Toronto Blue Jays: 5 Prospects Who Could Be Major League-Ready in 2013
Emotions ran high in the American League East this season, but despite the hopes of Toronto Blue Jays fans, the Jays weren't the birds who managed to lift off of the ground in 2012.
Now that the Orioles have made the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years, the Blue Jays are the only team in the AL East that still hasn't made the playoffs in the new millennium.
The way their system has been managing talent in the past few years, it looked like Toronto might have stood a chance in Major League Baseball's toughest division.
Like what happens so often, though, injuries to big-time players like Jose Bautista, as well as promising prospects like Drew Hutchison, hampered the Jays from claiming any ground in the East.
2013 will be a new year and with it will come more young talent from the minor leagues.
Here are some top prospects in the Jays system who could become full-time members of the major league club next season; some who've played a few games with the big club and some who are still itching to get up there.
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Anthony Gose has all eyes on him in Toronto.
The Blue Jays are loaded with outfield talent. Colby Rasmus held onto Toronto's center field in 2012. Moises Sierra has risen through the ranks next to Gose in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Las Vegas 51's' outfields.
Down in Double-A New Hampshire, Jake Marisnick is expected to develop into the full package fielding/hitting/baserunning center fielder.
But it is 22-year-old Gose who is on trial in Toronto right now. The California native played 56 games with the Jays at the end of 2012. He's got range, a glove, and the potential to hit for average and burn up the base paths.
Last season, he led the 51's with 10 triples and 34 stolen bases. During his time in Toronto at the end of the season, Gose stole 15 bases.
It's hard to live up to the expectations for many of these young players in the minor leagues, but if Gose can do so, he's going to be a complete ballplayer and a competitive outfielder for the Jays.
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The Blue Jays have talented catchers up and down the system of all shapes and sizes. Some can hit. Some can throw. Some can call a good game.
Everybody wants the guy who can do it all, though.
Travis D'Arnaud, 23, is the all-around most talented catcher in the Blue Jays' organization. In 2013, he only played in Triple-A until June 25, when he was hit with a season-ending knee injury.
In just those 67 games, he managed to hit the second most home runs of all 51's that season with 16. The year before, playing for the championship winning New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Double-A, he was named the Eastern League Most Valuable Player, as well as Best Defensive Catcher in the Eastern League by Baseball America.
D'Arnaud was also second only to Bryce Harper on Baseball America's top players in the Eastern League in 2011.
Right now, baseball is getting deeper and deeper into the era of the complete baseball player. There is no doubt the Jays are eagerly anticipating D'Arnaud's first game with the Jays, and it's likely he'll play for the major league club in 2013 to at least test the waters. He could prove to be one of baseball's best all around young talents.
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Adeiny Hechavarria has been capable of playing shortstop in the major leagues for a long time. His range and speed at the position outdo those of any other shortstop in the Blue Jays' system.
In 2012, Baltimore's JJ Hardy led the American League East, as well as all major league shortstops, with the fewest errors (six), doing so in 158 games for the Orioles.
In comparison, Toronto's Yunel Escobar made twice that many errors in 142 games.
Hechavarria has the glove that can compete with that of AL East rival Hardy, and if the Jays can get the most out of Hechavarria in the long run, they would see a significant upgrade defensively at shortstop from Escobar.
Hechavarria was not known for his bat prior to hitting for an average of .312 for Las Vegas in 2012, but he is still considered a heavily defensive player first.
On a team like the Blue Jays, who have multiple major league power sources in bats like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarncion and Colby Rasmus, the Jays should be able to afford to have a strictly fielding shortstop.
The 23-year-old native of Cuba played 41 games in Toronto at the end of last season. Once he's settled into his big league uniform, his acrobatic speed and flexibility could become a regular sighting in the Blue Jays infield.
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For the last place New Hampshire Fisher Cats of 2012, there were few bright spots.
One, though, was power hitting Mike McDade.
McDade, 23, a leftover from the 2011 Eastern League champion Fisher Cats team, was the main source of power for New Hampshire in 2012.
He hit 15 home runs and drove in 49 RBI in 100 games at the Double-A level before being called up to the Las Vegas 51's. He participated in the Eastern League All-Star game before leaving for Triple-A.
McDade is also one of the best fielding first basemen in the Blue Jays' system. This will be a huge plus for the Jays once McDade is ready for the Show.
It is likely McDade will make his major league debut in 2013. He was not the same force in Triple-A as he was in the Eastern League, only hitting three home runs in 79 games. With another year under his belt, though, he could change that next year.
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Sam Dyson dominated the Eastern League hitters he faced in 2012. He spent most of the season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, where catcher Brian Jeroloman described his 98 mph sinker as being like catching a "bowling ball."
The pitch breaks very late, practically at the knees. Hitters have a very hard time picking it up. His ERA at the end of the season in Double-A was 2.38
Dyson made two appearances in the major leagues last season for the Jays. One was a success—getting an inning-ending strikeout in Kansas City.
The other was a total deconstruction in the Bronx. The former South Carolina Gamecock was not the same pitcher in the Big Leagues as he was in the Eastern League.
His fastball was much slower, topping out at 95. The tough New York Yankee lineup that he faced picked up what he was doing with ease, knocking in three earned runs off of Dyson.
After being sent back down to Double-A, the 24-year-old fire-baller finished the year strong with the Fisher Cats, and New Hampshire pitching coach Tom Signore said he appeared to be back on track.
It was probably just nerves that got to Dyson at Yankee Stadium, Signore said. He needs to relax and let his ability take command. With the movement and speed on his fastball, he can be a weapon at any level. He just has to find a way to carry what he's doing in New Hampshire back up to Toronto with him.
Dyson has had several surgeries on his arm throughout his career. Consequently, the Jays have been careful with his innings. He hasn't had any problems since he started pitching in High-A Dunedin, however.