Though all kinds of immediate transaction stuff remains up in the air– the Jays don’t have a damn manager yet, for example– the off-season is also a time filled with looks to the future, and how each organization’s valuable future commodities performed during the year. Yes, we’re already starting to see the front edge of the next wave of prospect porn, as Marc Hulet of FanGraphs weighs in on his Top 15 Jays prospects, while David Laurila gives us a Q&A with the list’s number two man, Aaron Sanchez.
As always when I post about these things, I’m a little hesitant about how much of Marc’s outstanding work I want to provide here– go and read it in it’s entirety for yourself– but there are definitely a few things worth examining, both on their own, and in relation to last year’s list, which looks quite a bit different in a number of ways.
At the very top, things are basically the same. Anthony Gose has graduated, and Travis d’Arnaud moves up a spot to take over as the club’s top prospect. Interestingly, though, the sense Hulet gives is of a player who the Jays might be more inclined to deal than incumbent backstop JP Arencibia, who we’re told the organization remains committed to, despite offensive struggles, “because of the trust he’s built up with the pitching staff.”
Hulet notes the fact that the Jays locked up backup Jeff Mathis, and that an evaluator “stressed” d’Arnaud’s “value was behind plate and that it wasn’t overly likely that he would see time at other positions in an effort to get his bat into the lineup,” as potential reasons to think he could be on the move.
Personally, I remain hopeful that the Jays can meet their pitching needs by moving Arencibia instead, but I suppose I understand that losing d’Arnaud may simply be the cost of doing business.
As mentioned, Aaron Sanchez is now the second-best prospect in the system, according to Hulet– which is up from tenth, leapfrogging fellow members of the Lansing Three, Noah Syndergaard (6th then, now 3rd) and Justin Nicolino (5th on both lists), as well as the water-treading Jake Marisnick (7th then, now 6th), full-on backwards moving Dan Norris (3rd then, now 8th) and Deck McGuire (formerly 8th, now off the list altogether), and others.
The knock on Sanchez is his still-developing command, despite three full seasons as a pro, but apparently that’s not a concern for everybody:
One talent evaluator asked about Sanchez, though, wasn’t worried because his pitches have so much natural movement to them and he’s still learning to harness his pitches after his fastball jumped a full grade between 2011 and ’12. The evaluator said the California native could still be a very good pitcher even if his command/control doesn’t improve, suggesting he could be an average big leaguer pitcher with 40 control and a potential star with 50 control.
Syndergaard still looks to some as a high-end reliever, because his secondary stuff is way behind his outstanding fastball, while Norris is naturally a worry now to some thanks to his awful statistical 2012, but Hulet tells us that “one talent evaluator liked what he saw from Norris this past season: ‘I saw Norris twice this year and he was excellent both times… I think the big inning got him a few times and I see the high ERA as more of a product of bad luck than lack of quality pitching (or) stuff.’ The southpaw has some work to do on ironing out and repeating his delivery but his changeup made huge strides during the year and projects as a plus pitch.”
And there are still more pitchers in the club’s loaded system, most notably Roberto Osuna, who made a bigger jump than even Sanchez, and who “the organization now considers him as valuable as fellow young hurlers Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, and Justin Nicolino.”
He now sits in fourth on the list, largely because, as Hulet explains, “Osuna’s fastball gained a full grade between signing in 2011 and opening the ’12 season. He regularly sat 93-95 mph with his fastball after previously scraping 90. One talent evaluator saw him hit 96-97 mph with Nicolino’s pitchability. ‘He’s absolutely legit,’ was the comment given.”
Um… nails much?
Three just-drafted prospects find themselves on the list this year, topping just the single one (Norris) who did so on last year’s list, with DJ Davis (7th) getting some glowing reviews, Marcus Stroman (12th) being dropped due to his suspension, and Mat Smoral coming in at 14th despite despite not pitching as a pro yet, due to injury.
Another of this year’s draft class, Anthony Alford, currently QB for a strug-uggling Southern Miss program (whose mom was arrested at a game two weeks ago for an altercation with a fan shit-talking her son), gets a mention in the comments– which themselves are certainly worth a read– as Hulet explains that if he “committed full time to baseball I probably would have ranked him in the Top 10, definitely the Top 15. He’s raw enough as a player that, unless he gets regular development on the diamond, he’s probably never going to reach the majors.”
Pick baseball full-time, Anthony. For fuck.
Also of note from Marc’s list: the Jays, despite dealing Carlos Perez to Houston, still have some tremendous catching depth, with AJ Jimenez (11th) and Santiago Nessy (13th) both making the list. He also has a nifty note on prospect number 15, pitcher Alberto Tirado, who “was acquired during the same signing period as fellow Jays prospects Wuilmer Becerra, Dawel Lugo, Jesus Gonzalez, Jairo Labourt and Manny Cordova – and received the smallest signing bonus – but he could end up being the best prospect out of the bunch.” His fastball, we’re told, has jumped to 93-95 from the 87-91 he was hitting when signed.
John Manual and Jim Callis on today’s Baseball America podcast also had some brief discussion (after twenty fucking minutes on the Red Sox and Yankees) about the Jays and their system, in advance of BA’s AL East top prospects lists coming out this week– with the Jays scheduled for Thursday.
“Neither of us think the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system is as good as we thought it would be,” Manual says, but both evaluators still think it’s a good system. “There’s a lot more ‘long way to go guys’ in the Blue Jays system than I thought there would be,” we’re told.
Looking at Hulet’s list, it’s somewhat true. Yes, there have been graduations (though one is Anthony Gose, who could do with at least another year in the minors), but of the fifteen guys listed, only d’Arnaud and Hechavarria (10th) are sure bets to play in the Majors this year, with Marisnick, Stroman and Sean Nolin (9th) being the only others at Double-A or above, though it’s far from a guarantee that we’ll see any of them in Toronto in 2013.
We’re inching closer to a real serious wave though. And as we prepare to potentially lose at least one of the “Big Three” in trade this winter, we have Osuna stepping up into their tier, albeit a year behind, as he’ll likely play in Lansing– and on the same innings limit we saw this year– we’re told. So… things are good. Maybe not as rosy as they looked a year ago, but good. And, of course, if Alex Anthopoulos can do something to fill the holes on the actual big league roster, we can stop dreaming so much for these far off talents.
Probably need a manager first, though.