Join Jays From the Couch, as we review four middle infielders which didn’t make this year’s Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospect List
Every year baseball fanatics put their heads together in an attempt to separate Top Prospects from Organizational Fillers. What should be an easy task, quickly turns into an internal struggle, especially for me. You see I am very very biased when it comes to prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays system. I think they should all be on they should all be on Top Prospect Lists, therefore, I spend more time moving names up and down lists than I should.
It’s due to this internal struggle that I feel obligated to fully inform/introduce the Jays From the Couch readers of potential prospects which don’t show up on our Jays From the Couch 2017 Top Prospect List (link). I can’t list every prospect, that’s crazy. The prospects I’ll cover, either had good years, have appeared on other Top Prospect Lists, or quite simply I think they are worth recognizing. READ PART 1 & PART 2 of our look at middle infielders.
In part 3 we have a look at a no plus tool 2nd baseman, a Cuban that took an unusual path to the Blue Jays system, and a pair of Gulf Coast League prospects.
The 21-yr-old Venezuelan had a down year in 2016. After 4 years of posting .288+ batting averages, Barreto failed to even come close to his career average. Most of Deiferson’s problems in 2016 can be attributed to a low BABIP….bad luck? Maybe. Deiferson still managed to post decent ISO and BB% numbers; however, his strikeout numbers increased and slugging percentage take a major dip which is a bad combination.
Barreto played all over the diamond in 2016. He split most of his time between 2nd (15GP) and short (20GP) but saw some action at 1st and LF. Prior to 2016 Deiferson had only played 7 games at short. Playing out of position could have had some residual effects on his offense output.
.215BA, 11 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 9/30 BB/K and 2 SB
Barreto will likely start the year on Lansing’s bench. It appears likely that Deiferson could return to Vancouver once short season ball starts. A combination of lacking any plus tools to speak of and having a number of higher ranked 2B ahead of him on the depth chart, Barreto will find advancing very challenging over the never few seasons.
Monzon signed on February 8th, 2016 as a 23 Free-Agent. He was assigned to the Gulf Coast League where he showed good power and plate discipline. After 22 games Monzon was promoted a level to Bluefield where he seemed to improve.
August saw Monzon hit .261 with 3 home runs. Monzon posted solid ISO numbers, posting a .232 ISO with the GCL Blue Jays and a .246 ISO with Bluefield. Unfortunately, he also appears to be a free swinger, striking out 36% of the time while in Bluefield. He was able to offset the high strikeout numbers with the occasional walk (11.3%) but not nearly enough.
With the Bluefield Blue Jays Monzon mostly saw time at 2nd posting a .932 fielding percentage.
2016 Stats (2 Level)
.246 BA, 3 doubles, 6 triples, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 20/47 BB/K and 7 SB
When taking into consideration that Christian Lopes and Tim Lopes are 23-yrs-old and 22-yrs-old and already occupying positions in the Blue Jays upper minor leagues, the 24-yr-old Monzon has his work cut out for him.
Being 24-yr-old and showing some decent power may work in Monzon’s favor. I expect that he will skip Vancouver and could see himself starting 2017 on the bench of either Dunedin or Lansing. How much playing time he gets will depend on how much he hits. If Monzon is able to claim a starting job, there’s double-digit home runs and 10-15 stolen bases potential in his game.
When Kevin Vicuna was signed out of Venezuela in 2014, the scouting report painted the picture of an all glove, no bat prospect. Two seasons into his professional career Vicuna has not disappointed with the glove and has excessed expectations with the bat. At 17-yrs-old in his first professional season, Kevin Vicuna hit .267 with 3 doubles and 3 triples while showing a good eye at the plate with 17 walks and just 28 strikeouts in 62 games. Kevin also displayed decent speed with 10 stolen bases.
In 2016 the 6-foot-0 140 lb shortstop set career highs in doubles and stolen bases despite playing in only 48 games with the GCL Blue Jays. His batting average did take hit thanks to a .239 batting average in July but August saw the young man rebound nicely with a strong .250 BA and stronger slugging percentage and OPS.
While Vicuna saw time batting out of the 2-hole and 8th spot in the lineup, he was primarily used out of the club’s leadoff hitter. Despite a small sample size, Vicuna had more success hitting out the 2nd spot (.297 BA) versus hitting out leadoff (.260 BA).
Lastly, Vicuna had a tough time hitting RHP, managing just a .220 batting average versus a much stronger .353 versus LHP. In the field, Kevin Vicuna split time between 2nd (19 GP) and SS (31 GP).
.258 BA, 5 doubles, a triple, no HR, 14 RBI, 12/39 BB/K, and 11 SB
The next step for Kevin Vicuna would be Bluefield where he will challenge another 19 IFA Jesus Severino, who I expect will repeat the level. Vicuna appears to have a higher ceiling than Severino, but at 19-yrs-old who knows. Vicuna should continue to improve his overall game but still needs to add a ton of muscle to his 140 lbs frame. Once that happens, we should see more doubles.
I am a sucker for high OBP prospects, hence, the presence of Jesus Navarro on this list. There is nothing in the way of a scouting report to be found on this 19-yr-old out of Dominican Republic shortstop. Baseball America described a 16-yr-old Navarro as having a line-drive stroke with some doubles power, adding that he possessed a high baseball IQ and needed to add strength.
Despite putting up decent numbers in his rookie season with the DSL Blue Jays, Navarro started 2016 in the DSL. After 37 games where he continued to show a strong eye at the plate and solid extra base power, Navarro was set Stateside to play with the GCL Blue Jays.
He made his GCL debut on July 30th going 0-for-3. He would find the competition in the GCL tougher than the DSL seeing a decrease in base on balls and an increase in strikeouts.
In the field, Navarro was used primarily at 2nd base in 2015 but saw much more time at short in 2016.
2016 Stats (2 Levels)
.227 BA, 6 doubles, 2 triples, no home runs, 14 RBI, 27/32 BB/K and 4 SB
Navarro can expect a return to the GCL to start the 2017 season. The question of where he will play remains. My money is on SS. Navarro should be able to make adjustments the second time around but I don’t expect to see him move up a level no matter how well he does in 2017.
Thanks again for stopping in. I understand that many of the prospects that I covered in this Non-Prospect: Middle Infielder series will never get close to the knowing what it’s like to suit up with a major league club. I know that many won’t even make past A-Ball but hopefully, we unearthed a few hidden gems deep in the Blue Jays farm system.
*Featured Image Mandatory Credit: Kris Robinson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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