe next two pitchers were drafted with a lot more gaudy clippings, but ultimately it's what you do on the mound that makes you a prospect. Nolin works with a low 90'sfastball, which isfine velocity for a LHP, and features a change-up that has been called comparable to Nicolino's (which, in turn, has been described as outstanding). He also shows a solid curve that he's not afraid to use, and a slider which needs improvement but has potential to. Nolin works in the strike zone, as demonstrated by his excellent BB:K ratios. He is, in many ways, a viable alternative to Nicolino, only less heraldee because he's two years older (having been drafted out of college rather than High school).
2. Daniel Norris (4/25/93) - Considered the best lefty available in the 2011 draft, Norris failed to impress statistically in his first professional action. Reports suggest that he was victimized by the "one bad inning syndrome" and as a general rule, it can be helpful for a hotshot prospect to learn how to deal with adversity. Nevertheless, Norris needs to step up his game and get results. He has plenty of time to make his way to the majors and be successful, but inconsistent results can become a self-fueling fire if the player begins to lose confidence so the best thing for Norris is to get untracked in 2013. Norris' repitoire is strikingly similar to Nolin's, other than possibly having a higher ceiling on the curve than the change, butwhat he lacks is consistency of mechanics and results. His flaws are not fundamental, but coachable and he's said to be a very coachable player. don't write him off by any means.
3. Matt Smoral (3/18/94) - Considered by many to be THE steal of the 2013 draft for Toronto, the physically impressive Smoral didn't get a chance to take the field for a professional team in 2012 due to lingering injury concerns, though reportedly he did pitch some in instructs in the fall. The injury was a fractured foot and should have no lasting impact on his pitching, however it did have a serious impact on his draft standing. Before the injury, Smoral was discussed as being a potential top 10 choice. Pre-draft scouting reports suggested comparisons between the 6'8" Smoral and Randy Johnson were not completely unwarranted, in that Smoral's fastball sits almost mid-90's (and may yet get faster) and he features three other potentially plus pitches including a slider that has the potential to be devastating. On pure physical ability, one could make a solid case for putting him at the top of this list.
4. Jario Labourt (3/7/94) -major drop off from the top 3 to here, but Labourt got a notable bonus and has to be an "on the radar" guy. He's still VERY young (you could think of his two seasons with the Jays as his Junior and Senior years in high school) and thus very raw, but he obviously has time to work on that. The biggest chore being to gain some control and command to go with his solid K rates.
5. Griffin Murphy (6/7/92) - It's debateable whether or not Murphy ought be on this list, not because he didn't have a good year but because he might be on a reliever track at this point. The Blue jays used him almost exclusively out of the 'pen in 2012 and the results were impressive, but there's been no word on whether or not they will stick with that or let him take his presumably renewed confidence back to the rotation. As a reliever, his game sho0wed essentially no flaws last year, but there's no way to tell absent some good scouting whether or not it translates back into being a starter. We'll have to watch the team's choices in the early going next spring.
Sleeper: Shane Dawson - unheralded in the draft, had a nice debut performance in the professional ranks.