It is like Christmas morning when a new prospect is added to the Blue Jays minor league system. Let’s see how he stacks up.
With the trade of Seunghwan Oh to the Colorado Rockies on July 26th in exchange for outfielder Forrest Wall and 1st baseman Chad Spanberger, I thought it a good time to reassess the pecking order for 1st baseman in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system.
It’s a prevailing feeling that the Blue Jays system is lacking high ceiling minor league 1st baseman, so the addition of Spanberger and his power potential has many Blue Jays labeling him the system’s best option at 1st base.
Since I’m not a fan of ‘prospect lists’ this is not a re-ranking, rather, it is a comp piece. But first, let us run through the system’s 1st basemen level by level.
The description of Tellez is a bat first 1st base, destined to for a DH role if he can ever get to the BIGS. Unfortunately, Tellez has seen his power evaporate since arriving at Triple-A. In 124 Double-A game, Tellez hit 23 HR but has only swatted 16 in 207 games in Buffalo.
Tellez was just 19-yrs-old when he first put on a Lugnuts jersey, albeit for just 12 games in 2014. He played another 68 games for Lansing in 2015 before heading up to Dunedin.
Tellez has shown excellent extra-base power with a good approach at the plate which produced high batting averages in the mid to low minors. At 23-yrs-old, Tellez has time to find his power stroke.
An Underrated player, the 24-yr-old Kelly has put together back-to-back productive seasons in Lansing and Dunedin in 2016 and 2017. He is small for a 1st baseman at 5-foot-10 but he has quick feet, a good glove, and excellent range. Kelly can hit for a nice batting average and owns a career .350 OBP in seven minor league seasons.
Kelly, currently, on the DL, has struggled with the batting average with New Hampshire in 2018. He’s shown a little extra power and is one HR shy of matching his career high of 12 in about half the playing time.
Last year’s 8th round selection, the 24-yr-old Kacy Clemens put together an impressive rookie season with the 2017 Northwest Champion Vancouver Canadians. Clemens’ early success in Lansing to start the 2018 season led to an early May promotion to Dunedin. He has struggled to gain footing in the Florida State League not hitting for power or batting average while striking out a little more than once per game.
Clemens has the ability to hit for average power (15-20 HR) with a high .200 batting average while producing a mid .300 OBP as he moves through the system. He is also strong defensively around the bag at 1st.
Full Season A-Ball
I’ve not had a chance to watch Spanberger play yet but looking at the 22-yr-olds number suggest he an athlete. A 6th round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2017, Chad owns a career minor batting average of .307 with 41 HR, and 18 SB in 154 games across 2 levels.
He doesn’t walk a lot but shows good barrel to ball skills. He does a good job of putting the ball in the air but is an extreme pull hitter.
After a bit of a slow start in the power department in April and May, Noda exploded for a two to three-week stretch that saw him 10 HR. It seems the organization would rather Noda play the outfield but was forced to play 1st base when Christian Williams landed back on the DL this year. Noda shows a good approach at the plate and is very aggressive early in the count while chocking up with two strikes.
Short Season A-Ball
I’ve only seen highlights on him so don’t have too much to go on but has been described as a clutch bat. He doesn’t fit into this exercise but I thought it was worth noting he exists.
He is 19-yrs-old and playing in the low low minors, batting in the low .200. He appears to be very far at this point, also never seen him play. Also thought Morris show be acknowledged as part of the 1st base picture just not part of this exercise.
There many challenges in completing this kind of exercise. First, not ever minor league player’s development follows the same blueprint. Second, a college player versus a high school player can skew the data. Three, it’s very difficult to predict how players will perform when moving up a level or how they will perform when repeating a level.
***I used Chad Spanberger’s Asheville numbers***
***I used Kacy Clemens’ Dunedin numbers and not his Lansing number which is in the chart below***
We can see all but Clemens has produced at or above league average; however, Spanberger’s ISO and OPS are a cut above the rest of the pack.
While power is a huge part of the game, it is not the only part. In the past, and maybe today, the Blue Jays have received criticism for being too one-dimensional. Many of Toronto’s power hitters were/are reluctant to use the entire field choosing to hit into the shift hoping to hit the ball over the shift or over the wall. Many minor league teams using the shift. Another aspect of today’s game captured in this table is the ability of a player to hit the ball in the air.
Ryan Noda put up excellent on-base numbers early in the season, striking out a little more recently as he has become more aggressive at the plate. Noda easily leads the pack in BB% but it is Rowdy Tellez who strikes out less often than the rest. Spanberger puts the most balls in the air and only Juan Kelly rivals his impressive HR/FB numbers. With Kelly’s Pull% and HR/FB, it would be nice to see him put more balls in the air for HR and to beat the shift. Rowdy Tellez shows he has the more balanced attack, utilizing the entire field with a slight tendency to pull the ball.
The last exercise is seeing how each prospect faired during their time at A-Ball, the same level that Spanberger is currently playing for. Some played more games, Kelly, while others barely played any games, Clemens.
Tellez was the young of the group to spend time in A-Ball and also displayed the least amount of power during his time at the level. I wonder what numbers Clemens would have amassed had he been given the same opportunity to stay in A-Ball the same way Spanberger was able to. If we simply triple all of Clemens numbers because he played a third of the game Spanberger has played, we see numbers which look very similar.
It’s never that easy.
Kelly spent the most time at the level. It was his first chance to play every day and he responded with a tonne of extra base hits. Noda and Spanberger continue to play in A-Ball with Spanberger displaying more raw power.
Spanberger is clearly having the more dominant offensive season with the caveat that it is at the lowest level. For the remainder of the season, I expect to see Noda get more time at 1st base than Chad Spanberger with the ladder seeing more time as the Lugnuts DH. Noda can shift to a corner OF position which would allow Spanberger to play in the field more. With that said, I’d like to see Spanberger play the final month in Dunedin to see how he compares to Kacy Clemens.
Tellez is on his second season at Triple-A in his age 23 season so is clearly the most developed with Kelly and Clemens needing to pick up the pace or risk being surpassed by Noda and Spanberger.
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.