I spent about an hour trying to craft a beautiful introduction to our offseason prospects series, but nothing magical came to mind. You didn’t come here to a read long-winded introduction, anyway; you came for the prospects. Before we begin, however, I do want to touch on a few things:
1. I’m not going to bullshit you here: the capsule structure is very similar to the ones Kevin Goldstein used to do for Baseball Prospectus. I toyed with a few different ideas, but wasn’t able to come up with anything better.
2. The age listed is the player’s seasonal age on July 1, 2013 (the age at which they will play the majority of next year). After the stat lines, I list the level and league at which the stats were accrued (e.g., “SS-A/Northwest” for short-season Class-A Northwest League).
3. Finally, I decided to break this series up into ten chunks so that I could deliver more comprehensive information about each position’s players (also, I’m paid by the article). The tentative schedule:
Nov. 29 – Catchers
Dec. 6 – Corner Infielders
Dec. 13 – Middle Infielders
Dec. 20 – Corner Outfielders
Dec. 27 – Center Fielders
Jan. 3 – Right-handed Starting Pitchers
Jan. 10 – Left-handed Starting Pitchers
Jan. 17 – Relief Pitchers
Jan. 31 – Top 50 Overall: 26-50
Feb. 7 – Top 50 Overall: 1-25
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Top Catching Prospects
1. Travis d’Arnaud
Age: 24. Bats/Throws: Right/Right. Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 lbs.
Acquired: from Philadelphia via trade (12/09).
Background: d’Arnaud was taken with the 37th pick of the 2007 draft by Philadelphia, one pick ahead of current Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil. Two years later, he was traded to Toronto with Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor for Roy Halladay. Last winter, Kevin Goldstein named him baseball’s 16th-best prospect and the number two catching prospect in the game behind Seattle’s Jesus Montero. He’s a quiet leader who has made strides in handling pitchers over the last two years. At the plate, he shows quick hands that generate above-average power and average or better hitting ability. d’Arnaud owns a strong arm, though he sometimes struggles with his release. Above-average athleticism allows him to move around well behind the plate and he should be an above-average receiver at the big-league level.
2012: .333/.380/.595, 21 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 59-19 K-BB in 303 PA at Las Vegas (AAA/Pacific Coast). He got off to a slow start before catching fire in May, hitting .356 with 14 home runs over seven weeks before a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee knocked him out for the season. Injuries have cost him significant time in each of the last three seasons, as he’s averaged just 84 games per year since 2010.
2013: d’Arnaud is expected to return to Triple-A while Toronto figures out what to do with J.P. Arencibia, John Buck, and Bobby Wilson. The Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate will move from Las Vegas to Buffalo next year, and the International League will provide a stricter test for his bat.
Risk: Moderate. Young catchers rarely develop as we expect (see Matt Weiters and Carlos Ruiz), and there’s a chance it takes d’Arnaud some time to adjust to major-league pitching and the responsibility of handling a veteran pitching staff. He isn’t an overly patient hitter, so he could be exploited at the plate in the early going. Durability is a concern, though none of his injuries appear to be related or recurring. ETA: 2013
2. A.J. Jimenez
Age: 23. Bats/Throws: Right/Right. Height/Weight: 6’0”/210 lbs.
Acquired: 9th round of the 2009 draft out of high school in Puerto Rico.
Background: Jimenez has been a pleasant mid-round surprise for the Blue Jays, developing into a potential starting catcher with offensive upside and above-average receiving skills. He’ll never possess more than fringe power, but he has enough juice to drive the ball to the gaps and collect plenty of doubles. Behind the plate, he earns praise for soft hands, above average instincts, and a strong, accurate throwing arm. For his career, Jimenez has thrown out 43% of runners attempting to steal, including 55% at Double-A last spring.
2012: .257/.295/.371, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14-5 K-BB in 113 PA at New Hampshire (AA/Eastern). Jimenez’s bat never got going and he was shut down in mid-May with a right elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery .
2013: Double-A New Hampshire, with the potential to move up to Triple-A when d’Arnaud is called up to Toronto.
Risk: Moderate. Even if his bat doesn’t develop further, he’s a safe bet to reach the big leagues on defense alone. Like most young players, he could use better discipline at the plate. He makes good contact, but needs to learn to sit back and wait for a pitch he can drive. If he does that, he has the potential to be an above-average regular. ETA: 2014
3. Santiago Nessy
Age: 20. Bats/Throws: Right/Right. Height/Weight: 6’2”/230 lbs.
Acquired: International free agent from Venezuela; signed July 2, 2009.
Background: Nessy received a $700,000 bonus in 2009 and has moved slowly through the lower levels of the organization, reaching short-season Vancouver for six games last August. Above-average power is his calling card, though he will need to tone down his approach in order to tap into it at higher levels. He’s surprisingly agile for his size, and most scouts believe he’ll be able to stick behind the plate as he advances. His arm grades out as a tick above average and he’s a below-average athlete who will have to stay on top of his conditioning.
2012: .256/.320/.456, 8 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 47-13 K-BB in 178 PA at Bluefield (R/Appalachian); .091/.200/.273, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 7-3 K-BB in 25 PA at short-season Vancouver (SS-A/Northwest).
2013: After three years in short-season ball, Nessy is expected to make his full-season debut with Lansing.
Risk: High. He’ll need to shorten his swing and cut down on the wild hacks in order to sustain a respectable batting average. He’s a hard worker, so there’s hope that he’ll be able to make adjustments, but he has a lot of work to do. ETA: 2016
4. Sean Ochinko
Age: 25. Bats/Throws: Right/Right. Height/Weight: 5’11”/205 lbs.
Acquired: 11th round of the 2009 draft out of Louisiana State University.
Background: Drafted as roster filler, Ochinko has turned himself into a fringe prospect with an outside shot at a backup role in the big leagues. He’s better at the plate than behind it, with average power and a fringe-average hit tool. A slow release diminishes the effectiveness of his strong arm, and he isn’t particularly agile.
2012: .306/.370/.444, 12 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 16-10 K-BB in 119 PA at Dunedin (A+/Florida State); .264/.304/.435, 11 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 40-8 K-BB in 231 PA at New Hampshire (AA/Eastern). Ochinko took over for Jimenez at New Hampshire after the latter went down with an elbow strain.
2013: A victim of Toronto’s upper-levels catching depth, Ochinko could be squeezed into a DH role at either New Hampshire or Triple-A Buffalo.
Risk: Moderate. Lack of athleticism makes it unlikely that he’s going to develop further, and he’ll need to make better decisions at the plate in order to force a big league chance. He’s not going to get much of an opportunity to refine his skills behind the plate with d’Arnaud and Jimenez ahead of him, but he could carve out a long career as a Triple-A depth piece that receives a few cups of coffee over the next decade. ETA: 2013
5. John Silviano
Age: 18. Bats/Throws: Left/Right. Height/Weight: 5’11”/190 lbs.
Acquired: 13th round of the 2012 draft out of high school in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Background: Silviano signed quickly for $100,000 as the 415th pick in last summer’s draft and made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League, where he failed to impress scouts with his defense or his bat. He makes fair contact with a long swing that could eventually produce average power and he shows some feel for the strike zone. He has above-average arm strength and good hands, but isn’t particularly athletic.
2012: .164/.298/.284, 4 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 21-22 K-BB in 141 PA at GCL Blue Jays (R/Gulf Coast League).
2013: He’ll stay back in extended spring training before moving on to a short-season club in June, likely Bluefield.
Risk: High. Scouts think there is some power in his bat, but aren’t sure how much he’ll hit at higher levels. There are also questions about whether he will be able to stick behind the plate. If he has to move off of catcher, his bat will have to step up, and the chances of that happening are only fair at this point. ETA: 2018
Andres Sotillo – Sotillo was a bit old for the Dominican Summer League in 2012, but he showed some aptitude with the bat, hitting .305/.411/.381 in 125 plate appearances. He’s expected to make his U.S. debut as a 19-year old in the Gulf Coast League next summer.
Next Week: We’ll take a look at the corner infield (1B/3B) prospects in the organization, including former first-round pick Kevin Ahrens, 13th-round bonus baby Matt Dean, and several others.