Lately, if you listen to certain sorts of Jays fans, particularly the negative suckholes, you’ve probably heard a good amount of pissing and moaning about the club’s lack of prospects, with radio call-in muffins and blog comment trolls bleating nonsense like, “They blew it all up! They went all in on failure! We’re doomed forever!”
It’s undeniable that the Jays dealt away several of their most visible prospects last winter– some of the guys who fans had been dreaming on the longest. Jake Marisnick was a Ricciardi draft pick; Travis d’Arnaud came in the Halladay deal; Noah Syndergaard was one of the “Lansing Three”; and Adeiny Hechavarria was a splashy Cuban pickup for the hefty price of $10-million.
But does that mean that the Jays have no prospects left? Pffffft.
In fact, as one might completely expect, this season a new group of talent began to emerge from the lower levels of the club’s minor league system. They’re not as visible, yet, but they’re about to be get a little more notable, as bunch have been highlighted– in some cases spectacularly so– as Baseball America has started rolling out its league-by-league Top 20 lists, bringing chats and a podcast along with them.
Even if you don’t have a B.A. subscription, you can see the names on each list on their index page.
This morning it will be the New York-Penn League list that is revealed, which doesn’t impact us, as the Jays don’t have an affiliate in that league. Friday it was Midwest league, and while the Jays do have the Lansing Lugnuts that played there, none of their prospects were able to crack the top 20– fuel for the negative suckholes, one might believe. But don’t worry, it gets better.
And it’s not like the Jays had nobody in the Midwest League– which is much deeper than some of the other leagues we’ll look at here, having 16 teams in it. Roberto Osuna, at just 18-years-old, made ten starts there before being shut down for the year due to Tommy John surgery. There were others of note at Lansing, too, as J.J. Cooper addressed in the chat the accompanied the release of this particular list.
Ben (Leland Grove)
Was Daniel Norris considered for your list? He made marked improvements this season, from what I’ve read.
He was considered. In a thinner league I think he could have made it, but there are enough concerns to keep him off the list in a very deep league. Generally scouts were projecting him as a likely No. 4 starter. He has a chance to have three average or better pitches, but he’s likely to never have better than tick-below average to average command which limits his ceiling.
Norris certainly seemed to turn things around in the second half of the year, but I don’t think the comment is unfair– even post-turnaround he walked 30 in 63.2 innings, though he also struck out 83.
Did any Lugnut hitter get consideration? which has the best potential between Nessy, Lopes, Guerrero, Smith Jr. or Pompey?
Smith, Pompey and Lopes got the most consideration. None of the three were all that close to cracking the top 20, but all three are decent prospects.
I had a few notes about Dwight Smith Jr. in my post on the Webster Awards, but this certainly isn’t quite so glowing.
You want glowing? Well then, we can do that. All we have to do is skip the Northwest League list– the Vancouver Canadians landed only Tom Robson and L.B. Dantzler on that one, coming in at 13 and 19 respectively– and head straight for the Appalachian League.
Now, there are only ten teams that play in the Appy League, and so you’d expect to see at least a couple guys from the Jays’ affiliate in Bluefield show up on the list. You might even expect a little more than that, given that the average age on the… uh… B-Jays was the lowest in the league, which might indicate an inordinate presence of “real” prospects.
You probably wouldn’t expect the Jays to have landed seven of the twenty, though. But that’s what they did, with D.J. Davis (2), Mitch Nay (4), Dawel Lugo (5), Chase DeJong (6), Alberto Tirado (9), Jairo Labourt (12), and Adonys Cardona (16) all making the cut.
It’s Davis whose name really sizzles, though, especially when Jon Manuel gets talking about him on the B.A. podcast in conversation with Matt Eddy:
Manuel: I’m a big D.J. Davis fan– he’s very exciting. Got some Carl Crawford comps, in that league.
Eddy: That one made sense– I like that comp.
Manuel: I like it quite a bit. He’s that athletic and– I actually think…– D.J. Davis, the thing that stuns me is that, again, put him in context– high school raw kid from Mississippi. The scouts in Mississippi swear that D.J. Davis’ straight line speed is as fast or faster than Billy Hamilton.
Manuel: I mean, he’s fast – and second of all, there’s real strength there. I don’t think any amateur scouts who saw him in Mississippi would be shocked that he hit for the power that he hit for in the Appy League. And in terms of his hitting ability, he wasn’t that far removed from a David Dahl. He’s a lot less polished– and then David Dahl had kind of a disastrous first pro season in the Rockies organization. D.J. Davis is a little bit more raw, but he’s kind of caught up to David Dahl already. So, those two guys are going to be linked in my head– I just remember talking to scouts who saw them play together on a travel-ball team in the fall that played junior college teams, and that just raked against older pitching when those were rising high school seniors. I’m going to keep my eye on D.J. Davis– kind of a personal favourite. I really like him quite a bit.
Not only that, but in talking about the Appy League list as a whole, Manuel explained that this “was a league top prospect list that stood out to both of us for its depth.” And the Jays landed seven guys on the list– but they have no prospects, right?
And the David Dahl stuff? Not only was it a disastrous first pro season for the Rockies 2012 10th overall pick last year, but this year he was limited to just 10 games due to a torn hamstring. But before the season? B.A. had him at number 53 on their top 100, one spot ahead of Noah Syndergaard and one spot behind Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado. Dahl ranked 40th on the Baseball Prospectus list, and was at 37 on the pre-season list for Keith Law, ahead of Nick Castellanos and Jackie Bradley Jr.
“He has first division regular potential as a center fielder that is able to impact the game in all phases,” said Cliff Longenecker of Davis in his Appy League chat. “He could have above-average range in center with improved outfield reads, and will fit the profile of a new age center fielder that can hit with some power.”
I mean, there are negatives, too– he’s very raw– but… no, seriously, that’ll do.
And, of course, in the Gulf Coast League list there was also great stuff on Franklin Barreto, too– which Longenecker echoes, having heard about Barreto’s brief time in the Appalachian League after he moved there from the GCL for his final fifteen games of the year. “Barreto excited a lot of guys that saw the league,” he said in his chat. “Guys that really liked him said he was up there with all the top Bluefield position players, which is high praise considering 3 of the top 5 guys in the league were on that team.”
On the Gulf Coast League list, however, he’s ranked “only” fifth, but that’s not as unimpressive as it may seem.
“That was just a very exciting top ten, man,” John Manuel said in the podcast. “That GCL really impressed me– it was just short of being a five-star league.”
He also was surprised about the ranking of J.P. Crawford, the 16th overall pick in this June’s draft, who was just below Barreto on the list at number six.
“J.P. Crawford is a six!” he said. “The sixth-ranked prospect in the GCL won the batting title and can play shortstop. And that’s a– that’s usually a one! That’s a number one prospect profile.”
Ben Badler, who did B.A.’s GCL chat, even suggests that he’ll be in consideration for the top 100 heading into 2014– and with D.J. Davis ahead of him, and Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman already there, things in the Jays’ system are already quickly starting to sound more respectable than maybe a lot of people want to believe.
And there are still all kinds of intriguing prospects floating around the system too. To wit, from the GCL chat:
How close were Hollon & Tellez to making your list for the Blue Jays? Seems like Hollon pitched very well in brief time – also looks like Tellez did well after a slow start. His stats look pretty solid from his last 100 AB’s. Thanks.
Hollon was in and out of the league quickly, but Tellez was a close cut at the end. You can see the raw power in BP, the contact frequency is there and he has a good hitting approach for his age. He’s going to have to mash as a 1B-only prospect, but he could be a breakout guy next year.
But- but- but the cupboard is bare, right???
Sure, most of these guys are still a long way off, but there’s still more than enough here to dream on– especially with the ninth and eleventh picks in what’s a well-regarded 2014 draft on their way as well.
There is tonnes more about the guys mentioned in this post that I haven’t lifted, so if you’re into all this kind of prospect goodness, go and subscribe to B.A. and help fund their outstanding work– especially if you really did think that there wasn’t anything left in the system beyond Sanchez.