Prospects: Baseball America’s Top Ten Toronto Blue Jays

Baseball America released its Top 10 2022 Prospects list for the Toronto Blue Jays. How do the rankings differ from the 2021 list?


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On November 10, 2021, Baseball America published the Top 10 prospects of the Toronto Blue Jays. Some additions, deletions, those who fell, and those prospects who rose from the 2021 list published in November 2020. Let’s take a peek at the prospects.

 

The tool grades and comments below are excerpts from the Baseball America Top Ten Prospects list. Concerning skill grades, I have indicated any change from BA’s previous rating in brackets. For example, Gabriel Moreno‘s hit grade in 2021 was 55; the mark is 70 on the 2022 list.

 

I have provided FanGraphs example of an overall player grade scale below. Words that follow the number in a BA Grade, their overall grade, refer to the risk associated with the prospect achieving that performance level.

 

1. C Gabriel Moreno (2021 – 8; 2020 – 7; 2019 – 20)

 BA Grade: 65/High

Hit – 70 (55); Power – 55 (50); Speed – 45 (Run – 40); Fielding – 55 (50); Arm – 60 (55)

Moreno has an elite combination of quickness, bat speed, hitting actions and excellent contact skills. His quick, efficient swing and bat-to-ball ability helps him turn around premium velocity on the inner third and counter pitchers who attack at the top of the zone with a knack for barreling those pitches. Moreno’s defense has made significant progress over the years as well. His lively athleticism helps him move well behind the plate while his arm improved to a plus tool.

Some scouts believe Moreno has a chance to be a perennial all-star, a potential plus to plus-plus hitter who could hit 20-25 home runs while chipping in above-average defense at a premium position. He should be ready to contribute in Toronto at some point in 2022 and eventually become an impact player in their lineup.

 

2. RHP Nate Pearson (2021 – 1; 2020 – 1; 2019 – 1)

Fastball – 65 (80); Curveball – 50; Slider – 60 (70); Changeup – 50 (55); Control – 45 (55)

BA Grade: 55/Medium

Pearson is 25, and his 101.1 innings in 2019 are a career-high, so durability concerns remain about whether he will be able to handle a starter’s workload. If he can do that and is able to sync up his mechanics to improve his fastball command, the stuff is still there for Pearson to develop into a high-end starter, though the Blue Jays might opt to develop him into a high-leverage reliever.

 

3. SS/3B Orelvis Martinez (2021 – 6; 2020 – 6; 2019 – 13)

 Hit – 50 (60); Power – 60; Speed – 40 (Run – 45); Fielding – 45 (40); Arm – 60

BA Grade: 60/High

Martinez has a strong frame, high-end bat speed and plus raw power. He’s an athletic mover in the box, maximizing his whole body to generate a whippy, explosive swing with the power to be a 30-plus home run hitter. The Blue Jays internally have believers that Martinez could stick at shortstop, though it’s hard to find like-minded evaluators with other clubs. His hands are fine for the infield, and his plus arm fits on the left side of the infield, but he’s a below-average runner with heavy feet and will likely continue to lose range as he gets bigger, with third base his most likely fit.

If Martinez can continue to make strides with his plate discipline, he has the upside to be an all-star. He should get another crack at High-A Vancouver to start 2022.

 

4. SS Jordan Groshans (2021 – 3; 2020 – 2; 2019 – 5)

 Hit – 55 (60); Power – 50 (60); Speed – 40 (Run – 50); Fielding – 45 (50); Arm – 60

BA Grade: 55/High

Groshans stands out for his feel for hitting. He can square up good fastballs, adjust to off-speed pitches and has good strike-zone judgement with an approach that allows him to use the whole field. Some evaluators are skeptical that his bat speed and approach will ever result in big power numbers, while others think he could get to average or better power. Groshans has a plus arm and improved defensively in New Hampshire, but his quickness and range are better suited for third base, where he spent around one-third of his defensive innings in 2021.

If Groshans can find the right balance of contact and power by learning when to drive the ball for damage, he could develop into an average or better regular at third base. He will start 2022 in Triple-A Buffalo, with a chance to get to Toronto by the end of the year.

 

5. RHP Gunnar Hoglund (Drafted in 2021)

 Fastball – 70; Slider – 55; Changeup – 55; Control – 70

BA Grade: 55/Extreme

Hoglund … looked like a top 10 overall pick in 2021 before Tommy John surgery ended his season in May. While elbow surgery adds durability risk, Hoglund is generally seen as a high probability bet to remain a starter because of his easy, repeatable delivery, relatively polished strike-throwing skills and quality three-pitch mix. Hoglund consistently pounds the zone and gets ahead of hitters, commanding his fastball well to both sides of the plate.

Hoglund’s rehab means he won’t make his pro debut until midway through the 2022 season. If he can stay healthy enough to handle a starter’s workload, the upside is the Blue Jays could get a mid-rotation or better starter in the back half of the first round.

 

6. 2B/SS/OF Otto Lopez (2021 – 12; 2020 – 11)

 Hit – 55; Power – 40; Speed 60; Fielding –45; Arm –50

BA Grade: 50/High

When Lopez was in the lower minors, he faced skepticism about whether what he was doing would translate at higher levels, but he eased more concerns in 2021. He spreads the ball to all fields, albeit without much power and a bat path that leads to a lot of balls on the ground, so he has never hit for much power. Lopez is a plus runner with an average arm. He’s a good athlete who has mostly played second base, with time at shortstop and center field as well, though he’s stretched thin at shortstop.

Being able to tap into more power would help Lopez develop into an everyday player. Some scouts see him in that role, regardless, getting into the lineup at different positions as a bat-driven utility player.

 

7. SS Kevin Smith (2021 – N/A; 2020 – 26; 2019 – 7)

 Hit – 45; Power – 50; Speed – 50; Fielding – 50; Arm – 55

BA Grade: 45/Medium

Smith spent his first full season in pro ball posting better numbers than he had in college. The next year in 2019, was a disaster. During his 2019 struggles, Smith tinkered with his swing, but nothing he did worked. He’s an average runner with solid-average raw power and could hit 20-plus homers over a full season. Smith can handle shortstop but also spent time at third base and could likely handle second as well, with at least average defense at each spot and an above-average arm.

Smith has been enigmatic, but if the swing and approach adjustments from 2021 carry over against big-league pitching, his power and defensive skill could allow him to stick around as a utility player with a chance to be a regular. Smith turns 26 in July, so he will need to show that quickly in 2022.

 

8. SS Manuel Beltre (2021 – 13)

Hit – 55; Power – 45; Speed – 50; Fielding – 50; Arm – 50

BA Grade: 50/Extreme

Beltre is a polished player for his age with a high baseball IQ. He’s a student of the game who has a short, simple swing with a direct path to the ball, which along with his pitch recognition, leads to a high contact rate. As an amateur, Beltre stood out more for his hitting ability and instincts than his raw tools or athleticism, but in 2021 he significantly increased his chances to stick at shortstop. He’s not the quick-twitch, acrobatic shortstop some teams prefer at the position, but he’s a fundamentally sound defender with a quick first step, secure hands and good footwork. He’s an average runner and an accurate, efficient thrower, though his arm strength might never be more than average.

Beltre has a chance to develop into a steady middle infielder who can get on base at a high clip. The Florida Complex League is likely his next step.

 

9. LHP Ricky Tiedemann (Drafted in 2021)

Fastball – 60; Slider – 50; Changeup – 60; Control – 50

BA Grade: 50/Extreme

Tiedemann is already a good athlete with broad shoulders on a strong, well-proportioned frame. He flashes a plus changeup, a weapon he has confidence to use against both lefties and righties, along with a hard slider that some scouts think can develop into an average pitch. Tiedemann was an up-and-down performer in the spring, throwing strikes at times but with an inconsistent arm slot that led his control to escape him and made him more hittable than he should be at that level.

Tiedemann had some good projection indicators before the draft between his size, athleticism and arm speed, and the velocity development has come on quickly, making him an even more intriguing starting pitching prospect than he was on draft day.

 

10. SS/2B Leonardo Jimenez (2021 – 17; 2020 – 17; 2019 – 21)

Hit – 55; Power – 55; Run – 45; Fielding – 45; Arm – 55

BA Grade: 45/Very High

Some evaluators think it could just take an approach adjustment for Jimenez to more aggressively try to drive the ball for power when he’s ahead in the count rather than being content just putting the ball in play, but the lack of game power might just be who he is. Jimenez is an instinctive, fluid defender who doesn’t have the explosive athleticism some teams prefer at shortstop, but he’s a steady, reliable defender with soft hands, loose actions, good body control and a knack for slowing the game down, with slightly below-average speed and an average arm.

If Jimenez can figure out a way to unlock more power, there’s a path to him developing into a solid middle infielder in the big leagues, possibly as a utility man. He’s likely to open 2022 in High-A Vancouver.

Other Items of Note

The prospects who appeared on the 2021 BA list but not in 2022 are as follows:

The last word

The Toronto Blue Jays have some fascinating prospects in their system. Baseball America’s Ben Badler speculated that the Blue Jays could have three or four players in Baseball America’s upcoming list of the Top 100 prospects. One of those prospects is likely to be Moreno, who Badler predicts will be Toronto’s starting catcher within two years. The future is looking very good for the Blue Jays.

 

 

 

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Bob Ritchie

Bob was a St. Louis Cardinals fan until the Blue Jays arrived on the baseball scene, although he still has a soft spot for the Cards. Similar to straddling the Greenwich Meridian, as depicted in the avatar, Bob applies sabermetrics when applicable, but his heart tells him that Lou Brock belongs in the Hall of Fame.