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February 9, 2007

Future Shock

Toronto Blue Jays Top Ten Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

image 1

Excellent Prospects
1. Travis Snider, RF
2. Adam Lind, LF
Very Good Prospects
None
Good Prospects
3. Ricky Romero, LHP
4. Curtis Thigpen, C
Average Prospects
5. Francisco Rosario, RHP
6. Ryan Patterson, LF
7. Balbino Fuenmayor, 3B
8. Brandon Magee, RHP
9. Kyle Yates, RHP
10. Jesse Litsch, RHP

1. Travis Snider, RF
DOB: 2/2/88
Height/Weight 5-11/230
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, Washington HS
What he did in 2006: .325/.412/.567 at Rookie-level (226 PA)
The Good: Best high-school hitter in this year's draft, with tons of projection and plenty of present skill. Swing is smooth, fast and powerful, leading to consistent hard contact to all fields. Excellent plate discipline and pitch recognition. An outstanding worker who is driven to get better.
The Bad: Snider is a touch short and squat, and he'll need to watch his conditioning. His hitting skills are his ticket to the majors, as he's a slow runner, but a decent outfielder with an OK arm. Nonetheless, he probably profiles better in left field than in right.
The Irrelevant: While Snider has just six at-bats as a professional with the bases loaded, he already has a pair of grand slams.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A star-caliber corner outfielder with well-above-average numbers in all three triple-slash categories.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High. Snider's MVP showing in the Appalachian League was an eye-opener, as while everybody loved his hitting skills, some believed he would take time to adjust to pro baseball. With that out of the way, the sky is the limit as Snider makes his full-season debut in the Midwest League.

2. Adam Lind, LF
DOB: 7/17/83
Height/Weight 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 3rd round, 2004, University of South Alabama
What he did in 2006: .310/.357/.543 at AA (378 PA); .394/.496/.596 at AAA (137 PA); .367/.415/.600 at MLB (65 PA)
The Good: Outstanding offensive prospect who has never hit below .310 at any level while showing constantly improving power. Lind generates excellent leverage in his short stroke, and is constantly driving balls into the gap--or farther. He has a good approach and knows when to pull a ball and when to slice it the other way.
The Bad: Like Snider, Lind's value is entirely wrapped up in his offensive abilities. He's not especially athletic, and his defense in left is hindered by an inability to read the ball off of the bat and an initial first step that is often in the wrong direction. His arm is marginal.
The Irrelevant: While Lind needs more than 300 home runs to catch Luis Gonzalez and become the all-time home run leader for South Alabama alumni, he needs just 64 to pass Pat Putnam for second place.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An above-average everyday left fielder.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. Lind will battle with Reed Johnson in spring training for the big league left-field job. Between there and filling in for Frank Thomas, who always needs some time off here and there, Lind should find no problem getting 300-500 productive at-bats for the Blue Jays.

3. Ricky Romero, LHP
DOB: 11/6/84
Height/Weight 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Cal State Fullerton
What he did in 2006: 2.47 ERA at High-A (58.1-48-14-61); 5.08 ERA at Double-A (67.1-65-26-41)
The Good: Big-bonus left-hander has moved up slower than expected. Average fastball sits at 88-92 mph but his is brought up a grade because of its movement and location. His changeup is the best in the system with a strong, late drop.
The Bad: Romero's stuff is hardly overwhelming, and his lack of a dependable putaway pitch created problems for him at Double-A. He needs to improve the depth on his curveball in order to have three solid offerings.
The Irrelevant: During Romero's senior year of high school at Roosevelt in East Los Angeles, he struck out at least 10 batters in every start, finishing with an 0.53 ERA and 162 whiffs in 80 innings.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A middle-of-the-rotation workhorse.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Toronto raised some eyebrows when they selected Romero over Troy Tulowitzki with the sixth pick in the 2005 draft, and the pick is still seen as questionable. Romero will return to Double-A to begin 2007.

4. Curtis Thigpen, C
DOB: 4/19/83
Height/Weight 5-10/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 2nd round, 2004, University of Texas
What he did in 2006: .259/.370/.421 at Double-A (373 PA); .264/.304/.377 at Triple-A (56 PA)
The Good: Solid catcher with excellent plate discipline and gap power. Outstanding defender when it comes to calling a game and blocking pitches. Average runner with excellent baseball instincts.
The Bad: Thigpen has little projection offensively, and his power is likely to remain doubles-only. The one hole in his defensive game is difficulty in controlling the running game. He has severe platoon splits, batting just .216 against right-handed pitchers in 2006, but .364 versus lefties.
The Irrelevant: During his brief International League stint, Thigpen his .118 when penciled into the five-hole, but .333 elsewhere.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An average big-league catcher--which is pretty hard to find these days.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. While 36-year-old Gregg Zaun is coming off a career year, Thigpen is by default the Blue Jays' catcher of the future. He'll begin the year in Triple-A, but should make his debut at some point during the season and take over the starting role in 2008.

5. Francisco Rosario, RHP
DOB: 9/28/80
Height/Weight 6-1/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: 1999, Dominican Republic
What he did in 2006: 2.79 at Triple-A (42-29-13-50); 6.65 ERA at MLB (23-24-16-21)
The Good: Tommy John survivor thrived in a move to the bullpen at Triple-A and finally reached the majors after a minor-league career that was long in years, but consisted of less than 500 innings. Rosario's velocity is the best in the system, sitting at 93-95 mph and touching 98. As a reliever, his other primary pitch is a hard slider with good depth.
The Bad: Rosario struggled with his control in the big leagues, often falling behind in the count and learning the tough lesson the big league hitters rarely chase. He doesn't have the consistency or a deep enough arsenal to profile as a closer.
The Irrelevant: Rosario is a reverse-platoon pitcher, limiting Triple-A lefthanders to a .132 average (7-for-53) with just one extra-base hit.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A good set-up man.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. After eight years in the Toronto system, Rosario is out of options and needs to make the team in spring training to avoid being exposed to waivers. There should be a spot in the bullpen for him.

6. Ryan Patterson, LF
DOB: 5/2/83
Height/Weight 5-11/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 4th round, 2005, Louisiana State University
What he did in 2006: .288/.327/.520 at High-A (380 PA); .257/.310/.439 at Double-A (205 PA)
The Good: Polished college product put up good numbers in full-season debut. Broad shoulders and a good bat speed generate above-average pull power, and he's equally effective against both lefties and righties. Solid outfielder who makes up for barely-average speed with good jumps and routes.
The Bad: Patterson is an impatient hitter who many scouts see as a mistake hitter who will struggles as he moves up and the number of mistake pitches are fewer and farther between. Like most of the system's top outfield prospects, he lacks the athleticism for center field and the arm for right.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A solid corner outfielder.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Patterson struggled in his first exposure to Double-A pitching and will return there in 2007.

7. Balbino Fuenmayor, 3B
DOB: 11/26/89
Height/Weight 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: 2006, Venezuela
What he did in 2006: Signed with Toronto and reported to instructs.
The Good: Among the top Venezuelan prospects available this summer. Outstanding pure hitting skills with an uncanny knack for contact and impressive hand-eye coordination. Solid defensive skills with plus range to both side and above-average arm strength.
The Bad: Scouts' opinions are mixed on Fuenmayor's power potential, though the Blue Jays believe the projection is above average. He needs to work on his fielding, and can get sloppy with the glove at times.
The Irrelevant: There has never been a Balbino nor a Fuenmayor in major-league history.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A good third baseman at the very least--but the ceiling is higher than that.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High. While it looked like the Blue Jays would go with only five affiliates in 2007, they recently decided against that and added a team in the Gulf Coast League. That gives Fuenmayor a logical place to make his pro debut following extended spring training.

8. Brandon Magee, RHP
DOB: 7/26/83
Height/Weight 6-5/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 4th round, 2006, Bradley University
What he did in 2006: 3.10 ERA at Short-Season (52.1-51-19-40) The Good: Big aggressive righty features heavy sinking fastball that sits in the 89-92 mph range, as well as a plus slider with excellent two-plane break. Both pitches bore down in the strike zone and are difficult to get any kind of lift on. He works quickly, and gears up in pressure situations.
The Bad: Magee depends primarily on his fastball/slider combination and will need to develop an off-speed pitch to remain a starter. He can struggle with location at times, especially during the early innings as is often takes him a frame or two to find his groove.
The Irrelevant: Magee was born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which is also the birthplace of ESPN basketball analyst Rick Majerus and--believe it or not--comedian Jackie Mason.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A solid starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Drafted as a college senior, Magee turns 24 during the season, yet has yet to make his full-season debut. He'll begin the year in the Florida State League, and there's no room for a step backwards.

9. Kyle Yates, RHP
DOB: 1/8/83
Height/Weight 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 13th round, 2004, University of Texas
What he did in 2006: 0.64 ERA at High-A (14-8-0-13); 3.75 ERA at Double-A (127.1-118-38-102) The Good: Late-round pick has found success in the minors by living off what is arguably the best curveball in the system. Fastball is only 88-90 mph, but he locates it well and sets up his betters with it. His control is well above average.
The Bad: Yates very much is what he is, and with a below average fastball, it's nearly impossible to project him as an impact arm. He's needs to improve his change-up to have any chance of starting.
The Irrelevant: Yates had a 1.13 ERA in six Arizona Fall League outings, striking out 25 in 24 innings.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A usable back-of-the-rotation starter or long reliever.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. Yates will begin the year in at Triple-A Syracuse, and should make his big-league debut in a fill-in role at some point during the 2007 season.

10. Jesse Litsch, RHP
DOB: 3/9/85
Height/Weight 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 24th round, South Florida JuCo (DNF)
What he did in 2006: 3.53 ERA at High-A (89.1-94-8-81); 5.06 ERA at Double-A (69.1-85-13-54)
The Good: Strike-throwing machine with career totals of 204 strikeouts and just 37 innings in 234 1/3 career innings. Average fastball sits at 88-91 and features plenty of sink, as evidenced by a ground ball to fly ball ratio of nearly two-to-one. Curveball and change-up are at least average and he goes right after hitters.
The Bad: Similar to many other Blue Jays prospects, in that he lacks a true out pitch and doesn't throw especially hard, nor does he project to do so. His overall style offers little margin for error.
The Irrelevant: In his 16 Florida State League starts, Litsch didn't walk a batter in nine outings, and walked just one six times.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: A No. 5 starter who keeps his team in the game.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. Litsch will remain as a starter at either Double-A New Hampshire or Triple-A Syracuse. His consistency could allow him to leapfrog others for a spot start in the big leagues should the need arise.

The Sleeper: The Blue Jays accurately assessed the signability of Kyle Ginley, who inked for $155,000 as a 17th-round pick in June. The powerfully built righty whiffed 48 over 36 2/3 innings in his pro debut, thinks to a low-to-mid 90s fastball.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old or Younger (as of Opening Day 2007)

1. Travis Snider, RF
2. Adam Lind, LF
3. Ricky Romero, LHP
4. Curtis Thigpen, C
5. Aaron Hill, 2B
6. Brandon League, RHP
7. Dustin McGowan, RHP
8. Francisco Rosario, RHP
9. Ryan Patterson, LF
10. Casey Janssen, RHP

Aaron Hill is an average second baseman at best. I've never understood the fascination with League or McGowan, and probably never will. Janssen is highly similar to most Toronto pitchers--lots of command, little stuff. The Blue Jays system is really a product of their drafts: few impact players, yet plenty of guys with enough talent to produce in the big leagues at some level. Taking Travis Snider with their first-round pick in June could point to a change in philosophy as the team needs to develop impact players to compete in the American League East.

Next: With all 30 teams wrapped, we move onto some various overall and organizational rankings.

Kevin Goldstein chats with you about his organizational top tens on February 22nd at 1 p.m. ET.

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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