Toronto Blue Jays' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 5, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

0 of 13

    USA TODAY Sports

    Marcus Stroman’s graduation to big league starter last season put a temporary dent in the Toronto Blue Jays' system, but right-hander Aaron Sanchez, lefty Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey each picked up the slack in his absence, as all three prospects finished the year in the major leagues.

    Sanchez, who spent most of 2014 between the Double- and Triple-A levels, proved to be a force out of the Blue Jays bullpen following a late-July promotion, showcasing an upper-90s fastball and devastating breaking ball while saving three games in late September. Meanwhile, Norris and Pompey ultimately joined Sanchez in Toronto for the final month of the season to complete their respective meteoric rises through the minor leagues.

    As for the draft, getting right-hander Jeff Hoffman with the No. 9 overall pick, assuming he makes it all the way back from Tommy John surgery, was like adding a top-five draft talent at a bargain price. Max Pentecost, the No. 11 overall pick, was viewed as the best catcher in the draft class with good potential on both sides of the ball, but he’ll miss a sizable portion of the 2015 season after undergoing labrum surgery.

    It’s worth noting that Toronto’s offseason acquisition of third baseman Josh Donaldson from the A’s did cost the team three top-10-caliber prospects in pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, both of whom have MLB experience, as well as 18-year-old Franklin Barreto, one of the better shortstop prospects in the minors. However, they did acquire Devon Travis, an all-around solid second-base prospect, in exchange for Anthony Gose.

    The Blue Jays also have a crop of promising young arms spread out across their lower levels, a group that includes right-handers Miguel Castro, Roberto Osuna, Alberto Tirado and Sean Reid-Foley and lefties Jairo Labourt and Matt Smoral.

    Here are the Toronto Blue Jays’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

1 of 13

    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

2 of 13

    Richard Urena, SS

    Mitch Nay, 3B

    Dawel Lugo, SS

    Alberto Tirado, RHP

    Dwight Smith Jr., OF

10. Jairo Labourt, LHP

3 of 13

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 03/07/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 204 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (SS/A): 21 G/18 GS, 85.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .207 BAA, 0.1 HR/9, 6.0 BB/9, 9.8 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60555045

    Scouting Report

    Jairo Labourt received an aggressive assignment to Low-A Lansing to begin 2014, bypassing the short-season level, but his control problems resulted in 20 walks in 14 innings, followed by a demotion to Short Season Vancouver. Although his control was still shaky at Vancouver (6.02 BB/9), the 20-year-old left-hander showcased a knack both for missing bats and inducing weak contact.

    At 6’4”, 204 pounds, Labourt is a physically strong left-hander who uses his size to create plane toward the plate. He’ll work in the low 90s with his fastball, at times touching 94-95 mph, and it’s easy to see him possibly adding a few more ticks in the years to come. Labourt’s slider has good tilt and depth and looks like a potential swing-and-miss pitch when he’s on, but overall it’s too inconsistent in terms of velocity and shape. The 20-year-old also throws a changeup with decent fade, albeit on the firm side, and he’ll need to develop the pitch thoroughly as he moves up the ladder.

    As is the case with many big-bodied young pitchers, Labourt’s control problems stem from an inability to repeat his delivery and release point. However, the upside is there for a mid-rotation starter, and he’s a candidate to move quickly once the mechanical issues are resolved—similar to Daniel Norris last year.

    Ceiling (Overall Future Potential): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter) — Extreme Risk

9. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP

4 of 13

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/30/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 220 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Sandalwood HS, Fla.)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats (Rk): 9 G/6 GS, 22.2 IP, 4.76 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .244 BAA, 0.0 HR/9, 4.0 BB/9, 9.9 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderCurveballChangeupControl
    6060505050

    Scouting Report

    Sean Reid-Foley was viewed as one of the more polished prep arms in the 2014 class, with the makings of an advanced four-pitch mix and strong feel for pitching. However, he ultimately fell to the Blue Jays in the second round, who gave him a $1.1 million-plus signing bonus and assigned him to the Gulf Coast League.

    A 6’3”, 220-pound right-hander, Reid-Foley produces a fastball in the low 90s with hard arm-side run, while his athleticism and fluid arm action suggest his command of the pitch will improve. He throws two different breaking balls, a slider and curveball, with the former representing the better offering, as it’s thrown in the low- to mid-80s with good tilt and late bite. Reid-Foley’s changeup also shows promise, and further development of the pitch should help the rest of his secondary arsenal play up as well.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 or 4 starter) — Extreme Risk

8. Miguel Castro, RHP

5 of 13

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/24/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Acquired: 2012 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (SS/A/A+): 16 G/15 GS, 80.2 IP, 2.68 ERA, 0.992 WHIP, .178 BAA, 0.7 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 8.7 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70605050

    Scouting Report

    Miguel Castro put himself on the prospect map last season with a strong showing in his first taste of both short- and full-season baseball, even finishing the year at High-A Dunedin. However, he spent most of the season in the Northwest League, were he pitched to a 2.15 ERA, held opposing hitters to a .202 average and piled up 53 strikeouts in 50.1 innings.

    Beyond his projectable 6’5”, 190-pound frame, Castro, 20, already shows big-time arm strength, with a fastball that works consistently in the 92-95 mph range and scrapes a few ticks higher. His athletic delivery allows him to command the offering better than most pitchers his age, and his quick arm suggests that he’ll be able to develop a sharp slider and a potentially average changeup.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter) — High Risk

7. Roberto Osuna, RHP

6 of 13

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/07/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 230 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2010 (Mexico)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (Rk/A+): 8 GS, 23 IP, 6.26 ERA, 1.609 WHIP, .308 BAA, 1.2 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, 12.5 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    65605550

    Scouting Report

    Roberto Osuna missed a majority of the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he returned late in the summer to log 22 innings at High-A Dunedin, followed by a trip to the Arizona Fall League.

    Working out the bullpen in the AFL, the 19-year-old right-hander showcased a fastball that consistently sat in the 93-95 mph range and topped out at 96 mph. His curveball was inconsistent, which is understandable given the recent elbow surgery, but it had flashes of a potential above-average offering with tight spin and hard biting action. Osuna’s changeup is an intriguing pitch, as it registered roughly 15 mph off his heater at 79-81 mph, with late drop out of the zone.

    There’s obviously a huge gap between Osuna’s present and future, but it’s encouraging that the right-hander’s stuff has already returned to pre-surgery form.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter/Late-inning reliever) — High Risk

6. Devon Travis, 2B

7 of 13

    Position: 2B

    DOB: 02/21/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 13th round, 2012 by Tigers (Florida State)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR (Tigers)

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (AA): 100 G, 441 PA, .298/.358/.460, 31.4 XBH%, 10 HR, 16 SB, 9.3 BB%, 13.6 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5545505055

    Scouting Report

    An oblique injury limited Devon Travis to only 100 games in 2014, but the 23-year-old still managed to put up impressive numbers in the Eastern League, hitting for average and power while getting on base at a favorable clip.

    A right-handed batter, Travis achieves a deep contact point that allows him to generate consistent hard contact to all fields. He’s also a patient hitter who sees his share of pitches, which is why he’s equally adept at hitting fastballs and secondary offerings.

    And though he may be undersized at 5’9”, 195 pounds, Travis possesses both the raw power and power frequency to hit 10-12 home runs at maturity, not to mention plenty of doubles and triples. However, what I really like about Travis’ power is that it plays to all fields thanks to his ability to generate backspin carry.

    Travis is an average-at-best runner down the line, but he has the speed and quickness to steal 10-15 bases in the major leagues, possibly more if he’s getting on base at a solid clip. More importantly, Travis has enough speed to help him turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples with relative ease, as he’s an above-average runner underway.

    Travis’ defense at second base has really improved over the last two years, especially in terms of his ability to turn the double play. His range is only average, but Travis still gets to a lot balls and makes all the plays thanks to his quick feet and soft, giving hands.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (Average regular) — Low Risk

    Travis’ wide range of tools and skills give him sneaky upside as an everyday player in The Show, as he’s now surpassed expectations during his time at each full-season level. Regarding his immediate future, the 23-year-old now has a relatively clear path to playing time after an offseason trade from Detroit to Toronto, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blue Jays acquired a more experienced second baseman before Opening Day. Either way, Travis is a safe bet to reach the major leagues in 2015 and contribute in some capacity.  

5. Max Pentecost, C

8 of 13

    Position: C

    DOB: 03/10/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 191 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Kennesaw State)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (Rk/SS): 25 G, 109 PA, .324/.330/.419, 20.6 XBH%, 1.8 BB%, 19.3 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550455555

    Scouting Report

    Selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Max Pentecost made a statement with his bat in 25 games between the Rookie and Short Season levels. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old’s professional debut was cut short by labrum surgery, which will likely sideline him for much of the 2015 season.

    The right-handed hitting Pentecost features a quiet setup and simple swing mechanics, using his strong wrists and forearms to create a line-drive-oriented bat path through the zone. He has good plate discipline and sticks to an approach, looking to drive the ball back up the middle and the other way, while his balanced weight transfer allows him to stay back and drive secondary offerings.

    Pentecost projects to have slightly better-than-average power at maturity, with most of his home runs going to his pull side, though he should still pound the gaps consistently and pile up doubles. His speed (presently grade-50) makes him stand out from other catchers in the draft class, as he’s impressive athlete who can get down the line in roughly 4.2 to 4.3 seconds.

    Defensively, the 6’2”, 191-pounder’s impressive athleticism translates to excellent mobility behind the plate, allowing him to move well laterally. His blocking and receiving skills have vastly improved over the past two seasons and, along with his solid-average arm strength, produced pop times in the 1.85- to 1.95-second range prior to the his injury.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (Solid-average catcher) — High Risk

    Pentecost has the upside of a quality everyday backstop in the major leagues who can do a little bit of everything, though his ultimate ceiling will depend on his offensive development. The labrum injury obviously impacts his time line, but it shouldn’t detract from his overall potential.

4. Jeff Hoffman, RHP

9 of 13

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/08/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (East Carolina)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats: N/A

    Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    7065506050

    Scouting Report

    Selected by the Blue Jays with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Jeff Hoffman was viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick headed into the spring, and he pushed his draft stock even higher with an impressive one-hit, 16-strikeout performance against Middle Tennessee State in mid-April. However, after missing a pair of starts from late April into early May, it was announced that Hoffman would need season-ending Tommy John surgery

    But the front-of-the-rotation potential he showed in the Cape Cod League and then last spring at East Carolina gives the 21-year-old right-hander one of the higher ceilings among all pitching prospects.

    When healthy, the 6’4”, 185-pound right-hander sat in the 92-97 mph range with his fastball, and more toward the high end of that range when he’s at his best. In terms of his secondary arsenal, Hoffman employs a plus curveball that has plus-plus potential at maturity, as well as a changeup with average fading action that should develop into another weapon during his rise to the major leagues.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (No. 2 starter) — High Risk

    Given the success rate of Tommy John surgery these days, there’s no reason to believe Hoffman won’t bounce back from the surgery. Though he’ll have fallen behind the developmental curve by the time he returns to the mound in 2015, Hoffman’s athleticism and pure stuff should help make up for the lost time and put him back on course for a highly successful career in the major leagues.

3. Dalton Pompey, OF

10 of 13

    Position: CF

    DOB: 12/11/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: 16th round, 2010 (John Fraser SS, Ontario)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 113 G, 500 PA, .317/.392/.469, 28.6 XBH%, 43 SB, 10.4 BB%, 16.8 K%

    2014 MLB Stats: 17 G, 43 PA, .231/.302/.436, 2B, 3B, HR, 9.3 BB%, 27.9 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550655560

    Scouting Report

    Dalton Pompey emerged as one the game’s more intriguing power-speed prospects in 2014, as his promotion to the major leagues in September marked his fourth level of the season.

    Pompey, 22, is an exceptional athlete with a wiry-strong, 6’2”, 195-pound frame that’s ideal for adding more strength moving forward. The switch-hitter’s strong hands and quick wrists translate to plus bat speed from both sides of the plate, resulting in hard contract across the whole field. His swing is geared primarily toward stroking line drives, but he’s added some lift from both sides over the past year and begun to tap into his average raw power.

    Though he’s young and relatively inexperienced, Pompey already has a good feel for the strike zone and demonstrates pitch recognition, tracking pitches deep into the zone and working deep counts. His on-base skills also allow his plus speed to translate on the base paths, where he should swipe upward of 30 bags annually.

    Defensively, Pompey profiles as a long-term center fielder thanks to his consistently strong jumps, plus range and closing speed, and his solid-average arm strength is likely to play up at the position.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division center fielder) — Low Risk

    Toronto’s decision to trade Anthony Gose during the offseason suggests that they believe Pompey is ready to take over in center field in 2015. The 22-year-old certainly didn’t look overmatched during his month-long audition in the major leagues, but that’s not to say he won’t endure growing pains over the course of a full season. However, Pompey’s speed and defense give him the opportunity to still contribute on both sides of the ball as his promising bat continues to develop.

2. Daniel Norris, LHP

11 of 13

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 04/25/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 (Science Hill HS, Tenn.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 3

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 26 G/25 GS, 124.2 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .212 BAA, 0.5 HR/9, 3.1 BB/9, 11.8 K/9

    2014 MLB Stats: 5 G/1 GS, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 4 K

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderCurveballChangeupControl
    6060506050

    Scouting Report

    Daniel Norris struggled to find the zone early in his career, but he’s turned things around in a hurry after making a mechanical adjustment in late 2013 while at Low-A Lansing. The adjustment allowed him to execute his full arsenal both inside and outside of the strike zone in 2014, resulting in a drastically improved strikeout and walk rates.

    With four pitches that range from average to plus, including by a trio of future grade-60 offerings in a low- to mid-90s fastball, sharp slider and sinking changeup, it’s hard not to think that Norris is merely tapping the surface of his bat-missing potential. The 21-year-old always had been difficult to square up, but his knack for throwing strikes and generating whiffs last season pushed his overall effectiveness to a whole new level. He learned to induce consistently weak contact and continues to keep the ball in the yard.

    All that said, Norris still has a ways to go in terms of refining his control and command, especially when pitching with runners on base or when he’s behind in the count. Furthermore, the left-hander underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow following the season, meaning there might be some limitations to his workload in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter) — Low Risk

    Norris is one of the game’s premier left-handed pitching prospects, both in terms of present ability and overall potential. However, he’ll need to thoroughly develop his curveball and changeup and continue to make strides with his command to become an impact mid-rotation starter in the major leagues. And even if he fails to achieve his full potential, Norris’ deep arsenal and aggressive approach should help carve out a career as a back-end starter.

1. Aaron Sanchez, RHP

12 of 13

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/01/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (Barstow HS, Calif.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 2

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 22 G/22 GS, 100.1 IP, 3.95 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .243 BAA, 5.1 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

    2014 MLB Stats: 24 G, 3 SV, 33 IP, 1.09 ERA, 0.697 WHIP, .128 BAA, 0.3 HR/9, 2.5 BB/9, 7.4 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    70656045

    Scouting Report

    In Aaron Sanchez’s first taste of Double- and Triple-A levels last season, the 22-year-old right-hander saw his strikeout and walk rates trend in opposite directions, though he still proved to be difficult to barrel for opposing hitters. Still, the Blue Jays decided to promote Sanchez to the major leagues in late July and put him in the bullpen, where the right-hander emerged as a late-inning force behind three saves and a .128 opponents’ batting average in 33 innings.

    Sanchez is one of the more projectable right-handed pitching prospects, with a ridiculously athletic frame and effortless, drool-worthy arm action. His fastball is a plus-plus offering in the mid- to upper-90s that seemingly jumps on opposing hitters with exceptional late life.

    His curveball is flat-out nasty, with tight spin and knee-buckling bite, while his changeup will flash plus and features fastball-like arm speed. However, he still has problems retiring left-handed batters, which is a product of his varying fastball command and inconsistent changeup.

    Walks have always been an issue for Sanchez, and his overall lack of efficiency continues to prevent him from working deep into games as a starter. He was much more successful controlling the zone as a reliever, though, as he demonstrated more faith in his pure stuff rather than trying pace himself and execute each pitch.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 2 or 3 starter/elite closer) — Low Risk

    The Blue Jays still view Sanchez as a starter long term despite his lights-out performance out of the bullpen, meaning there’s a decent chance he’ll return to Triple-A next season to continue developing in that role. However, Casey Janssen’s departure and the fact that Toronto didn’t target one of the few available closers on the market makes Sanchez a legitimate candidate to take over ninth-inning duties next year.