Top 14 in ’14: Toronto Blue Jays

Stroman, Marcus

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Outside of last year, the Blue Jays have had some of my favorite drafts of the past few years, and that should be obvious by the amount of 2011-13 draft picks that make up this list. They’ve also done a great job on the international market, and have one of the best scouting systems in all of baseball. The strength of the system is the pitching — particularly in the lower-levels — with several arms projecting to be third starters or better. There isn’t much in the system in terms of near help, but considering Toronto gave up so much in trades over the last two years, the system could be in a lot worse shape.

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
1 Aaron Sánchez RHP R/R 6-4 / 190
It came to Sánchez versus Marcus Stroman, and while there are still some question marks surrounding his right arm, the chance for three plus pitches gives him a slight edge.

Sánchez’ fastball has a chance to be a devastating pitch; sitting in the mid 90′s while occasionally touching 98 with a great deal of life on the pitch as well. He’ll throw both a two and four-seamer, with the latter acting almost like a cut-fastball that can give right-handed batters fits. His breaking-ball is a plus offering with tremendous depth and spin, though occasionally the pitch will get slurvy when he fails to stay on top of it. His change is the least consistent of his offerings, but it will also flash plus with some fade and his arm speed continues to improve to create the necessary deception.

While the stuff says future ace, Sánchez command right now isn’t near that level. Much has been made of his mechanical changes, as he’s lowered his arm slot to try and get more plane on his pitches, and if he can consistently repeat his delivery and throw enough strikes, he’s a future top of the rotation arm.

FASTBALL 60-70

CURVE 55-60

CHANGE 50-60

COMMAND 40-50

ETA: 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
2 Marcus Stroman RHP R/R 5-9  / 185
If you’re a fan of players of a diminutive stature that can throw in the mid 90′s with quality secondary stuff, then you and I can be friends and you will absolutely love Marcus Stroman.

Despite his height, Stroman can touch the high 90′s with his fastball thanks to other-worldly arm strength, sitting 92-94 with some late life. His slider has a great amount of tilt and can be an out pitch against left and right-handed hitters, and he has a cutter that will also flash plus, baring into right-handed hitters. His change is the worst of his four pitches, but is good enough to keep hitters off-balance and has shown some improvement over his time with the Blue Jay organization. He’s a tremendous athlete who repeats his delivery well and fields his position exceptionally, and while his command is only above-average, he rarely puts runners on base via walk.

So why is Stroman not the No. 1 prospect in the system? Well for one thing, Sanchez is very good, and Stroman has history working against him as starters of his size (he’s listed at 5-9, I would guess he’s closer to 5-7) and there’s a strong chance that he ends up as a reliever. I give him every chance to start, however, and with his stuff and work ethic, it wouldn’t stun me at all if he ends up being a No. 2 starter, though durability will always be a concern.

FASTBALL 65-65

SLIDER 55-65

CUTTER 50-60

COMMAND 45-55

ETA: 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
3 Roberto Osuna RHP R/R 6-0 / 200
This ranking might seem a bit bullish to some, and it probably is as Osuna wasn’t great in his limited work last year and will be out for at least a large portion of 2014 after he had Tommy John surgery in July, but I’m a big believer in his right arm. His fastball sat 92-95 before the injury, and there’s life on the pitch as well. He also has a slider that flashes plus-plus when he finds the right release point with a ton of tilt and buries away from right-handed hitters. His change might end up being his best pitch, as he has excellent feel for pitching and creates plenty of deception with almost no difference in arm speed.

We’ll have to see how he responds to the surgery — and there’s also some concerns about being to hold off weight that he shed at the beginning of last year — but Osuna’s overall package of advanced pitchability and quality stuff give him as much upside as any pitcher in the system, and give him a chance to be a top of the rotation arm in a few years.

FASTBALL 60-70

SLIDER 45-55

CHANGE 50-60

COMMAND 40-55

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
4 Daniel Norris LHP L/L 6-2 / 180
Norris struggled for a large portion of 2013, but rebounded strong to put up solid numbers and show why the Blue Jays — among others — were so high on his left arm. He’s still filling out his frame but will touch 95 and sit 91-93 with occasional sink on his fastball, and there’s a chance for more. Norris added some velocity to the breaking-ball as the year progressed, and with good spin it could become a swing and miss pitch in the future. His change is more advanced than his breaking-ball as he has good feel for the pitch, and there’s some fade to the offering as well.

While Norris has shown some improvement in his command, scouts do have some concerns about his delivery, as he has a tendency to throw across his body, and his arm has a tendency to drag, which could lead to issues over time. If he maxes out though, Norris has a chance to be a solid middle rotation starter who can miss bats and give you 180-200 innings a year.

FASTBALL 50-60

CURVE 45-55

CHANGE 50-60

COMMAND 50-50

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
5 Mitch Nay 3B R/R 6-3 / 195
The Blue Jays had approximately 45 of the first 60 picks of the 2012 draft, okay, five actually, and While Nay was the 58th pick, he has a chance to be the best offensive player selected as a third baseman with improving feel for hitting and a chance for plus power. The biggest development for Nay this year was shortening his swing and lowered his hands, and he now gets through the zone very quickly and uses a strong lower half to turn on pitches. He has improved his approach as well, and now looks to hit the ball to up the middle and to right rather than trying to pull everything in site, and while there’s swing and miss in his game he does have decent barrel control for a power hitter.

While Nay is a below-average runner, he has a good chance to stick at third with soft hands and good instincts, and his arm strength and accuracy borders on plus. If he had to move across the diamond he still could play everyday, but I think Nay can stick at third and provide above-average offense and at least average defense as a regular.

HIT 45-55

POWER 50-65

SPEED 45-45

GLOVE 45-50

ARM 55-55

ETA: 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
6 D.J. Davis OF L/L 6-1 / 190
Davis was the first of Toronto’s first-round picks in 2012, and while he doesn’t have the upside of some of the other names that went, he’s got a chance to provide tremendous value as a centerfielder who can absolutely fly in the field and on the bases.

Davis has very strong wrists and surprising raw power from the left -side, though it’s almost entirely to right. What is missing right now though is the barrel control that will allow his true 80 speed go to work, as there’s some serious contact issues (76 strikeouts in 225 at-bats) that prevent the hit-tool from projecting as above-average. He does have good hand-eye coordination, and with some mechanical adjustments (shortening the swing, more involvement with the bottom half) could change that. He doesn’t have great instincts in the outfield and his arm is below-average, but he’s a good enough athlete that playing centerfield as a big-leaguer is not out of the question. If he has to move to left (right is out of the question) his value lowers significantly, but Davis has a chance to be an everyday top of the order hitter who can go get it in center.

HIT 45-50

POWER 45-55

SPEED 80-80

GLOVE 45-55

ARM 45-45

ETA: Late 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
7 Alberto Tirado RHP R/R 6-3 / 195
Tirado is far from a finished product, but there’s legit No. 2 upside in his arm. His fastball touches 98 from a frame that’s best described as “wiry” and sits 92-96, and when he gets downhill there’s some sink and heavy life. He throws two different versions of his slider, one that is more of a loopy pitch with more break but less bite and the other that doesn’t offer the same break but harder spin. Neither one projects as plus yet, but they should be above-average with time; though I’d scrap the slower offering or turn it into a true curve.

Tirado’s change is his best secondary offering, as he has advanced feel for pitching for his age and no noticeable difference in arm speed.Right now, what keeps Tirado from the other arms in this system is his command. He struggles to repeat his delivery and find a consistent arm slot, and overthrowing pitches has been an issue. If he throws more strikes and slows down the arm path, there’s a chance he shoots up these prospect rankings next year.

FASTBALL 55-70

SLIDER 45-55

CHANGE 45-55

COMMAND 35-50

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
8 Franklin Barreto SS R/R 5-9 / 175
Barreto got big money ($1.45 million to be exact) from the Blue Jays out of Venezuela, and showed why in his professional debut this summer in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues. His best offensive tool is his pitch recognition, which he combines with above-average bat speed and quick wrists to give him a chance at least an above-average hit tool, maybe more. Power isn’t likely to be a big part of his game, but he has shown an ability to put the ball into the gaps and his speed is plus.

Defensively, Barreto has the athleticism to stick at shortstop, but his footwork needs a great deal of work if he’s going to stick there. More than likely he ends up at second, where the bat doesn’t play as well but there’s enough offensive upside in his right-handed bat to see him become an everyday player. Toronto will give him every chance to be a shortstop, though, and if he can play there there’s a chance he’s an above-average starter.

HIT 45-60

POWER 40-50

SPEED 60-60

GLOVE 45-50

ARM 50-50

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
9 Sean Nolin LHP L/L 6-5 / 230
Nolin doesn’t have near the upside of some of the other arms in the system, but he’s one of the ‘safer’ pitchers in the farm as a left-hander with four offerings and a durable pitchers frame. He generally sits 90-92 but occasionally will touch 95 with downhill plane and sink. His best off-speed pitch is a change that falls off of the plate and can give right-handed hitters fits. He also throws a slider in the mid 80′s with decent bite and his best pitch to left-handed hitters, and a curveball that will flash average. He repeats his three-quarter slot delivery well, although he does have a tendency to leave the ball up and home runs could be an issue at the big league level. He’s probably nothing more than a No. 4 — and there’s no projection left — but there isn’t much work to be done and he could help the Blue Jays as soon as this summer.

FASTBALL 55-55

SLIDER 50-55

CHANGE 55-60

CURVE 50-50

COMMAND 45-55

ETA: 2014

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
10 Jacob Brentz LHP L/L 6-4/ 195
Many were surprised when Toronto was able to get Brentz signed after they selected him in the 11th round last year, but the Blue Jays offered $700,000 and were able to buy out his commitment to Missouri.

Brentz fastball is his calling-card right now, touching the high 90′s consistently from a low three-quarter arm-slot that doesn’t require a great deal of effort. The rest of his repertoire is a work in progress, however, and that’s probably putting it nicely. His breaking-ball has big break but it’s very easy to pick up as he “casts” the pitch, and his change is nothing more than a show-me pitch at this point. There’s a great deal in wrist wrap in his delivery, and he’s still learning to use the middle-half of his body.

He’s a lottery ticket, but that kind of arm strength from the left side just doesn’t come around very often, and with some adjustments he could be a top of the rotation arm.

FASTBALL 55-70

CURVEBALL 40-50

CHANGE 40-50

COMMAND 40-50

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
11 Matt Smoral LHP L/L 6-8 / 220
Smoral is the 4th pick from the 2012 draft to appear on this list, and while he’s had an inauspicious start to his professional career, his size and arm strength still are too impressive to ignore. He’s still filling out his massive frame, and there’s reason to believe that his 90-92 fastball could become a mid-90′s offering in time. His most consistent off-speed pitch is a change that has some sink and fade, but many scouts believe his slider has a chance to be a better pitch with time, though it’s very inconsistent at this point.

The Blue Jays have done work with Smoral to compact his delivery, but there’s still a ways to go. His arm path is on the long side, and he doesn’t get his frame downhill often enough, and his stride and landing points are rarely consistent. He’ll have to show major improvement to stay on this list in 2014, but he also has a chance to climb as a left-hander with three above-average pitches and a chance to miss bats from the left side.

FASTBALL 50-60

CHANGE 45-55

SLIDER 40-55

COMMAND 35-45

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
12 Clinton Hollon RHP R/R 5-11 / 175
Hollon was one of the more ‘famous’ prospects coming into the 2013 draft, with many believing that he would be one of the first right-handed pitchers taken, but his stock dropped so much during the spring that many were surprised he went in the second round.

Hollon’s fastball has been as high as 96 but was often 89-92 and didn’t show the plus velocity often. His breaking-ball, however, has a chance to be an out pitch; with big 11-5 break and loads of spin that can cause swings and misses from both left and right-handed batters. His change is better than a developmental offering, but doesn’t project to be much more than an average third pitch at the next level. He struggles to throw strikes too often at this point, and while there’s no red flags in his arm-action he still is learning how to pitch and repeat his delivery. There’s top of the rotation upside in his arm, but there’s a great chance he ends up a reliever unless the command improves significantly.

FASTBALL 50-60

CURVE 55-65

CHANGE 40-50

COMMAND 30-45

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
13 Chase DeJong RHP  L/R 6-2 / 210
If you think there are a lot of pitchers on this list, it’s because there are. DeJong is one of the more advanced of the young arms in the Blue Jays system, but lacks the upside of some of the other arms with a fastball that sits mostly 91-93 but will touch the mid 90′s on occasion, with a chance for more as he gets stronger. He lacks consistency with his off-speed stuff, but his curveball will flash plus, with his change occasionally flashing above-average. Scouts rave about DeJong’s feel for pitching and arm action, and he has as good of chance of reaching his upside as any arm in the class, and should at least be a back-end starter at some point.

FASTBALL 50-55

CURVE 45-60

CHANGE 45-55

COMMAND 45-60

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
14 A.J. Jimenez C R/R 6-0 / 175
There are hitters in the Jays’ system that have more offensive upside than Jimenez, but his defense behind the plate earns him the last spot on this list. He gets rave reviews for his ability to work with pitchers, and does a good job of blocking pitches in the dirt with quick actions. His arm strength is plus, and he has a quick release that can shut down a running game , as well.

Defense will take Jimenez to the big leagues, but he’s not barren of offensive ability, either. He has plus bat speed a line-drive swing, and as he gets stronger double-digit homer totals aren’t out of the question, though you shouldn’t expect much more. He’s still a long ways away from being average offensively and he needs to show more patience at the plate, but at the very least he should be a quality backup, with average starter as a ceiling.

HIT 45-50

POWER 40-50

SPEED 45-45

GLOVE 50-60

ARM 60-60

ETA: 2016

 

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