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December 5, 2014

2015 Prospects

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects

by Chris Mellen and BP Prospect Staff

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Last year’s Blue Jays list

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Aaron Sanchez
  2. LHP Daniel Norris
  3. CF Dalton Pompey
  4. RHP Jeff Hoffman
  5. C Max Pentecost
  6. LHP Jairo Labourt
  7. RHP Miguel Castro
  8. RHP Roberto Osuna
  9. RHP Sean Reid-Foley
  10. RHP Alberto Tirado

1. Aaron Sanchez
Position: RHP
DOB: 07/01/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4” 190 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Barstow HS (Barstow, CA)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #31 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 1.09 ERA (33 IP, 14 H, 27 K, 9 BB) at major-league level, 4.19 (34.1 IP, 36 H, 27 K, 17 BB) at Triple-A Buffalo, 3.82 ERA (66 IP, 52 H, 57 K, 40 BB) at Double-A New Hampshire
The Tools: 7 FB; 6+ CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: Things were uneven for the former first rounder in the minors when starting, but after a conversion to the bullpen the top-notch stuff really played up to carry the right-hander to a dominant stint with the big club.

Strengths: Easy, efficient delivery; athletic on the bump; extremely loose arm; ball jumps out of hand; fastball comfortably sits 93-96; able to reach for more in short stints (98-99); displays hard arm-side movement and some sink; very difficult to square up in lower tier; creates excellent snap with curve via loose wrist; power two-plane break; can manipulate shape depending on situation; commands well for strikes; flashes ability to turn over change; late fading action.

Weaknesses: Delivery gets stiff and upright; has trouble staying above the ball; fastball command inconsistent as a result; has trouble consistently spotting in all four quadrants of the zone; heater flattens out above the thighs; occasionally wraps wrist and rolls curve arm side; change on the firm side (88-90); will blend with fastball and lack quality action; doesn’t command well.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: 6; no. 3 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major leagues; command consistency over the long haul.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The 2014 season went a long way towards showing that Sanchez will have fantasy value, whether he makes it as a starter or not. But despite his impressive showing, the rotation remains his best bet for fantasy value going forward, especially given his strikeout ability. As a starter, he’s a potential SP2 with WHIP risk, but not as much as you’d think given his walk rate—as he has the arsenal to sustain a lower hit rate than you’d be comfortable projecting. He’s a great sleeper for 2015 redraft leagues, along with being a strong dynasty asset.

The Year Ahead: Sanchez is one of the loosest arms you’ll see on the mound, with a fastball that absolutely explodes out of his hand and the type of tightly rotating curveball that can miss the best of bats. The heater not only consistently operates in the mid-90s as a starter, but is enhanced by hard arm-side run that makes it difficult for hitters to gauge and often leaves them in protection mode. The crispness of the curve gives the 22-year-old right-hander a legit power offering to attack batters with at any point in the count. When he’s working his change into sequences with feel and confidence, the arm can consistently roll right through opposing lineups. Sanchez’s struggles with his fastball command have been well documented around here, with the theme from this past season a Jekyll and Hyde-like story for those who watched him closely. The conversion to the bullpen, and subsequent success in the role, point to some developmental steps forward, but also lent a look at how things could play up on the other side of the fence for the young pitcher and allow thoughts to percolate as to whether relief is the best ultimate option. The roles reflect the belief there’s still plenty of time for growth and the fact the developmental arc is an on-going process at the highest level. This season should offer Sanchez the chance to prove he’s closing the gaps and can solidify a spot in Toronto’s rotation for seasons to come.

Major league ETA: Reached majors in 2014

2. Daniel Norris
Position: LHP
DOB: 04/25/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft, Science Hill HS (Johnson City, TN)
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org), Just Missed The Cut (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 5.40 ERA (6.2 IP, 5 H, 4 K, 5 BB) at major-league level, 3.18 ERA (22.2 IP, 14 H, 38 K, 8 BB) at Triple-A Buffalo, 4.54 ERA (35.2 IP, 32 H, 49 K, 17 BB) at Double-A New Hampshire, 1.22 ERA (66.1 IP, 50 H, 76 K, 43 BB) at High-A Dunedin
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 potential SL; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The easy throwing left-hander gained considerable developmental traction with his arsenal during the season, where he blitzed through three levels of the minors before making his debut in The Show at the tail end of the year.

Strengths: Repeatable, balanced delivery; fast arm; athletic; smooth arm action; fastball operates 92-95 with late finish; spots offering east/west well; lively in lower tier; can selectively elevate; sharp break and bite to slider; will change shape; throws for strikes well; bat-missing potential; flashes feel for turning over change; late bottoming-out action; competitor on mound.

Weaknesses: Overall body of work needs polish; runs into ruts of releasing early and drifting with front foot; command plays down as a result; tends to nibble when in trouble; can wrap wrist with slider and sweep into middle of plate; changeup still finding identify; can be too firm and lack trust in offering; will float in strike zone; curve more of “show me” pitch than weapon.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved majors; bone spurs in elbow (2014); emergence of consistent third pitch.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Norris is the compressed version of Sanchez for fantasy purposes, as he’s both lower upside and lower risk. That said, he’s the more valuable player in dynasty leagues right now, given his own SP3 ceiling, with the potential for 180-plus strikeouts and above-average ratios (think 3.50/1.20). Norris, however, is a starter all the way and should be able to crack the rotation relatively quickly in 2015.

The Year Ahead: The 21-year-old left-hander rumbled along an accelerated developmental curve this past year, where there was considerable tangible progress in proving that his ceiling can in fact become a reality. Norris is a good looking young arm, with an arsenal that can further bloom into a nasty combination for opposing hitters to deal with. There’s a certain ease in how he delivers his lively fastball to begin setting the tone, and when the pitcher gets into a rhythm, the slider and changeup allow him to slice and dice the strike zone with a combination of finesse and power. Norris can get off kilter, though, especially when his pace is challenged in jams, where he can fall into a mode of trying to be too fine rather than fully trusting the process with his stuff, but that’s all part of learning the finer points of the game for a young player. The surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow after the completion of this past season offers some concerns and will put focus on how his arm is returning to form during the spring. This is far from a finished product, and a player where the signs point to a gradual ramp at the big-league level as the rough edges continue to get smoothed over the next few seasons, but one that has all the ingredients to establish himself as a mid-rotation starter at peak.

Major league ETA: Reached majors in 2014

3. Dalton Pompey
Position: CF
DOB: 12/11/1992
Height/Weight: 6’2” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: 16th round, 2010 draft, John Fraser SS (Mississauga, ON)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: .231/.302/.436 at major-league level (17 games), .358/.393/.453 at Triple-A Buffalo (12 games), .295/.378/.473 at Double-A New Hampshire (31 games), .319/.397/.471 at High-A Dunedin (70 games)
The Tools: 6+ run; 6 glove; 5+ arm; 5+ potential hit

What Happened in 2014: The fleet-of-foot Canadian centerfielder breezed from an opening in High-A to a late look in the bigs, with an impressive display of contact ability and defense in the minors, firmly establishing himself on the prospect map.

Strengths: Very athletic; wiry muscle; still some room on frame; quick hands; line-drive stroke from left side; creates some lift from both sides; ability to muscle up for power in spots; loud present pull-side contact; gap-to-gap approach; easy plus run; kicks it up a gear on the bases; good instincts in center; hunts balls into gaps; excellent closing speed; arm to keep runners honest.

Weaknesses: Will open hips early to pull left-handed; tends to sell out for power as righty; susceptible to soft stuff away; swing will get defensive; power likely to play as fringe average; can get tied up above belt by velocity; still learning how to consistently use hands to go the other way; arm loses power to bases at times.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 5; solid-average major leaguer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved big-league level; full utility of hit tool.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The argument is certainly there to be made that Pompey is the top fantasy prospect in the Blue Jays system, given his stolen base capabilities and his ability to surround that with some average and pop. Additionally, with Anthony Gose and Colby Rasmus out of town, Pompey should begin the march towards a 10-homer, 30-steal fantasy outfielder with a ton of runs scored in early 2015.

The Year Ahead: Pompey’s meteoritic rise this past season was not only impressive in the shear speed, but also lends a good look at how a player can ride the developmental wave and confidence that swells with positive results on the field. The carrying strengths are the defensive chops and ability to impact the game on the bases, both of which offer good value should the potential of the hit tool not come to fruition. That’s not to say there isn’t hitting ability here, but there is less pressure on the particular tool and the prospect could contribute in multiple facets to maintain his status as a regular in the long run. The big theme from this past season in regards to the offense is the amount of improvement and increased comfort, allowing the natural skills to come to the surface. The swing from the left side has especially tightened, and while things right-handed can be messy at times, Pompey’s loose hands point to continued overall growth as the secondary skills build with experience. The peak seasonal view sees .270s averages, with gap pop, and occasional home-run power. That talent set fits nicely at the top of a good lineup and things rout out with plus up-the-middle defense. That’s a valuable player and this season will likely serve as the chance to begin putting the foothold on the position for years to come.

Major league ETA: Reached majors in 2014

4. Jeff Hoffman
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/08/1993
Height/Weight: 6’4” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, East Carolina University (Greenville, NC)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: Did Not Play (Tommy John Surgery)
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6+ potential CH; 6 potential CB

What Happened in 2014: The power arm was cruising through the college season and pushing for a definitive chance at being selected first overall. But then the dreaded Tommy John struck and dropped him into Toronto’s lap at 9th overall.

Strengths: Very athletic; loose arm and delivery; explosive fastball at 93-96; touches higher when needs it; can throw past hitters or pound the zone; turns over good changeup; true bat-missing ability; shows arm-side fade with quality tumbling action; high amount of confidence in offering; snaps breaking ball with loose wrist; shows power break in upper-velocity band (78-82); will vary shape; can throw for strikes; aggressive on the mound; projects a high amount of confidence in stuff; plus future command profile.

Weaknesses: Command presently plays down; lot of limbs and body to control; can stand to add strength to maintain stuff over long season; fastball can be on the straight side; present mentality to work in dangerous areas with offering; breaking ball can get slurvy and soft; will cast; gets predicable with change; heavily throws to arm side; needs to focus more on hitting all four quadrants with arsenal in general; developmental delay due to injury.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to pitch professionally; TJ on resume (2014); return of arsenal to previous levels.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The ceiling for Hoffman is unquestioned as he’s the one pitcher in this system with a non-minute chance at becoming a true SP1 in mixed leagues. Unfortunately, due to the surgery, his ETA is backed up and it has caused him to fall behind a few players in dynasty drafts. However, even with the international players factored in, Hoffman should go in the top five of all drafts this winter.

The Year Ahead: Hoffman would easily challenge for consideration at the front of this system if healthy, but it’s also reasonable to expect that had injury not struck, the 21-year-old right-hander would never have gotten to Toronto in the first place. The potential of the arsenal and what the overall future role can look like are loud. The arm was already showing strong advancement in the college ranks, suggesting that the ascent in the professional side could be on the quicker side. Of course, we have to consider the near-term hurdle of the injury rehab, combined with the fact that the arsenal must first return to form before taking any more steps forward, which was especially necessary in regards to the overall command. The likely view takes into consideration the risk and probability that the full picture of the stuff in the pro arena won’t start to show until 2016. This season will focus on passing the early markers coming out of surgery, returning fully to the mound, and beginning to ramp the arm strength back up. Recent trends tell us there’s a strong chance Hoffman can make a full return to form, with the organization’s potential reward for taking on the risk and investment being a future front-of-the-rotation power arm for multiple seasons to come.

Major league ETA: 2017

5. Max Pentecost
Position: C
DOB: 03/10/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 191 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: .313/.322/.410 at short-season Vancouver (19 games), .364/.364/.455 at rookie level GCL (6 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential hit; 5 potential power; 5+ potential arm; 5+ potential glove

What Happened in 2014: The highly regarded 21-year-old backstop was tabbed by the Jays with the 11th overall pick and got an early taste of professional competition before an injury ended his season.

Strengths: Solid athleticism; fluid actions; compact stroke from right side; efficient to the point of contact; plus bat speed; barrels up offerings with backspin; gap-to-gap approach; willing to use the whole field; can learn to muscle up in the right spot; recognizes stuff with spin well; agile behind the plate; fires feet well; solid-average arm strength; improving glove hand; high-energy player.

Weaknesses: Body presently a bit underdeveloped; added strength necessary to withstand demands of position; footwork can get choppy and tangled; release needs some cleaning up to enhance accuracy; still learning how to get big and use body to control offerings; glove angle can drift; contact-heavy swing; flatter through hitting zone; power may ultimately play below-average in favor of contact; bat can end up a bit empty.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular

Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience; labrum surgery (2014); dual-threat development.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Pentecost not only has a near 80-grade name, but he comfortably sits above the line of offensive demarcation, which means we care about him as a fantasy catcher. His best case scenario is a poor man’s Jonathan Lucroy, which can still be an easy top-10 catcher in his prime by hitting .285 with 10-12 homers and strong counting stats for a backstop.

The Year Ahead: Similar to his fellow 2014 first-rounder within the organization, Pentecost will spend a good chunk of 2015 rehabbing an injury as the backstop recently had surgery to repair his labrum. It comes as a blow to a player just starting out his career, but at the very least, he was fairly advanced with the bat entering the professional ranks. And those skills with the stick are this prospect’s biggest present strength. Pentecost possesses an easy and simple stroke that’s efficient to the point of contact. The 21-year-old’s loose hands enable him to stay inside of the baseball and barrel up a lot of offerings hard. The swing is on the flat side, though, with home-run power most likely to be of the modest variety, but the right-handed hitter’s all-fields approach and ability to drive the ball into both gaps lends credence to extra-base hits in the form of doubles having the potential to pile out. Tack on defense that has the potential to round into solid average, and this is an attractive player beginning to percolate up the ranks. The injury puts a damper on things, but when the catcher returns to full health, look for some tangible strides forward to show fairly quickly.

Major league ETA: 2017

6. Jairo Labourt
Position: LHP
DOB: 03/07/1994
Height/Weight: 6’4” 204 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #10 (Org)
2014 Stats: 6.43 ERA (14 IP, 15 H, 11 K, 20 BB) at Low-A Lansing, 1.77 ERA (71.1 IP, 47 H, 82 K, 37 BB) at short-season Vancouver
The Tools: 6+ potential FB; 6 potential SL; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: After a brief look in full season to start the year, the big left-hander settled into the short-season ranks, where he dominated the competition, striking out over a batter an inning and limiting the opposition to 47 hits.

Strengths: Sturdy body; room to get stronger in lower half; uses body to throw downhill; creates easy velocity; fastball works 91-95; displays arm-side run and some sink; lively in lower tier of strike zone; capable of snapping hard slider; two-plane break with tilt (mid-80s); flashes feel for turning over change; arm-side action and drop; not afraid to come after hitters; good pitchability.

Weaknesses: Will need to watch body to avoid losing athleticism and looseness; overall command is below average; can release fastball early; pitch flattens out above thighs; slider will sweep in lower-velocity band (low-80s); still finding identity with offering; gets deliberate with changeup; can be too firm (85-86); needs more trust in grip when throwing; can stand to work more into sequences.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; short-season resume; development of third pitch.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With the potential to be a strikeout-inducing left-handed starter, Labourt is someone whose ownership you should be checking in your dynasty league this offseason. If he’s available, he should be taken within the first three rounds of your draft, despite the depth of the 2014 draft class.

The Year Ahead: This Dominican left-hander possesses all of the necessary ingredients to round into a long-term starter at the major-league level. With a big body, budding three-pitch repertoire, and early feel for executing his craft, Labourt brings the starter kit of a potential mid-rotation starter to the table. The fastball already comfortably operates in the low 90s with the 20-year-old capable of reaching for more consistently with improving command. The offering also displays solid movement and tends to jump on opposing batters due to the angle the big lefty creates. Labourt presently favors his slider more consistently in sequences, which can dart and break late off the table, but also flashes good feel for his changeup and can push the growth of the pitch as he develops more trust delivering it. The development of that third offering will be key for the prospect to achieve his on-paper potential. It’ll be very important for him to be able to mix and match the two secondary offerings, especially against right-handed batters, as he percolates up through the ranks to prove the stuff is going to neutralize advanced bats. The next proving ground will take place at full season in 2015 for Labourt, where the trends point to a good chance the young arm can fully breakout onto the scene as more get a look at the overall package.

Major league ETA: Late 2017

7. Miguel Castro
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/24/1994
Height/Weight: 6’5” 190 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2012, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2014 Stats: 3.12 ERA (8.2 IP, 4 H, 5 K, 3 BB) at High-A Dunedin, 3.74 ERA (21.2, 10 H, 20 K, 7 BB) at Low-A Lansing, 2.15 ERA (50.1 IP, 36 H, 53 K, 20 BB) at short-season Vancouver
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6 potential SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The Dominican right-hander drew solid reviews in the lower levels, where his explosive fastball carried him to success at short season and enabled him to get a taste of life in full-season ball in preparation for this coming year.

Strengths: Large frame; plenty of room to fill into and add strength; excellent arm strength; fast arm; fastball easy works 93-95; able to reach for more in spurts (97); late life and explosiveness; flashes feel for slider; snaps with loose wrist; can break late and dart off the table; bat-missing potential; turns over change at 82-85; arm-side fading action.

Weaknesses: Some effort and jerk to delivery; inconsistent holding mechanics deeper into outings; below-average command; presently more of a thrower; good gap to close with secondary stuff; slider will sweep and spin; inconsistent creating tight rotation; deliberate at times delivering change; body and arm will slow down; floats in the strike zone.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience; emergence of secondary stuff.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Of the final four arms on this list, Castro is most likely to end up in the bullpen, but he’s still a ways away from his fantasy owners worrying about that. In the near term, Castro could ride his strong fastball to pop up status in the Midwest League and create a lot of trade interest from other owners—if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Year Ahead: An emerging name within this system, Castro’s live arm and projectable nature shine when he is on the mound. Everything starts with the right-hander’s explosive mid-90s heater, which has a legit chance to be a difference maker and round into a double-plus offering at his disposal. The sitting velocity has ticked up over the course of the last 12 months as the soon-to-be 20-year-old has begun to add strength and mature more physically. It’s not out of the question that the fastball can consistently operate more closely to the present peak velocity (97) as this prospect matures further into his mid-twenties or works in more isolated short bursts. The secondary stuff flashes promise and the potential to reach at least average grades, but presently has a ways to go to become true staples in the repertoire. This aspect of his game, combined with some rigidness in the delivery, lend some clues as to why some believe that a late-innings role will be the ultimate outcome, but there’s a long way to go here, with plenty of time for development. Steps forward are the most important factor in the short term. Castro is primed for an assignment in full-season ball in 2015, where if this lively arm is showing signs of more refinement, expect another jump in status to come with it.

Major league ETA: Late 2017

8. Roberto Osuna
Position: RHP
DOB: 02/07/1995
Height/Weight: 6’2” 230 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2010, Mexico
Previous Ranking: Notable Omission (Tommy John)
2014 Stats: 6.55 ERA (22 IP, 28 H, 30 K, 9 BB) at High-A Dunedin
The Tools: 6+ potential FB; 6 potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The Mexican right-hander returned to the mound after finishing his rehab from Tommy John, where the stuff began to show a return to previous form and lend clues that the arm is past the initial comeback hurdle.

Strengths: Well filled-out for age; excellent present strength; repeatable delivery; fast arm; fastball works 92-95; can reach for more when needed (97); lively in lower tier of strike zone; difficult to square up; shows ability to create tight rotation and snap with curve; change flashes bottom-dropping action with late tumble.

Weaknesses: Lacks physical projection; body will need to be closely watched; has to stay on top of conditioning; works elevated and to the arm side with the fastball; overthrows heater with effort; doesn’t finish and stay over the ball well; below-average command of arsenal (present); inconsistent keeping wrist above curveball; tends to wrap and roll; lacks strong identity (more of a slurve).

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to reach upper levels; TJ on resume (2013); emergence of third pitch.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s like you can’t fall down in this system without hitting a pitcher with SP3 potential. Osuna has both a strong track record and a big red mark in his injury history, but when you add them together, you get a pitcher who could consistently put up sub-4.00 ERAs with 160-plus strikeouts per season, and certainly should be owned in all leagues that roster 200 or more prospects.

The Year Ahead: Osuna successfully made it back to the mound this past season and was able to make some consistent appearances at the tail end of the year in the Florida State League. The right-hander should receive a return trip to High A in 2015, where the stuff will get a good test in extended action. The 19-year-old is loose and easy when delivering his heater, which typically sits 92-95 mph with solid late life when thrown below the thighs. It’s the type of fastball that can allow Osuna to control lineups with further command growth. The secondary stuff is presently on the inconsistent side, but both the curveball and changeup show promise to develop into at least average offerings. The curve does need strong strides to play up to its on-paper potential, primarily in the form of the prospect getting more consistent staying on top of the ball and producing more downward action with the pitch. There are concerns about the high maintenance nature to the body, but reports indicated Osuna returned from injury in good shape. Still, it’ll be something to keep a close eye on as he continues to mature. This is an arm that can really start to take off as he gets further and further removed from surgery, eventually making this placement seem too conservative in the process.

Major league ETA: 2017

9. Sean Reid-Foley
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/30/1995
Height/Weight: 6’3” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft, Sandalwood HS (Jacksonville, FL)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: 4.76 ERA (22.2 IP, 21 H, 25 K, 10 BB) at complex level GCL
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6 potential SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The intriguing prep arm out of Florida had his name called by Toronto in the second round then didn’t have to travel too far from home to begin his professional assimilation in the Gulf Coast League.

Strengths: Athletic; strong frame; good arm strength; fastball works 91-95 with late life and explosiveness; runs hard arm side; potential to comfortably sit higher down the line; spins breaking stuff with loose wrist; slider flashes hard bite and tilt (84-85); bat-missing potential; turns over low-80s change; late, arm-side fade; shows early willingness to feature; plus command profile; power-arm foundation.

Weaknesses: Some moving parts to delivery; needs work ironing out pace; can get too quick; will wear himself down; command and control need grade step forward; wraps wrist at times delivering slider; spins and flattens out in lower band (81-82); learning how to get over for strike; change clear third pitch in effectiveness; tends to float and lack finish; mentality on hill will need to be shaped.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience; emergence of true third offering (changeup).

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Reid-Foley is one of those hidden gems in dynasty drafts, as he slipped all the way to the middle of the second round, but should be taken at least 15 spots higher than that this offseason. Strong velocity in complex-league arms is always a good deep-league investment strategy, and he fits the bill.

The Year Ahead: The ingredients are here for this right-hander to emerge as a legit power arm at full bloom, with the early feel for his repertoire to begin making strides as the experience builds within the professional structure. Though Reid-Foley presently works more low 90s with his heater, there’s strong potential for his siting velocity to tick up a bit due to his overall looseness and size that points to solid strength gains coming as he physically matures into his early-twenties. Toss in good movement with late life and this can be both a sequence-starting and finishing pitch in the double-plus range. The secondary stuff also offers the type of promise to envision both evolving into crisp offerings down the line. The prospect feels his slider the best presently, but flashes good turnover with the change to create consistent, quality action. There are some concerns about the overall nature of the 19-year-old’s delivery, but he shows the ability to repeat it and consistently get his arm into slot. Early career focus is likely to reside with smoothing out his pace and working to maintain a more steady rhythm. There’s a nice package here, and one that should start to roll forward developmentally this season while offering flashes of what’s potentially to come.

Major league ETA: 2018

10. Alberto Tirado
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/10/1994
Height/Weight: 6’1” 177 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org), #76 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 6.30 ERA (40 IP, 45 H, 40 K, 39 BB) at Low-A Lansing, 3.53 ERA (35.2 IP, 25 H, 36 K, 28 BB) at short-season Vancouver
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6+ potential CH; 6 potential SL

What Happened in 2014: The highly regarded right-hander took a step back in full-season ball, where his inconsistent command was too much to overcome, before a demotion to short season to get him back on track.

Strengths: Loose arm; easy release; clean arm action; fastball operates 92-95 routinely; arm-side life with some sink; strong feel for changeup; deceptive release; late, diving action; snaps slider at 80-84 with bite and depth; flashes future plus; projectable stuff; room for good physical growth.

Weaknesses: Inconsistent mechanics; release point fluctuates; leads to difficulties finishing with command suffering as a result; below average at present; will wrap with slider; can sweep and lack bite at times; body is on the lean side; needs strength to enhance overall package; learning how to handle ins and outs of craft.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: Low 5; no. 5 starter/middle reliever

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited full-season experience; development of command.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Tirado was one of those short-season fantasy-league darlings that owners got super excited about, only to see everything go up in smoke this season. The upside is still there to be a high-strikeout, high-walk contributor, but he’s both further away and riskier than when he exploded onto the scene. If he’s been dropped or given up on, he makes for an interesting trade target.

The Year Ahead: The 20-year-old Dominican right-hander is one of those loose arms who generates easy velocity and flashes early feel for his secondary stuff, while possessing a very projectable body. When all is said and done, each piece of Tirado’s arsenal can round out as plus to better and give the arm some nasty stuff with which attack hitters. The hurdle for the prospect is developing more consistency with his mechanics, which presently drives a spotty release point and subsequent below-average command and control. Things weren’t pretty overall for Tirado in 2014, but some reports indicated that subtle strides were starting to show towards the tail end of the year. The definitive markers to watch with this young arm in 2015 are progress with the aforementioned command and also the level of confidence. Bad results can snowball for young players and lead to overthinking or second guessing. Sources were high on the way Tirado handles himself and goes about his business, with the indication that it’s a player who can bounce back and quickly go the other way with some positive traction out of the gate early. That, of course, remains to be seen pending what transpires this season, but the view here is that the arm gets past the initial early-career speed bump and will show tangible progress to polishing the rough edges in the very near future.

Major league ETA: 2018


Prospects on the Rise:

1. OF Anthony Alford: The previously part-time minor leaguer has officially given up college football to fully focus on his baseball career, where the final product can end up pretty big. Despite the lost development time, Alford is still only 20 years old and brings an element of power and speed to the table. The 6-foot-2 outfielder is extremely athletic and an outright physical specimen, possessing strong wrists and forearms that enable him to generate plus bat speed. The stroke is presently more designed to line-drive contact, but there’s plenty of backspin created and he has the potential to add more lift as hitting experience builds. This prospect is something of a wild card, though, with a lot of rough edges, gaps to close, and time to make up. There’s a feel here that as the body shapes into more of a baseball player and the level of experience builds, that this is a prospect who’s going to take some steps forward as quickly as this season.

2. LHP Matt Smoral: The 20-year-old native of Ohio started putting together some developmental traction this past season, and if that trend continues with further gains in 2015, this arm can really take off. The left-hander’s low-to-mid-90s heater comes out of his hand easily, with some hard, arm-side action, and the secondary stuff has strong potential. Smoral’s slider is the most advanced piece, and flashes plus consistently, but there’s also feel for the changeup that suggests it can approach above average at full utility. The long pole is the inconsistent mechanics, which are driven by the 6-foot-8 frame and extreme length. The effect on his release leads to struggles throwing strikes in stretches. Given the amount of body to control this may very well always be an arm on the wild side, but further reigning in the delivery is a must to keep a future outlook as a starter in the view. This name belongs on everyone’s radar, and it may very well just be a matter of time before its entrenched in the top 10.

3. OF Dwight Smith, Jr.: The 22-year-old is a name to keep on the radar, where the big asset is solid hitting ability fueled by quick hands and a mature approach that enables him to frequently work into favorable hitting conditions. Smith’s compact stroke and knack for staying inside of the baseball also lead to high instances of contact. It will come down to whether the outfielder can maintain that contact as the hard line-drive variety into the upper levels (and beyond) given the power is likely to max around below average, and it’s a bit of a tweener defensive profile. The prospect fits more into a corner spot, with an arm that’s on the light side for right field. There’s been some chatter that Smith may get some work on the infield (second base), which would aid the versatility. It’s not the sexiest of profiles, but one with good major-league potential, and the bat to push as a regular at full peak.


Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)

1. C A.J. Jimenez: The ability to stay on the field has been a consistent theme for the Puerto Rican backstop over the course of his career, with about a month spent on the disabled list this year, adding another injury to the resume. The defense is the main asset here for Jimenez as he is a solid receiver with smooth footwork and a plus arm. The 24-year-old also shows strong presence behind the dish and command of the various game-management situations. The bat is likely to play on the light side as the prospect struggles to consistently get his hands above the baseball against good stuff, but there’s a bit of pop that can play up. It’s a backup or occasional regular profile, and one that can get a good look in 2015, provided good health.

2. 2B Devon Travis: Recently acquired by the organization from the Tigers, the former 13th round pick has cemented himself within the professional landscape and sits on the cusp for a chance in The Show. Travis flashes good bat-to-ball ability, which translates as hard contact into the gaps, and lends a projection that the hit tool can play average to better. The 23-year-old is also the consummate worker who has shown a keen ability to adjust quickly to each new challenge. This is more of a second-division regular at peak, but Travis seems to keep outplaying the expectations. There’s a strong chance the prospect will get a chance to push for the second-base job this spring and prove he can continue playing above what an initial glance at the package may suggest.

3. LHP Tyler Ybarra: It’s been a steady climb into the upper levels for the former 43rd rounder. This profile is a reliever all the way, but there’s stuff here that if harnessed a bit further can consistently get batters out in late-inning stints. The left-hander features a lively fastball that works in the mid-90s routinely and a mid-80s slider that can miss barrels. Ybarra’s heater also shows good arm-side movement and sink. It’s actually this aspect of the pitch that the arm needs to reel in, often working a bit too elevated with it where it runs down into the middle of the plate, something that bit him more in Double-A this past season. There’s nothing overly flashy here and the ceiling isn’t that high, but as a piece bridging innings there’s value to a bullpen, and a chance to prove he can do so at some point in the summer may very well be a reality.


Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)

  1. Marcus Stroman
  2. Aaron Sanchez
  3. Drew Hutchison
  4. Daniel Norris
  5. Dalton Pompey
  6. Jeff Hoffman
  7. Max Pentecost
  8. Jairo Labourt
  9. Miguel Castro
  10. Roberto Osuna

After a strange year overall in the AL East and a third-place finish for the Blue Jays, this team has aggressively entered the offseason by signing free-agent backstop Russell Martin, trading for All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, and swapping veteran left hander J.A. Happ for former Mariner Michael Saunders. Placing those into a lineup already boasting the likes of Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto can now deliver a nice mix of veterans to mesh with the arrival of top prospects Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, and Dalton Pompey.

Although I fully expect Stroman to continue to improve on his impressive debut season, the Blue Jays still have veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey to lean on to not only eat some big innings for the rotation, but to also mentor and school the new young arms. Drew Hutchison proved to be more than just an innings eater for the Blue Jays, logging 184.2 innings over 32 starts while striking out an even nine batters per nine. Aside from handling a full-season workload coming off surgery, Hutchison showed a slight uptick in fastball velocity, elevating the effectiveness of his three other pitches. The fifth-starter job is still up for grabs, but after trading J.A. Happ, one has to think they look to Sanchez to fill the void. No matter who wins the final spot, this rotation should be much more stable heading into this season, which will pay dividends for their young and talented bullpen.

It's easy to see the Blue Jays as a scary team going forward. Swapping out Brett Lawrie for Donaldson gives this already powerful lineup some much needed stability and reliability on the left side of the infield. They possess a nice blend of veteran big-league talent, high-ceiling prospects who are already knocking down the doors at the highest level, and a deeper farm than some think. Not many teams could trade away prospects like Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin and still boast legit upside and depth from top to bottom of their system. Getting Saunders in the Happ trade helps fill a hole in the outfield, but bringing in another outfielder and finding a second baseman are likely still on their offseason shopping list. The foundation has been set and the time has finally come for some much anticipated optimism for our friends north of the border. –Chris King


A Parting Thought: This system is thick at the front with talent that can impact the big club in the near term, with intriguing, high-ceiling prospects beginning to percolate at the lower levels, potentially taking this group to an even higher level.

Chris Mellen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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