This beautiful photograph was taken by Kyle Castle. From left to right: D.J. Davis, Boomer Collins and Ryan McBroom.
Consider that trio sitting in the dugout, looking out to the field and their future:
- D.J. Davis was a first-round draft pick in 2012. He's grinding his way forward, his talent intact, working to live up to the high expectations that were placed upon him by his selection and signing bonus. He's 21. He's considered a prospect.
- Boomer Collins was a nondrafted free agent in 2013. He's married. He's worked in refrigerator repair, and he's worked as a milkman. Baseball is his dream, but he's now 25. He's considered a non-prospect.
- Ryan McBroom was a 15th-round draft pick in 2014. He was a non-prospect, I'd argue, and then this year happened, and he showed his skills as the best hitter in the Midwest League from Opening Day through the postseason, earning league MVP. (Let it not be forgotten that he batted .400, 8-for-20, in the playoffs.) (Let it also not be forgotten that D.J. Davis batted .474, 9-for-19, in his own right.) McBroom is 23. He is now considered a borderline prospect.
Dating back to a deal for Josh Donaldson during the 2014-15 offseason, the Blue Jays have made five significant trades of Minor League talent for Major League talent:
- On November 28, 2014, they traded infielders Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto and pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman to Oakland for Donaldson.
- On July 28, 2015, they traded pitchers Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco to Colorado for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins.
- On July 30, 2015, they traded pitchers Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt to Detroit for David Price.
- On July 31, 2015, they traded pitchers Jacob Brentz, Nick Wells and Rob Rasmussen to Seattle for Mark Lowe.
- That same day, they traded pitchers Alberto Tirado and Jimmy Cordero to Philadelphia for Ben Revere.
Let me also add a pair of not-as-significant deals: shortstop Dawel Lugo for Arizona utility infielder Cliff Pennington, and pitcher Chase De Jong and infielder Tim Locastro to the L.A. Dodgers for international free agent signing slots in order to ink 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., the top hitter on the market.
17 Minor Leaguers traded. If they had all been kept, there is no doubt in my mind that Barreto, Graveman, Hoffman, Castro, Tinoco, Norris, Labourt, Tirado and De Jong would all have made the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays' top prospect list (with Lugo close, Brentz and Wells also serving as possibilities, and Cordero continuing to throw 100 mph while Locastro proves magical wherever he goes).
The current MLB.com prospect list (source: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=tor) looks a little like this:
Rolling our way through the 30:
- Dalton Pompey - He'll be in the Major Leagues to stay next year as starting OF for Toronto.
- Jonathan Harris - The pressure will be on, the spotlight bright, as the Jays' 2015 first-rounder hits full-season ball. I wouldn't be surprised if he skipped right to Dunedin and ended the season in New Hampshire.
- Anthony Alford - YOUR New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting center fielder.
- Sean Reid-Foley - The biggest arm in the system heads back to Dunedin. (If he excels, here's your top trade-bait bargaining chip.)
- Max Pentecost - 2015 was lost because of injury. The first-round catcher aims to get back on the horse in 2016, but expectations should be tempered in the first half.
- Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. - Let's just agree to ignore young Vlad in the early-going. In 2017-2018, we'll check back in and see how he's progressing.
- Richard Ureña - YOUR Dunedin Blue Jays switch-hitting starting shortstop.
- Rowdy Tellez - YOUR New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting first baseman.
- Conner Greene - A surprising 2015 saw the 20-year-old Greene catch helium, improve his mph to 96, and jump up to Double-A. His learning curve can't continue, can it?
- Mitch Nay - The last two years have seen Nay disappoint compared to what was expected of him. He's only 22, he'll be moving up to Double-A, and he's now moving firmly below the radar.
- Ryan Borucki - Just like with Max Pentecost, 2015 was a lost season for the talented Borucki. He'll likely head to Lansing in 2016 and try to get things going again.
- D.J. Davis - He's fast, he's strong, he's toolsy, and he's done with the Midwest League after two full seasons in Lansing. It's time to see what the 2012 first-rounder can offer at the A-Advanced level, and he'll get his shot.
- Clinton Hollon - A 50-game suspension prematurely ended Hollon's return from Tommy John. Questions persist, as well they should, but the talent is there. Back to Lansing when the suspension ends.
- Dwight Smith, Jr. - Smith continues to just play ball, neither overwhelming nor underwhelming. 2016 should see him in Triple-A, with a chance at a Big League debut coming soon enough.
- Danny Jansen - An injury held Jansen to only 46 games in the Midwest League, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him back in Lansing. I also wouldn't be surprised if he was labeled the best defensive catcher in the system before long.
- Justin Maese - The GCL Blue Jays' R. Howard Webster Award winner moves forward. Is Lansing too big of a jump? Send the 19-year-old third-rounder to Vancouver and see how he does.
- Matt Smoral - A cursed season for Smoral, after struggles with command ended in a wicked line drive. Get well soon, Matt.
- Matt Dean - Heading off to the Arizona Fall League is always a good sign for an aspiring prospect. He'll move up to Double-A and continue his re-conversion to third base, allowing Tellez to take first base on a full-time basis.
- Tom Robson - Though 2015 saw Robson looking uncomfortable and uncertain at times in recapturing his mechanics, he's back now from Tommy John and his velocity is better than ever. Put him in the Dunedin starting rotation, and see how he does. If the mechanics are there and the stuff is there, he'll be back on track for a 2017 MLB debut.
- Lane Thomas - The coaches love Thomas's swing and ability. He transitioned from center field to third base to second base and dealt with a wrist injury by the end of the season. Relax, recooperate, and then write his name in directly in the middle of the Lugnuts' starting lineup. This is a hitter who bears watching
Carl Wise - The 2015 fourth-rounder wasn't so great in Vancouver, but I'm chalking that up to the exhausting schedule of a long summer stretching from college through the pros. Give him an offseason to rest and then work out, followed by a ton of hard work with the Blue Jays' hitting instructors, and I'm intrigued to see how Carl performs in Lansing in 2016.
- Andy Burns - Andy succeeded beyond expectations with Buffalo this year. If he keeps this up, he'll be wearing Blue Jays blue and white at some point next year.
- Roemon Fields - The 2016 season will open with Roemon leading off in Triple-A, and will finish with him in Rogers Centre.
- Juan Meza - He'll be 18 years old next February. He was pretty darn terrible this year, stats-wise, in limited action. Let's agree to let Juan pitch without scrutiny for a while and catch up with him, like young Vlad, in 2017-2018.
- Reggie Pruitt - Another talented teenager without much of an eye-catching portfolio yet. Whether it's back to the Gulf Coast League or up to the Appalachian League in 2016, Reggie is a bit of a ways away. Don't rush him.
- Jose Espada - The Jays' fifth-round pick in June, Jose will be 19 next year. He's a six-foot right-hander who throws hard. Bluefield, ahoy!
- Evan Smith - I could've sworn entering the year that we were going to see Smith in Lansing in 2015, but nope. So we'll just have to get him in 2016. He was drafted in the third round in 2013 out of Semmes, Alabama, and he struck out not so many guys this year in Vancouver while giving up a chunk of hits. Then again, he's a 6'5 lefty and there aren't all that many of those.
- Angel Perdomo - From all of the raves I had heard about Perdomo, I expected him to be a much harder thrower. Apparently, he isn't at the moment. What he is is a 6'6 lefty who breezed into Vancouver and struck out 31 batters in 21 1/3 innings after a promotion from Bluefield. The opposition batted .231 against him in the Appy League, and then hit only .152 in the NWL. At age 22 (next May), his 2016 stop is in the Midwest League.
- Travis Bergen - The Jays' seventh-rounder last June, he struck out 11 Northwest Leaguers in just 5 1/3 innings, and then was sidelined for the rest of the year. Once he's healthy again, he's coming to Lansing.
- Shane Dawson, Jr. - Yes, sir, that's how you fill out a top prospect list! Shane was the top defensive pitcher on the Lugnuts' last year and he pretty much led the league in competitiveness. The man is going to will his way to the Major Leagues, continuing with Dunedin/New Hampshire next season.
Relievers who deserve a second look...
- Sidearming lefty Chad Girodo, a college teammate of Kendall Graveman, zoomed from Dunedin through New Hampshire and up to Buffalo this year. He's going to Arizona Fall League this autumn, and -- write it down -- he'll be in the Major Leagues next year.
- Brady Dragmire and Justin Shafer are also going to the prospect-laden AFL. Dragmire was a shortstop when he was drafted out of high school (where he grew up down the street from Rowdy Tellez). His stuff is quick and it moves. Next year, he'll be 23 years old in Double-A with a chance to jump even higher. Shafer is actually a bit older by a handful of months, but was drafted in 2014 and spent 2015 in Lansing (excluding a series of games in Dunedin). He's being tried in the bullpen, where his velocity and stuff plays much bigger.
- Wil Browning is a sidewinder who won the R. Howard Webster Award as A-Adv. Dunedin's team MVP. Put him in New Hampshire's pen next year and let's see what he can do. His equivalents at the upper levels were friends Blake McFarland and Danny Barnes, both right-handers, both quirky, and both with track records that push them up to Triple-A to start next year. And if you start the year in Triple-A, you just might be getting a certain call at some point...
- Tim Mayza is a cult favorite of mine. He's a left-hander, which helps, he throws in the mid-90s, which helps, and he was throwing multiple innings by the end of the year, which also helps. By the end of 2015, I fancied him the top Lugnuts' top relief prospect. We'll see how he does in Dunedin in 2016.
Diminutive position players who don't deserve short shrift...
- 5'10 Jon Berti is everything that is ever loved about the archetypal grind-it-out, work-harder-than-you, get-the-uniform-dirty ballplayer. He's a dirtbag: he'll walk, run, he'll steal, he'll make huge defensive plays, he'll supply huge base hits. He's getting to the Major Leagues at some point in 2016 and fans are going to fall in love with him. At the Single-A level, 5'9 Chris Carlson did the same for the Lugnuts, and I'm interested to see if he can keep things going for the D-Jays.
- Jorge Flores is listed on Baseball-Reference.com as being 5'5, though I'm sure he'd rather that they added an inch or three. Typing as someone who is proudly 5'6 and a quarter, Jorge and I are right around the same height -- but he's one heck of a ballplayer. He slashed .276/.360/.347 in Double-A New Hampshire, which puts him right in line for a trip to Triple-A Buffalo next year at the ripe old age of 24. I could see Jorge in the bigs by 2017 or 2018, if not sooner.
- Ryan Schimpf is going to be 28 next year, I know, but he's only 5'9 and he tied for the Eastern League lead with 20 home runs last year. It's always worth mentioning Ryan Schimpf, and a blast to watch him hit blasts.
Who did I miss?