Top 30 Prospects: The Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays
2010 MLB Record: 85-77 (4th place, AL East)
Minor League Power Ranking: 3rd (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
Acquired: 2006 1st round (Texas HS)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: The key to the Roy Halladay trade with Philadelphia, Drabek has a chance to break camp in 2011 with the Jays despite lacking triple-A experience. The son of former Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek, the rookie has an advanced feel for pitching given his age and experience level. He held his own during a brief MLB trial (4.08 FIP in 3 starts) in 2010 but still has to sharpen his overall command and secondary pitches after missing time due to Tommy John surgery early in his career. Drabek has a solid repertoire that includes a 90-95 mph fastball and plus curveball. He also has a cutter and changeup, both of which need development. During his time in double-A, Drabek posted a solid strikeout rate (7.33 K/9) with average control (3.78 BB/9) and showed the ability to produce an average to above-average ground-ball rate. I’m not crazy about his mechanics. Drabek has a quick, short-arm action and three-quarter arm slot. He also throws across his body a bit and doesn’t use his legs as much as he should. If everything develops as hoped, though, the pitching prospect could develop into a No. 2 starter.

2. Brett Lawrie, 3B/2B
Acquired: 2008 1st round (B.C. Canada HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: The Jays nabbed the Brewers’ top prospect this past off-season for veteran starter Shaun Marcum. A Canadian, Lawrie was reportedly thrilled with the move to the Jays organization. Along with switching teams, the youngster has also been moved off the keystone position to the hot corner. He spent the 2010 season in double-A despite being just 20 years of age. He produced a solid offensive line of .285/.346/.449 in 554 at-bats. The former No. 1 draft pick showed good power for a middle infielder with an ISO rate of .164, but it remains to be seen if he can produce the pop expected from a third baseman. Lawrie also displayed some instincts on the base paths and stole 30 bags despite average speed. At the plate, he shows a level stroke but it can get long at times. His stance includes a wide, low crouch and he needs to concentrate on keeping more upright through his core. Lawrie also has a very “noisy” load and less bat movement could perhaps help him make even more contact. At times, he looks unprepared to swing on some good fastballs on the inner half. Defensively, the hope is that Lawrie can develop into an average defensive fielder. Lawie could see time in the Majors in the second half of 2011 but the prospect – who carries himself with a lot of confidence – could probably use a full season in the minors to help iron out his overall game.

3. J.P. Arencibia, C
Acquired: 2007 1st round (U of Tennessee)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 25
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: I don’t really understand the tempered enthusiasm for Arencibia. He has the ability to be at least an average defensive catcher with plus power. Those types of catchers do not grow on trees. Over the past two seasons in triple-A, Arencibia produced 53 homers and an ISO rate of .325 in 2010. Along with that, he also improved both his walk rate (5.3 to 8.3 BB%) and strikeout rate (24.5 to 20.6 K%) over his ’09 totals. He has a nice, solid base at the plate but could stand to track the ball a little bit better. He shows a quick path to the ball at times but his swing also gets long. Arencibia does have warts as a player, including a poor (overly-aggressive) approach at the plate, which leads to low on-base averages and even modest batting averages. Like fellow Jays youngster Travis Snider, the young backstop needs to learn to wait for his pitch without losing his aggressive nature. Because he’s such a hard worker with a solid amateur background, I’m inclined to keep the faith with Arencibia and see him developing into John Buck in a worst case scenario.

4. Deck McGuire, RHP
Acquired: 2010 1st round (Georgia Tech U)
Pro Experience: None
2010 MiLB Level: None
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: The Jays’ first pick of the 2010 draft, McGuire has the potential to move quickly through the minor league system. He has yet to throw a pro pitch in the regular season but he should open 2011 in high-A ball. The speedy ascent should occur for McGuire if the Jays coaches can teach him to repeat his mechanics on a more consistent basis. The right-hander has a four-pitch repertoire that includes an 89-94 mph fastball, potentially-plus slider, curveball and changeup. He throws with a three-quarter arm angle and doesn’t always finish his pitches. He also slings his pitches at times and needs to make sure he keeps his shoulder closed. Despite signing for $2 million, McGuire is more of a No. 2 or 3 starter than a potential ace. He’s big and strong and has a reputation for being durable.

5. Carlos Perez, C
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Short-season
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Most people prefer fellow catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud but I’m a pretty big Perez fan, who is a few levels behind his fellow backstop. He shows an advanced approach at the plate for his age and experience level. He hits for a solid average, has patience (12.2 BB%), and line-drive power that could eventually lead to 10-12 home runs per season. In 2010 at short-season ball, Perez hit .298/.396/.438 in 235 at-bats. He doesn’t have more than average speed but he’s a plus base runner, which led to seven steals in 10 tries and eight triples. Defensively, he shows potential behind the dish with a good caught-stealing rate (36%) thanks to a solid arm, good release and foot work.

6. Zach Stewart, RHP
Acquired: 2008 3rd round (Texas Tech U)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Part of the Scott Rolen trade with Cincinnati, which has worked out well for both teams, Stewart has yet to settle on a role. It appears as though he’ll open 2011 in the starting rotation and he has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can improve his command and sharpen his secondary pitches. In 2010, Stewart had a 4.18 FIP while accumulating a career-high 136.1 innings in double-A. After producing an above-average ground-ball rate in ’09, his rate fell back to average levels in ’10. His repertoire includes an 89-94 mph fastball, good slider, and changeup. Stewart produces easy velocity and has a solid delivery with minimal effort. He utilizes a low three-quarter arm angle. At worst, the right-hander should become a successful high-leverage reliever in the eighth or ninth inning.

7. Travis d’Arnaud, C
Acquired: 2007 supplemental 1st round (California HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: The third catcher on the Top 10 list, it shows just how much depth that the organization has behind the plate. d’Arnaud has a lot of potential but his 2010 season was cut short by back issues. He spent the off-season working on core strength to help hold up over the course of a full season and he has impressed the Jays coaches with his work this spring. Overall, he hit .259/.315/.411 in 263 at-bats at high-A ball. Despite the missed time he should spend much of 2011 in double-A. He has some work to do on offense, which includes improving his patience at the plate and trimming his strikeout rate. It jumped from a career mark of approximately 16.0 to 24.0 K% in ’10. He keeps his feet quiet with a wide stance at the plate but his hands have a lot of unnecessary movement. Behind the plate, he shows a strong arm but needs to tighten up the rest of his skills. He has the potential to become a plus defender.

8. Asher Wojciechowski, RHP
Acquired: 2010 supplemental 1st round (The Citadel)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Short-season
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Wojciechowski has the potential to be one of the steals of the 2010 draft if he can stay healthy. The right-hander pitched just 12.0 innings after signing and there were mixed reports on why he was shut down early: simply as a way to limit his innings in ’10 or because of minor shoulder issues. Either way, Wojciechowski is expected to be healthy to begin 2011 and he could open the year in high-A ball with a strong spring. He has a solid repertoire with an 88-94 mph fastball, potentially-plus slider, and developing changeup. He does throw across his body a bit in his current delivery and struggles with his arm slot at times. A big, strong pitcher, Wojciechowski could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter with some polish.

9. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Acquired: 2010 supplemental 1st round (California HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/Short-season
Opening Day Age: 18
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Under former General Manager J.P. Ricciardi, the Jays organization shied away from draft picks like Sanchez, a high-risk, high-reward prep pitcher. The youngster had an outside shot at going in the first round, before dropping to the Jays in the supplemental round. He’s raw and struggles with his control (5.68 BB/9 rate in 19.0 rookie ball innings) but this right-hander has the potential to have at least two plus pitches with an 88-94 mph fastball and promising curveball. His changeup remains a work-in-progress. Sanchez could also stand to smooth out his delivery a bit. He has a low three-quarter delivery and there is a little effort to it. The right-hander has a very quick arm and takes a long stride. After a strong showing in his debut, as well as in the instructional league, Sanchez should spend the 2011 season in low-A ball.

10. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
Acquired: 2010 non-drafted free agent (Cuba)
Pro Experience: 1 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Two AL East teams nabbed young, skilled Cuban shortstops in the span of a year: Boston’s Jose Iglesias and Hechavarria. The Red Sox infielder possesses a higher ceiling but Toronto’s prospect has the potential to develop into a solid all-around player. Hechavarria already flashes plus defensive tools and has shown glimpses of at least average hitting skills. He struggled initially in North America, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise, but saw his bat wake up with a promotion to double-A, where he befriended manager Luis Rivera, who has since been promoted to coach with the big league club. Hechavarria hit .273/.305/.360 in 253 double-A at-bats but was hampered by an overly-aggressive approach (4.4 BB%). He will never possess 20-homer power but he should develop solid gap power. He shows a solid stance at the plate and does a good job of keeping his eye on the pitches. He utilizes a toe tap for timing. Hechavarria has a simply load and shows a quick bat and path to the ball. He should return to double-A in 2011.

Top 3 Organization Bonus

11. Anthony Gose, OF
12. Jake Marisnick, OF
13. Eric Thames, OF
14. Chad Jenkins, RHP
15. Griffin Murphy, LHP
16. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
17. Kellen Sweeney, IF
18. K.C. Hobson, 1B
19. Adonis Cardona, RHP
20. D.J. Thon, SS
21. Andrew Hutchison, RHP
22. Marcus Knecht, OF
23. David Cooper, 1B
24. Justin Nicolino, LHP
25. Darin Mastroianni, OF
26. A.J. Jimenez, C
27. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
28. Brad Mills, LHP
29. Gustavo Pierre, SS
30. Christopher Hawkins, OF/3B

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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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Matt
Guest
Matt

Does spring training affect these rankings? Since Thames and Lawrie have been decent so far.

Ree
Member
Ree

Small sample size in spring training, so I would guess not.