Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cardinals, Brewers, Indians, Mariners, Pirates, Royals & Giants
The Jays have had a steady strategy for amateur player acquisition: spend early and often and take risks. That obviously will lead to some busts, but GM Alex Anthopoulos has had a consistent vision in this regard for his six years running the team and the farm is now flush with talent. The Latin program has developed shortstop and power arms and has done a nice job turning low- and mid-level bonuses into real prospects. The gambles in the draft have also paid off with risky bets on Daniel Norris, Anthony Alford and Aaron Sanchez delivering in some form already while top 2014 pick Jeff Hoffman could be better than all of them if his rehab goes well.
It’s also worth noting that the 40 FV group on this list is filled with high upside talent. These prospects are ranked based on trade value, so they’re worth the same as the less exciting, lower upside, higher certainty 40 FV players on other lists, but this means the Jays have a wider range of possibilities in outcomes for their lower level prospects. With a strong development season, a half dozen of these prospects could take a step forward, and, with another strong year of signing amateur talent, could move a top 10-12 system another step forward.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Blue Jays prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Tigers.
27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Age 23, FV: 65 (Video)
2. Drew Hutchinson, RHP, Age 24, FV: 55
3. Aaron Loup, LHP, Age 27, FV: 45
4. Liam Hendriks, RHP, Age 26, FV: 45
5. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
6. Kevin Pillar, CF, Age 26, FV: 45
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
A team loaded both with inexperienced and too experienced players, the Blue Jays could be described both as a team on the rise and a team that needs to win now. This season is possibly their last run with their current core, but it also will serve as a changing of the guard, as the young guys are theoretically ready to step in and give the team a strong future. In the ideal outcome, the Jays have a seamless transition that involves a winning 2015 season with the young guys performing well enough to establish themselves as the new core for the future. It’s an outcome that is possible, but there’s also a lot of risk involved; struggles from several of the youngsters being counted on could derail the 2015 season and also raise questions about the team’s ability to win going forward. The Blue Jays might have as wide a range of outcomes as any contender this year, with both a World Series and a frustrating implosion easily within reach.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Daniel Norris, LHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/21.9, 6’2/195, L/L
Drafted: 74th overall (2nd round) in 2011 out of Tennessee HS by TOR for $2.0 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50+
Scouting Report: Norris was a well-known prospect coming out of a Tennessee high school, both for his above-average stuff dating back to his sophomore year of high school, but also his troublesome delivery. He slipped to the second round in 2011, but the Jays scooped him up at the 74th overall pick with a $2 million bonus. Norris took the Jays development staff a couple years to clean everything up and unlock his athleticism. Like Dalton Pompey, Norris shot from High-A to the big leagues last year in his age 21 season.
Norris sits 91-95 mph with occasional life and a hard, plus 74-76 mph curveball that’s really improved the last couple seasons from a softer version. Norris also adds a 83-85 mph slider that flashes above average with clearly differentiated shape from his curve, along with a mid-80’s changeup that’s average to slightly above at times.
Norris still isn’t perfectly online, he can elevate at times when he locks his landing knee and these things lead to a flatter fastball and giving up more hard contact. That said, he’s athletic enough to make all of this work and, when it’s right, the stuff is electric. There’s 2/3 starter upside and Norris now has the command to get there much faster than many would’ve guessed before this season. It’s also worth noting that Norris is quite a character, the real life Matt Foley, literally living in a van that is often near a river.
Summation: Norris is getting a chance to compete for the #5 spot in the rotation out of camp, along with Aaron Sanchez. It’s likely he’ll spend some meaningful amount of 2015 in Triple-A, but he’ll probably settle into the rotation by this time next year.
FV/Role/Risk: 60, #3 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB
2. Jeff Hoffman, RHP
Current Level/Age: None/22.2, 6’4/185, R/R
Drafted: 9th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of East Carolina by TOR for $3.08 million bonus
Fastball: 60/70, Curveball: 55/65, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50+
Scouting Report: Hoffman was a known power arm for the 2014 draft at East Carolina, then he broke out in the summer before the draft on the Cape (see the video), flashing an 80 fastball and 65 or 70 curveball from an athletic delivery, projectable frame and shockingly good feel to pitch given the power stuff.
He didn’t look the same in the spring and just as he was making adjustments to his delivery to regain prior form, his elbow popped and he got Tommy John surgery. Even with the surgery taking Hoffman out of #1 overall pick contention, the Jays thought he wouldn’t get out of the top 5, so they were pleased to land him with the 9th overall pick.
Hoffman drew comparisons to Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander when he was at his best on the Cape, so if he regains that form, he could shoot to the top of this list in short order. In the 2014 spring at ECU before he got hurt, Hoffman’s tempo was a little too quick, so while his velocity was the same, the curveball was mostly 50 or 55 and rushing through his delivery caused him to leave the ball out to his arm side.
Summation: It’s impossible to know what version of Hoffman will emerge when rehab is over; he won’t return until mid-season in 2015. He won’t be expected to be back to full speed until later in 2016 or even 2017, so he’ll likely hover in this range on my lists until it becomes clear what type of pitcher he’ll be going forward.
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA/MLB, 2018: AAA/MLB
3. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/22.7, 6’4/200, R/R
Drafted: 34th overall (sandwich round) in 2010 out of California HS by TOR for $775,000 bonus
Fastball: 65/70, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/45+
Scouting Report: Sanchez has a sturdy 6-foot-4/200 frame and loose arm that helped him go in the sandwich round in 2010 out of a southern California high school. He was a raw pitcher with flashes of power stuff then, but Sanchez has really grown into his velocity since then, sitting 95-98 and hitting 99 mph in 33 big league relief innings at the end of 2014.
Sanchez sits 93-97 and hits 99 mph has a starter with good life to his plus plus heater. His curveball often flashes plus but could be more consistent, while his changeup has made strides in recent years to now flash solid average, but it will back up at times when he’s more thrower than pitcher. Sanchez has worked hard at the upper level sto try to develop the starter traits necessary to stick in a rotation, but the question remains if he fits better there or as a closer.
Summation: Toronto wanted to limit Sanchez’s innings in 2014 and planned before the season to get his feet wet in the big leagues with a bullpen look late in the year. The Jays’ #5 starter spot is still an open competition along with at least one bullpen slot, so Sanchez has the opportunity this year to prove where he fits.
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter or Closer, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB
4. Dalton Pompey, CF
Current Level/Age: MLB/22.2, 6’2/195, B/R
Drafted: 486th overall (16th round) in 2010 out of Canadian HS by TOR for $150,000 bonus
Hit: 40/50+, Raw Power: 45/45, Game Power: 35/40, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 45/45+
Scouting Report: Pompey is a great example of players that are young for their high school class having hidden upside: he didn’t turn 18 until 6 months after he was drafted in 16th round by the Jays in 2010. Pompey has taken a huge step forward this year, jumping all the way from High-A to the big leagues in his age 21 season, surprising both scouts and Blue Jays executives. They said the plan was to promote him to give him a better challenge, then he kept excelling and demanding a new challenge until he ended up in the big leagues, where he hit a homer off Felix Hernandez.
Pompey is a plus runner with a very good defensive instincts that should make him an average defensive center fielder in short order, though reviews on his arm differ. Power isn’t a part of his game and while he has ordinary bat speed, the bat control and feel to hit are advanced enough to see at least a 50 bat. He toned down his hitting mechanics a bit and his timing really came together in 2014. Pompey had been bothered by minor injuries early in his career but started to break out late in 2013 when he was able to get regular reps.
Summation: Pompey looks likely to open the season as the Opening Day center fielder, but at the very least should spend the majority of the season in Toronto. He’s the center fielder of the future and the Jays are clearing the way for him.
Upside: .275/.335/.410, 12 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB
5. Max Pentecost, C
Current Level/Age: SS/22.0, 6’2/190, R/R
Drafted: 11th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Kennesaw State by TOR for $2.888 million bonus
Hit: 20/50+, Raw Power: 20/45+, Game Power: 45/50+, Run: 55/50+, Field: 45/55, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report:Pentecost was the breakout prospect in last summer’s Cape Cod League as a super-athletic catcher from a small school, Kennesaw State. He was very close to signing with the Rangers out of high school for a lower six figure bonus, but the deal was axed over a so-so physical.
I was the high guy on Pentecost much of the spring on the heels of his breakout Cape, with the industry catching up when Theo Epstein was spotted at a Pentecost game and rumors spread that he may go #4 overall. Pentecost ended up going #11 overall and has unusual tools for a catcher with a ridiculous amount of energy (watch the end of the linked video) and every tool solid average or better.
Pentecost has feel to hit, a smooth cut and the athleticism scouts are looking for. His line drive approach in games causes his raw power to play below average now, though some mechanical adjustments could help that. Defensively, he projects to be at least average and his above average to plus arm is plenty to neutralize the running game. There aren’t many catchers with this level of tools and when you combine the makeup and energy (I’ve seen him back up first base on a routine grounder and beat the runner to the base), it’s hard to pass up.
Summation: Pentecost will start the season on the shelf with shoulder surgery and should miss about three months. This doesn’t change his projection or prospect status at all, unless he comes back and the arm strength has regressed significantly. Catchers typically take longer to develop anyway, so he should be a level-at-a-time guy to start his career.
Upside: .280/.340/.450, 15-18 homers
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A, 2017: AA, 2018: AAA/MLB
Video Credit to Charlie Caskey
6. Miguel Castro, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.2, 6’5/190, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 17 on January 5, 2012 out of Dominican by TOR for $180,000 bonus
Fastball: 65/70, Slider: 40/50+, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50
Scouting Report: Castro signed for a smaller bonus as a projection bet in 2012; he sat in the low 90’s with rough off-speed and not a ton of feel, but a clean arm and projectable frame. He’s taken off since then with 2014 his breakout season. Castro sat 93-96 mph the entire season and got even stronger as the year wore on, sitting 96-98 mph in a short instructs outing in the fall.
Castro is still young, very long-limbed and a power arm more than a pitcher at this point, so there’s still plenty of work to be done but the starter traits are here. Castro’s changeup is his best off-speed pitch and it consistently above average, helped by the deception from fastball arm speed and also hitters cheating to catch up with the heater. The question, along with the command, is the breaking ball. Castro’s slider is below average in some outing and flashes solid average in others, and it is best at his peak velocity, with the arm speed making the pitch crisper.
Summation: There’s a lot of elements of Yankees RHP Luis Severino here and there’s more projection, but the command, consistency and changeup are all a little behind at this point. I got some very late positive reports and slid him up a bit from where I had him on the top 200; Castro could be a top 100 prospect by the middle of 2015 with continued progress.
FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter/Closer, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA, 2017: AAA/MLB
7. Roberto Osuna, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.1, 6’2/230, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on August 3, 2011 out of Mexico by TOR for $1.5 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Cutter: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/45+
Scouting Report: Osuna signed for $1.5 million in 2011 as a 16-year-old out of Mexico with big league bloodlines from his uncle Antonio Osuna. He had a mature frame and had hit 95 mph, but sat around 90 and relied on pitchability and an above average to plus changeup. His elbow popped in 2013 and he returned from Tommy John surgery late this year with a surprising velocity spike.
Osuna’s fastball jumped a couple ticks, to the surprise/delight of Blue Jays execs. He’s now sitting 92-94 and hitting 97 mph, sitting a few ticks higher in short stints, with a slider and cutter that are both above average and the same changeup as before. The command hasn’t quite come back but that usually happens in year two or three after surgery, so Osuna could shoot up this list soon if that all comes together. Some scouts doubt the velocity and command can coexist and assume he moves to the bullpen, but it’s still a little early for firm opinions on that.
Summation: Osuna should head back to where he finished 2014, in the High-A Dunedin rotation, with a chance to move quickly if/when the command returns, though Toronto isn’t looking to rush him.
FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter/Closer, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA/MLB, 2017: AAA/MLB
45 FV Prospects
8. Devon Travis, 2B Video: This list is full of big bonus players that signed with plenty of hype and Travis is the exact opposite. He signed as a senior out of Florida State in 2012 for $200,000 in the 12th round with the Tigers. Travis smoked both A-Ball levels in his first full season, then performed well in Double-A last year at age 23. That put him on the fast track as a big league option for 2015 and Toronto traded the mercurial Anthony Gose to Detroit for Travis this off-season.
Travis doesn’t have flashy tools but has lots of feel and makes the most of his ability. His hit tool is a 55 or 60 and the raw/game power is a 40, with average run, defense and throwing. The plate discipline is solid, but if Travis doesn’t hit, there isn’t much here. That isn’t a massive gamble as Travis’ all-fields, gap-to-gap lie drive approach should translate well to the big leagues; he will get a clear shot to take the big league second base job in 2015 if he hits enough.
9. Anthony Alford, CF Video: Alford was a high profile prospect out of a Mississippi high school in the 2012 draft; Toronto gave him $750,000 to play baseball in the summers and play football for Southern Miss then Ole Miss the rest of the year. Alford was an option quarterback and safety on the gridiron, but has decided to fully commit to baseball for 2015. Some scouts said he was a top 10 overall pick level prospect in 2012 if he had completely committed to baseball and the tools are obviously very good.
Alford is a plus-plus runner with above average raw power and a solid average arm that easily profiles everyday in center field if he hits. You’d think that would be a big question since he’s had 110 plate appearances in pro ball, but scouts were shocked how much feel to hit he showed in instructs last fall and reports were positive from his stint in the Australian Winter League. If that progress continues this month in Spring Training, expect to see Alford head to Low-A to start the season. Despite the lack of baseball experience, he’ll be an appropriately-aged 20 for Low-A much of the season and could be one of the buzziest prospects in the minors.
10. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP Video: The Jays were the only team to take my top available player with their top three picks in the 2014 draft; getting Reid-Foley for a slot bonus in the 2nd round was quite surprising. Reid-Foley had mid-1st round buzz all year, but some weaker outings late in the year along with some concerns about his arm action conspired to knock him down the board. Reid-Foley has a sturdy 6’3/220 frame, aggressive demeanor and power fastball that sits 91-95 and hits 97 mph at it’s best. The fastball can get a bit straight and his changeup is inconsistent but flashes solid average at times.
Reid-Foley’s primary out-pitch is an above average to plus slider and he also mixes in an average curveball at times. His arm action is a little worrisome (high back elbow), his fastball can get straight and he’s more of a thrower than pitcher, but Reid-Foley has always thrown strikes. His velocity was more 89-93, touching 94 mph leading up to the draft and last summer after signing, but that’s pretty normal for prep pitchers. He has #3 starter or closer upside and may get a chance to head to Low-A in 2015 at age 19.
11. Mitch Nay, 3B Video: Nay signed fro $1 million out of an Arizona high school in 2012 in the sandwich round and comes with bloodlines, as his grandfather Lou Klimchock played 12 big league seasons. Nay is 6’3/200 and is a solid athlete with a plus arm and above average raw power. He also has advanced feel to hit to all fields and is more of a contact-oriented line drive type at this point, but should integrate the power more in the coming years. Nay is solid at third and should be able to stay at the position with his grinder makeup helping make that more likely; he’ll head to High-A next year at age 21.
12. Jairo Labourt, LHP Video: Labourt signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican in 2011 on his 17th birthday. He’s made a lot of progress since then, now sitting 91-94 and hitting 95 mph with life along with an above average slider and starter traits. Labourt was chubby but has dropped some bad weight and now has projection remaining at 6’4/200. Toronto sent him to Low-A to start 2014 and the cold weather bothered him, with more walks than strikeouts, but he rebounded later that summer in Vancouver. Labourt’s changeup is average and his control is usually at least average, but his command is still a bit behind. The elements are here for a 3/4 starter, but there’s still some work and Labourt’s 2015 assignment to Low-A should give the 21-year-old a nice challenge.
13. Ryan Borucki. LHP Video: Borucki was a low-profile 15th rounder in 2012 from an Illinois high school that got an over-slot $426,000 to sign. He missed 2013 with Tommy John surgery, but the 6’4/175 lefty took a step forward in his return to the mound in 2014. Borucki sits 90-94 with plenty more in the tank and has a solid average curveball and changeup. He’s just starting to scratch the surface coming back from surgery and with projeciton remaining. Borucki has solid feel to pitch and is regarded as a sleeper to breakout in the system in 2015 with his full-season debut coming.
14. Dwight Smith, 2B Video: Smith’s father Dwight Sr. had an eight-year big league career and Dwight Jr. had a breakout season in High-A in 2014 making it more likely he can do the same. Smith has a high leg kick and active hands in his swing, but he’s hit, drawn walks and kept the strikeouts down, along with working in some power in games in 2014. He’s a solid average runner with fringy power and a below average arm, so his left field put him in a corner, which has been helped by a conversion to second base. He made progress with the change in the AFL and Toronto thinks he can make it work there as a Frank Catalanotto type 2B/LF with an advanced lefty bat and enough power to punish a mistake.
15. Matt Smoral, LHP Video: Smoral was a high profile prospect in the 2012 draft out of an Ohio high school who slipped to the sandwich round (where he got an over-slot $2 million bonus) due to only pitching in one game in his senior year. Smoral had high first round hype and looked solid early but was sidelined by a broken bone in his foot, which was likely caused by a high school growth spurt for the 6’8/220 giant. Smoral has also had trouble with blisters and a cracked fingernail, so he’ll be making his full-season debut in 2015 at age 21.
At his best, Smoral sits 91-95, hitting 96 mph with a slider that flashes plus, but his changeup and command both lag behind. Given the size, physical issues and command issues, most assume he’ll end up as a reliever, but there’s #2/3 starter upside if Smoral can right the ship. If he doesn’t, this could end up like a left-handed Alex Meyer, but Smoral needs to stay healthy and throw strikes to get there.
16. Jesus Tinoco, RHP Video: Tinoco signed for $400,000 in September of 2011 out of Venezuela and, despite signing for the least, is the best of the triumvirate of top shelf Venezuelan pitching prospects below, ahead of Meza and Cardona. Tinoco is 6’4/190 and projectable, but already sits 92-95, hitting 97 mph with heavy sink.
His slider and changeup both flash above average and some in the organization think his upside is right there with Smoral and maybe even higher since Tinoco is a year younger and has more feel. The starter traits are here, but it’s still early in the process. Tinoco was 90-92 mph in instructs, evidence that he’s still working on adding stamina in anticipation for his 2015 full season debut.
17. Alberto Tirado, RHP Video: Tirado signed for $300,000 in 2011 out of the Dominican and has progressed into an intriguing power arm. The 6’0/180 righty has effort to his delivery that leads to command inconsistency and those two things make most scouts project him in the bullpen. If that’s the case, Tirado has plenty of stuff to profile in the back end of the pen: he sits 93-95 and hits 98 mph with life and a wipeout, easy plus slider. The changeup flashes average but is far behind the other two pitches. The fastball command is the next hurdle for Tirado to clear and if he can conquer that, then he’s still got a chance to work into a starting role. He just turned 20 and will get another shot at Low-A in 2015.
40 FV Prospects
18. Clinton Hollon, RHP, Video: Hollon was a high profile prep underclassman, hitting 95 mph in his junior season. The 6’1/195 righty has a loose arm and is highly athletic with an above average to plus fastball and two-plane slider, but he hasn’t been on the mound much in the last couple years. He has some elbow soreness leading up to the 2013 draft where the Jays took him in the 2nd round, but was healthy enough to pitch that summer. He then missed all of 2014 getting Tommy John surgery after problems flared up again.
Hollon slipped in the draft due to concerns on his arm health and makeup issues that have followed him for years. He’s smaller and has some effort to his delivery, so it seems likely he’ll end up in the bullpen, but he has shown some feel to pitch and he just turned 20. He also mixes a curveball and changeup that are around average and flash a bit better at times. It’s so early that Hollon could still make the necessary adjustments if he gives himself a chance by staying healthy. The Jays say Hollon should be ready around midseason and he’ll likely head to a short-season club.
19. Dan Jansen, C Video: Jansen signed for $100,000 in the 16th round in 2o13 from a Wisconsin high school and the cold weather athlete emerged quicker than expected, putting up nice numbers in his first full season. Jansen has a powerful frame at 6’2/215 and has average raw power that he’s learning to integrate into his game, but he isn’t all tools: he has more walks than strikeouts for his career. The swing is good and he was limited by a knee issue in 2014, but has a 55 arm and enough ability to stick behind the plate. His full-season debut comes in 2015 and he’s a favorite of many in the organization to take a big step forward this season.
20. Richard Urena, SS Video: Urena signed for $725,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican as yet another toolsy big money July 2 signing for the Jays. Either Urena or Gundino is the best defensive shortstop in the organization and both are having some trouble with the bat, but Urena is bigger, a year older and has a much better track record of hitting, though it isn’t exactly sterling.
At 6’1/170 and with a solid lefty swing Urena checks the boxes, but some scouts see too much weak contact and aren’t bullish on the offensive upside. Jays sources are more bullish: thinking there’s 15 homer upside and calling Urena one of the best bets to shoot up the list next year, with some arguing he should be in the top 10 right now. The swing is good and he’ll make his full-season debut next year at age 19, so he’ll get the opportunity to show what he can do.
21. Yeltsin Gudino, SS Video: Gudino signed for $1.2 million in 2013 out of Venezuela and was one of my favorite players from the class due to his silky smooth swing and defensive prowess. The question then and now is if he can add bulk to his frame, as he’s a rail thin 6’0/150 right now. Gudino may be the best glove in the system, projecting as a plus defender and thrower with above average speed. The Jays challenged him in his first full season, sending him to the GCL at 17 and he didn’t perform at all (.386 OPS). If he can put on 20 pounds over the next couple years, we could be looking at a Raul Mondesi or Francisco Lindor level talent, but it’s hard to bear down too hard until he bulks up.
22. Juan Meza, RHP Video: Meza trained with Carlos Guillen and was one of the top arms available last July 2nd; the Jays got the Venezuelan righty for $1.6 million. He’s got projection at 6’3/190, a good delivery, very advanced feel for his age, above average life on his 88-91 sinker that’s hit 93 mph and an above average changeup. His slurvy breaking ball flashes solid average but is inconsistent and the weakest point of this game right now. With continued health and further projection coming through, you can see a mid-rotation starter coming from this, but it’s still very early.
23. Lane Thomas, 2B, Video: Thomas was a favorite prospect of mine last summer, but pre-draft buzz is there wasn’t a team that would meet his asking price. The Jays swooped in and gave him $750,000 in the 5th round last summer to buy out a commitment to Tennessee. The Jays converted Thomas from a prep shortstop that played center field for his travel team to a pro second baseman.
Thomas is a plus runner with fringy raw power that plays down in games due to a line drive game approach. He has above average but not outrageous bat speed and advanced feel for the bat head. If the conversion to second continues going well, he profiles at two up-the-middle positions and as an everyday guy, if the bat continues to come along as it has so far.
24. Dawel Lugo, SS Video: Lugo signed for $1.3 million in 2011 out of the Dominican and has progressed nicely, still showing big tools, but the performance has been a little uneven. He can play shortstop for now, but is a fringy runner with limited range that likely slides him to third base, possible to second base, though that would waste his 65 arm. Lugo has fringy raw power that may be average to slightly above at one point, but he’s still having some trouble combining these elements into an offensive approach at this point. He can hit for power in games when he’s more aggressive and sits on fastballs, but the walk/strikeout numbers get out of whack, so he’ll need to make more adjustments, but he just turned 20 so there’s plenty of time.
25. A.J. Jimenez, C Video: Jimenez isn’t a real exciting prospect. He’s a glove first catcher that’s close to big league ready, is an above average receiver with a plus arm, but he has trouble staying on the field and making an offensive impact. His power is well below average in games and the approach is gap-to-gap contact without many strikeouts, so when the numbers aren’t strong that means it’s a lot of weak contact. Jimenez has had trouble with nagging injuries and durability, so he’s limited to a backup role, though his bat isn’t enough to play everyday anyway. He’s ready for a big league look in 2015 but is blocked at the moment, so this is a good season for him to get a healthy year under his belt and force the issue.
26. Adonys Cardona, RHP Video: Cardona was the consensus top arm in his July 2nd class and the Jays gave the Venezuelan righty $2.8 million in 2010. When he signed, he had average big league stuff as a 16-year-old with a clean arm and all kinds of projection, and that’s mostly held up. Cardona has run his heater into the high-90’s, his curveball was scrapped for a slider when he lowered his slot and it’s consistently above average while his changeup also flashes above average.
He hasn’t had surgery, but his elbow keeps getting sore and shutting him down, limiting Cardona to 83.1 IP over 4 pro seasons, with 31.2 IP in 2011 a career high. If they can get to the underlying cause of the soreness, Cardona’s raw ability is at least a mid-rotation starter, but this type of story usually ends as a reliever, and the stuff is closer level if he can stay on the mound.
27. Rowdy Tellez, 1B Video: Tellez was on a loaded Elk Grove High School team in 2013 that had Rockies C Dom Nunez (40 FV) and Tigers CF Derek Hill (50 FV), a 2014 1st rounder, with other notable alumni including Buck Martinez and Scott Boras. Tellez is listed at 6’4/220 and he’s probably a bit bigger than that, but he used to be way bigger than that as an amateur.
His carrying tool is 65 raw power from the left side and Tellez also has a solid approach at the plate to go with some looseness to his swing, along the lines of a taller version of the Cubs 1B Dan Vogelbach (45+ FV). Tellez is a little more conventionally athletic than Vogelbach and is fringy to average at first base, but scouts will want to see his size stay under control along with huge numbers. Tellez will get his first extended look in full-season ball next year at age 20.
28. Jake Brentz, LHP Video: Brentz popped up in the fall before his draft year as an athletic prep outfielder than ran it into the mid-90’s and flashed an above average curveball and changeup in his first few times on the mound, which is the outing from the linked video. As a prep kid from Missouri, Brentz didn’t face great prep competition or warm weather when scouts went back to see him in the spring. The Jays scooped him up in the 2013 draft for $700,000 in the later rounds because Brentz had trouble throwing strikes and showing consistent stuff, which continued in 47.1 pro innings.
Jays sources says Brentz has cleaned up his delivery this off-season, allowing his athleticism to play and command his stuff better; he’s a sleeper for many in the organization who expect a 2015 breakout. Late in 2014, scouts that saw him last year all said reliever only, so the range of possibilities is wide, but he would sit 92-94 mph with an above average to plus curveball, though the changeup had regressed. Even with just marginal improvements, he has the look of a late-inning option and he’s still new to pitching.
29. Matt Boyd, LHP Video: Boyd was a senior sign out of Oregon State in 2013 that got $75,000 in the 6th round after making real progress in his last amateur year. He’s always been a little funky, but Boyd went from LOOGY-type to possible starter after raising his arm slot and smoothing out the delivery a bit, which helped him hit 95 mph.Boyd got to Double-A in his first full season (age 23) with excellent numbers, but some scouts still think there isn’t enough here to stick as a starter.
He sits 88-92 and hits 94 mph with a solid average changeup, a fringy curveball and a below average slider. He has good feel for his off-speed stuff and his breaking pitches will flash average at times, but fastball command and a consistent breaking is what’s holding him back. The likely outcome is a spot starter/long man that can match up on lefties and be a valuable member of a staff, but the lack of a breaking ball would make him a non-traditional LOOGY.
30. D.J. Davis. CF Video: Davis was a 1st rounder out of a Mississippi high school in 2012 that was seen as a high risk/high reward from a state with a terrible track record in the draft. Davis hasn’t come around yet, but he’s still just 20 and the tools are still outstanding. He has above average raw power, easy plus speed and a fringy arm that comfortably profile everyday in center field if Davis can make progress with his feel for the game and contact rate. That’s a pretty big if, but some standout big leaguers with big tools developed late, so it’s too early to give up on Davis.
31. Conner Greene, RHP Video: Greene was a 7th rounder that signed for $100,000 in 2013 out of Santa Monica High School. I mention the high school because that’s one of the wealthiest areas around Los Angeles and I’m told Greene’s dad is friends with Charlie Sheen. Greene has an IMDB page that lists an appearance on Sheen’s post-Two and a Half Men show on FX, Anger Management.
Greene has developed into a good projection bet on the mound, with his velo ticking up since his amateur days, now sitting 88-92 mph. His changeup is the better of his off-speed pitches, flashing above average, while his curveball is average at times but isn’t consistent and can get soft in the mid-70’s. Greene has good feel to pitch, a smooth delivery and a near ideal pitcher’s frame, which explains why he drew some trade attention at least year’s deadline; there’s a potential 3/4 starter if this all comes together.
32. Angel Perdomo, LHP: Perdomo is a bit of a late bloomer, pitching in the GCL last year at age 20, but the big guys typically take longer and Perdomo is pretty big at 6’6/210. His delivery is solid given the size and age, he’s made strides with it in recent years and is able to pound the bottom of the zone. Perdomo’s fastball is already hitting 97 mph now, sitting 92-94 regularly with more projection left in his frame. Scouts give different account of whether his slider or changeup is better at this point, but both will flash average at times. There’s still a long way to go with command and consistency to his secondaries, but the ceiling is still high and there’s some elements already here.
33. Nick Wells, LHP: Wells was the Jays’ 3rd rounder last year out of a Virginia high school and the super projectable 6’5/175 lefty was completely off the scouting radar entering the spring. Wells didn’t go to any of the major events and threw 84-89 mph in October at a big tournament, but popped up regularly sitting around 88-91 in the spring and hitting 93 mph. He’s still very skinny but the velocity has held and he hit 94 mph in instructs this fall. The arm action and delivery are good, the curveball flashes average to slightly above at times but the changeup is still a work in progress, so there’s still a ways to go.
34. John Stilson, RHP Video: Stilson has been in the upper levels of the minors the last few years and is the typical risky reliever with a big arm that’s near big league ready. He has some shoulder issues around the draft in 2011 then a ribcage injury in 2013 and more shoulder soreness down the stretch in 2014. Stilson sits 92-96 and hits 97 mph with an inconsistent slider that’s above average at times, along with a changeup with splitter action that’s an average pitch. He needs to stay healthy and get more consistent, but he’s close to being a big league 7th or 8th inning guy with some improvements.
35. Matt Dean, 1B Video: Like Brentz, Dean was another later round prep gamble for the Jays; Dean signed for $737,500 in 2011 out of a Texas HS. As a big, projectable third baseman, Dean has taken a little while to get going offensively and got bigger (6’3/215 now) in the interim; he flashes plus raw power potential from the right side with some feel to hit and a nice swing, but his aggressive approach needs to be toned down a bit as there’s some swing-and-miss to his game. The power is starting to show up in games as Dean has shifted across the diamond, but he has an above average arm, so he can still play passably at all four corner spots right now, though third base long-term looks unlikely.
Taylor Cole, RHP
Strikeout- and walk-rate differential is among the most quickly stabilizing of pitcher metrics that’s also predictive of future run prevention. Daniel Norris, who sits atop this list, produced the best such mark (23.9 points) last year among all qualified starters at High-A or above. The right-handed Cole finished second (22.6 points) by that same critera. The two were actually teammates at High-A Dunedin until mid-June. While Norris eventually earned a series of promotions that brought him to the majors, however, Cole was relegated to a pair of Double-A starts in early August before returning to the Florida State League. It’s not shocking: the 25-year-old Cole is older and also lacks Norris’s arm speed (sitting at 87-91 mph according to McDaniel). His advanced age relative to level is a product in part, however, of the two years he spent on a Mormon mission. Furthermore, he features a changeup that acts as an outpitch.
Others of Note
There are five pitchers in the upper levels to keep track of and they were all recent waiver claims: RHP Matt West (recent waiver claim from Texas converted to the mound in 2011, had Tommy John in 2012-2013, then reached the big leagues in 2014; huge arm speed has hit 100 mph and rushed him to big leagues, so he never really learned to pitch; plus plus fastball, average slider and below average command is enough for middle relief), LHP Juan Oramas (recent waiver claim from San Diego is a power lefty sits 90-92 mph as a starter but ticks up in short stints where he fits in the big leagues; also mixed in solid average curveball and fringy changeup), RHP Preston Guilmet (recent waiver claim from Pittsburgh has ordinary stuff, sitting 88-91, touches 92 mph with an average slider and above average changeup, but he’s aggressive and has lots of deception that has helped him put up huge numbers), LHP Jayson Aquino (Video recent waiver claim from Colorado sits 89-91, touching 94 mph with sink, a solid average changeup and average slider; there’s 5th starter upside but at least swing man value) and LHP Scott Barnes (recent waiver claim from Texas is lefty reliever has bounced around upper levels and waivers, can be matchup lefty with 91-93 heater that hits 95 mph, funk, deception, a crossfire delivery and a decent slider, but command comes and goes).
There are five righties in the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Chase DeJong (Video 6’4/200 righty was prep 2nd rounder in 2012 and has fringy to average fastball but a clean arm and projectable frame that means there could be more coming; his above average to plus curveball is his best pitch now, his changeup is fringy and his overhand slot can cause command issues), RHP Jimmy Cordero (6’3/215 Dominican has hit 100 mph but was 22 in Low-A last year and is still working on his slider, command and consistency), RHP Carlos Ramirez (Video 23-year-old converted to pitching in 2014 and took to it well; he’s 6’5/205, works 93-95 mph with plus life and an above average slider but given the size, life on his stuff and newness to pitching, the command lags behind), RHP Justin Shafer (three-year starter at UF as an outfielder only pitched sparingly, but made progress in his draft year on the mound and after signing, sitting 90-92 mph with an above average to plus slider and usable changeup), and RHP Tom Robson (Canadian-born 4th rounder from 2011 took a huge step forward in 2013 with many looking forward to his 2014 full-season debut, which was cut short by shoulder surgery; it’s hard to guess if the stuff will come back, but it was premium before the injury, sitting 92-95 with plus life, a 55 changeup and a curveball that was average at times).
There are three lefties in the lower levels to keep tabs on: LHP Evan Smith (6’5/190 lefty was 4th rounder in 2013 out of Alabama HS, sits 91-92 with heavy sink and has hit 95 mph, he has deception and the curveball and change show flashes, but mechanics/command need more work and that should unlock his potential, but there’s Matt Thornton type upside as is), LHP Patrick Murphy (underslot 3rd rounder in 2013 came from the same Arizona HS as Mitch Nay one year later and was drafted from looks Toronto got in his junior year because he missed the whole 2013 season with Tommy John rehab; he came back very late in 2014 and should be set for 2015; at his best, he sat 90-92 mph with a solid average curveball, starter traits and projection in his 6’4/200 frame) and LHP Grayson Huffman (2014 6th rounder from Texas JC is a strike thrower with feel that sits 89-91 mph with a solid average changeup and a fringy slider that flashes average, though he faded a bit late in 2014).
There are five more infielders to keep an eye on in the organization: SS Emilio Guerrero (enormous kid is listed at 6’4/190 but is likely even bigger; he’s not terrible at shortstop but fits better at third base or right field, has plus raw power and arm strength along with average speed but his long limbs create contact challenges), 3B Andy Burns (Video unspectacular potential utility infielder is solid at third, fine at second and can fill in at shortstop, has average speed and below average power but some feel to hit), C Matt Morgan (4th rounder in 2014 was raw as a receiver due to not catching almost any premium velocity in his amateur career, but the tools are there to catch, so he should improve from a poor defensive showing this summer; also had lots of trouble making contact but his swing is good and his raw power and arm strength are above average), 3B Bryan Lizardo (Video Dominican got $250,000 in 2013, has a mature frame but a good chance to stay at third with an average arm, potential average power, a good sense of the strike zone and a smooth lefty cut) and SS Kevin Vicuna (Venezuelan’s name is pronounced “vie-coon-ya,” he signed for mid-six-figures last summer and still needs to add bulk, but has feel for the bat head, is an above average runner and has the tools to stick at shortstop).
There are four more outfielders to watch: RF Derrick Loveless (high school football athlete is plus runner and strong at 6’1/200 with a chance for average raw power and a solid swing, but he’s still raw and instincts limit him to a corner for now), LF Freddy Rodriguez (signed for $500,000 in 2013 out of Venezuela and carrying tool is the bat, which is very advanced for his age; he’s a 55 runner with a 40 arm that fits in left field, is a little too aggressive at the plate and the power isn’t quite there yet. but the hit tool is the one that matters), CF Josh Almonte (tools are reminiscent of Cameron Maybin with potential above average power, plus speed and plus arm strength in a lanky 6’3 frame, but real contact issues that hold back his progress) and LF David Harris (36th rounder in 2013 from Southern Arkansas surprised last year with improved tools–plus bat speed and above average raw power–but he’s a 50 runner that fits in left field and is 23 with only a half-season of full-season experience with mixed success).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.