After almost a month of delay, it's finally here! The Southpaw Top 50 Prospect list has arrived.
This list is coming over two months later in the off season than last year, but given all of Alex's dealings, it's probably a good thing. In 2011 I listed 60 "names to know" in order to include not just prospects in the normal sense (given that no team has remotely 60 legit prospects) but also players from whom a sleeper or two may emerge - guys to watch for the die-hard system-watcher might want to keep an eye on. Last year I switched to the more traditional reverse listing, and expanded the list to 100 names over 4 entries.
But I simply don't have time for that much work this time (as the delay in finishing this post attests) so I'm going to revert to fewer names, listed in "count down" fashion, and squeezed into one post. The date listed is an ETA, all things being equal (i.e. no trade, injury, or etc changes the plan).
Note that as the information stream never stops, so too the adjustments to my viewpoint continue and don't be surprised if, for instance, a couple of outfielders are in a different order here than they were on the positional rankings. In at least one case, there's a specific reason for that happening.
50. DJ Thon (SS) - 2017 - clinging to the bottom rung based on pre-draft rep. Needs to make a move.
49. Marcus Knecht (LF) - 2016 - needs to prove 2011 was the real him, and not 2012
48. Alan Farina (RHRP) - 2014 - has age and experience on his side, now well removed from TJ surgery, he could come quickly. Or he could fade away. If he isn't least in NH to start the season it's a bad sign. He's too old for lower levels to mean anything.
47. Gabriel Cenas (3B) - 2018 - Still very young and very raw, still in possession of the tools that got him that bonus check.
46. Sean Ochinko (C) - 2014 - As noted, similar circumstances to Yan Gomes, "Useful" is pretty much the ceiling he can aspire to.
45. Mark Biggs (RHSP) - 2017/18 - considered a steal when drafted,stat sample far too small to evaluate.
44. Andrew Burns (SS) - 2016 - bit of a dark horse surprise, before being injured, a tic old for the level to make me a true believer, if he'd stayed healthy and moved up to Dunedin successfully he might be higher on the list.
43. Javiar Avendano (RHP) - 2018 - the list of players taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft who turned out to be significant major league contributors is virtually non-existent. History tells us that the odds are VERY great that he's one of those guys who spanks the opposition at the lower levels and is exposed as he moves up. Nevertheless, the results he posted in 2012 must be noted. My guess is that if he makes the majors at all, it will be as a competent middle reliever.
42. Taylor Cole (RHP) - 2017 - very difficult to project this guy. He showed solid projectable velocity in high school and was a well regarded prospect. but he's pitching now after a two year Mormon mission in which he didn't touch a baseball at all. While he had considerable success in 2012 (indicated quality pitchability) scouting reports suggest the velocity was not high enough to succeed at higher levels. If the velocity recovers, he has the chance to jump way up this list. If not, he'll fade pretty quickly as he advances through the system.
41. Ryan Schimpf (2b) - 2015 - Formerly marginal guy who was drafted in the fifth round in 2009, Schimpf broke out with a big year in 2012. He increased both his power and his on-base results (in both areas) in a pretty dramatic fashion. I may still be under-rating him, if you take his 2012 as a legitimate example of growth then you could argue for a
spot 20 points higher but I want to see him do it again. After all, he
played most of the year in Dunedin at 24, and that's old for that level.
40 Gustovo Pierre (3B) - 2017 - Pierre's prospect status was in serious decline after 2011. He was an error machine at SS, along with being a mess at the plate in Lansing and being demoted to rookie ball when the short-season started. At Bluefiled he leveled off offensively but the Jays concluded that a position change was in order. in 2012, playing 3B, he did much better in the field and had almost identical stats at Lansing to those he'd put up in Bluefield in 2011. He's still very much a work in progress but the physical gifts still exist and his coaches testify that he took a huge step forward last year. He's still on the margins, but there's hope again.
39 Matt Wright (LHRP) - 2013 - Statistically, it's hard to find ANY thing to not like about Matt Wright. As a lefty who was not wildly too old for his level (a year at most) with those numbers, I was certain he'd be added to the Jays 40 man roster or lost in the Rule 5 draft. Neither happened, so I'm forced to conclude that maybe the scouts are seeing something that doesn't come across on the stat page. Enthusiasm somewhat tempered, but based on what I know, I still like him.
38. Evan Crawford (LHRP) - 2012 -A year ago Crawford was a bit of a rising star. He'd had a fine 2011 and a great AFL performance and was mentioned by name by Anthpoulos as a coming attraction and that buzz carried right on through Spring Training. Getting his chance early, Crawford had a spot of mixed results in a tiny sample - and illustrates well how stats can be deceiving particularly for relievers. He made 10 appearances and delivered a shutout appearance in 7 of them - but he gave up 2 runs each in the other three so his ERA is high. Likewise, in 8 of those he walked none...but in one of them he walked 3 so it looks on the totals as if control was an issue but generally it was not. Still, whether it was the major league experience, or the adverse Las Vegas conditions, his minor league work wasn't impressive in total either. Don't discount him though. While he's seemingly been passed by Aaron Loup, he's still very much in the picture for an in-season recall and if Darren Oliver follows through on retirement, he'll have a chance to make the roster.
37. Daniel Barnes (RHRP) - 2015 -Speaking of statistical success, few have it in spades more than Danny Barnes. 12.5 K/9 and a mere 2.9 BB/9 (along with a 2.13 ERA) over his minor league career so far speak for themselves. Barnes will play at AA as a 23 year old next season which is perfectly respectable and if his success continues, he'll be on a lot more radars.
36. Griffin Murphy (LHP) - 2017 -And here's the unusual case.Relievers, as a general rule, don't ever get very high on my list because their contribution to the team even if they are very good is considerable less than a very good starter or position player. If I grade Murphy as a reliever, which was his role for almost all of 2012, then he ought be behind Wright, at least, as he's further away ad did not statistically justify being ranked ahead of the three names just above. He is at this position specifically because the Jays are not saying if he will get back to starting after he got his feet under him in 2012. if he does, he makes sense at this point and if he remains in relief this ranking is too high.
35. Wilfri Aleton (LHSP) - 2020 - I know absolutely nothing about him beyond the scouting report published with news of the signing (which you will find linked under his name). Based on that report, and the bonus he got paid, I think it's worth recognizing him n this list.
34. Ryan Goins (SS) - 2014 -I'll be honest with you - this guy has never been on my radar. I always figured that if everything went JUST right he might be a competent reserve infielder for a few years, and more likely he's gonna have a career a lot like Mike McCoy's. But he's generated some praise with his play in 2012 and maybe there's something there I'm not seeing.
33. Kellen Sweeney (3B) - 2017 -Can attribute this ranking almost entirely to the apparent turnaround in his production in the second half of last season (he posted a .348 OPS after July 31). if he fails to sustain that next year it's going to be hard to call him a prospect anymore.
32. Tom Robson (RHSP) - 2018 -Statistically we know basically nothing as Robson only got three professional outings in 2012. Pre-draft reports were pleasing though and fans of Canadian content are no doubt hoping for especially big things.
31. Jesus Gonzalez (OF) -2019 -Gonzalez is a big raw RF with a massive arm (comparable to Moises Sierra or Jose Bautista in that department). Playing in the GCL at 17 reflected the team's confidence in his
abilities, but he looked very much like a kid playing in the GCL at 17.
Give him a few years before you reach any conclusions.
30. Jario Labourt (LHSP) - 2019- Signed in the summer of 2010, Labourt is a 6'4" 204 pound lefty who has stuff but still needs polish, particularly in the command and control department.
29.Jacob Anderson (RF) - 2018 -Anderson was on fire for
the 37 games he played in the GCL in 2011 but his 2012 was ugly across
the board. He will likely repeat Bluefield and hope to regroup and earn a mid-season promotion.
28. Tyler Gonzoles (RHP) - 2018 - Above average fastball and excellent slider - and also a below average change-up and worrisome mechanics. Has a high ceiling as a starter if he can correct the problems, and a solid future as a power reliever if he can't. But they are not minor problems so the enthusiasm is somewhat tempered. Still, after an awful start to his pro career, he missed some time and came back with much better results. on the other-other hand, both samples were exceedingly tiny so it's a wait and see thing at this point.
27. Dalton Pompey (CF) - 2017 -The Missisauga native missed a significant portion of the season to injury yet still suited up for three different teams. in his 20 games played. Still, when he did play his stats were notably improved from his previous work. The scouts have been raving about this guy for a couple of years and his performance might be catching up to the clippings. Watch him for a potential break-out this year if he can stay on the field.
26. Deck McGuire (RHSP) - 2014 -The mystery of McGuire has an interesting parallel, which I've explained before but I will repeat ICYMI: The top line of stats is McGuire's 2012, playing at AA as a 23 year old, the bottom line is another guy you may have heard of, playing at AA as a 23 year old (the latter did get 7 AAA starts that year)-
5.88 ERA, 1.556 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 10.1 H/9, 1.4 Hr/9, 144 IP
4.96 ERA, 1.595 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 10.3 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 121.2 IP
The latter? Ricky Romero. His problems were said to be confidence issues, trying too hard to be perfect, and taking setbacks too hard - strikingly similar to the reports about McGuire's struggles in 2012. (and about Romero in 2012 in some respects). That's not to say McGuire will turn it around in the same fashion, and he certainly doesn't have Romero's ceiling IMO,. but it would be unwise to just write him off in an over-reaction to a very ugly season.
25. Chad Jenkins (RHP) - 2012-Jenkins is almost a case in point. He struggled through the first half of 2012, then found an adjustment that worked and by August found himself in the major league bullpen. I'm not a believer that he's going to be a key guy, his ratios are still nothing to write home about, but in May you would have sworn he was going nowhere at all last year.
24. Sam Dyson (RHRP) - 2013 -I confess a weakness for Dyson, and one that existed before John Farrel lauded him as one of the best arms in the system. It's worth remembering that 2012 was his first professional season in which he actually took the field. I'm worried about his ratios a bit, even though he's a notorious ground-ball pitcher (a good thing) I'd like to see the K's be higher (and yes, I'm more forgiving of his deficiencies in that area than I am of Jenkins for reasons I can't fully explain). There's a strong possibility that Dyson pushes his way into the Buffalo bullpen (despite a raft of minor league free-agent veterans underfoot) and I look for him to polish his game and be ready for the majors when an opening arises.
23. Yeyfry Del Rosario (RHSP) - 2018 -Labourt and Del Rosario were signed in the same class, but YDR got off to a better start stateside. He is a 6'2" RHSP who sports a n excellent ERA, a great
WHIP nd a most impressive K/BB ratio among his2011 stats in the GCL.
Lower profile than many of the other pitching prospects you've heard of
but definitely someone to watch.
22. Chris Hawkins (LF) - 2016 -Other than Deck McGuire, possibly no Jays prospect fell more in my estimation than Chris Hawkins. He's a left-fielder who's power disappeared and has only okay speed. Nothing abut this guy excites me. He might yet be an okay major leaguer in the mold of, say, an Endy Chavez type with the bat, but such guys survive on defensive reputations - I'm not optimistic.
21. Kevin Pillar (CF) - late 2014 -Reed Johnson comes again! Seriously, that's pretty much the very best description of Pillar I can give you, except that Johnson has marginally more power and Pillar seems to be a marginally better runner.
20. Mitch Nay (3B) - 2018 -Injury prevented him from playing any professional game in 2012. Ranking based solely on pre-draft praise and post draft commentary on the selection. Might easily be a real sleeper for next year's list.
19. Dawel Lugo (SS) -2018 -excellent defender at SS, still uncertainty about the offense. VERY young and raw but the scouts like him a good bit.
18. Matt Dean (3B) -2017 -Really highly regarded coming into the draft, but considered unsignable. Thus the relatively low choice, but when he was signed he was labeled a huge steal in some quarters. Why am I talking about this again instead of his season? Because he mostly sucked this year (though not remotely as bad as, say, Anderson). I'm biased maybe but - mulligan. But he needs to begin pulling it together soon.
17. Dwight Smith (CF) - 2017 -This is based pretty much on positive scouting. I'm still waiting on Smith to make a believer out of me. I'm still half-way expecting Pillar to be a better player overall.
16. Chase DeJong (RHSP) - 2017 -Kind of the flip side of Tyler Gonzales. Highly regarded out of the draft, posted a tiny sample BUT in this case the results were excellent. Still, be a bit cautious until the sample size increases.
15. Adonys Cardona (RHSP) - 2017 -Cardona lost a good chunk of 2012 to the DL and the sample size (eight appearances) is just too small. On the surface it looked as if he suffered a setback from his (also tiny) 2011 line. But the ratios are not notably worse except that the walk rate ticked up and, of course, a higher rate of earned runs. I don't think we've really seen what his highly regarded kid can do yet.
14. Franklin Barreto (SS/CF) - 2018 -Praised as the most advanced hitter and best all around position player in this year's crop of international free agents, it was quite the coup for the Jays to land Barreto. He won't be even 17 until Spring Training and he's younger than most players who will be drafted out of high school in 2014. so he's a LONG way away. Barreto is only 5'9" and scouts don't see a lot of physical projection, and some of them suggest that it's pretty rare to be a top shelf MLB SS at that size. It's far too early to rule the position out, though, and the Jays will surely give him every chance to prove his worth at the position. Scouts, though, generally opine that either 2B or CF is where he'll make his name. Also, he's call "a legitimate 70" when it comes to speed, consistent with the Jays new obsession with burners.
13. Santiago Nessy (C) - 2017 -Nessy is a big strong catcher who was signed to a respectable bonus as an international free agent and is still only 20 years old. He's made steady, unspectacular progress to this point but he's projected to have more bat than he's shown on the field. he's also rated as a quality above-average defender. The Jays will certainly take things very slowly with Nessy unless he explodes offensively. It would be quite a surprise to see him make a significant major league appearance before 2017.
12. Christian Lopes (2B) - 2016 - Lopes was a 2011 draftee who began his professional career in Bluefield. He came into the draft lauded as a very polished hitter for a high school player and while he took a few weeks to get really up to speed, he got better as the season wore on and the Jays wisely promoted him to Vancouver at the end of the year in order to experience the playoff atmosphere. He only had 10 games at the higher level but they should serve him well in 2013. I hold him in such high regard that I make him a sleeper choice to break camp with Lansing, but given the teams recent conservatism with promotions it would not be a slight if they held him back for a half season or so at Vancouver. Lopes is the sort of guy who, I think, will come fast if he's as successful as his skills would indicate and he might be ready to take a crack at the Jays 2B job by the time Izturus' contract expires.
11. John Stilson (RHSP) - late 2013 - Like Sam Dyson, 2012 was Stilson's first full season as a pro. Like Dyson, the Jays were able to draft him because of injuries, Like Dyson, there are doubts he can remain a starter deep into a major league career. But Stilson has a better arsenal and the Jays had him play the season as a starter until late in the year when he was shifted to the pen in respect of his innings limit. Just over half his innings came in Dunedin and they were high quality, the rest came at AA and they were much more respectable than the final line would have you believe. Stilson hit the DL near the end of July, in the last two start before that happened when he was possibly feeling the effects of that distress (quite possibly simple fatigue) he threw 7 innings and allowed 9 earned runs on 13 hits. In the previous 7 AA starts he posted an ERA of 3.38
After he came off the DL on August 15, he was shifted to the bullpen and made eight appearances, five of which he w3orked without allowing an earned run and in a sixth he allowed only one. In the last week of the season he made four appearances, three six innings and gave up 7 earned runs - four of them in a single 1 inning outing. Without that one inning, his AA ERA falls by 2/3 of a run. On the whole, I would argue Stilson had a very successful season (he was ranked in the Blue Jays top 10 prospects by BA, and that BEFORE the big trades) which was marred by two bad weeks. I consider him a legitimate candidate to make the rotation in Buffalo.
10. Anthony Alford (OF) - 2018 -On the list of outfielders, I didn't rank Alford because other than pretty much sucking as a freshman quarterback, there was little indication his football days were numbered. But After the miserable season came to an end Alford got into an on-campus fight that resulted in legal charges which are still pending, and three weeks ago Alford was granted his release by the University of Southern Mississippi. There were rumors, so far unfulfilled, that he'd be moving on to Ole Miss but credible reports indicate the Rebels' interest is guarded. Apparently Alford's baseball contract specifies he has up to two years to pick one sport and cut the other one loose. At this point the major thing standing between Alford and being a very good baseball prospect is not so much his legal issues but his ego, which keeps telling him he can be a football star.
Most observers conclude he can be a pretty good football player - though not at quarterback - or an outstanding baseball prospect and he'd be wise to play to his talents. If he does, this ranking is justified, if not too low. If he persists in playing football, he subjects himself to considerable risk of damaging his baseball future beyond repair and in that case I'd not put him even in the top 20.
9. Alberto Tirado (RHSP) - 2018 - signed in 2011, he logged his first professional game appearances in 2012. While Del Rosario actually had a slightly better statistical results, the scouts love Tirado, and at 6'2" 177, he has room to add muscle and even more velocity to his already impressive fastball (94, 95 deep into the game).
8. AJ Jiminez (C) - 2015 - The path to the majors for Jimenez cleared up considerably this winter. But that doesn't mean he doesn't still have work to do. He'll come to ST recovering from TJ surgery but that will obviously have a lesser impact on his performance than it wold for a pitcher. He did, however, miss most of his AA season and he'll need to repeat there. Barring a break out performance you should assume the Jays would see little reason to consider him fora permanent major league spot before 2015.
7. Matt Smoral (LHSP) - 2017 - There's a tier break between the foregoing guys and this level. Every one of the top 7 guys is a flat out stud in some measure. Reflective of the difficulty I had sorting out the top of the list for the LHSP list, you find all those guys bunched together on this list. Smoral is a 6'8" power lefty who draws some comparisons to Randy Johnson. He's yet to throw a professional inning due to a foot injury in his senior year (which is the only reason the Jays had the chance to draft him) and so data is insufficient but this is a guy who could theoretically challenge for #1 a year from now.
5 (tie). Sean Nolin (LHSP) - 2014 - The GM has spoken of Nolin as being on the cusp of the majors. With the added SP depth and talent the team has added, it would take things going pretty horribly wrong for Nolin to get a significant number of starts in the majors in 2013, but that's not a disrespect towards his talent. The team can afford to let him try to dominate AA for at least half a season, if not more, before promoting him to Buffalo. It's that proximity, along with his on-field accomplishments, that pushes him so high on this list. If the Jays decide they don't see a spot in the rotation for him due to crowding, he may well end up a very good LH reliever in 2014.
5. Daniel Norris (LHSP) - 2017 - Pretty much impossible for me to choose between he and Nolin. In terms of pre-draft scouting and projected ceiling, you have to go Norris. If you look at proximity to the majors and success at higher (relatively speaking) levels, then Nolin is an easy choice. This year's list gives you a pretty good insight into the ranking philosophy of whatever publication produced the list you are reading. If you see someone rate Nolin higher (Baseball Prospectus would have him #2 now, and Norris #5) look at probability of success while those who go with Norris (MLB.com has him #2 and Nolin all the way down at #14) look at ultimate ceiling. Me? I try to strike a balance and thus, I have the tied.
4. DJ Davis (CF) - 2018 - the name that's begun to come up when discussing Davis is
Kenny Lofton. This is reflective of his excellent speed, quality routes,
and below-average arm. The statistical sample is small yet and
inconclusive, but the scouting that was published after the season was
universally positive. If Davis' ceiling is indeed Lofton-like I'm sure
the Blue Jays are quite excited by that.
3. Marcus Stroman (RHP) - 2014 - This rankling reflects the belief that the team will take advantage of their depth and take the time to polish him as a starter rather than taking the knee-jerk "he's too small" road and shuttling him off to short relief. Relief pitchers, even the late inning studs, are seldom enough of a difference maker to justify a top-5 ranking. Stroman doesn't get the Tom Gordon comps for nothing, and it's certainly possible that the right confluence of events would put him into some important innings late this year. But my presumption is that when he comes off his suspension he'll spend the rest of the first half (at that level) at Dunedin and the second half in AA working as a starter.
2. Roberto Osuna (RHSP) - late 2016 - It is not outside the realm of possibility that this kid could be #1 a year from now. As with any prospect, he could certainly regress but I don't think that the majority of observers yet appreciate just how remarkable this guy could be. While he's not the same type of pitcher, necessarily, I get a vibe off this guy that reminds me of Gooden or Valenzuala in terms of exploding into the spotlight at a relatively young age.
1. Aaron Sanchez (RHRP) - second half of 2015 - After the two big trades, Sanchez stands pretty much unchallenged as the top guy in the system. He's the one Blue Jays prospect left who is pretty much a consensus top 50 prospect in the majors and that's a pretty impressive feat for a guy who's still not hit High-A ball yet. The Jays can afford to be patient with him and my ETA reflects that, more heavily than what his actual potential might give him the ability to do.
In conclusion, for now, it's also worth mentioning the guys who are not yet established major leaguers - prospects in reality - but have lost their eligibility for this list. These would include:
Drew Hutchison - should, with a normal recovery curve, make a September appearance or three and be in line to compete for the staff next spring.
Kyle Drabek - Ditto, but with enough stumbles to be a darker horse for the 2014 staff.
Aaron Loup - His chances of breaking camp with the major league squad get exponentially better if Darren Oliver follows through on his retirement plans. The Jays will face the dilemma of either going with one lefty in the pen (and that most likely Brett Cecil) or losing someone to waivers who's out of options (see below) in order to keep a second lefty, who will - as long as Luis Perez is recovering from injury - most likely either be Loup, Evan Crawford, or JA Happ (barring a spring surprise, or an injury)and there's a good argument for keeping Happ stretched out in Buffalo (as much as he will loath that idea).
Jeremy Jefress - has seen major league action in each of the last three seasons but still only has just under 39 big league innings. Out of options, if he doesn't make the cut he has to clear waivers.
Among the hitters, the story is really Anthony Gose. He'll polish his game at AAA but if any relatively long term opening in the majors arises he'll get a call to "come a runnin'." There's also Moises Sierra who's not the prospect Gose is but may well make an appearance if circumstances work in hisfavor.
Sorry for the long delay, My work schedule went from ~ 15 hours a week to over twice that at the beginning of December and I'm struggling to integrate my proclivity for wordiness with my other obligations.