No, I haven’t misspelled Dustin’s last name in the title, I’m talking about Jason Parks– aka Professor Parks– of Baseball Prospectus, who today regaled us with a (two-fifths paywall’d) Jays edition of his Prospects Will Break Your Heart feature, wherein he details what could go horribly awry for the Jays top five prospects this year.
The only the bottom two of his excellent prospect reports are behind the paywall, so it’s more than worth a click. And interestingly, Justin Nicolino’s segment is in full view, as Parks names him the club’s number two prospect, trailing Travis d’Arnaud, and ahead of Jake Marisnick, Anthony Gose and Noah Syndergaard.
“Nicolino is still flying under the prospect radar, but his skill set will make him a national name by the end of the season,” he says, which… that’s pretty awesome. He sees the potential for his fastball to tick up a few notches as Nicolino ages, and is impressed that he’s already “spotting it and manipulating it like a seasoned veteran.” He adds that “the changeup is his monster, a plus offering that some scouts feel quite comfortable throwing a 7 future on,” and looks at Nicolino as “a quality number two starter waiting to happen.”
However, “what could go wrong is that the fastball continues to work in the average range and Nicolino becomes overly reliant on his changeup, which could lead to struggles after multiple viewings.” He adds that “2012 is going to be a huge year for the young southpaw, so this is just a minor critique, but one to watch as he climbs the professional ladder. If the fastball grows in size and stature, Nicolino could be something special. If it stays the same, he will need to maintain sharp command to remain ahead of the pack at the upper levels.”
If the Jays only had one prospect like that, the chances of a true impact at the MLB level would be pretty low. Of course, they have others, like Syndergaard, who Parks thinks “could emerge as one of the highest rising prospects in 2012.” He tells us that “the 19-year-old has legit top of the rotation potential thanks to the plus-plus fastball and the potential of the secondary offerings. The command profile looks promising, despite the length, and the ability to throw strikes is already present.”
“It took several calls to finally find someone with a legit complaint about the young Texan, and that complaint was about the nuance and touch of his game,” he adds. And later: “I think Syndergaard could
develop into a monster, and the glowing reports I’ve received on him support such a projection.”
Among the position players, catcher Travis d’Arnaud ranks first, as “some scouts believe d’Arnaud has multiple All-Star Games in his future, and could emerge as one of the best all-around players at his position in the majors.”
What could go wrong, he tells us, is largely down to expectations, as he’s afraid “a really good player is being miscast as a really great player,” since he sees a Major Leaguer with “an above-average stick for the position, but more of a .270 hitter with 25+ doubles and 10+ home runs,” mostly because he’s only seen d’Arnaud crush fringy stuff.
“If you think d’Arnaud is a balanced, all-around high-five/low-six type of catcher, he’s probably going to make you happy by playing good defense, hitting for a respectable average, and showing good pop for the position,” he says. “If you are expecting a Gold Glove-quality defensive player with batting champ credentials and 25+ home run pop, you might be in for disappointment.”
I’ll leave Jake Marisnick alone, because I’ve already quoted enough of Parks’ work for my taste, and the Marisnick bit is above the paywall. As for Anthony Gose, “the defensive skill set will make him a major leaguer,” he says, “but the bat can put a ribbon on his star package, and it’s the bat that just doesn’t look the part. “As it stands now, Gose would struggle to hit .220 at the major league level, especially against pitchers who attacked him inside with velocity and/or quality breaking balls, which he struggles to adjust his bat plane/path against,” he adds.
So… mostly nothing we haven’t exactly heard before– especially on Gose– but all in all… did’ja hear? The Jays have themselves some seriously strong looking prospects. Nails! (I could have done without reading the stuff about d’Arnaud, though, to be honest.)