Jays From the Couch takes a look at the Blue Jays prospects in upper minors who are ready to grab MLB roles in 2018
Last week, Christmas Day actually, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com (full article) posted a nice piece outlining several of Toronto’s top prospects he feels could make an impact for the Blue Jays in 2018.
His list consisted of outfielder Anthony Alford, catcher Danny Jansen (with mention of Reese McGuire), pitchers Carlos Ramirez, Thomas Pannone, Ryan Borucki, Conner Greene, and last but not least Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (with mention of Bo Bichette).
With the except of VGJ and Bo, all the players Chisholm mentioned are currently on the 40-man roster and absolutely should get a long look this spring or be the first to be called upon when the injury bug bites.
However, I’d like to build off Chisholm’s piece by including my own list.
Many of the prospects on my list are guys most fans of the Blue Jays have already heard of but have lost some of their ‘prospect’ shine.
Rowdy Tellez, last spring’s darling, struggled in 2017 but don’t count him out just yet. There are reasons for optimism in the case of Ryan ‘Rowdy’ Tellez. He is just 22-yr-old, he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and he batted .311 in August. No one is sure that Justin Smoak can repeat his 2017 performance. So a bounce-back season for Tellez and a return to post-2017 numbers for Smoak could help Rowdy reach Toronto in 2018.
The 24-yr-old Gurriel Jr. didn’t have the North American debut he was hoping for as he struggled with injuries early in the season and with his performance when healthy. Gurriel’s performance this spring will determine whether he starts the season in Double-A New Hampshire or in Triple-A Buffalo.
Richard Urena got his feet wet with a September call-up. He got off to a nice start but struggled when given regular playing time. The soon to be 22-yr-old will continue his development in Buffalo and should see significant time in Toronto given the injury history of the Blue Jays middle infielders.
Lopes will compete with Jason Leblebijian for playing time at the hot corner in Buffalo. Ultimately, Lopes will push the versatile Leblebijian off 3rd.
In my opinion, Tim Lopes was the MVP of the 2017 New Hampshire Fisher Cats team. He split time between 2nd and 3rd while batting .271 with 27 doubles, 4 triples, and 7 HR.
Lopes was not added to the 40-man roster this winter, making him eligible for selection in the past Rule 5 draft. Fortunately, he is still in the system. Lopes is a Josh Donaldson calf strain away from making his major league debut.
Many quality players are being overlooked with Teoscar Hernandez all but penciled in as Toronto’s right fielder of 2018 and Anthony Alford not expected to be too far behind.
Dwight Smith Jr has hit between .284 and .265 in every season since 2013. He’s also averaged over 20 doubles with 10 HR while demonstrating an advanced feel for hitting. Smith hit .273 with 21 doubles, a triple, and 8 HR with the Bisons in 2017. He’d be a better 4th outfield option than Anthony Alford.
Heck, I’d rather have DSJ in the LF than Ezequiel Carrera. Just sayin.
Injuries have derailed the development of Dalton Pompey; however, he remains a viable outfield opinion in 2018. He still possesses a unique blend of speed and power….when healthy.
If Toronto goes looking for game-changing speed, they won’t have to look far. Roemon Fields took his game to the next level with a strong season with the Bisons in 2017. The 27-yr-old Fields is a beast on the bases. Don’t turn your noses up at his 11 doubles or zero home runs because a single is as good as a double when Roemon gets on base.
I also expect that Jonathan Davis and Connor Panas will push themselves into the picture in 2018 but I don’t think they will do enough to surpass the above names to reach the Majors. Davis hits doubles, steals bases, gets on base, and has surprising pop. Panas had possibly the best final two months of any prospect in the Blue Jays system. Panas could very well be the best outfield power bat the Jays have in their system if he can prove July and August weren’t a fluke.
Notable exclusions from Chisholm’s piece were the names of top pitching prospects, Sean Reid-Foley and Jon Harris. Both pitchers have struggled with control and work in the upper portion of the strike zone too much. In a nutshell, neither SRF or Harris were consistent enough with their delivery in 2017.
Now it’s possible for Sean Reid-Foley and Jon Harris to put an ugly 2017 season behind them with a strong 2018. I see the reasoning behind adding either to the 40-man before next off-season. Unless, of course, they have a breakout season. Both players will likely be added to the 40-man roster this December.
Chris Rowley was a great story in 2017 but it seems Toronto fans have all but forgotten that he posted a record of 6-7 with a 2.24 ERA across two levels in 2017. A strong start to his season in Buffalo will help get his name back on the 40-man roster.
This brings me to Markham’s Jordan Romano. Not likely ready until after the All-Star break, Romano will likely get an invite to Spring Training and should head to New Hampshire to start the season. The 24-yr-old Romano put together back-to-back solid seasons since returning from Tommy John surgery, which cost him the 2015 season. He’s averaged 9.2 K/9IP, keeps the ball in the yard (0.13 HR/9), and his fastball-slider combo would transition nicely into a bullpen role.
Not many of you realize just how flush the Blue Jays farm system are with bullpen options. From Carlos Ramirez to Tim Mayza to Matt Dermody to…..well the list goes on. The Jays have LHP Chad Girodo with his insane pitch movement waiting in Buffalo for another chance at establishing himself as a lefty-specialist.
They also have groundball god Andrew Case vying for a 40-man roster spot.
I am going to go off the board for this category. I have a strong feeling that one of Zach Jackson and Jackson McClelland have a chance at making their MLB debut in 2018. The duo dominated the Midwest League before doing the same to the Florida State League.
Zach Jackson finished with a 12.0 K/9.
Jackson McClelland seems to be getting stronger with a fastball which consistently registered between 97-99 mph during his time in the Arizona Fall League.
Feel free to add any prospects you feel has a shot at making his MLB debut in 2018.
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