Prospect Reports: Vancouver Canadians (Blue Jays)

I’ve begun working on the off-season FanGraphs Top 15 prospect lists. While researching for the series I took in the Northwest League championship finals between the Vancouver Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays) and the Boise Hawks (Chicago Cubs) in early September. Both teams are loaded with B- and C-level prospects so it was a fun series to watchh.

I’ll have observations on some Boise players in the next day or two.

Taylor Cole, RHP: A 2011 draft pick, Cole repeated the Northwest League in ’12 after missing two years of development for a Mormon mission. Prior to college and his time off, Cole – who recently turned 23 – was a highly-regarded amateur who could dial his heater up to 94-95 mph. It nows sits 87-90 mph. This was probably his worst start of the year after posting a 0.81 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). He allowed just six runs in 66.1 innings during the regular season but gave up seven in this game. His shoulder was flying open, causing his pitches to elevate and carry off the plate. Cole did show a nice, compact delivery and he stayed tall over the rubber. His struggles with his fastball command prevented him from setting up his best pitch – a changeup that shows a potential future grade of 60-70. His curveball – which is usually above-average – was not good early on but improved a bit as the game progressed and could become league average. With improved fastball command I can see the potential for a back-end starter or middle reliever at the big league level.

Art Charles, 1B: A hulking slugger, Charles was a two-way player (pitcher and hitter) in both high school and junior college. Some teams considered drafting him as a left-handed pitcher but the Jays were clearly intrigued by his left-handed power. He’s a guy you can definitely pitch to, though, as long as the hurler on the mound can command the ball down and away to him. I’m not a huge fan of his setup at the plate and feel he holds his hands too low and out in front but that might be by design to help him attack the outer half of the plate.

D.J. Davis, CF: Davis, the Jays’ top 2012 draft pick, had three hits in this game and showed a nice, balanced stance at the plate. He also displayed quick hands, strong wrists and very nice bat speed. His plus-plus running speed was also evident. I’ll have more on him in November when the Top 15 lists roll out. Davis was promoted late after spending much of the year in the Gulf Coast League.

Jorge Flores, SS: A 2012 19th round draft pick out of an Arizona junior college, Flores stands about 5’5” and looks 14 years old so there is not much projecting you can do with him. It’s hard envision him succeeding at the upper levels of the minors, let alone the majors, but stranger things have happened. Flores, 20, needs to take a small-ball approach to succeed but he has a bit of a long swing and seems to have a pull approach at the plate. Defensively, he shows solid range to both his left and right but his arm is average. He makes up for it with a quick release. If he reaches the majors, I’d place a future 40 grade on his bat.

Christian Lopes, 2B: I was excited to see Lopes play. He spent the majority of the year in advanced rookie ball (Bluefield) but came up to Vancouver to experience the playoff atmosphere. A high draft pick from 2011 (His brother Timmy Lopes was also a highly regarded amateur selected by Seattle in ’12) but I was a little underwhelmed with his play in the two games I saw. I’ll have more on his during the Jays Top 15 prospects list coming out in November.

Kellen Sweeney, 3B: Sweeney, brother of big leaguer Ryan Sweeney, did not really standout at the plate. He definitely has a patient approach but it seems to work against him at times as he passes on some decent pitches. He looks much better on defense with a solid arm and good footwork at third base. Unfortunately, his offensive profile, which includes a 40-45 future power grade, does not lend itself to a full-time third baseman and Sweeney would be much better off at second base. He looks like a future utility player at the big league level if A) He improves with the bat, and B) Can develop some versatility.

Colton Turner, LHP: The 2012 draft pick and left-hander began the year as a starting pitcher but then spent time on the disabled list and returned as a reliever. He looked terrible coming in during the middle of an inning and allowed two inherited runners to score. His delivery appears to have a number of moving parts but it adds to his deception.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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I’ll be interested in seeing how Flores progresses. Chances are better than not that I’ll never see him play in the majors, but undersized position players are very entertaining when they do show up.