It’s hard to talk about Toronto’s farm system without spending significant time on (#1) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The presence of baseball’s best prospect certainly cements this system as one of the best in the league, but there’s a lot more here than just Vlad. The Jays have quietly accumulated quite a bit of prospect depth, distributing talent across all levels of the minors. The organization has scouted Latin America aggressively, turning in some solid drafts from 2016-2018 and netting a handful of other prospects through trades. The end result is a diverse list with many different kinds of players, from the high-risk/high-reward variety to those that are closer in proximity but offer less upside.
Even if it isn’t in 2019, Toronto’s top-five farm system—paired with the financial muscle allowed by playing in a large media market—has the Jays poised to contend through the early parts of next decade. There’s less than 20 million on the books for 2020 as it stands (not including arbitration raises), hinting that the organization will have the spending capacity to supplement an impactful young core with free agents and big league trade pieces.
The Jays are not wanting for prospects that have the tools to be impactful big leaguers. (#1) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the most decorated and recognizable prospect in recent memory. (#2) Bo Bichette is a top-30 prospect in baseball—one that would rank first in most other systems—and (#3) Danny Jansen should crack the top-75 as well. (#4) Jordan Groshansand (#5) Nate Pearson might fall just short of our Top 125 but have the upside to place there by mid-season. (#6) Kevin Smith and (#9) Adam Kloffenstein are very promising and could emerge as top prospects in their own right.
This list is flush with upper-level prospects who either have already reached Toronto or should be there soon. (#3) Danny Jansen, (#8) Sean Reid-Foley, (#10) Billy McKinney, David Paulino (On the Horizon), Rowdy Tellez (On the Horizon), and Reese McGuire (On the Horizon), among others, have already debuted. (#1) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is beyond knocking on the door and could probably hit in the middle of a Major League lineup right now. (#2) Bo Bichette, (#7) Cavan Biggio, (#11) Hector Perez, (#12) T.J. Zeuch, and (#13) Trent Thornton all have a chance at debuting some time in the next two seasons.
With baseball’s #1 prospect and a high volume of players in the upper-minors, it would be reasonable to assume the Blue Jays’ system is due for a steep decline once it graduates its top pieces. This isn’t the case, though, and Toronto’s emphasis on adding high-upside J2 prospects in recent years has a lot to do with why. Though there’s certainly risk in this demographic, the Jays have an enviable quantity of ETA 2021+ players that could make up their next wave of top prospects. (#14) Eric Pardinho, Orelvis Martinez (Pure Projection), Miguel Hiraldo(Pure Projection), Leonardo Jimenez (Pure Projection), and Alejandro Melean(Pure Projection) are all products of the organizations’ scouting efforts in Latin America. That group pairs well with a strong contingent of domestic prospects from the draft, including (#4) Jordan Groshans, (#6) Kevin Smith, (#9) Adam Kloffenstein, and Griffin Conine(Pure Projection).
There isn’t a ton to knock in this system, so we’re nitpicking a little. It isn’t like Toronto’s list is completely without near-ready starting pitching options, as (#8) Sean Reid-Foley pitched from the rotation last year and has the upside to stay in that role. There are questions about whether Reid-Foley should ever move to the ‘pen if he falters, however, and there’s at least a non-zero chance that happens. (#12) T.J. Zeuch also has the upside of a rotation piece, but he’ll need to miss more bats in order to fit as a true #4 starter. Other upper-level arms like (#11) Hector Perez and (#13) Trent Thornton fit more impactful profiles in relief.
TOP 15 PREF LIST
|1||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||3B||70||Moderate||2019|
CREAM OF THE CROP
(#1) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B
Vlad Jr. is easily the most visible player in Minor League baseball, a generational offensive talent that has performed at a historic rate from an age/level standpoint. He was must-watch entertainment in 2018, slashing a combined .381/.437/.636 between Double-A and Triple-A. Those numbers demand attention no matter what, but the comps start to get few and far between when you factor in that he was only 19-years-old. Guerrero is a unique player in every way, from his talent, to his build, and even down to the way he carries himself on the field. His presence in the batter’s box is unlike anything we have seen from a teenager, completely in control of at-bats with an incredible mix of power, barrel control, and sense of the zone. He projects as a consistent plus producer of both average and power, hitting in the heart of a lineup and immediately able to be an offensive force upon reaching the majors. His 6-foot-1 and 200-pound frame is fully mature and extremely wide, likely to move across the infield to 1B at some point. He’s quicker at the hot corner than you’re expecting and has a cannon arm, but the lateral range projects to back up significantly given how thick Guerrero is already. No matter where he plays defensively, Vladito is baseball’s #1 prospect and looks ready to make his mark at the highest level.
(#2) Bo Bichette, SS
Ceiling: 60 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: Potential All-Star
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 0m
Scouts were split on Bichette as an amateur, but he has proved doubters wrong in the time since. Now among baseball’s better infield prospects, he’s knocking on the door of the big leagues and looks like a future building block for the Jays. Bichette has worked hard to improve parts of his game since turning pro, getting better in the field and adding speed. He might not stay at shortstop but at least has the chance to now, making up for iffy lateral range with a strong arm and good playmaking ability. It’s the bat that makes him special, as Bichette’s rare mix of hand-speed, swing explosion, and bat-to-ball skill gives the chance to produce both average and power. Though his walk rates have hovered around average to date, he hits with a mature approach and takes the kind of at-bats that make you think he’ll eventually walk at an above-average clip. His offensive upside is immense, possibly a .280 hitter with 20+ home run upside and whiff rates under 20-percent. He totaled more than 40 doubles in 2018 as a 20-year-old in Double-A, and it’s likely some of those turn into dingers in time. We’re sold on Bichette’s bat being enough to carry the profile, and there’s some star potential here if he’s able to stick at short.
(#3) Danny Jansen, C
Ceiling: 55 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Above-Average Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 225 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 11m
A 16th round pick from the Wisconsin prep ranks in 2013, Jansen exploded on to the national prospect scene with a breakout 2017 season. He got prescription lenses and started seeing the ball better, and he kept up the hot hitting last year in Triple-A and during a late-season big league debut. Jansen is a selective hitter that has a track record of drawing walks at an above-average clip. He controls the barrel well, able to avoid many strikeouts while still producing power. Defensively, Jansen is a 45 or 50-grade catcher, rating better for his receiving and framing than arm-strength or pop times. He’s able to stay at the position, however, and at catcher, Jansen’s offensive upside could make him an above-average player. He’s a lock for our Top 125 entering 2019, likely the last year he’ll qualify as a prospect.
ON THE HORIZON
(#7) Cavan Biggio, 2B/OF
Biggio broke out in a big way last year, slashing .252/.388/.499 in Double-A and performing in the Fall League after the season. His two best attributes are left-handed power and excellent patience, though it comes at the expense of contact with a pull-heavy approach. He has logged time at 2B, SS, 3B, 1B, and the corner outfield as a pro, though he’s a fringy defender at all the infield spots. Biggio likely winds up in LF at the big league level, where his ceiling could be an everyday player if his three-true-outcomes approach holds up in the big leagues. Short of that, the tools are still here for a useful role player who can move around the field and bring some thump off the bench. He’ll be in Major League camp as a non-roster invitee this spring, likely to surface in Toronto within the next two years.
(#8) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 7m
Reid-Foley has risen steadily through the system since being the 49th overall pick in 2014. He debuted in the big leagues last year, where his above-average stuff showed it will miss bats at any level. Hitters also squared up his hittable mid-to-high-90s fastballs with a frequency they didn’t in the minors, and he’ll need to throw more quality strikes to avoid a potential move to the ‘pen. Reid-Foley’s heavy fastball tops out at 97 mph and averaged 93-to-94 mph in his debut. A slider is his clear go-to secondary, as he throws either his heater or slider roughly 80-percent of the time. Reid-Foley showed enough promise in a starting role that he should get a chance to establish himself in that role first. The tools to be a valuable relief piece are here if he can’t stick in the rotation.
(#10) Billy McKinney, OF
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 205 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 7m
McKinney is well-traveled, now on his fourth organization since being Oakland’s first-rounder in 2013 from the prep ranks. He was traded to Toronto last season, one of two players the organization acquired for J.A. Happ. McKinney had a successful 36-game debut at the end of 2018 and should be viewed as a ready-now piece. He added lift to his swing and started generating more power, something that will be important as a corner defender. He fits as a solid part-time masher or low-end regular who faces mostly righties. His ability to fill a big league role right away gives him some extra value in our eyes, largely behind why he cracks the top ten of this list.
(#11) Hector Perez, RHP
Perez was one of three players Toronto acquired from the Astros last year in exchange for Roberto Osuna. The 22-year-old has impact stuff but will have to throw more strikes to remain a starter. His ability to miss bats has allowed Perez to dance around well below-average walk rates the last two seasons in a way he won’t be able to against Major League hitters. We see him more realistically winding up a reliever—albeit one that’s likely to be impactful in a leverage role. Perez’ fastball worked in the 93-to-95 mph range last season from the rotation, but he has touched the high-90s in the past and projects to get back there in short stints. The real separator here is a dastardly slider, a true out pitch that dominated hitters across two levels in 2018. Perez was added to the 40-Man Roster in November, so there’s a pathway for him to reach the big leagues at some point in the next two years. Toronto could fast-track him in a ‘pen role if there’s a need in 2019.
(#12) T.J. Zeuch, RHP
Zeuch was the 21st overall pick in 2016 from the University of Pittsburgh. 21 of his 27 starts came at Double-A last year, where his high-control, sinker-heavy approach yielded the same results as earlier in his pro career. Zeuch pounds the zone with a heavy 90-to-94 mph fastball, inducing an above-average rate of weak contact due to late armside movement. He throws a slider and curve, both pitches grading at least average. A mid-80s changeup lags behind the rest of the arsenal, part of why Zeuch has struggled to put hitters away via the strikeout to date. He might be the rare type of pitching prospect who needs to work outside the strike zone more frequently than he does. His ceiling is a reliable back-rotation innings-eater, though he’ll likely need to find a way to miss more bats to avoid winding up a #6/#7 starter or swingman type.
(#13) Trent Thornton, RHP
Thornton pitched the entire 2018 season in Triple-A with the Astros, getting more attention upon heading to Fall League after the year. Houston likely did not have room for him on their 40-Man Roster but anticipated he would be selected in the Rule 5 Draft, sending Thornton to the Jays for Aledmys Diaz three days prior to the Rule 5 deadline. The Jays did opt to roster Thornton, so he’s now very close to the big leagues and should see time in 2019. Utilized as a starter to date, his smaller frame, high-maintenance delivery, and fringy changeup all point to more impact in a relief role. Thornton’s heater touches 96-to-97 mph in one-inning stints, and a high-spin curve plays as a snapdragon for swinging strikes. An interesting high-80s cutter/slider hybrid rounds out the arsenal. Thornton should be in Toronto’s big league mix right away, able to immediately step in as a multi-inning reliever or opener type.
(#15) Anthony Alford, OF
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2017 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 215 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 8m
Alford was slowed in Spring Training last year by a hamstring problem, joining Triple-A after the start of the season and never finding a groove there. Injuries are nothing new to Alford, who has consistently battled bouts of missed time throughout his years in pro ball. The former two-sport standout still grades as a terrific athlete with loud raw power and speed, but longstanding struggles with contact are starting to cloud his long-term outlook.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 220 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 0m
Patrick Murphy, RHP
Murphy was Toronto’s third-rounder in 2013 from the prep ranks. He had long showed intriguing size and stuff prior to last season, but hadn’t been able to stay on the mound for long due to consistent injury issues. Murphy broke out in 2018, staying healthy for a full season and reaching Double-A for a late-season start after a strong year in the Florida State League. His fastball works in the 94-to-96 mph range as a starter, backed up by a hard low-80s breaking ball that projects as a solid off-speed pitch. Murphy is less advanced with a changeup; given his injury history and limited third pitch, he’s a candidate to transition to a two-pitch ‘pen role. He may get more time to develop in the rotation, but we ultimately see him fitting best late in games. Toronto saw enough promise in Murphy to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft in November, adding him to the 40-Man Roster. He could crack the big league roster sometime in the next two seasons.
David Paulino, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’6” / 240 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 1m
Paulino has bounced between organizations since signing, originally a Tigers prospect before trades to Houston and Toronto. He was one of the players the Blue Jays received in the swap that sent Roberto Osuna to the Astros last year. Paulino has recorded big league time each of the last two seasons, pitching exclusively in relief for the Jays in 2018 despite a background starting games in the minors. The 6-foot-6 righty missed time with injury last year, and while there might be some reason to question his durability, Paulino has a workable four-pitch mix that could be stretched out from the rotation. He’s likely to be in the big league mix next year, able to fill several roles depending on need.
Thomas Pannone, LHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2018 Role Description: Long Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 200 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 11m
Pannone missed the start of last season serving an 80-game PED suspension. He made his big league debut upon returning, working in a swingman/spot-starter role for the Jays. That’s where Pannone profiles best, as his stuff is likely too short for a true every-fifth-day ceiling. His fastball rarely cracks 90 mph, getting by on guile and pitchability. Pannone lands a shapely curveball for strikes and changes speeds well. We see him as a longman option who has some low-leverage big league value during his cost-controlled seasons.
Santiago Espinal, SS
An interesting mid-level prospect in the Red Sox system, Toronto picked up Santiago in a one-for-one swap with Boston for Steve Pearce last June. Santiago is a plus athlete who shines defensively at shortstop, fast enough to contribute stolen bases and put pressure on the defense. There isn’t a ton of over-the-fence power in his 5-foot-10 and 175-pound frame, but there’s buggywhip batspeed in his twitchy build that allows the ability to put a surprising charge into mistake pitches. The Blue Jays were impressed enough with his time in the organization to invite Espinal to Major League camp this spring as a non-roster invitee. We see the ceiling as a useful utility piece, finishing no worse than at least a cup-of-coffee type given the defense at a premium position.
Jonathan Davis, OF
The diminutive speedster made his big league debut at the end of last season. He’s a readymade bench piece, able to fill a specialist role late in games defensively and with his wheels. Davis lacks the bat to profile as an everyday option—or even a quality fourth outfielder for a contending club—but his athleticism and defensive versatility should net him some more Major League time.
Reese McGuire, C
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 181 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 1m
Toronto has enviable catching depth high in the system, as McGuire made his debut last year and (#3) Danny Jansen isn’t far away. Those two balance each other out well, as McGuire’s glove-first skill set is the inverse of Jansen’s bat-first profile. McGuire’s defense behind the plate could make him a solid #2 catching option if he hits at all, though the track record of offense isn’t here to foresee a legitimate everyday catcher able to handle a full workload.
Forrest Wall, OF
Wall was one of two prospects the Blue Jays acquired from Colorado in exchange for Seunghwan Oh last summer. Wall originally signed as a 2B, though limited arm-strength and plus speed that played better in the outfield moved him to the grass full-time in 2018. Wall lacks the carry tool for an everyday or value role player’s profile, but his speed and ability to play multiple positions gives some chance to fit a bench role.
Yennsy Diaz, RHP
Diaz has worked as a starter to date in his pro career, but as a shorter righty with velocity—especially one that was added to the 40-Man Roster in November—it seems like the Jays are considering fast-tracking him in a ‘pen role. He’s well-suited for relief, already able to touch 96 mph on his heater starting games. Diaz’ breaking stuff is ahead of his changeup, though there will be less need for a true third pitch facing lineups just once. Diaz has yet to pitch above High-A but could surface in Toronto as a middle reliever sometime in the next two years.
Jackson McClelland, RHP
McClelland’s plus raw stuff gives him some chance at a big league ‘pen role, but consistent walk issues limit his ceiling and stand in the way of him profiling in leverage innings. A big-bodied righty, he’s a fringy athlete with effort in his delivery that detracts from control and command. McClelland’s fastball works in the high-90s, backed up by a slider that flashes above-average finish at times but lacks consistency. He wrinkles a changeup that projects as a playable show-me pitch against lefties. If he’s able to cut down the walks, McClelland’s ceiling is a big league middle reliever.
Jon Harris, RHP
Harris was Toronto’s first-rounder in 2014 from Missouri State, but he has stalled a bit in Double-A. His control has remained strong, but an inability to miss bats or manage contact last year hurt him in a starting role. Harris’ fastball works in the 91-to-94 mph range, potentially able to take a tick up airing it out in shorter stints. His slider and curve flash sharp action, though his changeup lags behind the rest of the arsenal and could force a move to the ‘pen. His experience starting games could mean he’s able to pitch multiple innings in relief or work as an opener.
Zach Jackson, RHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 215 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 3m
A long-time ‘pen arm, Jackson closed games at the University of Arkansas before being Toronto’s third-rounder in 2016. He was seen as a potential quick-to-the-bigs relief prospect, but his control has backed up considerably since signing. Jackson’s fastball sits in the 92-to-94 mph range and routinely runs into the mid-90s, and he pairs it with an average slider. His max-effort delivery has a ton of effort and might not ever allow enough control of a power two-pitch mix. The raw stuff gives Jackson some chance at a middle relief ceiling, but he’ll need to throw more strikes to have any sustained Major League value.
Max Pentecost, C
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2020 Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 191 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 0m
A former first-round pick, Pentecost’s prospect stock has slipped in the time since because of significant time missed with injuries. His 77 games at catcher in 2018 were a career high, but the physical demands of the position—plus facing Double-A competition for the first time—caused his bat to stall in the Eastern League. Pentecost might wind up as a 4A piece, but his feel to hit at a valuable defensive position still gives him an outside chance to fill a bench role. He’ll have a chance to impress the big league staff this spring, coming to Major League camp as a non-roster invitee.
(#4) Jordan Groshans, SS/3B
Groshans went 12th overall in last year’s draft from a Texas high school. He was tired by the end of the summer and struggled through a brief cameo in the Appy League, but overall had a strong pro debut and torched GCL competition. Groshans is a prototype left-side infield prospect, with a lean, athletic 6-foot-3 frame that has both power potential and some chance to stick at short. He likely will move to the hot corner as he fills out, but there are enough players this size manning the 6–especially in an era of heavy defensive shifting—that Groshans should get a chance to prove he can play shortstop. Offensively, Groshans takes an aggressive swing and gets deep into his lower-half through a large load. There’s some excess movement he’ll likely take out at the pro level, but his batspeed and short path are strong suits that don’t need a significant overhaul. The ingredients of a FV 55 prospect are here, and Groshans will jump into the Top 125 picture quickly if he establishes himself at the full-season level in 2019.
(#5) Nate Pearson, RHP
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Above-Average Starter (#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’6” / 245 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 7m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Report
Pearson has much less track record than most pitching prospects his age. The 28th overall pick in 2017 from the JuCo ranks, his first full pro season was cut short by a comebacker that broke the forearm of his non-throwing arm. Pearson went to Fall League after the season and showed electrifying raw stuff, though he struggled through some bumpy outings in Phoenix given inconsistent control and off-speed stuff. Very physical at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, he generates elite velocity and touched a ridiculous 103 mph pitching a one-inning stint during the Fall Stars Game. Even as a starter, Pearson sits in the high-90s all game and frequently cracks triple-digits. He throws a power slider with hybrid cut/slider action, a pitch that flashed plus when he was able to execute it. A firm high-80s changeup is used sparingly (and only when starting), showing short, late dive that could make it effective with more development. Pearson regained better feel for his mid-70s curve as Fall League progressed, and in total, he backs up 80-grade velo with three secondaries. He has the best-case ceiling of a power #3 starter, and given his lack of pro reps, there’s an argument for projecting up on Pearson’s control, command, and overall pitchability. We aren’t closing the door on him as a starter, but he’s far from a lock to do it. If it doesn’t work in the rotation, the ingredients are here for a highest-leverage ‘pen arm.
(#6) Kevin Smith, 2B
Smith slipped to the fourth round of 2017’s draft after a down spring at the University of Maryland. He showed why he was considered a better talent than that entering his junior year in 2018, however, rocketing near the top of Toronto’s top prospect list after tearing up two A-Ball levels (.302/.358/.528 with 29 stolen bases). Smith is a good bet to be at least an average hitter at the big league level, showing above-average power potential for an infielder. Defensively, he has played SS, 2B, and 3B as a pro but projects better at the hot corner or keystone long-term. Smith’s ceiling is an offensive-minded everyday infielder, one that has a relatively high floor as a prospect given his polished feel to hit.
(#9) Adam Kloffenstein, RHP
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Above-Average Starter (#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 243 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 7m
Kloffenstein was one of Toronto’s three picks inside the top 100 in last year’s draft, signing for an over-slot bonus at 88th overall from the Texas prep ranks. He was high school teammates with (#4) Jordan Groshans at Magnolia High School. Kloffenstein has the makings of a breakout prospect, young for his class with physicality and flashes of plus stuff. The fastball sits 91-to-94 mph now, touching as high as 96 mph. Both a slider and curve show sharp action, and there’s enough athleticism in his delivery to project on a changeup. Kloffenstein is a few years off, but there’s reason to be excited, as his ceiling could be as high as a mid-rotation starter.
(#14) Eric Pardinho, RHP
Pardinho was a highly-touted amateur prospect, signing for a $1.4 million bonus from Brazil in 2017. Lauded for his extremely advanced polish, the diminutive righty performed as advertised in his pro debut. Toronto sent him straight to the Appy League as a 17-year-old—a rare move that speaks volumes about the organization’s confidence in him—and Pardinho dominated with Bluefield. His fastball ranges anywhere from 87-to-93 mph, sitting at 90-91 mph with advanced command. A curveball and changeup are presently usable pitches, and Pardinho will likely continue to baffle low-minors competition given his control of a wide arsenal. He’s developing a slider but it’s a below-average pitch now, blending into his curveball and likely requiring him to get stronger before it shows distinct action. Pardinho’s size and borderline fastball velocity give some reason to pause, but we’re optimistic enough about his pitchability to project at least a #4/#5 SP ceiling for now.
Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2024 Role Description: Everyday Player
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 188 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: DNP Age (as of April 1, 2019): 17y, 4m
Martinez signed for the second-highest bonus in last year’s J2 class, agreeing to a $3.5 million pact with the Jays. He’s advanced physically and has the power potential to show for it, displaying intriguing raw and natural lift in the swing with plenty of hip torque. His actions are fairly sound at shortstop right now, but there’s a fair chance an already-thick lower-half causes him to move off the position. Martinez is mobile enough to stay on the left side of the infield, possessing the offensive tools to profile as a regular at 3B long-term.
Elvis Luciano, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 1m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight
Luciano had a contract voided earlier in his career, causing him to be eligible for this off-season’s Rule 5 Draft by way of a loophole. Toronto made a bold move, selecting Luciano in the Major League Phase of the draft despite the 19-year-old having yet to pitch above short-season ball. The Jays will have to get creative if they want to keep him, but the tools that made Luciano interesting to the organization are clear. His fastball touches 95 mph and sits 92-to-94 mph, backed up by a hard curveball that flashes above-average upside. A mid-80s change lags behind the other two offerings, but that’s not unheard of for a pitcher this age. His clearest route to sticking on the big league roster is in a bullpen role.
Griffin Conine, OF
Conine was a dominant force during summer league action on the Cape leading into his draft-eligible year at Duke, slashing .329/.406/.537 and pacing the league in homeruns (9). After getting top 5 overall buzz entering the spring, a very slow first half coupled with increased concerns about contact ability sank his draft value to the point the Blue Jays were able to land the slugging corner outfielder with a second round selection last June. Conine showcased a nice blend of on-base and power skills in his short debut, but will have to sit out the first 50 games of 2019 after testing positive for a banned stimulant this offseason. The baseline skill set is a traditional right field defensive profile with plus or better raw power and a solid enough feel for the zone to draw a good number of walks along the way.
Chavez Young, OF
Young was drafted in the 39th round because scouts never got a very good look at him. All the more credit to the Blue Jays, who identified him as a prospect and paid an over-slot $200K bonus to sign him so late in the draft. Young has been a strong early-career performer, putting himself on the prospect map with a .285/.363/.445 line in the Midwest League. A plus athlete with rangy features and good speed, the outfielder swiped 44 bases and impressed with his defense in the grass. Despite his offensive showing last year, both his hit and power tools still require projection to fit as a future regular. He has the ingredients to still fit as a fourth outfielder even if he falls short of an everyday profile.
Samad Taylor, 2B
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2021 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 160 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 8m
Cleveland’s 10th rounder in 2016 from a California high school, the Jays acquired Taylor in exchange for big league reliever Joe Smith in 2017. Taylor displayed a very interesting range of skills last year in the Midwest League despite a lackluster stat line, showing a mix of contact, gap power, and blazing speed. His swing is very athletic, generating surprising pop for a shorter player due to a lightning-quick bat and good hip rotation. Taylor will have to tone down an over-aggressive approach, still prone to swing himself out of at-bats and chase pitches when behind. Defensively, he lines up at 2B but has the wheels and athleticism to ultimately move around the field. There’s some rawness to his hit tool, but we see Taylor having the upside of a valuable super utility player who could wind up better than that if there’s unexpected offensive refinement.
Logan Warmoth, SS/INF
Toronto’s first-rounder in 2017, Warmoth struggled badly in his first full pro season spent in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. While we aren’t closing the book on him fully, he has been passed by some other infielders in the system. Scouts came away feeling confident he will move off of shortstop long-term, where the lack of a true plus offensive tool stands in the way of a regular’s profile. We have the ceiling pegged at a useful role player for now.
Chad Spanberger, 1B
Spanberger came to the Jays in the trade that sent big league reliever Seunghwan Oh to the Rockies in 2018. Spanberger looks the part of a corner slugger, a very strong 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. His calling card is 70-grade raw power from the left side, something that allowed him to post gaudy power numbers in the South Atlantic League. The hit tool probably isn’t enough to clear the high offensive bar at 1B to project as a regular—especially against same-side pitching—but Spanberger’s power gives him the chance to fill a role as a righty-mashing platoon type.
Ryan Noda, 1B/OF
Noda walked in an incredible 20-percent of plate appearances last year in the Midwest League. He also strikes out quite a bit, but his power and patience bail out the whiffs to some degree. Noda is a good fit for this era, projecting as a three-true-outcomes type of offensive producer. Defensively, he moves between LF and 1B and will greatly enhance his chances at filling a permanent role by avoiding a 1B-only tag. He doesn’t hit lefties well enough to project as a true regular on a corner, but his power and approach could fit as a righty-mashing platoon player. There’s always risk with this type of prospect, as Noda brings little value defensively or on the bases if his bat falters.
Leonardo Jimenez, SS
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 160 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 17y, 10m
Another high-bonus prospect from Toronto’s impressive international scouting operation, Jimenez signed with the organization for $825K in 2017. Known for his game-ready polish, the Jays showed faith in the young shortstop by sending him straight to the GCL as a 17-year-old. Jimenez held his own there, showing advanced contact skill and zone awareness while displaying plus defensive tools. He’s a slick defender who projects to remain at the 6 long-term. Jimenez’ athletic 5-foot-11 frame has the strength to project continued offensive development, having the chance to develop enough bat to fit a regular’s profile down the road. He could take a big jump up this list once he reaches full-season ball, but that could still be over a year away.
Miguel Hiraldo, 3B
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 6m
Hiraldo was one of the more pro-ready bats in the 2017 J2 class, signing for $750K with Toronto. He lived up to that billing in his pro debut, dominating the DSL before being moved up to the GCL at the end of the summer. Complex-level stats don’t mean much, but Hiraldo’s impressive line highlighted a number of skills. He slashed .300/.362/.435 on the year, stealing 18 bases and walking nearly as much as he struck out. Signed as a shortstop, Hiraldo’s stocky frame has already brought about a move to the hot corner, and the hope is he’s even able to stay there long-term. Toronto has done a great job identifying hitters with a mix of power and bat control that wind up very valuable prospects—regardless of what position they wind up at. Hiraldo checks those same boxes, and we’re eager to get a better look at him stateside in 2019. He still could be a year off from full-season ball but has enough offensive upside to place on this list.
Kevin Vicuna, SS
Vicuna is known more for his glove than bat, likely the best defensive shortstop in Toronto’s system. He played last season in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old, displaying a sloppy offensive profile unlikely to ever produce much power. Vicuna has excellent actions and a 60-grade arm, already grading as plus at a center-diamond position. That alone could get him to the big leagues, likely as a defensive-minded reserve.
Alejandro Kirk, C
Kirk is only 5-foot-9, generously listed at 220 pounds. He’s chunky throughout and very soft through the middle, lugging around a gut that has scouts concerned he’s really more like 240 pounds at the age of 20. Physical conditioning questions aside, Kirk tore up the Appy League last year and has intriguing offensive upside for a catcher. Surprisingly agile for his heft, Kirk moves well behind the plate and receives with soft hands. His offensive approach is polished, displaying the best hitting eye in the league last summer while walking nearly double the amount he struck out. It will be interesting to see how much Kirk can outrun the “bad body” label climbing through the minors. His power potential at a valuable position could make him a low-end regular or valuable role player.
Juan De Paula, RHP
Toronto acquired De Paula early in the 2019 season, receiving him and two other players from the Giants in exchange for big league outfielder Kevin Pillar. Remarkably, De Paula is now on his fourth organization by the age of 21. He initially signed with Seattle, traded to the Yankees in 2016. He went to San Francisco in August of 2018, one of the prospects New York gave up for Andrew McCutchen. A rail-thin 6-foot-3, De Paula’s quick-twitch muscularity generates armspeed that allows him to run his fastball as high as 96 mph. An upper-70s curve is his primary off-speed, flashing sharp bite and tight spin at best. He’ll need to make strides with his changeup and overall pitchability to remain a starter. A young, projectable arm-strength righty with some feel for spin and developing third pitch/control, De Paula is a classic low-system lottery ticket.
Emanuel Vizcaino, RHP
Vizcaino signed for just $50K in 2016, a figure that looks like a steal given the type of stuff he has grown into since turning pro. Now 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, his fastball touches 94 mph from a true over-the-top arm-slot that gets good extension. His mid-70s curveball flashes sharp bite and two-plane depth at best, giving at least two pitches that could finish average or better. Like many teenage pitching prospects, Vizcaino’s changeup and overall control/command still need to take steps forward to have a chance at a future rotation role. He’s a lottery ticket at this point, but an interesting one low in the system.
Hagen Danner, C
A two-way standout at SoCal powerhouse Huntington Beach, Danner was tabbed as a full-time backstop by Toronto after being selected by the Jays in the second round of the 2017 First Year Player Draft. After being eased into action and struggling with some minor injuries, Danner had a sneaky good run through the Appalachian League last summer, slashing .279/.409/.432over 32 games and 137 plate appearances. Danner shows solid bat speed and good strength through his core, allowing him to regularly generate loud contact when he barrels the ball. The approach is still developing, but there’s a chance for double-digit home run pop at maturity to go with solid on-base production and a 45 or 50 hit tool. Defensively, Danner is a potential above-average receiver with easy plus arm strength to go with good athleticism and physicality. He should see time in full season ball in 2019 and is an intriguing breakout candidate.
Alejandro Melean, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 5m
Melean made his pro debut in the GCL last summer as a 17-year-old. He isn’t as physically projectable as most arms this age, but the stuff is more advanced as a result. Melean’s fastball touches 95-to-96 mph at best and works in the 91-to-93 mph range regularly. He has good feel for spinning a 75-to-78 mph curveball, though he’ll need to learn how to land it for strikes as opposed to just a chase pitch. Melean’s changeup lags behind the other two pitches, but he’s throwing it in games and working on developing a more refined third speed. This is mostly a lottery ticket prospect at this point, but the ingredients are interesting.
Mc Gregory Contreras, OF
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: SS-A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 7m
Contreras has big raw power that has started to show up in games. That’s the calling card here, as he’s probably a LF-only at higher levels and has strikeout issues that cloud the long-term profile. Despite the pop, Contreras also whiffed in nearly 30-percent of his plate appearances last year in the Northwest League, walking in less than five. His prospect status will be dictated by how much he can improve his contact and overall approach upon reaching full-season ball.
Reggie Pruitt, OF
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 10m
Pruitt had a decorated amateur career, signing with the Blue Jays from the prep ranks after the 2015 Draft. His bat has faltered at the pro level, and it’s clear there won’t be enough offense to profile as a regular. With any offensive improvement, Pruitt’s speed and defense still have the chance to fill a specialist role. He’s a plus CF and covers a ton of ground in the outfield, grading as a 70 runner who racks up gaudy stolen base totals. Pruitt has eclipsed 20 steals each of the last two years, swiping a career-best 37 in the Midwest League in 2018.
Maximo Castillo, RHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Long Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 256 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 10m
Castillo made 28 appearances (22 starts) in the Midwest League last year, holding his own despite turning just 19-years-old a month into the season. He lacks the stuff for a significant grade, but his durable frame and strikethrowing ability give the chance to reach the big leagues in a long relief role. Castillo pounds the zone with a mix of fringy stuff, starting with a 88-to-92 mph fastball backed by a slider and cutter. His arsenal lacks a true carry pitch, something that could cause him to stall in the upper-minors. Castillo’s age and control numbers place him on the outskirts of this list.