Had it not been for a pair blockbuster trades with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets this offseason, the Blue Jays could have possessed five consensus top-100 prospects in Travis d’Arnaud, Aaron Sanchez, Jake Marisnick, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino. Although Sanchez is the only remaining player after each respective trade, the organization still boasts a host of young, projectable talent.
Although they lack a near big league-ready prospect, it’s conceivable that both Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman will reach the majors by the end of the season. And despite trading d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in the game, the Blue Jays still have some serious depth behind the plate.
DOB: 1/4/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 200
Drafted/Signed: 32nd round, 2011 (California State University-Dominguez Hills)
Season in Review: A 32nd-round draft pick in 2011, Pillar has done nothing but hit since entering the Blue Jays’ system. Say what you want about his age (24) and lack of physical projection at 6’0" 200 pounds, but Pillar can flat-out rake. He thrived this past season at the plate and on the basepaths, batting .323/.374/.439 with 40 extra-base hits, 51 stolen bases and 70/40 K/BB in 128 games between Low-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin.
Scouting Notes: Say what you want about his age (23) and lack of projectable size (6’0", 200 pounds), but Pillar can flat-out hit; thrived this past season at the plate and on the basepaths, even in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League; outfielder possesses intriguing blend of above-average-to-plus hit tool and plus speed; has the ceiling of a solid fourth outfielder.
Right-handed hitter has compact, level swing that allows him to even drive pitcher’s pitches; uses the whole field and never tries to do too much at the plate; will never hit for much power but is able to shoot to the gaps and should tally plenty of doubles and triples; above-average plate discipline caters to his impressive on-base skills; rangy outfielder with solid-average arm strength; plus runner and smart base-stealer who has been successful in 59-of-72 chances.
Spring Training Forecast: Not invited to big-league camp, Pillar will continue to hit for average and showcase on-base skills as he prepares to make the jump to Double-A.
2013 Outlook: Although he’s not a sexy prospect, Pillar can hit. And if he can master Double-A as he did both Class-A levels, the 24-year-old could potentially serve as a fourth outfielder in a September call-up scenario.
DOB: 12/08/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 230
Drafted/Signed: July, 2009 (Venezuela)
Season in Review: Signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2009, Nessy, much like the organization’s other young prospects, has been eased through the complex levels. In his age-19 season last year, he batted .256/.320/.456 with eight home runs and 47/13 K/BB in 45 games for rookie-level Bluefield in the Appalachian League, and received a late-season promotion to Short-Season Vancouver.
Scouting Notes: At 6’2”, 230 pounds, Nessy is broader and bulkier than most catchers; not a guarantee that he’ll remain behind the plate given his size; turned plenty of heads last season with his showing in the Appalachian League; solid-average blocking and receiving skills; knack for calling a well-sequenced game; right-handed hitter with some pop; power-oriented swing plane; needs to cut down length; can get pull-happy; raw pitch recognition; will chase offspeed; needs experience.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in minor league camp, Nessy is still a raw catching prospect in need of both instruction and refinement on both ends of the ball.
2013 Outlook: If he can refine his approach and eliminate some swing-and-miss, Nessy could conceivably reach Low-A by the end of the 2013 season.
DOB: 12/10/1994 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 177
Drafted/Signed: August, 2011 (Dominican Republic)
Season in Review: After signing in July of 2011, Tirado pitched at two rookie levels last season as a 17-year-old in his professional debut. The right-hander opened the year in the Gulf Coast League where he registered a 2.68 ERA with 34/12 K/BB in 37 innings. Following a promotion to rookie-level Bluefield in the Appalachian League, Tirado posted a 2.45 ERA and allowed only four hits over three starts.
Scouting Notes: Undersized at 6’1”, 177 pounds; uses his long, lanky arms to create a consistent downhill plane; fastball sits in the low-90s, and his wiry frame suggests the potential to add velocity; 18-year-old’s best secondary offering is currently his changeup, which has the potential to be an above-average pitch; also throws a slider, a raw pitch that will need considerable development.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in minor league camp, Tirado will have his workload monitored as he continues to develop his arsenal and a feel for a consistent release point.
2013 Outlook: With a feel for three pitches as a teenager, Tirado could conceivably reach Low-A by the end of the 2013 season.
DOB: 5/1/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’0" 210
Drafted/Signed: Ninth round, 2009 (Academia Discipulos de Cristo, P.R.)
Season in Review: A ninth-round draft pick out of Puerto Rico in 2008, Jiminez has steadily moved through the system thanks to his defensive prowess. Unfortunately, a nagging elbow injury prematurely ended Jimenez’s 2012 season at Double-A New Hampshire after only 27 games, as the 22-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in May. At the time of the injury, he was batting .257/.295/.371.
Scouting Notes: A nagging elbow injury hurt his draft stock and cut his 2012 campaign at Double-A New Hampshire short when he required Tommy John surgery in May; superb, defense-first catcher whose bat has slowly been catching up over the last few seasons; blocking and receiving skills are highly advanced; excellent catch-and-throw skills and he knows how to streamline his throws with consistency.
Right-handed hitter drives the ball to all fields with ease; doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but his pitch recognition skills have steadily improved; above-average bat speed yields solid gap power that may result in double-digit home runs by the time he reaches the majors.
Spring Training Forecast: Headed to major league camp, Jimenez will have a chance to make up for lost time in 2012 with additional reps, especially now that Travis d’Arnaud is out of the picture.
2013 Outlook: Provided that he’s recovered from elbow surgery last year, Jimenez could spend a portion of the season as the Blue Jays’ backup catcher in the major leagues thanks to his defensive prowess.
DOB: 5/1/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’9”, 185
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Duke)
Season in Review: Despite mixed opinions regarding Stroman’s projected role, the Blue Jays still selected with the 22nd-overall pick last June based upon his elite arm strength. Used as a reliever in professional debut, the 21-year-old registered a 3.26 ERA with 23/9 K/BB in 19.1 innings while reaching Double-A New Hampshire. Sadly, Stroman was slapped with a 50-game suspension for ingesting a performance-enhancing substance, which will carry over into the 2013 season.
Scouting Notes: 5’9” right-hander’s diminutive frame doesn’t involve much future projection, but his explosive arsenal is undeniable; mixed reviews coming out of Duke whether he had brighter future as starter or reliever; Blue Jays used him as a reliever in professional debut in which he reached Double-A New Hampshire; was handed a 50-game suspension in late-2012 for ingesting a performance-enhancing substance, which will carry over to the 2013 season.
21-year-old features tons of raw arm strength and unleashes fastballs in the mid-to-upper-90s; some concern about the plane of his fastball given his 5’9” frame and lack of downward plane; breaking ball is a second plus pitch with jelly-legging break and thrown with same intense arm speed as fastball; has ability to mix in a changeup though it’s a less effective pitch than straight fastball-slider combination.
Spring Training Forecast: As spring training unfolds over the next month, expect Stroman to see an increased number of looks out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen before finishing his 50-game suspension.
2013 Outlook: With lethal fastball-slider combination, Stroman should spend a majority of the 2013 season as a late-inning arm in the team’s major league bullpen. Expect him to return to Double-A following the suspension.
DOB: 4/25/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011 (Science Hill HS, Tenn.)
Season in Review: In his professional debut last season, Norris showed the pure stuff that that made him the top prep southpaw in 2011 draft class. However, his lack of experience was apparent, as he registered an 8.44 ERA with 43/18 K/BB in 42.2 innings over two levels.
Scouting Notes: 6’2” left-hander showed the pure stuff in pro debut that had him regarded as the top prep southpaw in 2011 draft class; mechanics are highly inconsistent and he struggles to repeat his delivery and release point; obvious lack of feel for controlling running game; can unravel with runners on base.
Norris’s fastball works in the low-90s, though he’ capable of reaching the mid-90s when his mechanics are in sync; curveball has plus break though he lacks the command to make it a effective at the moment; has the makings of an above-average changeup but command and feel will need considerable refinement moving forward; it may take him much longer thane expected to reach the major leagues, but it should be worth it once he does.
Spring Training Forecast: Slated to see time in minor league camp, Norris will work to establish consistency with his mechanics and a feel for his arsenal.
2013 Outlook: Considering that he’s fallen behind the developmental curve, a graduation to a full-season level at some point this season should be considered a huge success.
DOB: 7/25/1994 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Stone County HS, Miss.)
Season in Review: Selected with the 17th-overall pick in the 2012 draft, Davis showcased loud tools in his professional debut, batting .250/.355/.386 with 18 extra-base hits, 25 stolen bases and 70/27 K/BB in 60 games over three levels. However, as a 17-year-old facing the best pitching of his life, the outfielder was understandably raw.
Scouting Notes: 6’1”, left-handed hitter has an upper-body-oriented swing with wiry, explosive strength; features above-average bat speed with a relatively compact bat path; hit tool should improve as he fine-tunes his swing and gains experience; projects to have above-average power; his plus-plus speed and ability to get out of the box will make him a regular extra-base threat; struggles with pitch recognition of breaking balls out of the pitcher’s hand, but can drill fastballs with authority.
Davis’ defense in center field is raw and he’ll need time to develop a true feel for the position; premium athlete whose tremendous speed and range should compensate for poor routes in the interim until he reaches higher minor-league levels; arm strength is fringe-average and best suited for center field.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in minor league camp, Davis will continue to refine his approach and swing as he prepares for his full-season debut at some point next season.
2013 Outlook: Presumably slated to open the year at Short-Season or Low-A, Davis’ tools are very loud, but his skill set will likely be challenged against the more advanced pitching. The key to his development will be the speed at which he’s able to make adjustments.
DOB: 12/26/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 235
Drafted/Signed: Sixth round, 2010 (San Jacinto College North, Texas)
Season in Review: A sixth-round draft pick in 2010 out of San Jacinto College (Texas), Nolin has quickly emerged as one of the more underrated southpaws in the minors. After registering a 2.19 ERA with a 90/21 K/BB in 86.1 innings at High-A Dunedin, the 23-year-old was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire where he posted a 1.20 ERA over three starts.
Scouting Notes: Perennially underrated southpaw who may be a steal as a former sixth-round draft pick; tall, physically mature pitcher with repeatable mechanics, deception and deep arsenal; expect him to start moving quickly this next season as he’ll be 23 with considerable experience.
Adept to adding and subtracting from his 88-95 mph fastball and commands it well to both sides of the plate; changeup is a second plus offering thrown with deception, especially when used off his well-located fastball; slider has the makings of a legitimate out pitch and he’s comfortable using it to back-foot right-handed hitters; curveball has some depth and he’s comfortable using it to get ahead in counts.
Spring Training Forecast: In his first spring training with the Blue Jays, Nolin should receive plenty of looks on the mound as the organization gauges his proximity to the major leagues.
2013 Outlook: Headed back to Double-A to open the 2013 season, the 23-year-old could jump on the fast track to the major leagues with a strong follow-up campaign.
DOB: 2/7/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 230
Drafted/Signed: Aug., 2011 (Mexico)
Season in Review: Osuna excelled last season as a 17-year-old against more advanced hitters in the Appalachian and Northwest Leagues. Given his age and relative lack of experience, the right-hander’s workload was limited to only 43.2 innings. However, that didn’t stop him from making a strong impression with a 2.27 ERA and a 49/15 K/BB.
Scouting Notes: Excelled as a 17-year-old this past season against significantly more advanced hitters; doesn’t involve much physical projection at 6’2”, 230 pounds and will have to emphasize conditioning in future seasons; “The kid has an outstanding feel for pitching at a young age and is a bulldog on the mound,” said one NL talent evaluator.
Right-hander has present plus fastball that works in the low-90s and scrapes 95-96 mph; is comfortable manipulating the pitch and tweaking the velocity as needed; changeup already serves as a second plus pitch with excellent fade and is thrown with similar arm speed relative to his heater; he’s still learning a feel for his breaking ball (a slider), and tends to get around it too much at the moment; nothing that can’t be refined with more experience.
Spring Training Forecast: Osuna will head to minor league camp where he’ll work on developing his slider.
2013 Outlook: After an impressive campaign as a 17-year-old in 2012, the right-hander is ready for the jump to a full-season level this summer, like Low-A.
DOB: 7/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Barstow HS, Calif.)
Season in Review: A first-round draft pick in 2010, the Blue Jays finally turned him loose this last season at Low-A Lansing, where he registered a 2.49 ERA with a 97/51 K/BB in 90.1 innings. Although his overall command was understandably raw, the right-hander showcased outstanding stuff with the ability to consistently evade bats.
Scouting Notes: Highly athletic and projectable 6’4” frame; will add more strength; effortless and fluid delivery with a quick arm; clean arm action; effortless delivery; still learning how to repeat arm slot with consistency; can overthrow at times; doesn’t always finish; pushes pitches to the arm side; timing can be inconsistent; occasionally leads to an arm drag.
Pure stuff is excellent and sets him apart from most pitching prospects; fastball registers at an easy 94-98 mph and explodes out of his hand (one of the best in the minors); plus curveball has tight spin and sharp downer break; showed an improved feel for it this past season; changeup has some nice fade and is a viable third pitch; both secondary pitches are raw; will need to refine command as he begins to move up the ladder.
Spring Training Forecast: Not invited to major league spring training, Sanchez will head to minor league camp where he will continue to develop his secondary pitches and overall command.
2013 Outlook: After showcasing excellent stuff last year at Low-A, the right-hander will make the jump to High-A where his command may be challenged.