Stock Up, Stock Down for Toronto Blue Jays' Top 10 Prospects for Week 8
The Toronto Blue Jays have been on a roll these past two weeks, winning 11 of their last 16 games. The hot stretch has allowed Toronto (30-22) to seize the top spot in the American League East.
With their regulars playing so well, it’s unlikely that the Blue Jays will make any significant changes to the 25-man roster any time soon.
But, regardless of how secure the big league roster is, it’s still important for Toronto to make sure that its top prospects are performing well and meeting expectations.
As we’ve seen in the past, prospects can serve as an insurance policy in case of injuries. They’re also tradable assets that Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos can use to improve the team in a hurry if an opportunity arises.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how the top 10 players in Toronto’s farm system performed last week and determine if their overall stock rose or dropped.
No. 1 Prospect: Aaron Sanchez, Right-Handed Pitcher, Double-A New Hampshire
2014 Stats: 1-3 W/L, 11 GS, 3.54 ERA, 48.1 IP
Widely acknowledged to be the Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect, a lot is expected out of Aaron Sanchez. Toronto’s starting rotation is arguably the weakest aspect of the team, and many expect the 21-year-old Sanchez to come into spring training next year ready to make the major league roster.
The right-hander possesses a plus fastball that he can throw in the upper-90s. His curveball and changeup also have the potential to become plus pitches in the future.
Sanchez’s control still remains a work in progress, though, as evidenced by his start last week. He failed to record an out in the first inning and walked four batters while hitting another. In 48.1 innings pitched this season, he’s already walked 34 batters.
The good news is that he’s only given up 34 hits during that span, showing just how dominant he can be if he can keep the walks down.
Last Week’s Stats: 1 GS, 0 IP, 3 ER, 0 H, 4 BB, 1 HB
No. 2 Prospect: Marcus Stroman, Right-Handed Pitcher, Triple-A Buffalo
2014 Stats: 2-4 W/L, 7 GS, 3.03 ERA, 35.2 IP
Most Blue Jays’ fans should already be familiar with Marcus Stroman, as he was recently called up to the major leagues before being sent back down after pitching 6.1 innings.
Despite only being listed as 5’9”, the 23-year-old Stroman can throw his fastball in the mid-90s and also possesses a plus slider. His other pitches need work, though ,and the stint in the majors exposed his overreliance on the fastball.
After posting a 1.69 ERA in his first five starts at Triple-A Buffalo, the right-hander gave up seven runs in nine innings during his two starts last week. This could likely be attributed to the difficulty in re-adjusting to the minor leagues after his demotion.
If he can continue to develop as expected, Stroman should find himself back with the Blue Jays at some point this season.
Last Week’s Stats: 2 GS, 9 IP, 7 ER, 10 H, 2 BB
No. 4 Prospect: Daniel Norris, Left-Handed Pitcher, Class A Advanced Dunedin
2014 Stats: 3-0 W/L, 9 GS, 0.80 ERA, 45 IP
Many were quick to label Daniel Norris as a bust after he struggled badly in his first minor-league season in 2012 and then posted a mediocre 3.97 ERA in 2013. But, the 21-year-old has finally quieted all his doubters with a dominating performance this season at Dunedin.
The left-hander features an above-average fastball that typically sits in the low-90s. His changeup and curveball also have the potential to be a plus pitch down the line.
Control was a major issue for Norris in the past, but he appears to have improved on that front after surrendering only 13 walks in 45 innings pitched this season.
In his last start, Norris threw five scoreless innings and gave up only three hits while walking two batters. It appears that he’s set for a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire soon.
Last Week’s Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB
No. 5 Prospect: D.J. Davis, Outfielder, Class A Lansing
2014 Stats: 44 G, 183 AB, .224/.287/.355, 4 HR, 22 R, 25 RBI, 8 2B, 2 3B, 5 SB, 9 CS
D.J. Davis is arguably the best athlete in Toronto’s farm system and one of the fastest players in the entire minor leagues. But, raw tools alone aren’t enough, and Davis’ development as a baseball player has been rather slow.
He’s a career .239 hitter in the minors and has struck out in nearly 40 percent of his total at-bats. The outfielder has also been a poor base stealer, despite his plus speed, getting caught 27 times in 70 attempts.
This past week, Davis’ struggles with the bat continued as he had just two hits in 17 at-bats while striking out seven times.
It’s worth noting, though, that Davis is just 19 and has plenty of time to shore up his weaknesses. Not everyone develops like Mike Trout after all.
Last Week’s Stats: 4 G, 2-for-17, 2 BB, 1 3B, 2 R, 1 CS
No. 6 Prospect: Mitch Nay, Third Baseman, Class A Lansing
2014 Stats: 48 G, 186 AB, .263/.325/.344, 2 HR, 23 R, 26 RBI, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 SB, 2 CS
Ever since making his professional debut in 2013, Mitch Nay has shown himself to be a productive hitter.
The 20-year-old hit .300 in 230 at-bats with the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Appalachian League last season. He also led the league in RBI with 42.
Playing in Lansing this season, the third baseman’s numbers have slightly fallen off from last year. But that was to be expected with the higher level of competition. He’s coming off a rough week where he hit just .120 in 25 at-bats.
It’ll be up to Nay to make adjustments in order to deal with the tougher pitching that he’s now facing. But the future still looks bright for the Blue Jays’ No. 6 prospect.
Last Week’s Stats: 6 G, 4-for-25, 2 BB, 1 R
No. 7 Prospect: Alberto Tirado, Right-Handed Pitcher, Class a Lansing
2014 Stats: 1-1 W/L, 10 G, 5 GS, 3.48 ERA, 33.2 IP (Alternating Starts)
While Sanchez and Stroman get all the hype, Alberto Tirado remains one of the more intriguing prospects in the Blue Jays’ farm system.
The right-hander features an electric fastball that has been clocked at 98 mph. His slider is also an above-average pitch already and has the potential to develop into a plus pitch in the future.
The Blue Jays have been careful to bring the 19-year-old along slowly. While he remains a starting pitcher, they’ve had him alternate between starting and relieving every five days.
In a start last week, Tirado pitched four innings of three-run ball. He also gave up seven hits. It's not an ideal start, but it's certainly not a bad one either.
Last Week’s Stats: 1 GS, 4 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 1 BB
No. 9 Prospect: Dawel Lugo, Shortstop, Class A Lansing
2014 Stats: 41 G, 165 AB, .279/.306/.352, 1 HR, 18 R, 13 RBI, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 SB
Like Nay, Dawel Lugo is a prospect regarded more for his bat than for his defense or speed.
The 19-year-old hit a combined .284 for Bluefield and Vancouver in 2013 and is hitting .279 in 165 at-bats this season for Lansing.
Lugo has above-average power for a shortstop and hit seven home runs in just 272 at-bats last season. While his power numbers are down a bit to start off this year, they’re bound to go up as long as he keeps making contact.
After a hot stretch last week where he had 10 hits in 21 at-bats, look for the right-handed-hitter to go on a roll from here on out.
Last Week’s Stats: 5 G, 10-for-21, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 3B
No. 10 Prospect: Sean Nolin, Left-Handed Pitcher, Triple-A Buffalo
2014 Stats: 2-2 W/L, 7 GS, 2.70 ERA, 40 IP
Aside from Stroman, Sean Nolin is likely the only other pitcher in Toronto’s farm system who will garner consideration to be promoted to the major leagues this season.
Unlike some of the other pitching prospects on this list, Nolin doesn’t have overpowering skills, and his fastball usually tops out in the low-90s. But, the left-hander has good control and can consistently throw all of his pitches for strikes.
If the 24-year-old can’t find a spot on the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, he’s sure to carve out a niche in the team’s bullpen as the long reliever or a lefty specialist.
Nolin did not pitch last week. He is currently on the seven-day disabled list with a groin strain.
Last Week’s Stats: N/A
No. 11 Prospect: A.J. Jimenez, Catcher, Double-A New Hampshire
2014 Stats: 25 G, 94 AB, .223/.275/.340, 1 HR, 11 R, 13 RBI, 8 2B, 1 SB
Just a few seasons ago, the Blue Jays arguably had the deepest group of catchers in the entire minor leagues. Now—with JP Arencibia, Travis D’arnaud, Yan Gomes and Carlos Perez all out of the organization—A.J. Jimenez remains the only catching prospect in the team’s top-20 prospects list.
Jimenez is already ready for the major leagues from a defensive standpoint. He’s got a great arm and has thrown out a whopping 40 percent of potential base stealers in the minors.
The 24-year-old’s offensive game is still a work-in-progress however. After hitting .276 in 203 at-bats at Double-A New Hampshire last year, Jimenez has struggled there this season. He only had two hits in 19 at-bats last week.
Last Week’s Stats: 4 G, 2-for-19
No. 12 Prospect: Chase De Jong, Right-Handed Pitcher, Class A Lansing
2014 Stats: 0-1, 9 G, 7 GS, 3.72 ERA, 36.1 IP
It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to classify Chase De Jong as a right-handed version of Sean Nolin. He doesn’t have hard stuff or a particular plus pitch, relying more on his control in order to get batters out.
But, it’s worth noting that unlike Nolin, De Jong is still only 20 years old and has a chance to add more muscle on his frame as he grows older. That might add more velocity to his pitches down the line.
Toronto’s No. 12 prospect had a good start last week, giving up two runs in five innings pitched while striking out three.
Last Week’s Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 2 ER, 6 H
*All stats are from MILB.com
**Prospect rankings according to MLB.com
***No. 3 prospect Roberto Osuna has not played this season and is not on this list.
****No. 8 prospect Franklin Barreto has not played this season and is not on this list.