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.

Comments (80)

  1. I’m intrigued by this idea of a “manager”, tell me more…..

    Seriously. GM meetings are this week. Let’s get this Manager thing done.

  2. Good read. Thanks.

    Although I have to say that Hech looked like he had more than “gap power” during his brief stint. I’m not saying he’ll hit 20 even, but I think he can break 10-15 based on how quickly he can turn on pitches. Great hands I thought – plus I do remember a nice 2nd deck shot that made me grin.

    • I thought the same thing about Hech.

    • I think the Jays were very shrewd regarding Alford….his having a poor year at Miss St has to be putting enourmous pressure on him. I’m sure the Jays are subtly reminding hi what Hulet is saying……if he doesn’t commit full time, hell almost certainly not make the majors.

      and lets be real here, he’s not an NFL player. I think he must realize this by now.

  3. I’m totally behind the manager thing taking second fiddle to getting an early start an free agents and the trade market. Granted, the manager situation *could* factor into the decision of potential FAs, but it’s not relevant for trades, and I’d hate for AA to miss an opportunity there because he was focused on the manager search.

  4. I messaged John Manual about the podcast and he tweeted back that they are going to do another one based on the O’s, Rays, and Jays, so that’s pretty sweet.

  5. I just want to cry.

  6. “because of the trust he’s built up with the pitching staff.”
    Umm, what pitching staff? Didn’t mathis usually catch Morrow? Which would mean the only for sure returning pitcher that Arencibia caught regularly is Romero, who was HORRIFIC this year? sooo not sure how you can put much weight on that quote

    • I’d also think I’d put up with a month of D’arnaud learning the staff just to see his much better hitting.

    • Was thinking this upon reading that too. I’ll be very happy the day Arencibia hits the bricks and takes his .275 OBP with him.

      • as well as his 25 HR and 80 RBIs?

        • Yes, absolutely. So long as he takes the terrible OBP, k Zaun Cherry?

        • JPA is the most overrated Blue Jay. Ever. He’s garbage. He’s got an ON switch that he turns everytime someone talks too much shit on twitter. He’s great for a game or two and then he goes back to sucking shit.
          Trade him for a bag of balls.

        • Yes. You can take his RBIs.

      • Could not agree more. What staff? Maybe it was Happ and his broken fucking ankle.
        If Romero carries this much say then tell him to throw a few more strikes.
        Not only can JPA not take a freaking walk, but he seriously needs to learn how to frame a pitch and lead a pitcher. If he has such a fucking rapport then why do they shake him off so much?

    • There are more pitchers than just starters, don’t forget, but yes, it’s an odd statement, and definitely one I don’t WANT to be true.

      • Of course, many of those relievers pitched for the team while arencibia was out. So even that doesn’t hold much weight.

    • F – good point RYan

      Hopefully the JP BS is just posturing. Would love to see them keep d’Arnaud and dump JP.

    • This jumped off the page at me too.. Familiarity for the pitching staff.. there are a few factors to consider:
      1. lets hope its very different in terms of starters
      2. JP’s injury meant that Mathis caught a lot more than anticipated.
      3. Familiarity didn’t help with the one guy he’s most familiar with – Romero
      4. Happ, Lyon, Delabar, Lincoln were all late-season pickups. He hasn’t handled Rogers yet.
      5. Frasor will probably be gone, Oliver too.

  7. The interesting thing is that these guys have all but confirmed for me that there’s a developmental gap between the top prospects and the major league team. For the few naysayers out there saying we shouldn’t spend, this is pretty much a nail in the coffin for that argument imo. Outside of Gose, d’Araud and Hechavarria, who will likely be on the team at some point this year, if not out of spring training as in Hechavarria’s case, there’s going to be a lag in getting guys up to the majors to make a make an impact.

    Short of clearing a lot of talent out the system via trades, the obvious way is to spend to plug the holes. The added beauty of spending is that it allows you to maintain depth in your system and create a far better chance at sustainability when 2014 and 2015 rolls around. There’s been some interesting articles from Mike Cormack and Morosi showing just how much cash even the small market teams are rolling around in now.

    It also illustrates that for those waiting on the Lansing 3 to be the saviours of the organization, that you might have a longer wait that you thought and the train might not actually get to the station in every case.

    • I don’t think that anyone is saying don’t spend. I think the idea most “naysayers” are trying to highlight is that there is spending that makes sense, and spending that is just fucking stupid (i.e. paying Josh Hamilton what he wants).

      You also have to be realistic. Is there some magic combination of the players currently available on the free agent market, combined with the pieces the Jays have either on the farm or on the roster right now which you could say would:
      a) be able to be assembled here for a reasonable price giving the club flexibility both now and down the road to create a sustainable model for both player acquisition and development?
      and b) cause the team to instantly leap into the ranks of contending teams without the codicil that “everything needs to break right” being attached to it (heard that way too many times over the JPR years)

      If you can’t satisfy those two conditions, then it’s unlikely that the front office will (or even should) engage in some kind of spending binge over the winter. A few pieces to improve the roster, with a view towards deadline deals if the team is in contention but, more importantly, bridging the gap you (correctly) identified before 2014 when the (allegedly) higher impact guys start to make their way towards the majors is probably the best we, as fans, can hope for.

  8. I think that, well it’s obvious really, there are certainly some viable managerial candidates that fit certain qualities needed to manage the club and that cetain synergies currently exist between us and certain candidates and as we move forward towards the finality of the process, be it internally or externally, we may or may not decide that this guy or that guy might possibly be the man for the job. That being said I certainly recognize the need to identify said people in a timely manner, knowing full well that the decision, or lack there of, rests solely in my hands as the GM of this ballclub and we certainly feel we have achieved some momentum in coming to the end of tgis process which

  9. I think that, well it’s obvious really, there are certainly some viable managerial candidates that fit certain qualities needed to manage the club and that cetain synergies currently exist between us and certain candidates and as we move forward towards the finality of the process, be it internally or externally, we may or may not decide that this guy or that guy might possibly be the man for the job. That being said I certainly recognize the need to identify said people in a timely manner, knowing full well that the decision, or lack there of, rests solely in my hands as the GM of this ballclub and we certainly feel we have achieved some momentum in coming to the end of this process which has led us to believe that we will indeed interview someone for this, or another job within the organization

    blah blah blah

  10. I believe the Rays do something similar to what the Jays do in terms of building up pitcher innings in the minors so they don’t have a situation where year 1 is 150, year 2 is 190 and year 3 they are finally let loose.

    Which makes a lot of sense for a perenially contending team, even if it hurts their (pretty much meaningless) BA rankings.

    Of course, it takes a while to get there.

    As night_manimal suggests above, there is a clear developmental gap caused by the injuries which pretty much forces at least some money to be spent.

  11. Offer Torre 3 years @ $30,000,000 :D If they land him, it’ll be the best free agent signing since Jack Morris!!!!

  12. what position does ALFORD play/

  13. Who would you rather trade, TDA or JPA?

    • Yes

    • At this point I saw why trade either? The Jays obviously have the money to fill a lot of the holes. Let’s see them do that first and see what needs to be fixed after that. Personally I know there’s the old school thing where he’s got to play everyday, but maybe a manager that knows how to use his bench creatively could get him enough playing time and AB’s as right handed dh/ pinch hitter with the odd day at catcher. At the same time I would glue him to Mathis’ hip so you can cut down on his learning curve at the major league level.

      At the end of the day it’s still too soon to know if his hitting skills will translate at the major league level or if he’s just another Vegas mirage. Maybe AAA really is the best spot for him to start the year. At least we’ll get a better idea on his hitting.

      • Davidi was just guessing then at his 95 million budget? I mean, that’s the Yankees game also, to a degree; when they have a gap between their prospects and major league roster, spend money and let the prospects develop. I want it to be wrong but, I just cant see Rogers/Jays giving AA a larger budget than that.

        • http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/2012/11/05/just_how_rich_are_baseball_teams/

          This the Cormack article I was referring to and there’s one by Morosi where he interviews Boras. Obviously Boras’ take on things will be his standard but doesn’t mean he’s wrong either.

          As for the Jays actually getting the money we all know is there, well judging by Rogers spending history, you have a pretty good shot at being correct.

        • And yes the Yankees among other teams have done the same thing well for years. With prospects being much harder to come by now, you better either draft really well, or make up for it in other ways like brilliant trades or spending.

          It’s interesting times for the Yankees. With their farm system kind of sucking for the most part these days and their willingness to spend endless sums on the wain somewhat, it’s going to be interesting to see how they’ll grab players at the trade deadlines in the future.

          • The thing I always found amazing about the Yankees is when they would pick up supposed “spare parts” through trades during the season, they would usually get a pretty serviceable, productive player out of them. But likely a large part of that is a mirage because they would be surrounded by the homegrown or established talent on their roster. But the way that team is aging now, the same probably wont be true in 3 or 4 years.

            I agree it’s interesting time for these Yanks in the next coming seasons. It will be interesting to see what they do to try and keep themselves at the top of the division year in year out.

      • It wont happen often ( if it happens at all) but the Jays have a chance this year to land an elite player for their rotation specifically or their roster in general. By finishing in the bottom 10 teams this year they can sign a Type A free agent and not have to give up a 1st round pick in the draft. It’s a shame Greinke is (IMO) one of the few available elite arms, but now is definitely the time

    • JPA

    • I would rather trade JPA.

  14. Its really too bad there is such a gap between our on field talent and the bulk of our minor league talent. Realistically if it wasn’t for bautista, most people would be in agreement that the team should sit back and wait for the bulk of their prospect pool to mature.

  15. As for the note on JPA v TDA..

    reality is that travis, despite not playing a game in the majors, is going to get you a far better arm than JP is. So its more or less just sticking with JP because travis might fetch you the top of the rotation arm.

  16. “Neither of us think the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system is as good as we thought it would be,”

    Ouch. I don’t think the organization expected to get all of these picks to be stars, but I think that they did hope, with all they invested in scouting, that they would have had less question marks and a few clear stars in the making.

  17. What went wrong in ’12 for the Jays:

    Kelly Johnson became a whore – He sucked hard for a paycheck.

    Escobar was dumped by his girlfriend Lindsey Lohan for being unstable.

    Arencibia was Superman unless the opposition possessed that super rare kryptonite also known as a breaking ball.

    Rajai Davis and Winona Ryder are only relevant in 2012 when they caught stealing a bag.

    Farrell kept tapping the speed boost button on his PlayStation controller but runners kept getting thrown out.

    Romero suffered from bacterial vaginosis.

    Vizquel out hit Babe Ruth and out whispered Anne Frank.

    Adam Lind became a tampon – a fluffy, white, useless lump, occupying valuable space.

  18. “We’re inching closer to a real serious wave though.”

    Don’t hold your breath. We were inching real close to a serious wave last year too – d’Arnaud, Hechavarria, Gose, Sierra, Cooper, McGuire, Jenkings, Hutchinson, and Carreno, among others. Obviously nobody from this group is yet to establish themselves as viable MLBers, and 2012 should show that the development of prospects is anything but linear. Guys like Sanchez, Syndergaard, Nicolino, and Marisnick are 2 full seasons from being anywhere close to MLB ready, which, if you keep the above list in mind and remember 2012, means they very likely won’t have an impact until 2016, if ever.

  19. 2013 blue jays rotation as of today:

    Morrow
    Romero
    Guy who threw shoe at Bush
    Happ
    Mike McCoy

    Alvarez
    corpses of Drabek and Hutchison

  20. What would be a realistic return for d arnaud in a trade?

    • In an interview last year, I remember Kevin Goldstein said something like ‘oh you don’t trade Darnaud. No way.’

      So, that would lead me to believe that you probably wouldn’t include him in a trade unless it was for something special, like a front of the rotation pitcher.

      That said, that was just one opinion.

      • No saying you could get a front end pitcher for Darnaud straight up, but he could be the main piece in a package.

    • Keep in mind TDA hasnt played a game in MLB yet. that should temper the quality of pitcher you get in return. For an elite pitcher, you probably have to throw in a roster player.

  21. If you wanted to read about more than 15 prospects Batters Box put their top 30 on their site last week. Marc Hulet votes on Batters Box top 30 too.

  22. Its crazy after hearing about all those guys in the Top 15 that people can think the Jays system is moving backwards, even if the bulk of the talent is still a ways away…

    Most teams do not have anywhere NEAR that many high-ceiling players. Its up to AA to now use some of that capital to boost the MLB talent. There is no problem here. In a few short years the system went from desolate to clogged with potential. Just because the Lansing 3 get the headlines doesn’t mean that they are the only ones in the system.

  23. I just wanted to chime in that the Jays system is not about individuals. It is about getting as much upside as possible and then hoping that some of them hit their upside. It doesn’t matter which fail and which make it.

  24. For a guy who has never played a game with the team, I’ve seen him in a Jays uni more times on the web than any other player thats last name doesnt end in autista or ncarnacion… just sayin…

  25. Holy shit – its tough to read stuff like this without getting crazy..

    “In conversations with scouts at the ballpark, no prospect generated more buzz than right-hander Aaron Sanchez. Player comps included Matt Garza on the low end and Justin Verlander, “if everything broke just right.” Another scout mentioned he was shocked he lasted so long in the 2010 draft after seeing him pitch in person.”

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