Toronto Blue Jays' Top 10 Prospects for 2014
If you're a fan of young, high-ceiling pitching prospects, then it doesn't get much better than the Toronto Blue Jays' system.
Right-hander Marcus Stroman is poised to make an impact in the major leagues next season, and he may have opened the year in the starting rotation if not for a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in early 2013. Regardless, the 22-year-old's aggressive approach and command of three plus pitches will make him a fixture in the starting rotation for years to come.
Not far behind Stroman is 21-year-old Aaron Sanchez, who flashes tantalizing, major league-caliber stuff but lacks the command to push forward developmentally. After that, the Blue Jays' prospect pool is essentially a collection of high-ceiling, high-risk prospects, both on the mound and at up-the-middle positions, with numerous players poised for a breakout performance in the coming season.
Here's a look at the Toronto Blue Jays' top 10 prospects for 2014.
10. Chase DeJong, RHP
DOB: 12/29/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 185 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2012 (Woodrow Wilson HS, Calif.)
DeJong has a highly projectable frame at 6’4”, 185 pounds; easy to envision him adding strength in the coming years; right-hander has present pitchability and deep arsenal, which is impressive given his lack of professional experience; fastball currently works in the 88-92 mph range but should improve a full grade (maybe more) by maturity.
Clean, smooth arm action and frame suggest a future spike in velocity; curveball flashes plus potential with good shape and downer action; can be easy to recognize out of his hand; changeup is on the firm side but should serve as a third better-than-average pitch.
Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter
9. Sean Nolin, LHP
DOB: 12/26/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 235 pounds
Drafted/Signed: Sixth round, 2010 (San Jacinto College North, Texas)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’13)
At 6’5”, 235 pounds, Nolin is a physically mature pitcher with repeatable mechanics; fluid delivery and arm action; uses size to create a consistent downhill plane; advanced pitchability of a high-floor arsenal; fastball lacks impact velocity, registering in the low-90s; very hittable when left up in the zone; commands it well to both sides of the plate; feel for changing hitters’ eye levels.
Changeup is his only plus offering; highly effective when used off his well-located fastball; arm action and release point give the pitch natural deception; decent fading action and speed differential; slider and curveball are both average offerings but lack future projection; demonstrates confidence to throw them early in count; breaking balls help keep hitters off-balance.
Projection: No. 4 or 5 starter
8. A.J. Jimenez, C
DOB: 05/01/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’0" 210 pounds
Drafted: Ninth round, 2009 (Academia Discipulos de Cristo, P.R.)
Elbow injury cut his 2012 campaign at Double-A New Hampshire short and required Tommy John surgery in May; picked up where he left off following midseason return in 2013; glove-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 plus arm strength (despite TJ surgery); neutralizes running game.
Right-handed hitter drives the ball to all fields; doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but his pitch recognition had steadily improved; clean, consistent swing; solid gap power but limited over-the-fence pop in games; hit tool could be average and especially valuable given his defensive ceiling.
Projection: Backup catcher
7. D.J. Davis, OF
DOB: 07/25/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Stone County HS, Miss.)
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; could show average power at maturity; struggles with secondary pitch recognition but can hit the snot out of a fastball.
80-grade speed and top-notch athleticism stands out on both sides of the ball; defense in center field is raw, and he’ll need time to develop a true feel for the position; reads off the bat reflect inexperience; speed and range could help him achieve a plus defensive grade at maturity; arm strength is fringe-average and best suited for center.
Projection: First-division center fielder
6. Mitch Nay, 3B
DOB: 09/20/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 pounds
Drafted: First round supplemental, 2012 (Hamilton HS, Ariz.)
ETA: Late 2015
Physically strong right-handed batter with large, 6’3”, 195-pound frame; demonstrates a good feel for hitting as well as the strike zone; makes consistent hard contact behind a straightaway approach; Nay looks for something to drive but will also work his share of walks; plus-plus raw power should appear in games more often moving forward; hit tool projects to be average at maturity, though his advanced approach could make it play up; overall offensive potential makes him a breakout candidate in 2014.
Good build and offensive profile for third baseman; good hands and plus arm strength are his carrying defensive attributes; decent range and mobility despite possessing below-average footwork that can be rough with a shaky (and often late) first step; high error total from 2013 should come down as he adjusts to speed of game; he eventually could be forced off the position, in which case he’d likely move to a corner outfield spot rather than first base.
Projection: First-division third baseman
5. Franklin Barreto, SS
DOB: 02/27/1996 (Age: 17)
Height/Weight: 5’9”, 174 pounds
Signed: 2012 (Venezuela)
17-year-old is undersized at 5’9”, 174 pounds; excellent athlete with plus speed and a promising up-the-middle future; four future average-or-better tools; right-handed batter showcases advanced bat-to-ball skills and a knack for making hard contact; possesses strong hands and quick wrists; whips barrel through zone on line-drive plane; hard to gauge his power potential due to age and lack of professional experience; approach and bat speed suggests it will be at least average.
Raw at shortstop with an inconsistent glove and overaggressive actions; body control and feel for game should naturally improve with further experience; showcases plus arm strength across infield but fringy accuracy; overall defensive profile is also a clean fit at second base.
Projection: First-division middle infielder
4. Daniel Norris, LHP
DOB: 04/25/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2011 (Science Hill HS, Tenn.)
6’2” left-hander made developmental strides during second half of 2013 season; adjustment to the length of his stride resulted in a more consistent release point; improved body control allowed him to better stay in line with target; Norris’ fastball works in the 92-94 mph range, and he can reach back for a few additional ticks as needed.
Slider is a swing-and-miss offering with plus potential, thrown with depth and late bite; has the makings of an above-average changeup, but command and feel will need refinement; curveball lacks projection but will serve as serviceable, change-of-pace offering at maturity; secondary arsenal lacks consistency but should improve with experience; potential to take a huge step forward in 2014 with improved command.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter
3. Alberto Tirado, RHP
DOB: 12/10/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 177 pounds
Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)
6’1”, 177-pound frame raises questions about long-term durability; uses his long, lanky arms to create a consistent downhill plane; loose arm and frame leaves room for projection; inconsistent delivery; fastball sits in the low-90s, and his wiry frame suggests more velocity will come; best secondary offering is currently his 81-84 mph changeup; potential to be a plus pitch at maturity; naturally effective due to his quick arm; throws a slider in same velocity range that represents a third plus offering at maturity; a raw pitch that lacks consistent shape and will need considerable development.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
DOB: 07/01/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2010 (Barstow HS, Calif.)
ETA: Late 2014
Sanchez has an athletic and projectable 6’4” frame; effortless and fluid delivery with a quick and clean arm action; still learning how to repeat arm slot with consistency; can overthrow at times; doesn’t always finish; timing can be inconsistent and cause his arm to drag.
Pure stuff is excellent and stands to improve; fastball registers at an easy 93-96 mph and explodes out of his hand; curveball has legitimate plus-or-better potential with tight spin and sharp downer break; showed an improved feel for it this past season and especially in the Arizona Fall League; changeup has some nice fade and could emerge as another weapon with refinement; below-average command profile; consistently induces weak contact and groundouts; poised to take an enormous step forward in 2014 with improvement to his control/command.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
DOB: 05/01/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’9”, 185 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Duke)
Undersized at 5'9" but showcases plus athleticism and physical strength; works to create downhill plane toward plate; impressive command profile considering explosiveness of arsenal; proved he has the stuff and durability to remain a starter.
22-year-old possesses ridiculous arm strength; fastball registers in the low- to mid-90s, and he’ll bump a few ticks higher in shorter bursts; explosive pitch but lacks late life; present feel for working both sides of the plate; also throws a plus cutter in the low 90s with outstanding slice to the glove side; 83-86 mph slider represents a third plus offering and could even be a plus-plus at maturity; pitch has wipeout break with the potential to miss bats at any level; effectiveness stems from fastball-like plane and release point; present feel for mixing in a low- to mid-80s changeup that flashes above-average potential; fearless approach on the mound makes entire arsenal play up.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter