Jays From the Couch breaks into the top 10 in our 2019 Blue Jays Top Prospects List with Thomas Pannone
It’s that time of year again! We’re counting down our Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects for 2019. We’ve selected our Top 20 and will be profiling each one. You are bound to find many of these lists in your travels, which makes for great conversation. The basis for rankings varies even more than the number of lists you’ll find. Some prefer to look at how close to “big league ready” a prospect is, while others look at “stuff” or “tools”. To construct our list, we have scoured over scouting reports, numbers and a lot more to finalize our 2019 Top Prospects list. Feel free to weigh in on each selection in the comment section! It’s part of the fun!
Left handed pitcher Thomas Pannone was drafted in the 9th round of the 2013 June amateur draft, 261st overall by Cleveland. He struggled in his first season playing professional baseball as a 19 year old at rookie ball. In 14 games he was 1.0 with a 9.00 era. He adjusted in 2014, in 11 games with the same rookie ball team he was 5-0 with a 3.20 era.
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In 2015 he made the jump to A ball and was 7-6 with a 4.02 era, appearing in 27 games and 116.1 innings, which was more than double the 45 innings Pannone pitched in 2014. 2016 saw Pannone again increase his innings pitched, this time to 133.0. He pitched in 17 games at A ball, then made the jump to A+ for 8 games to finish the season. His era across the two levels was a very good 2.57. In 2017, Pannone pitched for three teams, Lynchburg, the Indians A+ affiliate, then he was promoted to AA Akron, where he was an all star. On July 31, 2017, Pannone was traded to the Blue Jays along with Samad Taylor for RHP Joe Smith. Pannone finished the 2017 season with the AA Fisher Cats of the Jays’ system. His era with the three teams dropped again, to 2.36. In the 2017 off season, the Jays added Pannone to their 40 man roster. The future looked bright for the 23 year old southpaw.
Then on March 16, 2018 it was announced that Pannone had been suspended 80 games for testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid on the banned substance list. Pannone claimed that he was unaware of how this substance got in to his system; nonetheless he served his suspension – a setback for Pannone and the Jays organization.
Pannone made his season debut on June 22nd for the Dunedin Blue Jays A+ ball team and ended up pitching in 9 games through three levels of MiLB. On August 10th, he made his MLB debut for the Blue Jays who were very much in need of pitching. Overall he got in to 12 games, six as a starter and went 4-1 with a 4.19 era and a 0.8 WAR- decent numbers for a rookie whose season didn’t start until June. In Pannone’s first MLB start on August 22nd, he took a no hitter in to the 7th inning against the Baltimore Orioles. Perhaps as impressive as his pitching line was his poise and focus in game. In the 7th, having lost the no no and the next batter reaching on error, Pannone calmly got the next three outs, stranding the runners and earning the victory.
In terms of tools, Pannone has a 45 grade (slightly below average) fastball, which averaged 88.4 mph in 2018. His curveball is graded 50/55, which averaged 82.3 mph and changeup 45/50 at an average of 70.6. Many scouts put a premium on throwing hard but a pitcher doesn’t have to light up the radar gun to be successful. There is enough difference in average velocity for Pannone to have success relying on pitch command, changing speed and location. His best tool is his command, graded at 50/60. His MiLB career BB/9 is 2.9. Maintaining this good command will be key for Pannone if he is to be successful in MLB.
The Blue Jays plan A to begin 2019 is likely a rotation of Stroman, Sanchez, Borucki, Shoemaker and Richard, assuming all of the above are health, pitching at least reasonably well, and still with the organization. Pannone may begin 2019 in the AAA rotation. He will need to continue pitching well so that he gets the call back to the Jays when the opportunity arises.
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