Toronto Blue Jays Prospects: B/R's Top 15 Breakdown, Post 2014 Draft
Thanks to a special set of circumstances, Toronto was able to use its first three picks of the draft to snag three players featured on MLB.com’s Top 20 Draft Prospects list.
As many readers will no doubt remember, the Blue Jays gutted their minor league depth a couple of offseasons ago when the team made two high-profile trades and dealt away several of its top prospects.
So acquiring three top-rated talents in this year’s draft was a huge boost for Toronto’s system.
Not surprisingly, the influx of new players has shaken up the Blue Jays’ top-15 prospects list. Let’s take a look at how that list shapes out now post-draft.
No. 1 Prospect: Aaron Sanchez, Right-Handed Pitcher, Double-A New Hampshire
Aaron Sanchez remains the Blue Jays’ top prospect, and many scouts project the right-hander to develop into a front-line starting pitcher in the major leagues.
The 21-year-old possesses an upper-90s fastball with late movement. His curveball is also considered to be a plus pitch, and his changeup has the potential to be an above-average offering as well.
The results have been mixed for Sanchez this season at Double-A New Hampshire. While he has only given up 48 hits in 59.1 innings pitched, he has also walked 39 batters during that span.
As someone who is expected to be in the mix to make the big league team next year, Sanchez needs to work on improving his command this season.
No. 2 Prospect: Marcus Stroman, Right-Handed Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman is still the team’s No. 2 prospect, but he may not be featured on this list for much longer if his recent stint in the major leagues becomes a permanent one.
Following his second call-up of the season to the Blue Jays, Stroman has looked dominant. The 23-year-old has made two starts for Toronto, winning both and giving up just two earned runs. If he can maintain that level of success, he should to able to stay in the big leagues for good.
As Blue Jays fans are no doubt aware of by now, Stroman may lack size but he’s got great stuff. The 5’9” right-hander features a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider.
No. 3 Prospect: Jeff Hoffman, Right-Handed Pitcher, No. 9 Pick in 2014 Draft
After being selected by the Blue Jays with the ninth overall pick of the 2014 draft, Jeff Hoffman quickly becomes one of the team’s best prospects.
Heading into the 2014 season, Hoffman was actually projected as a potential top-three pick. But the right-hander injured his elbow shortly before the draft and required Tommy John surgery. This significantly hurt his stock, and he ended up falling to Toronto.
When he was healthy, the 21-year-old Hoffman was throwing his fastball in the mid- to upper-90s and also possessed a devastating power curveball. He had above-average control of all his pitches, leading many scouts to believe that he would reach the major leagues quickly.
The Tommy John surgery means that Hoffman won’t pitch this year. He’ll likely start his minor league career during the second half of the 2015 season if his recovery goes according to plan.
No. 4 Prospect: Daniel Norris, Left-Handed Pitcher, Class A Advanced Dunedin
Daniel Norris has steadily been moving up through the Blue Jays’ depth chart after a dominant showing so far this season.
In 12 starts for Dunedin, the left-hander is 5-0 with a microscopic 1.32 ERA. He’s also given up just 49 hits and allowed only 16 walks in 61.1 innings pitched, striking out 73 batters over that span.
The 21-year-old Norris features a plus fastball that typically sits in the 92-94 mph range. He also throws a full assortment of offspeed pitches (slider, curveball and changeup) that all have the potential to be above-average offerings in the future.
The Blue Jays will likely promote Norris to Double-A very soon if he keeps this performance up. After that, it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a candidate to be called up to the major leagues.
No. 5 Prospect: Roberto Osuna, Right-Handed Pitcher
Roberto Osuna was another rapidly rising prospect in Toronto’s system until Tommy John surgery halted his development this season.
The 19-year-old features a mid-90s fastball with the changeup being his second-best pitch. Scouts have also lauded him for his exceptional control.
Pitching aside, Osuna’s size is a bit of a concern. The 6’2” right-hander already weighs 230 pounds. He’ll need to work on his conditioning to ensure that his weight won’t potentially become an issue going forward.
Considering that he underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2013, Osuna will likely miss most of the 2014 season rehabbing his elbow.
No. 6 Prospect: Max Pentecost, Catcher, No. 11 Pick in 2014 Draft
Selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Max Pentecost becomes the top position player in the Blue Jays farm system.
Unlike most catchers that have heavy builds, Pentecost is very athletic and agile for his position. He runs well on the base paths and also has a good throwing arm.
Offensively, the right-handed batter has gap-to-gap power and won’t hit too many home runs. But he has a short swing and makes solid contact with the ball, leading many to believe that he’ll hit for a high average.
Even though he was just drafted, being a polished college player means that Pentecost likely won’t have to spend a lot of time in the minor leagues before earning a call-up to the majors.
No. 7 Prospect: Alberto Tirado, Right-Handed Pitcher, Class A Lansing
Alberto Tirado is yet another flamethrowing pitching prospect in Toronto’s minor league system.
The 19-year-old’s fastball already sits in the mid-90s and tops out at a whopping 98 mph. His slider is also an above-average pitch already. It’s possible that Tirado’s velocity increases even more as he grows older and adds more muscle to his body.
As evidenced by his 39 walks allowed in 40.1 innings pitched this season, control remains the biggest issue for the young right-hander. But the tools are all there for the Dominican to become a front-line starter in the future, and the Blue Jays will bring him along slowly.
No. 8 Prospect: D.J. Davis, Outfielder, Class A Lansing
D.J. Davis is one of the most athletic outfielders in the entire minor leagues. He’s also easily the fastest player in the Blue Jays system.
Unfortunately for the 19-year-old, his offense has lagged behind the other aspects of his game. In 55 games with Lansing this season, the left-handed batter has hit just .229/.289/.359. He’s also struck out in 36 percent of his total at-bats.
Despite having an average throwing arm, the center fielder profiles as a plus defender thanks to his speed that lets him cover a lot of ground.
Davis’ ascent through the minor leagues will be determined by how well his bat develops.
No. 9 Prospect: Sean Reid-Foley, Right-Handed Pitcher, No. 49 Pick in 2014 Draft
Despite being rated as one of the top 20 draft prospects by MLB.com, Sean Reid-Foley fell all the way to No. 49 before finally being selected by the Blue Jays during the second round of the 2014 draft.
The right-hander likely saw his stock drop because teams didn’t feel confident in getting him to sign with them and didn’t want to risk wasting a pick by drafting him.
Provided that Toronto can sign him away from a commitment to Florida State University, Reid-Foley would make a great addition to the team’s stockpile of minor league arms.
The 18-year-old possesses a lower-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph. He also has a plus slider, and both his curveball and changeup have the potential to be above-average pitches in the future.
No. 10 Prospect: Mitch Nay, Third Baseman, Class A Lansing
Mitch Nay has steadily emerged as one of the best hitters in Toronto’s farm system.
The 20-year-old has a short and compact swing that he uses to make solid contact with the ball. He also generates a lot of bat speed, which in turn allows him to hit for power.
Nay has a great eye at the plate and doesn’t get cheated. He has almost as many walks (22) as strikeouts (28) in 61 games played with Lansing this season.
The other aspects of Nay’s game aren’t quite as advanced yet. He doesn’t have great range at third base, and his speed is considered to be below-average. The bat should take him to the next level though.
No. 11 Prospect: Dawel Lugo, Shortstop, Class A Lansing
Like Franklin Barreto and Mitch Nay, Dawel Lugo is another infield prospect in the Blue Jays system known more for his offensive prowess than anything else.
The right-handed batter has hit .300/.330/.362 in 52 games with Lansing this season. He creates good bat speed with his swing and gets the barrel on the ball consistently. This also gives him above-average power for his position.
While the 19-year-old has a good throwing arm, his below-average range and speed likely mean that he won’t stick at the shortstop position as he grows older. But he should be able to play second or third base effectively.
No. 12 Prospect: Franklin Barreto, Shortstop
Franklin Barreto has quickly become one of the Blue Jays’ top infield prospects since signing with team in 2012 as an international free agent.
The 18-year-old has a quick swing and drives the ball to all fields. Due to his below-average power, the right-handed batter is more of a gap-to-gap hitter at this point. It’s possible that his power numbers improve as he gets older and becomes stronger.
Barreto also has good speed on the base paths and should put up a decent number of stolen bases. He has an above-average throwing arm as well.
On the downside, Barreto’s range at shortstop is questionable, and it’s possible he might be moved to another infield position going forward.
No. 13 Prospect: Sean Nolin, Left-Handed Pitcher, Triple-A Buffalo
Sean Nolin doesn’t have the ceiling of an Aaron Sanchez or Alberto Tirado, but he’s arguably the most polished pitcher in Toronto’s minor league system right now.
The left-hander throws his fastball in the low-90s. He also features several average offspeed pitches that he can locate to both sides of the plate.
While Nolin won’t blow anyone way with his stuff at the major league level, his ability to throw strikes makes him a dependable pitcher at the back end of the rotation or in the bullpen as a lefty specialist.
Look for the 24-year-old to make his 2014 debut with Blue Jays sometime this summer.
No. 14 Prospect: A.J. Jimenez, Catcher, Triple-A Buffalo
A.J. Jimenez now becomes the No. 2 catcher in the Blue Jays farm system following the team’s acquisition of Max Pentecost.
Jimenez’s main strength is his defense. He’s a good receiver behind the plate and also possesses a strong throwing arm. During his minor league career, the catcher has thrown out nearly 40 percent of base stealers.
The 24-year-old’s offense still needs more work though. He can sometimes get overaggressive at the plate and swing at bad pitches. Jimenez has also displayed below-average power throughout his career, never hitting more than five home runs during a single season.
The Blue Jays are set at the catching position for now with Dioner Navarro. Max Pentecost is being labeled as the catcher of the future, making it unlikely for Jimenez to ever become the No. 1 catcher for the team at the major league level.
No. 15 Prospect: Chase De Jong, Right-Handed Pitcher, Class A Lansing
Like Sean Nolin, Chase De Jong is a pitcher who relies more on location and command rather than pure stuff in order to get hitters out.
The 20-year-old possesses a low-90s fastball with movement. He also features an average curveball and changeup as his secondary pitches. It’s worth noting that the right-hander’s stuff still has a chance to improve with age.
De Jong has struggled this season at Lansing, posting a 4.82 ERA in 10 starts. Giving up home runs has been an issue for him, and he has allowed six long balls in just 46.2 innings pitched.
Because of their pitching depth in the minors, the Blue Jays can afford to be patient with De Jong and let him iron out his problems before pushing him further.
*Jeff Hoffman, Max Pentecost and Sean Reid-Foley have not signed a professional contract with the Blue Jays as of June, 9, 2014.
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