Jays From the Couch brings you a look at Baseball America’s List of Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects
On Wednesday, Baseball America released their annual Top 10 Prospects ($) list for the Toronto Blue Jays. While the World Series is only two games in and the Jays’ roster is mostly set for 2016, it’s never too early to start talkin’ prospects, which for many of us, is a great way to make it through the long, cold winter without succumbing to hockey or basketball (shudders).
Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays often drafted high-upside talent – especially arms – out of high school, with a few college arms (Marcus Stroman and Jeff Hoffman) mixed in for good measure. Their greatest value, though, often came out of under-the-radar International signings, with loads of talent coming from previously unknown players such as Miguel Castro (now with Colorado) and Franklin Barreto (now with Oakland).
While we’ve only seen one draft under the ShappAtkins regime, there’s been a bit of a different approach, evidence by the selection of five position players selected in the first 10 rounds in 2016. The emphasis on pitching is always there, though, as all but one pick from rounds 7-16 went to pitchers. While maybe not directly related, five of the Blue Jays Top-10, as follows, are pitchers:
- Vladimir Guerrero, JR (3B)
- Anthony Alford (OF)
- Sean Reid-Foley (RHP)
- Conner Greene (RHP)
- Richard Urena (SS)
- Rowdy Tellez (1B)
- T.J. Zeuch (RHP)
- Bo Bichette (SS)
- Jon Harris (RHP)
- Justin Maese (RHP)
Yeah, it’s a good looking group. So let’s just dive right into it.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Highest Level in 2016: Rookie Bluefield Blue Jays)
Chances are if you’re a even just a casual follower of Blue Jays prospects, one name you know is Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Signed at just 16 years old following an informal agreement out of the Dominican Republic, Guerrero Jr. features a tantalizing combination of pedigree, raw power, and size (don’t be swayed by the braces-filled smile, he’s 6’3″ and listed at 235 pounds). Over 62 games at Rookie Ball this summer, Guerrero smashed 8 HR and drove in 46, batting .271 and reaching base at a .359 clip. There’s a reason he made this list at No. 1 – especially when you considered he out-performed his Pops in his first professional season at 19 years old. His defense, however, has a ways to go.
2. Anthony Alford (Highest Level in 2016: Single A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays)
Anthony Alford had a breakout season in 2016, his fifth with the Blue Jays. He posted career highs in HR (9) and RBI (44), but did so at the expense of adding more strikeouts (up from 109 to 117 in 74 fewer at-bats.) His stolen base total also dropped from 27 to 18, but with the uptick in power, it might just be a sign that Alford’s overall game is coming together a bit more. Alford is currently with the Arizona Fall League’s Mesa Solar Sox, getting much-needed repetitions after an injury-plagued 2016.
3. Sean Reid-Foley (Highest Level in 2016: Single-A Lansing Lugnuts)
|2016 [+]||2 teams||–||Minors||10||5||2.81||21||21||0||0||0||0||115.1||78||39||36||4||2||38||0||130||.190||1.01||1.40|
In what seems to be a trend among the Baby Jays in 2016, 6’3″ Sean Reid-Foley took a massive jump forward this season. Building off a 4.22 ERA over 96 innings across two Single-A levels, Reid-Foley posted a sparkling 2.81 ERA between Dunedin and Lansing, striking out 130 over 115+ innings. There was also a marked improvement in his control, giving up just 38 free passes compared to 67 in 2015 – in 19 fewer innings.
4. Conner Greene (Highest Level in 2016: Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
|2016 [+]||2 teams||–||Minors||10||9||3.51||27||27||1||1||0||0||146.1||131||72||57||10||6||71||0||99||.239||1.38||1.14|
Conner Greene cruised through 77+ innings with High-A Dunedin to begin 2016 before being challenged for the first time in his career with the Double-A Fisher Cats. He posted a 6-5 record with New Hampshire and an unimpressive 4.19 ERA, although 12 of his 32 runs allowed came in just two starts in early August. He quickly reversed that trend though, allowing just four runs over his final three starts spanning 19 innings.
5. Richard Urena (Highest Level in 2016: Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
|2016 [+]||2 teams||–||Minors||127||518||66||153||225||24||12||8||59||29||2||83||9||8||.295||.335||.434||.769||1.34|
With Troy Tulowitzki presumably roaming the shortstop position until the end of 2022 for Toronto, little emphasis has been placed on shortstop prospects in the minor leagues, and after Franklin Barreto was shipped to Oakland for Josh Donaldson, the systems was pretty thin. That changed with the emergence of Richard Urena as a legitimate prospect in 2016 when he hit .295 over two levels with a .335 OBP, 8 HR (all at Double-A), 24 doubles and nine stolen bases in 17 attempts. While he won’t set the world on fire in any particular stat category, an improvement in his on-base skills and a refined approach to baserunning may propel Urena into, at minimum, a speedy bench guy capable of playing solid defense and swiping a few bags.
6. Rowdy Tellez (Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
With the impending
doom free agency of All-Star Edwin Encarnacion, a rather sizeable hole may show itself in the middle of the lineup and at first base in early 2016. Rowdy Tellez remains the only in-house option to fill that void, and his 2016 season with New Hampshire in which he popped 23 HR and drove in 81 runs certainly brings him in to consideration for a debut in the summer of 2017. Tellez still has plenty of room to improve, especially on his 21% K-rate. Drawing walks hasn’t been a problem, though, as Tellez drew 63 in 2016 to bring his OBP up to a robust .387, a solid number for a 21-year old in just his fourth professional season.
7. T.J. Zeuch (Highest Level in 2016: Single-A Lansing Lugnuts)
|2016 [+]||3 teams||–||Minors||0||2||4.50||9||9||0||0||0||0||34.0||31||17||17||2||3||7||0||38||.242||1.12||3.62|
Like, Zeuchs, Scoob! The Jays 2016 first-round pick (21st overall) just finished his first professional season, traversing three levels (Lansing, Vancouver and Bluefield) to post an 0-2 record with a 4.50 ERA. Twenty-three of those innings came with Vancouver, where Zeuch tossed to a 3.52 ERA and struck out 22. The U of Pittsburgh star will likely begin next season with Lansing, where a full season will help the 6’7″ right-hander hone his game in a consistent environment. As a college starter, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see Zeuch sooner than a few of the other pitchers in this list.
8. Bo Bichette (Highest Level in 2016: Rookie Gulf Coast League Blue Jays)
On draft day 2016, there was plenty of mentions regarding the new regime chasing MLB pedigree. With Guerrero Jr. already in the organization, the Jays selected sons of MLBers Craig Biggio and Dante Bichette in this summer’s draft, with Bo Bichette earning a shot in the second round. The 18-year old shortstop tore the Gulf Coast League apart in limited action this summer, batting .427 over 22 games. With four HR, nine 2B and 36 RBI, Bichette showed plenty of production with a 1.182 OPS. His 21% K-rate is a bit concerning – especially when considering his 7% BB-rate – but there’s plenty of time for Bichette to grow as a player.
9. Jon Harris (Highest Level in 2016: Single-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays)
|2016 [+]||2 teams||–||Minors||11||4||2.71||24||24||1||0||0||0||129.2||111||47||39||3||6||38||0||99||.229||1.15||1.11|
The biggest surprise in BA’s rankings is Jon Harris. Not so much that he made the list at all – but it seems as though he’s earned a better rank than ninth. Harris was excellent in 84 innings with Single-A Lansing (2.23 ERA, 73 Ks and 24 BB) and certainly wasn’t bad with Single-A Advanced Dunedin, where he went 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA. His K-rate dropped with his late-season promotion – which is often expected, with a slight uptick in walks. All told he tossed 129 innings in 2016 to a 2.71 ERA with 99 K and 38 BB.
10. Justin Maese (Highest Level in 2016: Single-A Lansing Lugnuts)
|2016 [+]||2 teams||–||Minors||4||6||2.94||15||15||0||0||0||0||82.2||79||32||27||3||4||15||0||64||.251||1.14||2.57|
Another high school arm out of Texas, Maese made it to Lansing this season at just 19 years old (he turned 20 on October 24th) after dominating the Appalachian League in 2015 (5-0, 1.01 ERA and 19 K in 35+ IP). Beginning 2016 with short-season Vancouver, he continued to mow down the opposition, posting a 2.05 ERA over 26+ innings and 20 to just a single walk. That’s right – one walk over 26 1/3 innings. His pace slowed a bit as he was finally challenged late in 2016 with a promotion to the Midwest League, where he went 2-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 56 1/3 innings. He finally walked a couple guys, well, 14 of them – while striking out 44. Perhaps most impressive of Maese’s short career thus far is that he only surrendered three home runs in 118 1/3 innings.
There’s plenty more available from BA on the Blue Jays system, and videos of all of these guys on YouTube for those of you who need the visualization. While Toronto’s system has been criticized of late due to the 2015 trading splurge, the system may be a bit stronger than many give it credit for.
*Featured Image Credit: jcsullivan24 UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.