The Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects at Baseball America sees a shake up going into 2019
On Wednesday morning, Baseball America dropped their much-anticipated Top 10 Blue Jays prospects list. You can access it here behind a paywall, and I would absolutely recommend a BA subscription. They also offered a chat on Wednesday afternoon. But if you’re not into paying for the good stuff, that’s cool too, but you’ll have to read my interpretation of their new rankings possibly filtered through a mind depressed by Simpsons quotes and over ten years in geology academia.
First, we’ll take a look at the 2018 list, which was one of the few reasons to be excited about the 2018 season after about May 1st:
- Vladmir Guerrero Jr.
- Bo Bichette
- Anthony Alford
- Nate Pearson
- Lourdes Gurriel
- Eric Pardinho
- Danny Jansen
- Logan Warmoth
- Richard Urena
- Ryan Borucki
And compare that with the new 2019 list:
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
- Bo Bichette
- Danny Jansen
- Eric Pardinho
- Jordan Groshans
- Nate Pearson
- Kevin Smith
- Sean Reid-Foley
- Cavan Biggio
- Miguel Hiraldo
Bo & Vlad remain atop the Blue Jays list, with Vlad having a historical 2018 season despite a knee injury and Bo having and up-and-down but overall very solid season with Double-A New Hampshire. We’ve written about these two enough, and to be honest, they’re not even the most interesting prospects in the system right now. The good stuff comes from those who were absent from the list in 2018 and those that have disappeared from it completely.
For the sake of this post, we won’t talk about Lourdes Gurriel Jr., as he made his mark in the majors this season. I also kind of want to ignore Danny Jansen, who was recalled in August and played 31 games for Toronto, slashing .247/.347/.432 and posting a 115 OPS+. Chances of him seeing much playing time in the minors in 2019 are slim, and even with the presence of Russell Martin, the starting catcher job is essentially on lock down now. Jansen is The Guy.
Arguably (well, not really) the greatest dropoff from 2018 to 2019 belongs to toolsy OF Anthony Alford. Previously ranked No. 3 in the organization, Alford dropped off the list completely in 2019. Some of this, of course, is due to some new, more interesting talent brought in (Groshans, Hiraldo, and breakout seasons from Kevin Smith and Cavan Biggio) but essentially points to Alford’s awful season.
It’s not quite fair to treat 2018 as Alford repeating Triple-A, as he previously had limited time in the upper levels. Despite this, many thought he would press for a call-up in 2018, which he simply did not do. In over 100 games with Buffalo, Alford slashed just .240/.312/.344, looking at times both like a star in the making as well as completely overmatched. We shouldn’t panic about his poor 2018, but at the age of 24, Alford needs to start putting it together if he wants a spot on the big club come 2019.
Logan Warmoth and Kevin Smith essentially switched spots in the lower half on the Top 10. The 22-year old Tar Heel saw a drop in offensive production in 2018 and has shown little evidence of anything resembling power in the minor leagues.
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This is concerning, and only three HR over 535 MiLB plate appearances isn’t going to cut it, even if you’re playing Ozzie Smith-calibre defense, which no reports on Warmoth have suggested. That being said, 2018 was his first attempt at a full professional season, and he was plagued by injury. This will be a big year for him.
Another shortstop, Richard Urena, was also left off the 2019 list, previously ranking 9th. Urena has proved that he can play at least a little bit at the MLB level, and that his speed can be of use off the bench. That’s probably the best-case scenario for him, too, as some of his deficiencies on the field likely should have been fixed by now. He might be able to use his athleticism to morph into a solid utility player. With the Blue Jays likely declining Yangervis Solarte‘s option, Urena could see significant bench time this season.
Nate Pearson and his 100-MPH fastball also dropped in 2019, down to No. 6 after a No. 4 rank in 2018. He simply didn’t play enough in 2018 to justify a surge, as a tweaked back and a broken arm (nothing structural in the elbow or shoulder) delayed his debut and required a long recovery. BA has him pegged “as a mid-rotation starter if he can handle a starter’s workload.” We trust in Big Nate.
- outstanding command, polish and feel to change speed (for his age)
- smooth, fluid arm action…repeats his mechanics consistently
- fastball sits 89-93 and tops out at 96
There’s more, but I don’t want to steal much from BA, as they also mention his curveball, which was an out pitch when he signed – is now accompanied by a slider and a change-up which needs some work, but is projected to improve due to his excellent arm motion and ability to manipulate.
Of course, 2019 also saw the rise of some middle infielder in the Jays system, most notably the power surge of Cavan Biggio (Unranked to No. 9), the first professional season of Miguel Hiraldo (No. 17 to No. 10) and the emergence of Kevin Smith (Unranked to No. 7).
Rather than get into Cavan Biggio here again, I recommend another couch article from our Jeff Quattro, looking into how Biggio might be the real deal:
There’s not much to glean from his statistics just yet, as like Pardinho, he’s only 17. But BA was pretty glowing on the guy, who they described as having a “knack for hitting, with a direct, compact swing.” He’s pull-heavy and a fastball masher, but BA mentions that his build like a catcher and not a shortstop, so sticking there is unlikely, but third base might be an ideal fit, and he has the “offensive upside to profile at third base.”
The Jays provoked some analysts in this year’s draft by grabbing a seemingly unknown kid out of a prep school in Texas, but they may have been on to something with Jordan Groshans. Groshans had little difficulty in his first pro season, which included stops in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian League (the latter resulting in just 11 games). Between the two Groshans slashed .296/.353/.446, producing 43 RBI on five homers and working to a .799 OPS.
|2018||18||2 Teams||2 Lgs||48||207||186||21||55||13||0||5||43||0||0||15||37||.296||.353||.446||.799||83|
BA mentions his plus raw power and ability to hit the ball out to the opposite field, primarily a line-drive hitter, with an above-average arm suitable for shortstop and third base, though his offense will be his carrying tool, though he is expected to be abel to make the show as an every day third baseman. Look out, Vlad.
Sean Reid-Foley, who we fortunately had a chance to scout in 2018, also made his debut on the list just in time to get called up the the big club. Reid-Foley struggled at the MLB level, where he pitched mostly out of necessity and probably the front office’s curiosity late in the season after the trade of JA Happ and injuries to Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. He was just 2-4 with a 5.13 ERA for Toronto, but pitched well in Triple-A, posting a 3.90 ERA and striking out 98 in 85+ innings. He’ll likely start 2019 in Triple-A should the Blue Jays add a veteran place holder to the rotation, but he’s improved at every level and September 2nd start versus Miami (7.0 IP, 10 K, 4 H and 1 ER) gives fans something to believe in.
Finally, the biggest jump belongs to Maryland Terrapin Kevin Smith, completing his first full season with High-A Dunedin. Smith jumped a preposterous 19 spots from No. 26 to No. 7, fueled by a reduction in K%, an increase in power, and an improved ability to get on base.
BA describes Smith as a competent but not-flashy shortstop, with an offensive profile to be carried by plus raw power and the ability to barrel the ball. Like most of the Blue Jays shortstops, he has an above-average arm with accuracy and a quick release. That was why the Blue Jays drafted him early in 2017, but in 2018 Smith reported early to Spring Training and committed himself to his offensive skills, and it payed of spectacularly in 2018. In 2019 he’ll see a large jump in competition, likely starting in Double-A New Hampshire.
Stay tuned here at Jays From the Couch for plenty of offseason goodies, including a run down of player recaps, trades and rumors through the long, cold winter.
Featured Image Credit: Roy Z- JFtC
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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.