The Blue Jays and AA are an organization on a mission. AA has been stock-piling top prospects for a few years and built one of, if not the best farm system in all of baseball. But an air of weakness in the AL East has the Blue Jays front office smelling blood in the water and AA has gone all out to build a winner now.
Trades for Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, just to name a few, have bolstered the major league roster. Though it’s also thinned the system to an extent that most systems wouldn’t have survived the reaping. But the Blue Jays still have and still tout a solid minor league roster. So let’s take a look at who’s left and unearth some of the top talents in the system.
1. Daniel Norris, LHP 4/25/1993 H:6’2″ W:180 – In his debut season, Norris, lived up to some lofty expectations. Well, not on the surface. An 8.44 ERA is atrocious. But dig deeper and you find a mid 3’s FIP with a 22%+ K rate and sub 8% walk rate. For a debut from a young lefty, that’s impressive.
Norris has a low 90s fastball that can touch the mids and should get a little better as he matures. His curveball, though not close to refined yet, is another plus offering when its on. The biggest plus in my eyes is that he’s already throwing a changeup with some consistency and is a pitcher, not a thrower.
Our Instinct: Norris has Ace potential. He’s going to start in Low-A, following in the footsteps of the big three last year. I still expect some struggles, but the ERA is going to normalize and his success is going to be much more apparent to those keeping tabs. I also expect as he matures that he’ll have ups and down before he finally settles into his position in the Blue Jays rotation. There’s a reason why AA didn’t let this kid go in the off-season shopping season. ETA: 2016
2012 by the numbers: 2-4, 8.44 ERA, 3.67 FIP, .408 BABIP, 43/18 K/BB ratio in 42.2 innings at Rookie-A, with a brief stop at Short Season-A. 2011 2nd round draft pick, 74th overall.
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP 7/1/1992 H:6’4″ W:190 – Aaron Sanchez is the most obvious diamond in the rough left in the system. He was tagged with Syndergaard and Nicolino as part of a young Jays trio that made a lot of noise last prospect season and during the 2012 regular season.
He has an exciting K rate at 25%+which ticked up just a little over his 2011 level. He throws a low 90s fastball with a solid power curveball that dominated lower level hitter when he was able to command his main offerings. But the lack a of an advanced changeup is going to limit his upside right now and is a glaring weakness when paired with his high walk rate. He’s going to start the season in High-A FSL and will be tasked with improving his changeup and going after hitters with his fastball.
Our Instinct: Expectations are for his walk rate to be cut and his K rate to stabilize, probably somewhere in the 20%. If his changeup improves to at least average he should be a high end #3 starter. The other possibility is him upticking his velocity into the mid 90s as he adds a little more weight to his 6’4″ frame. Projections as a possible #2 upside are out there, though that is a distant vision in my opinion. The possibility remains. Upside #2 SP Downside: Closer. ETA: 2015
2012 by the numbers: 8-5, 2.49 ERA, 3.18 FIP, .280 BABIP, 97/51 K/BB ratio in 82.1 innings at Low-A. 2010 1st round draft pick, 34th overall.
3. Matthew Smoral, LHP 3/18/1994 H:6’8″ W:220 – Smoral was a potential steal at the #50 pick where we had him locked in as the #11 talent in the entire draft:
- 11. Matt Smoral LHP Solon (Ohio) HS – Smoral is a 6’8″, 225 lb monster lefty. He hurt his foot after his first start of the year so he’s dropping on draft boards everywhere. When healthy he works in the low 90s touching 95 and could have more in the tank once he learns to use his body properly. His secondaries are a slider and changeup in the low 80s. The slider when on is a strikeout pitch.
- Our Instinct – Smoral is a good bet to attend UNC if he drops in the draft, but a team with vision will see a big lefty with ace potential. He needs development time for his delivery and body to grow into a single entity but this is a package that isn’t available to teams often. Especially from the left side.
Our Instinct: It wasn’t cheap to get him signed, but he’s another talent that has #2 SP level upside. He’s a long way off and hasn’t even gotten started so we’ll have a close eye on him when he gets going, probably in Short Season ball in 2013 after extended spring training. It will take quite awhile to even get his innings built up to where he’s pitching advanced seasons. So patience will be needed. ETA: 2017
2012 by the numbers: Will make his professional debut in 2013. 2012 1st round draft pick, 50th overall.
4. Roberto Osuna, RHP 2/7/1995 H:6’2″ W:230 – Osuna was a revelation to us, even after being our top IFA RHP prospect in the 2011 signing period. While he’s one of the youngest players in the minor leagues, he’s also physically mature and his weight will play in as a possible negative factor in the future.
But he has a low 90s fastball, curveball and changeup that are all well advanced for his age. He’s willing to pound the zone and it pays off for him. Especially now in the lower levels where hitters rarely see a pitcher with advanced feel. He had a 6.3% walk rate in rookie ball with a 25%+ K rate and then in the NWL and notched the K rate up to almost 30%. His walk rate jumped too but should settle back down when he starts in 2013.
Our Instinct: While Osuna is well advanced for his age, I believe his ceiling is also going to be limited compared to other teenagers with similar stuff. He simply doesn’t have a lot of projection left. But he also has one of the highest floors, if not the highest floor, for a player his age as well. While the Jays tend to be patient with their pitchers now, Osuna may move quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach his #2-3 mid rotation starter type ceiling before the age of 21 or him making his debut before the age of 20. ETA: 2015
2012 by the numbers: 2-0, 2.27 ERA, 2.59 FIP, .285 BABIP, 49/15 K/BB ratio in 43.2 innings between Rookie-A and Short Season-A. 2011 International free agent, Mexico.
5. Sean Nolin, LHP 12/26/1989 H:6’5″ W:235 – Nolin has quietly become the most advanced pitcher in the Jays system. With a large frame and throwing from the left side with 4 solid to above average pitches, he’s the most likely to make an impact in 2013. Nolin throws a low to mid 90s fastball sitting 90-92 comfortably with two breaking balls. His go to is a curveball that changes the eye level of hitters and a slider that is more advanced and will eventually be a near plus strikeout pitch.
What makes him a very good bet to remain a starter is his changeup. He has an advanced feel for it and can throw it in any count. Seeing him in the FSL it’s clear that if its not a plus pitch already it will be in time. The mix has allowed him to dominate lower level hitters to the tune on near 30% K rates with average walk rates.
Our Instinct: Nolin has been old for each level, but his polish is evident and he has the pitch mix to be a solid mid rotation starter once he builds up his innings. While he’s the closest in talent ot being ready for the majors, he threw less than 100 innings last season and even an aggressive push would only get him to 140 or so in 2013. I would expect him to earn a rotation spot in 2014 as the more likely long term scenario with a shot at working the bullpen for a Blue Jays team that may be competing down the stretch in 2013. ETA: 2014
2012 by the numbers: 10-0, 2.04 ERA, 2.76 FIP, .295 BABIP, 108/27 K/BB ratio in 10.1 innings at High-A, with a brief stop at AA. 2010 6th round draft pick, 186th overall.
6. D.J. Davis, OF 7/25/1994 H:6’1″ W:180 – Davis was another high school draftee in 2012 that was inside our Top 25. Coming in right at the #25 spot:
- 25. D.J. Davis OF Stone HS, Wiggins, Miss. – When speed comes attached to a tool set that includes contact ability it can make for an exciting player. Davis was a player who had the speed but until the 2011 WWBA hadn’t proven an ability to hit enough to make himself a premium offensive player. With elite 80 speed out a of a high school CF, maturity may finally have met raw skill.
- Our Instinct – Davis has elite level speed and is going to cause fireworks on prospect charts once he settles into short season ball with his new team. He has matured as a hitter since the WWBA and with that he’s moving up the draft boards in some circles. He has a short up the middle approach and once he’s able to drive the gaps he could be a very dangerous leadoff hitter. He doesn’t project to hit for much power if any, but he has a solid frame at 6’1″ and 180. He’ll be an above average to plus CF defender despite only having an average arm.
Our Instinct: Davis did sign early enough to get on the field in 2012 and held his own in his first showing. He made his way through three levels flashing the speed for 25 total SB and even put up some power numbers with 5 HR. At times he was over-matched by college level pitchers, leading to a high K rate. Davis is going to be a project and take time to refine his approach into a true major league leadoff hitter though if given enough time to develop his approach he has a higher ceiling in my opinion that Anthony Gose. Though the downside remains that his hitting approach only reaches where Gose approach has. That limits upside. Dramatically. ETA: 2016
2012 by the numbers: .250/.355/.386, 18 XBH(5 HR), 25 SB, .340 BABIP, 70/27 K/BB ratio in 228 ab’s at 2 stops in Rookie-A, and a brief stop at Short Season-A. 2012 1st round draft pick, 17th overall.
7. Marcus Stroman, RHP 5/1/1991 H:5’9″ W:185 – Based on talent Stroman was high on the Draft List here at Instinct and the talent remains despite the suspension. Here is what we had to say in 2012:
- 18. Marcus Stroman RHP Duke – Stroman is a SP and SS with Duke and throws a low 90s fastball that he can run up into the 93-96 range in shorter stints. He pairs the fastball with a slider that currently grades near a plus pitch. One of the most athletic pitchers with 1st round talent.
- Our Instinct – He’s just 5’9″ but has a solid frame and his mechanics are upwards of max effort to get his premium velocity. He looks like he’ll eventually end up in the bullpen due to his size, mechanics and two pitch mix. But a team that thinks he can stay in the rotation will reach for him and he’ll get a shot at the rotation before moving to the bullpen.
Our Instinct: Well the Jays are in line to compete and once Stroman is back he may very well get fast tracked and that means the bullpen. Once that happens there really isn’t any turning back. If he succeeds, he sticks in the pen. Upside of a closer, more likely a solid set up type. If he falters, he may flop back and forth between starting in the minors and relieving. We still believe he has the stuff to be a mid rotation starter. We just don’t believe he gets that chance anymore. Not with the Jays. Though that doesn’t limit the talent. Just the long term spot for him. ETA: 2013
2012 by the numbers: 3-0, 3.26 ERA, 2.88 FIP, .329 BABIP, 23/9 K/BB ratio in 19.1 innings between Rookie-A and Short Season-A. 2012 1st round draft pick, 22nd overall.
8. Franklin Barreto, SS/OF 2/27/1996 H:5’10” W:175 – Just 16, Barreto was the top IFA talent signed by the Jays and he is highly regarded as the most advanced bat in last years class. Here is what our IFA expert, Aaron Bentley, had to say about Barreto at #6 on our 2012 IFA Top 21:
- 6. Franklin Barreto, SS/CF, Venezuela – Barreto is widely considered the best IFA talent available. I struggle to understand that. His history of excellence in international competition is unquestioned. His approach at the plate is unquestioned. I think most scouts are correct that he’s the kind of guy that could be a plus hitter. Add that to the fact that he’s an up-the-middle player defensively, though maybe not at SS, and he would seem to have a lot of value. My concern is that he is 5’9” and 175 pounds. There just is not a lot of precedent for 5’9” players being the kind of hitter that scouts are projecting Barreto to be. However, I keep him high on the list because if he can be a .300 hitter and hit double-digit home runs at 2B, SS, or CF, he could be an all-star.
Our Instinct: Well he has yet to log any real at bats, so this is going on total projection, scouting and reporting. High upside with a low floor at this point. But if we were the Jays, we would have spent the money too. ETA: 2017
2012 by the numbers: Will make his professional debut in 2013. 2012 International free agent, Venezuela.
9. Alberto Tirado, RHP 12/10/1994 H:6’1″ W:180 – Tirado will play the entire 2013 season at the age of 18 and he already has a a full year of experience under his belt. The 2011 IFA sign has a smaller frame than that of Osuna, but his fastball is just as big, if not bigger and in line for a future uptick.
In his debut, he struck out around 25% of hitters and had decent command of both his sinking fastball and above average changeup. One of my favorite things to see in a young pitcher is the ability to command and the obvious use of a changeup with reason. Both of those tangibles are hard to teach and point to the intangible of maturity on the mound.
Our Instinct: While Tirado is a way off, he does have a 3 pitch mix with a plus fastball, potential plus changeup and a power slider that needs refinement. He may still have some physical projection as well. He looks right now like a power arm for the bullpen, but that in no way means that if I’m pulling the strings that I’m not running this pitcher out there every 6th day as a starter until he proves he’s not a starter. He currently has a middle of the rotation pitch mix and if his slider moves into above average territory along with the changeup he could fulfill his future as a starter. ETA: 2016
2012 by the numbers: 3-2, 2.63 ERA, 2.64 FIP, .249 BABIP, 39/17 K/BB ratio in 48 innings in 2 stops at Rookie-A. 2011 International free agent, Dominican Republic.
10. Adonys Cardona, RHP 1/16/1994 H:6’1″ W:170 – Another young right-handed IFA signee. AA has the lower levels packed with upside and Cardona just adds to the list. Cardona has been a top prospect since he as 16 and will play 2013 as a 19 year old.
While Cardona has the stuff to rival Tirado, he is still a much more raw package at a slightly higher age. So Tirado leap-frogs him on this list this year where Cardona was #8 last year. Cardona still has the upside with a power fastball and advanced changeup, but his curveball is still a work in progress and he hasn’t learned to command any of his pitches for long stints. But that has as much to do with a lack of innings as it does with his ability. He needs to start logging innings to see who he really is as a pitcher. If he challenges hitters he has the stuff to be successful.
Our Instinct: Cardona will need to uptick the performance and make the numbers match the talent in 2013 or he may see the bullpen in 2014. But he’s still young and talented so the Jays will give him time in 2013 to see if he can find his command and mound presence and if he shows any signs of advancing his feel he will stick longer in the rotation. ETA: 2016
2012 by the numbers: 0-1, 6.32 ERA, 3.39 FIP, .358 BABIP, 20/10 K/BB ratio in 15.2 innings at Rookie-A. 2010 International free agent, Venezuela.
11. Yeyfry Del Rosario, RHP 4/27/1994 H:6’2″ W:185 – While Del Rosario doesn’t have the upside of Tirado nor Cardona, he has been very effective and isn’t afraid to use what tools he does have. His fastball ranges in the high 80s to low 90s and whether that’s the ceiling there is unknown. But when he was signed he threw in the mid 80s and has already bumped the velocity. Still has room to fill out the frame and is younger than Cardona.
It’s Del Rosario’s advanced feel and ability to get ground balls at a young age that make him a very interesting pitcher to watch. While his GO/AO rate was very high in his 2011 debut, his K rate was nothing to be inspired about. But as the velocity upticked into 2012 the K rate jumped and he reached 25%+ while maintaining his development path of a tight curveball and changeup.
Our Instinct: Del Rosario is the darkhorse IFA for the Jays and one that will be overlooked. But in the end he could have a breakout 2013 if he just continues on his development path. He will need another 2-3 ticks in velocity if he’s going to reach a mid rotation ceiling and if that happens he profiles well as a SP with a higher probability to reach that ceiling than Tirado or Cardona, even though he has a lower ceiling. ETA: 2016
2012 by the numbers: 1-5, 3.63 ERA, 1.98 FIP, .325 BABIP, 52/12 K/BB ratio in 44.2 innings at Rookie-A. 2010 International free agent, Dominican Republic.
12. Chase DeJong, RHP 12/29/1993 H:6’4″ W:190 – DeJong was a pitcher who I undervalued going into the draft and after further seeing him in the GCL I think the Jays took him in a perfect spot. He was just outside my top 75 heading into the draft and going at #81 makes for an interesting talent outside the 1st round. DeJong was a USC commit and I had thoughts that he was heading there without question which further dropped him on my radar. But he is a projectable 6’4″ with room to fill out. Throws a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a good curveball and an already advanced feel for a changeup.
His command is already advanced for a High School draftee and that showed in his short debut where he walked only one GCL batter over 12 innings and struck out 15. That K rate was due to his ability to hit his spots more than a power arsenal and he should excel at the lower levels because of that.
Our Instinct: If DeJong can consistently work in the low 90s or better with his fastball he will have a chance to complete an arsenal of pitches that puts him on track for a mid rotation upside. That uptick in velocity will be needed though and nothing is guaranteed when it comes to upticking. He also has some mechanical issues that need to be addressed. A short landing in his delivery may be the thing that is holding his velocity back. If the Jays stretch out that leg drive we could see 2-3 mph on the fastball in a matter of weeks. Now, if that happens, does he retain his advanced command? ETA: 2016
2012 by the numbers: 1-0, 1.50, 0.95 FIP, .259 BABIP, 15/1 K/BB ratio in 12.0 IP in the GCL. 2012 Draftee at #81 overall.
13. John Stilson, RHP 7/28/1990 H:6’3″ W:200
14. Anthony Alford, OF 7/20/1994 H:6’1″ W:193
15. Deck McGuire, RHP 6/23/1989 H:6’6″ W:235
16. Tyler Gonzales, RHP 1/22/1993 H:6’2″ W:175
17. A.J. Jimenez, C 5/1/1990 H:6’0″ W:210
18. Kevin Pillar, OF 1/4/1989 H:6’0″ W:200
19. Santiago Nessy, C 12/8/1992 H:6’2″ W:230
20. Javier Avendano, RHP 9/6/1990 H:6’3″ W:180
21. Mitch Nay, OF 9/20/1993 H:6’3″ W:195
For a complete list of the Top 21′s visit the 2013 Top 21′s Page
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