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January 26, 2012

Future Shock

Blue Jays Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: Some elite position players and a cadre of young high-ceiling pitchers make Toronto the envy of every team in baseball.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Travis d’Arnaud, C
2. Jake Marisnick, OF
Four-Star Prospects
3. Daniel Norris, LHP
4. Anthony Gose, OF
5. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
6. Drew Hutchison, RHP
7. Justin Nicolino, LHP
8. Deck McGuire, RHP
9. Adonys Cardona, RHP
10. Kevin Comer, RHP
11. Christopher Hawkins, OF

Nine More:
12. Aaron Sanchez, RHP: He’s still a high-ceiling arm, but he will need more work than was anticipated.
13. Jacob Anderson, OF: This supplemental first-round pick is a long, lean athlete with power potential.
14. Joe Musgrove, RHP: Musgrove, who was taken just 11 picks after Anderson, is a physical beast with plus velocity and an advanced breaking ball.
15. Dwight Smith, OF: The son of the former Cub inherited his father's hitting ability, but not his speed.
16. A.J. Jimenez, C: This under-the-radar backstop has a line-drive bat and an outstanding arm.
17. Matt Dean, 3B: This over-slot 13th-round pick has a classic third-base profile with power and defensive skills.
18. Asher Wojciechowski, RHP: This 2010 supplemental pick lost velocity under a pro workload.
19. Carlos Perez, C: Perez’s full-season debut disappointed, and his lack of physicality is a concern.
20. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS: Hechavarria is a plus-plus defender. The Jays hope he will hit ninth in the lineup.

1. Travis d’Arnaud, C
DOB
: 2/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, Lakewood HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .311/.371/.542 at Double-A (114 G)
Tools Profile: He can hit, has power, and plays solid defense.

Year in Review: d’Arnaud’s ceiling always intrigued scouts, and a healthy season allowed him to put it all together to earn Eastern League MVP honors.
The Good: d'Arnaud has all the tools to be a star player. He has a quick bat, outstanding hand-eye coordination, the ability to hit .280-.300, and the strength to add 25-plus home runs annually. He's very athletic for a catcher with a plus arm, and he moves well behind the plate. He is a 40 runner.
The Bad: d'Arnaud has the potential to be a plus defender, but he still needs to improve his receiving skills and the quickness of his release. He's made some strides in his plate discipline, but it could still use refinement.
Ephemera: d'Arnaud played 17 games as the number-five hitter for Double-A New Hampshire, batting .409/.451/.788 with five home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star catcher.
Fantasy Impact: It’s rare to find catchers who can hit in the middle of the order.
Path to the Big Leagues: d'Arnaud will enter 2012 as the best catching prospect in the minor leagues. He could put up some huge numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas before getting a look in September.
ETA: Late 2012

2. Jake Marisnick, OF
DOB
: 3/30/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2009, Riverside Poly HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .320/.392/.496 at Low-A (118 G)
Tools Profile: Yes; all of them.

Year in Review: Every year, a few ultra toolsy outfielders just click. Marisnick was one of them in 2011.
The Good: Marisnick looks the part of a high-ceiling prospect. He's a big, majestic athlete with above-average speed, excellent hitting skills, and is just starting to tap into his power, which projects as plus. He's a good center fielder, and his arm is a weapon.
The Bad: Marisnick looks to hit fastballs early in the count and could use more patience at the plate. There is a debate about his power ceiling; while he's plenty strong, Marisnick’s swing is more conducive to hard line drives than towering fly balls.
Ephemera: Marisnick was successful in his last 15 stolen-base attempts.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a 20/20 center fielder, and that might be light.
Fantasy Impact: He will be a multi-category contributor and an early pick.
Path to the Big Leagues: Marisnick will be hard-pressed to put up big numbers in the Florida State League in 2012.
ETA: 2014

3. Daniel Norris, LHP
DOB
: 4/2/93
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011, Science Hill HS (TN)
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: He’s a power-throwing lefty.

Year in Review: The best high school lefty in the draft fell to the second round due to bonus demands, but he earned first-round money ($2 million) at the deadline.
The Good: Norris is an ultra-athletic left-hander with broad shoulders, excellent arm action, and a fastball that already sits at 92-95 mph. He has a feel for how to spin a breaking ball, and unlike many high school products, he knows how to throw a changeup.
The Bad: More than anything, Norris needs refinements. Both of his secondary pitches flash plus, but he needs to find consistency with them. He had some up-and-down showings last spring, and his delivery is a bit complex.
Ephemera: None of the five players drafted out of Science Hill have reached the big leagues, but the school has a strong football tradition. One of those five players, Jeff Hostetler, had an NFL career. The school’s alumni list includes former Heisman Trophy winner and current coach Steve Spurrier.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star starter.
Fantasy Impact: Norris has the upside of an early pick.
Path to the Big Leagues: A crowded group of young arms in the Toronto system could lead to Norris making his debut in the short-season leagues.
ETA: 2015

4. Anthony Gose, OF
DOB
: 8/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2008, Bellflower HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .253/.349/.415 at Double-A (137 G)
Tools Profile: He is impressive across the board, but his hit tool is questionable.

Year in Review: The best athlete in the system improved his approach and unlocked his power potential.
The Good: Gose is a toolshed. He entered the 2011 season with nine home runs in 271 pro games, but he developed a more patient approach and began to drive balls. He projects to hit 15-20 homers per year down the road. He's a plus-plus burner who could steal 40-50 bases in the big leagues, and is one of baseball;s best defensive outfielders. His arm is the best in the system; he had early-round potential as a high school pitcher.
The Bad: There are big questions about Gose's pure hitting ability. His swing can get loopy, he flails at good breaking balls, and he struck out once for every 3.3 at-bats at New Hampshire. Many hope he has enough secondary skills and defense to make up for a batting average that could peak in the .250 range.
Ephemera: Gose had a six-game streak without a strikeout in the first week of the season, but did not go more than two consecutive games without a whiff for the rest of the season.
Perfect World Projection: His power/speed combination will help make him a highlight machine in center field.
Fantasy Impact: His power and speed with provide plenty of value, but his batting average will be a detriment.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like d'Arnaud, Gose will move to the friendly confines of Las Vegas in 2012, and scouts will be challenged to separate any advancement with the bat from ballpark assistance.
ETA: 2013

5. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
DOB
: 8/29/92
Height/Weight: 6-5/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Legacy HS (TX)
2011 Stats: 1.41 ERA (32.0-23-11-37) at Rookie (7 G), 2.00 ERA (18.0-15-5-22) at short-season (4 G), 3.00 ERA (9.0-8-2-9) at Low-A (2 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a young power pitcher with a big arm and some arsenal depth.

Year in Review: This projectable right-hander began to project at an accelerated rate.
The Good: Syndergaard has already added significant velocity from his high school days; he now sits in the mid-90s with plenty of upper-90s every time out. He's more than just a power arm; he'll flash a plus curveball, and has some feel for a changeup. His frame is nearly ideal for a power pitcher.
The Bad: Syndergaard needs to prove he can maintain his stuff over a full season. He needs to improve his changeup, which can come it a bit firm, and he has a tendency to slow his delivery. More than anything, he needs innings and repetition.
Ephemera: No player taken with the 38th overall pick has won more than 38 major-league games, but current big-leaguers Gio Gonzalez and Colby Lewis are both sitting at that exact number.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: It has the potential to be large, but the emphasis is on potential. He's still a long way from the big leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: Syndergaard will be part of one of Low-A's most intriguing rotations at Lansing.
ETA: 2015

6. Drew Hutchison, RHP
DOB
: 8/22/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/165
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 15th round, 2009, Lakeland HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 2.62 ERA (72.0-58-19-84) at Low-A (14 G), 2.74 ERA (62.1-42-14-66) at High-A (11 G), 1.20 ERA (15.0-10-2-21) at Double-A (3 G)
Tools Profile: Hutchison has average to above-average stuff and outstanding location.

Year in Review: Hutchison, who was no more than a good sleeper entering 2011, began the year at Low-A, reached Double-A at the end of the season, and pitched well at every level.
The Good: Hutchinson is a pitcher who is much greater than the sum of his parts. He has three pitches that rate as average to above average. His fastball sits in the low 90s but has plenty of movement, and he adds a solid-average slider and a plus changeup. Everything about his game plays up due to his ability to locate and set up hitters like an advanced big-leaguer. 
The Bad: Hutchison's pure stuff doesn't blow scouts away, and his margin for error is much less than that of a traditional power pitcher. He's not especially physical, and there are questions about his ability to handle 200 innings per season.
Ephemera: The Jays have drafted three players out of Lakeland High in the last three years, including this year's sleeper, Eric Arce.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a number-three starter, and has the chance to exceed that.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll be solid in every category.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hutchison will begin the year at Double-A Hampshire, but he's on a fast track and could compete for a rotation job in 2013.
ETA: 2013

7. Justin Nicolino, LHP
DOB
: 11/22/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/160
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, University HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 1.03 ERA (52.1-28-11-64) at short-season (12 G), 3.12 ERA (8.2-11-2-9) at Low-A (3 G)
Tools Profile: This southpaw has an advanced arsenal and pitchability.

Year in Review: This second-round pick was all but unhittable in the Northwest League.
The Good: Nicolino stands out for his polish and the maturity of his game. He has above-average fastball velocity for a left-hander, and the pitch plays up due to movement and outstanding location. He already has an advanced changeup that he'll throw at any point in the count, and an average curveball. He uses both sides of the plate, attacks hitters, and gets them to chase.
The Bad: Nicolino lacks that one plus-plus pitch to give him a star projection. He has a skinny build that needs to fill out.
Ephemera: Right-handed batters facing the southpaw Nicolino in the Northwest League went 20-for-144 (.139) with 50 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average starter, but not an ace.
Fantasy Impact: It will be good across the board.
Path to the Big Leagues: Nicolino is the kind of prospect who could move quickly through a system. He'll begin 2012 at Low-A Lansing.
ETA: 2014

8. Deck McGuire, RHP
DOB
: 6/23/89
Height/Weight: 6-6/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Georgia Tech
2011 Stats: 2.75 ERA (104.2-89-38-102) at High-A (19 G), 4.35 ERA (20.2-20-7-22) at Double-A (4 G)
Tools Profile: He has more polish than stuff.

Year in Review: This first-round pick from 2010 was as good as expected, and reached Double-A.
The Good: McGuire is a finesse pitcher packed into a power body. He pounds the strike zone with an average-velocity fastball that he locates well, and then uses his plus slider and solid changeup to keep hitters off-balance. He has a big frame, an easy delivery, and is designed to eat innings.
The Bad: McGuire doesn't have much in the way of upside. Many scouts feel he's advanced, but also believe he is what he is. McGuire can depend on his fastball and location a little too much, but some believe pitching backward occasionally could keep hitters on their toes.
Ephemera: While Georgia Tech has an excellent program that has produced more than 150 draft picks, Kevin Brown is the only pitcher drafted out of the university with more than 32 big-league wins.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a fourth starter, but that might also be his floor.
Fantasy Impact: He’s not an early pick, but he’s a safe one.
Path to the Big Leagues: McGuire will begin the year at Double-A New Hampshire, but he does not need much more minor-league seasoning.
ETA: 2013

9. Adonys Cardona, RHP
DOB
: 1/16/94
Height/Weight: 6-1/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2010
2011 Stats: 4.55 ERA (31.2-31-12-35) at Rookie (10 G)
Tools Profile: This right-hander has a very high ceiling.

Year in Review: Cardona, the recipient of the largest bonus in Venezuela history, showed bat-missing stuff in his stateside debut.
The Good: Cardona has an impressive arm. His fastball sits in the 90-95 mph range, and it plays up due to good life and Cardona’s advanced ability to locate. His curveball improved as the season wore on, and his changeup is very advanced for his age.
The Bad: Cardona is still quite raw. His breaking ball comes and goes, and his velocity can waver when his delivery is inconsistent. He's not a physical specimen. Cardona needs innings more than anything.
Ephemera: Half of Cardona's earned runs came in three bullpen appearances; his ERA was 3.18 in seven starts.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starter.
Fantasy Impact: Cardona is light years away from where he can be, so there are no guarantees.
Path to the Big Leagues: Cardona just turned 18, and there is no need to rush him. He'll begin the year in extended spring training, and will then pitch in a short-season league.
ETA: 2016

10. Kevin Comer, RHP
DOB
: 8/1/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Seneca HS (NJ)
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: He’s yet another high-ceiling high school arm.

Year in Review: The Blue Jays loaded up on high school arms in the 2011 draft. They doled out a $1.65 million bonus for this New Jersey product.
The Good: Comer is a big, physical righty who blew away poor competition with a plus fastball that touched 94-95 mph. He gets excellent spin on a plus power breaking ball. His delivery is clean, and he generally throws strikes.
The Bad: Comer won’t move quickly through the system. He has far less experience than most high school arms due to his cold-weather upbringing, and has had little need for a changeup. He's more of a thrower than a pitcher, and needs to learn the intricacies of his craft.
Ephemera: Three participants in the 2011 All-Star game were selected with the 57th overall pick in the draft: Joel Hanrahan (2000), Jon Lester (2002), and Brandon Phillips (1999).
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starter.
Fantasy Impact: He's yet to pitch as a professional, so it's a bit early to say.
Path to the Big Leagues: Comer will pitch in a short-season league in 2012.
ETA: 2016

11. Christopher Hawkins, OF
DOB
: 8/17/91
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, North Gwinnett HS (GA)
2011 Stats: .318/.375/.492 at Rookie (68 G), .000/.000/.000 at High-A (2 G)
Tools Profile: He has plenty of tools, and he finally found a defensive home.

Year in Review: Hawkins was originally drafted as a shortstop, but Toronto moved him to the outfield so he could concentrate on his offense. It paid off.
The Good: Hawkins is athletic and projectable. He has plenty of bat speed, and could develop average power as his game matures. He's a tick above-average runner who should become a good corner outfielder.
The Bad: Hawkins will need to hit. He's stuck in left field because he lacks the instincts or arm to play in center. He can be a bit aggressive at the plate, and needs to tap into his power potential to succeed.
Ephemera: Hawkins hit .414/.457/.664 in 116 at-bats with runners on for Bluefield, but just .230/.297/.333 in 126 at-bats with the bases empty.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday outfielder, but his value is lessened as a left fielder.
Fantasy Impact: His power potential and speed make him intriguing.
Path to the Big Leagues: Many feel Hawkins could break out as he spends his 2012 season at Low-A Lansing.
ETA: 2015

The Sleeper: Eric Arce, who was drafted twice by the Blue Jays, is a short, wide-bodied, bat-only prospect, but he showed plus (and more) power in his pro debut. He slugged 14 home runs over 153 Gulf Coast League at-bats.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Brett Lawrie, 3B

2. Travis d’Arnaud, C
3. Jake Marisnick, OF
4. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
5. Kyle Drabek, RHP
6. Daniel Norris, LHP
7. Colby Rasmus, OF
8. Travis Snider, OF
9. Anthony Gose, OF
10. Noah Synydergaard, RHP

Lawrie is going to be a star. He ranks at the top, but there still needs to be some brakes hit here. Expecting him to repeat his .373 on-base percentage or .580 slugging once advance scouts find his holes is foolish, but Lawrie is also six years from his prime, which will still likely come in an outfield corner. Alvarez can touch 97, but he’s more comfortable parking his fastball at 93 mph. While he throws strikes, Alvarez rarely blows hitters away, and his frame might not be conducive to making 32 starts per year. Drabek, Rasmus, and Snider are all hedges. You could do anything with them on this list and not be wrong. All three could be All-Stars in three years, or two could be in Japan. Drabek's inability to turn things around after a demotion to Triple-A was especially troubling, but his raw stuff is still there. Rasmus was supposed to turn it all around once he got out of an uncomfortable situation in St. Louis, but instead he was worse, to the point of unplayable. This will be Snider’s final appearance if he doesn’t produce. It’s finally time to do something with his 877 major-league plate appearances.

Summary: Toronto has one of the best systems in baseball, and a chance to do what at times seems an impossible task: to compete in the American League East. Prospects and young talent will help, but the Blue Jays also need to stop being the bridesmaids with elite free agents.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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