Friday, February 27, 2015

Categorizing Baseball America's Top 30 Jays Prospects

Worth reading:
* The Toronto Blue Jays, who have been hamstrung by injury troubles in the past, just saw another key player suffer a significant ailment - outfielder Michael Saunders was done in by a sprinkler and is expected to be out till July at least. Brendan Kennedy offers a list of possible candidates to replace Saunders, including 2012 Lugnut Kevin Pillar.
* The Frisco RoughRiders have a new Teddy Roosevelt-ian image, and it's Minor League Baseball at its MiLBiest.
This arrived in the mail today:
BA
What, they didn't think Daniel Norris was a worthy cover model?
The BA Prospect Handbook is a bible during the season, ranking and profiling every prospect that we'll see. My copy, pictured above, just arrived in the mail. Let's break down the Blue Jays' Top 30 rankings, numbered by Clint Longenecker and divided into categories of my choosing.
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Major League Impacts This Season
1. Daniel Norris, LHP
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
4. Dalton Pompey, CF
6. Devon Travis, 2B/OF
23. A.J. Jimenez, C
Commentary: Norris, Sanchez and Pompey all made their MLB debuts this year. Sanchez is the likeliest to open the season on the Opening Day roster (whether in the rotation or the bullpen), followed by Pompey (starting in center field). Barring unforeseen events, Norris opens the season in the Buffalo starting rotation and gets a call-up to Toronto in May or June. Travis was acquired from Detroit for Anthony Gose in the offseason. He too likely starts in Buffalo before receiving a midseason promotion. Catcher Jimenez, who beat me with ease in ping pong in 2010, has long been on the verge of the Bigs before getting felled by a slew of injuries. Surely 2015 will at last see him in Toronto.
Keep an eye on: Unranked second baseman Jon Berti, who probably makes his MLB debut this year. He's a sensational defender with a way about getting on base and making things happen. Also, his brother used to work in the Lugnuts' box office.
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A Year or Two Away... Or Less?
7. Roberto Osuna, RHP
9. Miguel Castro, RHP
14. Dwight Smith, Jr., OF
24. Andy Burns, 3B
29. Matt Boyd, LHP
Commentary: Andy Burns is the closest from this group, playing 133 games in Double-A New Hampshire last year. That tickets him for Triple-A Buffalo this year; a successful campaign earns him a promotion upward, where he'll provide pop, speed and defense at whatever position the Jays need him. The consistently productive Smith moves up to the New Hampshire outfield. If he keeps on keeping on, he'll be a Big Leaguer by 2016. Boyd dominated Dunedin last year but ran into a wall in Double-A; this year challenges him to break through that wall. (Keep an eye out for his rotation mate Taylor Cole, a big-time strikeout artist in 2014.) 20-year-olds Castro and Osuna have brilliant amounts of talent, but their experience is wanting. ETA for both is likely 2016.
Keep an eye on: Unranked infielder Christian Lopes, who batted .371 in the Australian Baseball League. The 22-year-old will likely be tested in Double-A New Hampshire.
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Lansing Dropped Their Stock
15. Dawel Lugo, SS
16. Mitch Nay, 3B
17. Chase De Jong (not DeJong), RHP
21. D.J. Davis, OF
22. Alberto Tirado, RHP
25. Tom Robson, RHP
Commentary: Davis was #3 last year, Nay was #4, Tirado was #8, Lugo was #9, De Jong was #11 and Robson was #16. Additionally, #25 prospect Matt Dean fell out of the Top 30 this year entirely. What happened? Well, injury (Robson); discovering flaws that needed to be ironed out (Davis, Nay, De Jong, Dean); and playing against better/older players in a tough league (Davis, Lugo and Tirado). Combine that with a tremendously deep farm system, and down they fell in the rankings. Davis, Tirado and Robson likely return to Lansing, while Lugo, Nay and De Jong likely move to Dunedin. On the bright side, the talent remains as bright as ever for this group. Going about their business under the radar could well lead to another startling Daniel Norris-esque breakthrough for one or more.
Keep an eye on: Outfielder Derrick Loveless. He has speed, plate discipline and power, and his confidence is increasing by the year. Perhaps starting pitcher Jeremy Gabryszwski, too, who wouldn't surprise me if he increased his velocity while continuing to coax grounder after grounder.
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Providing Lower-Level Intrigue
5. Max Pentecost, C
8. Richard Urena, SS
10. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP
11. Matt Smoral, LHP
12. Ryan Borucki, LHP
13. Jairo Labourt, LHP
18. Anthony Alford, OF
19. Lane Thomas, 3B/OF
20. Dan Jansen, C
26. Jesus Tinoco, RHP
28. Nick Wells, LHP
30. Rowdy Tellez, 1B
Commentary: It's likeliest that this list is the longest each year, with a probability of 3-5 guys distancing themselves, 3-5 guys remaining stagnant, and the rest falling off entirely. These are the high draft picks and the touted international signees, each with terrific talent but a lack of games for us to draw any true conclusions from. (Jairo Labourt stopped by Lansing briefly at the start of last season before getting reassigned to Vancouver.) Heck, who knows? Anthony Alford might be a superstar outfielder, Dan Jansen might be an impact catcher, Jesus Tinoco might be a future ace. It's all up in the air -- and it's glorious to dream about. As the Jays' top pick last year, Max Pentecost has the spotlight shining brightest upon him. I'm hoping we see at least nine of these prospects in Lansing in 2015.
Keep an eye on: Unranked 19-year-old lefty Evan Smith, a 4th-round draft pick who stands 6'5. He'll probably spend the season with Vancouver.
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Rehabbing
3. Jeff Hoffman, RHP
Commentary: Recovering from Tommy John surgery, blessed with great ability, projected to return to action around July. He's a huge question mark with a sky-high ceiling. Works for me.
*
Really Young
27. Juan Meza, RHP
Commentary: Signed for $1.6 million, 17 years of age (birthday - 2/4/98). He's a long way away, but heck, we might as well learn his name sooner rather than later.

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