I’m not a Blue Jays fan. I’m actually a Phillies fan. But I’m trying to learn the minor leagues better, so I’ve been ranking each team’s prospects the way I see fit. So far, I’ve completed the Astros , A's , Angels , and Diamondbacks , and now it’s the Jays' turn.
I have tried to stay away from looking at Baseball America's 2010 rankings because I don’t want to second-guess my list until it’s done. While I don’t want Baseball America to affect my list, I would like to hear from Jays fans. If I forgot someone, had someone too high, or put someone on the list that doesn’t deserve to be there, please let me know.
I now present the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 prospects.
1. JP Arencibia, C (Will be 24 when the season starts)
When the Jays drafted Arencibia in the first round (21st overall) in 2007, they had visions of him flying through their system and becoming their future backstop. Arencibia is in line to do just that.
The former Tennessee Volunteer had a great 2008 season playing for High Class A Dunedin and then getting promoted to AA New Hampshire. His combined 2008 season stat line is as follows: .298/27/105 with 152 H, 36 2B, 101 K, 18 BB, and an .850 OPS in 510 AB. He just crushed pitchers last season.
The Jays believed that Arencibia was ready for AAA and promoted him to start the 2009 campaign in Las Vegas, playing for the 51's. He spent the entire 2009 season in AAA, where his power numbers carried over from the previous season, but his batting average did not. His stats: .236/21/75 with 32 2B, 110 H, 114 K, 26 BB, and an OPS of .728 in 466 AB.
When you look at what he was able to accomplish in '08, you might think that '09 might have been a bit of a downer—but I will beg to differ. In 2008, Arencibia crushed pitchers in both High A and AA, but he failed to draw walks (18) and struck out far too much (101). While 101 strikeouts isn’t too bad considering he had 510 at-bats, it is when you consider he only had 18 free passes to first.
The best thing for Arencibia is that his bat found the ball more times than not for a hit, but he still needed to work on his plate discipline going into 2009. In 2009, he drew more walks (26) in less at-bats (466) than he did the previous season. His batting average suffered, but that also could be because of the quality of pitchers he was facing.
Arencibia's 21 home runs he hit were good for third in the Jays system among minor leaguers. His 75 RBI ranked him No. 5 among that same bunch. In 2008, he actually led all Jays minor leaguers in RBI and was ranked second in the home run category. It goes without saying that he projects as your typical power-hitting catcher in the majors.
Arencibia should hit the majors at some point this season, with the Jays looking to go for a youth movement. While he projects as the power-hitting catcher, it will be important for him to show that same batting average in the majors that he showed in the 2008 season. I think he should—and will—start out the 2010 season in AAA Las Vegas with a September call-up, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities for him to be called up before that or even make the club out of spring training.
2. Brett Wallace-3B (Will be 24 in August)
He was traded two times in five months, so there’s got to be something wrong with him, right? Wrong!
The former 2008 first-round pick (13th overall) was traded to the Oakland A's for Matt Holliday in July. In September, he was one of the players involved in a four-team trade that also involved Roy Halladay. Wallace has been traded a lot, but he has been traded for some of the game’s best players—a testament to his potential and ability.
Wallace started out the 2009 season for the Springfield Cardinals (AA). The former Arizona Sun Devil hit .281/5/16 with 22 R and an .840 OPS in 128 AB. From there, the Cardinals called him up to their AAA team in Memphis, where he posted a .293/6/19 with 22 R, and a .769 OPS in 222 AB.
Then he got traded to Oakland and was placed on its AAA team, the Sacramento River Cats. In Sacramento. Wallace posted a stat line of .302/9/28 with 32 R, with an .870 in 182 AB.
While that might not look amazing, you combine his numbers for the entire 2009 season and, you realize his talent.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: .293/20/63 with 76 R, 156 H, 26 2B, and an .822 OBP.
Wallace has been one of the better third-base prospects to come around recently, and in Toronto, he should get a good opportunity to play often with them looking to get younger.
He should start the season out in AAA Las Vegas, where he will team with Arencibia to form a formidable 1-2 combo of power. I expect him to be one of the first to be called up to the majors if an injury occurs to the big club, but like Arencibia, he could make the club out of spring training as a bench player. If this happens, I wouldn’t be surprised if by August he is platooning with Edwin Encarnacion at the hot corner for the Jays.
3. Kyle Drabek-RHP (Will be 22 at the start of the season)
You know a prospect is good when a GM refuses to trade him for Roy Halladay. The son of former NL Cy Young winner Doug Drabek has been one of the most anticipated prospects to come through the Phillies system in years and wasn’t easy to give up.
After returning in the 2008 season from Tommy John surgery, Drabek was sent to High Class A Clearwater. There he posted a 4-1 record with a 2.48 ERA, along with 74 K, 19 BB in 61.2 IP. His 74 strikeouts he had while in the Florida State League was best among all FSL pitchers at the time of his promotion to AA Reading.
In Reading, he compiled an 8-2 record with a 3.64 ERA. He tacked on 76 strikeouts to the 74 he had in Clearwater, along with 31 BB in 96.1 IP. He was a FSL All-Star and the second pitcher for Team USA in the 2009 Futures Game, posting a scoreless second inning with 1 strikeout.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA, 150 K, 50 BB, Opponents BA of .239 in 158 IP.
I’m not a fan of Drabek. By now, Jays fans have heard about his fastball that tops out at 93 mph but has bite at the end of it. You may have even salivated at the thought of seeing his 12-6 curve ball that drops like the stock market. I know you hope he turns out to be the future ace of the Jays, but I just don’t see it.
Drabek came into the Phillies organization as a brat (and I’m being kind using just that word). He figured because his dad was Doug Drabek that he was already good to go. He found out in rookie ball that it doesn’t work like that and you actually have to work at your craft. With the Tommy John surgery, his ego got deflated a bit, according to many people in the organization, but I think it may have risen back up last season.
Last season, the only prospect casual Phillies fans knew was Drabek. People who had no business talking about this kid were giving their "insight" on what should be done with him. Comcast Sports Net (like our local Sportscenter) was broadcasting highlights of his games and interviews. It got to the point where if you didn’t know any better, you would think he was their only player.
This is all speculation on my part, but I think it’s hard not to be full of yourself when everyone in Philly is talking about you, TV stations want to interview you, and the local newspapers are doing in-depth interviews with you. I didn’t understand because I could name four or five pitchers in the system that I thought were going to be better than Drabek.
I see Drabek as no more than a good No. 3 in the majors. I was begging for Phillies GM Rueben Amaro to include him in a trade for Halladay and was furious when he didn’t pull the trigger (elated when he reconsidered). I think Drabek is a Cole Hamels clone.
In Philly, Cole Hamels could do just about anything and would still get a standing ovation as he walks off the field. He has a sense of entitlement with an ERA above four. He thinks he is God’s gift to baseball.
I was worried that the same could happen with Drabek if he starts off his ML career with a good start. Look, I could be dead wrong on Drabek, and he could be a future All-Star Cy Young—it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I was completely wrong regarding a prospect. Good news, however, for Jays fans last season was his real first full season of his pro career, and he posted a 3.19 ERA between two levels.
While his numbers certainly justify his top prospect status, his work ethic needs to remain with him if he wants to excel at the next level.
4. Zachary Stewart-RHP (Will be 24 in September)
One of the pieces in the deal that sent Scott Rolen to Cincinnati, Zach Stewart could look to make an impact this year. Since being drafted in the third round of the 2008 MLB Draft, Stewart breezed through the Reds system, making it all the way to High Class A Sarasota by the end of the season. In 2009, he started the season out in Sarasota, where in seven games (seven starts), he had a 2.13 ERA and was moved up to the Reds AA team, the Carolina Mudcats.
In seven starts for the Cats, he had a 1.76 ERA, and he was called up to the Reds AAA team, the Louisville Bats. He played with the Bats, but this time as a reliever, where in nine games, he posted a .73 ERA before being traded in July.
Stewart didn’t find the same success with Las Vegas that he did with Louisville, posting a 3.38 ERA in 11 games to finish the season. All 11 games, 13.1 innings pitched, were in relief for the 51's.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: 4-1 record with a 1.89 ERA, 34 Games, 14 starts, for a total of 105 IP. Had 93 K, 32 BB, 3 HR and had a ground ball/fly ball ratio of 2.06.
The big thing with Stewart is, how will the Jays use him: as a starter or a reliever? He has proven at every level that he is capable of being both, but he wasn’t used as a starter at all in AAA for either the Reds or Jays. What really helps Stewart is he induces a ton of ground balls which, in turn, leads to a low number of home runs given up. I would fully expect him to start the season in Las Vegas with a possible call-up for maybe a spot start. If the Jays think of him as a reliever, he could make the team out of spring training. I would like to see him as a starter, though, and see what he can do in AAA against more experienced hitters.
5. Darin Mastroianni-OF (Will be 25 in August)
I didn’t want to put Mastroianni on this list. I’m not big on putting anyone on a prospect list who is nearly 25 and isn’t in the show. But as much as I tried to think of reasons, other than his age, to exclude him from the list, I could not. His stats are just too good to ignore.
A 16th round pick in the 2007 draft, Mastroianni went from virtual unknown to fifth on my list.
Mastroianni started out his 2009 season playing for High Class A Dunedin Blue Jays. He hit .325/0/26 along with 55 R, 32 SB, in 231 AB. There's not much pop off his bat, but it’s not in the outfielder’s nature; he’s a pure speed demon on the base paths. Hitting atop the Jays lineup and effectively wrecking havoc on the base paths earned Mastroianni a call-up to AA New Hampshire.
At New Hampshire, his batting average went down, but of course, that was expected with the transition from High A to AA. At New Hampshire, he hit .271/1/25 with 39 R, 38 SB, in 247 AB. While his batting average slipped a bit in New Hampshire, everything else in Mastroianni's game carried over from High A.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: .297 BA, 1 HR, 57 RBI, 21 2B, 4 3B, 70 SB, 15 CS, 83 K, 76 BB, with a .762 OPS in 478 AB.
Mastroianni's 70 stolen bases last season was the best in the Jays' entire minor league system. His 142 hits were fifth among Jays minor leaguers, and his .398 on-base percentage was ranked No. 1 among everyone in the Jays system.
He is exactly what you want your lead-off man too do. He draws walks, steals bags, and hits for average. I would expect Mastroianni to start next season in AA again with a possible quick promotion to AAA. With his age, he is also a strong possibility to be put in Las Vegas to start the season as well.
6. David Cooper-1B (Will be 23 to start the season)
The former California Golden Bear was drafted in the first round (17th overall) in the 2008 draft as the future first baseman for the Jays. With Lyle Overbay aging quickly, Cooper might get his shot quicker than originally expected. Passing through three different levels in 2008, he looked to capitalize on opportunity in 2009.
Cooper started—and spent the entire season—in AA New Hampshire. Cooper isn’t exactly your typical first baseman, meaning he’s not going to bring the lumber. While most first basemen are power hitters, Cooper is more of a contact hitter whose ceiling for home runs is around 10 to 15 instead of 25 to 30.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: .258/10/66 with 32 2B, 92 K, 59 BB, in 473 AB.
You may be thinking that these numbers aren’t exactly stellar, but this was his first year in AA. Many scouts say that the transition from A to AA is a true test of a prospect's worth. The difference in talent can be seen instantly upon arriving.
I’m interested to see how he does next season with a full year under his belt in AA.
In my mind, Cooper projects as a possible six-hole hitter. If his average in the majors looks like the one he put up in the 2008 season (.333), he could be a viable option in the three hole. I would expect Cooper to not see any time in the majors this year but possibly in the 2011 season with a midseason call-up.
7. Sean Ochinko-C (Will be 22 at the start of the season)
If prospects want notes on how to make an impression in their first season, they should just follow what Sean Ochinko did in his.
The Louisiana State alumnus was taken in the 2009 draft in the 11th round and immediately started making an impact for the organization. Upon signing with the team, Ochinko was sent to the NYP League's Auburn Doubledays (Low A). Ochinko embarrassed NYP league pitching and in turn ended the season at the top of many of Auburn's offensive stat categories.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: .324/6/32 with 20 2B, 26 K, 16 BB, a .908, in 188 AB.
I think Ochinko has earned a promotion next season to Dunedin, which would let him bypass Class A Lansing. With the type of numbers he put up next year, it’s time to find out if he will have a repeat performance or fall back down to Earth.
8. Moises Sierra-RF (Will turn 22 in September)
Sierra started last season out in High A Dunedin but managed to make it to AA New Hampshire by season’s end. In Dunedin, he posted a stat line that read: .286/5/56 with 24 2B, 3 3B, 10 SB, 66 K, 34 BB, in 405 AB. They're solid numbers for High A. In his short time in New Hampshire, Sierra showed his potential, hitting .353/1/6 in 34 AB for the Fisher Cats.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: .292/6/62 with 25 2B, 2 3B, 57 R, 74 K, 35 BB, in 429 AB
He will be the starting right fielder in AA next season. While nothing is jumping off the page at you in his stat line you, have to realize the talent it takes to get to AA at age 21.
Sierra also won the 2009 Webster Award for Dunedin, which is given to the MVP of each level in the Jays' system.
Sierra's best asset is his right arm—a cannon that can gun down runners at home.
Don’t expect to see Sierra for maybe three years. If I were the Jays, I would progress the kid slowly and let him build some confidence at the AA level. While new GM Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t called me and asked my opinion, if he did, I would say he needs to be in New Hampshire for the entire 2009 season.
9. Brad Emaus-2B (Will turn 24 in March)
A teammate of No. 6 prospect David Cooper, Brad Emaus shows up at No. 8 on the list. Like Cooper, Emaus had a wonderful 2008 season, where he played for High A Dunedin, hitting .302/12/71 and posting more walks (60) than strikeouts (56). He was promoted to AA New Hampshire to start the 2009 campaign, when he saw a slight drop-off in production.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: .253/10/67 with 28 2B, 10 SB, 69 K, 59 BB, a .336 OBP in 505 AB.
His average dropped nearly 50 points, but everything else virtually stayed the same. His ability to get on base and avoid striking out a lot is what impressed me. While in 2009, he had 10 more strikeouts (69) than walks (59), that’s still extremely good.
He, in many ways, is the second base version of Cooper. He’s never going to hit 25 home runs, but his average should always be respectable. With his ability to get on base, he should have a job for some years now. The reason he is listed lower than Cooper is because of Aaron Hill, who could be the best second baseman in the league.
I would expect Emaus to join Cooper next season in New Hampshire again. Just like Cooper, I also don’t expect him to see any time in the majors next season, with 2011 being a more reasonable timeline.
10. Jose Vargas-LHP (Will turn 20 in July)
Vargas was by far the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays' best player.
COMBINED 2009 STATS: 6-3 record with an 1.34 ERA, 18 games with six starts, and one complete game. Vargas had 51 strikeouts, 17 walks, holding opponents to a .211 batting average. He pitched in 67 innings and gave up no home runs.
While his zero home runs is very impressive, I’ve noticed no one seems to be able to hit home runs in the DSL. With that said, everything else is impressive.
Vargas' six wins, 1.34 ERA, and 67 innings pitched were best among all pitchers on the DSL Jays. His ERA was ranked No. 6 in the entire DSL.
What are the Blue Jays going to do with him? Is he a starter or a reliever? Last season he dabbled in both and had success.
He should head to the States next season, pitching for one of the Rookie Ball teams the Jays have. It’s never bad to have a young lefty who’s only 19 in your system, especially when they put up the numbers Vargas did last season.