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January 14, 2010

Future Shock

Blue Jays Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
2. Brett Wallace, 1B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Travis d'Arnaud, C
4. Chad Jenkins, RHP
5. J.P. Arencibia, C
6. Zach Stewart, RHP
7. Carlos Perez, C
8. Jake Marisnick, OF
9. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
10. Tim Collins, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Gustavo Pierre, SS

Four More:
12. Brian Dopirak, 1B: A former top Cub prospect, Dopirak fell off the map, but he's slugged .549 since coming to Toronto and could have a career as a professional hitter.
13. Josh Roenicke, RHP: He's a reliever who has outstanding velocity, but is still a prospect in his late 20s due to no dependable breaking ball.
14. Brad Mills, LHP: Mills is a pure finesse arm, but he's so good at it that he could have big-league value.
15. David Cooper, 1B: Cooper is a 2008 first-rounder who flopped at Double-A. He needs to rebound or be quickly forgotten.

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
DOB: 12/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2006, The Woodlands HS (TX)
2009 Stats: 2.48 ERA (61.2-49-19-74) at High-A (10 G); 3.64 ERA (96.1-92-31-76) at Double-A (25 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3 (Phillies)

Year in Review: The former top pick made a quick 100 percent recovery from Tommy John surgery, and while Philadelphia was reticent to trade him in July, he finally went to Toronto in December as part of the Roy Halladay deal.
The Good: Drabek is already in possession of two big-league out pitches. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, and he can dial it up to 96 when he needs a little something extra. His curveball is an even better offering, and it's one of the ten best in the minor leagues. His command was surprising for a player returning from Tommy John surgery, and his changeup shows promise. He's a fantastic athlete who was a two-sport star in high school.
The Bad: Drabek's size and delivery leads to a fastball than can get a bit flat at times. He understandably tired out a bit at the end of 2009, leading to a slight velocity dip. While scouts are universal in wanting to see Drabek continue to develop as a starter, some feel, in the end, he'd be more dominant in shorter stints.
Ephemera: With just 57 wins, Joe Magrane of the MLB Network is the all-time leader in wins among players drafted 18th overall.
Perfect World Projection: Drabek will be an All-Star level starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Drabek just needs to build up the stamina to handle a full big-league season. Stuff wise, he's nearly ready.
Timetable: Depending on the numbers game, Drabek will begin the year at either Double- or Triple-A. As one of the main pieces of the Roy Halladay deal, Toronto could feel some pressure to get him up at some point during the year.

2. Brett Wallace, 1B
DOB: 8/26/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Arizona State University
2009 Stats: .281/.403/.438 at Double-A (32 G); .293/.346/.423 at Triple-A (62 G) for Cardinals; .302/.365/.505 at Triple-A (44 G) for Athletics
Last Year's Ranking: 2 (Cardinals)

Year in Review: In a rare deal of top prospects, Toronto quickly flipped former Phillie Michael Taylor to Oakland for Wallace.
The Good: Wallace is an offensive powerhouse with a quick, compact swing that should lead to .300 batting averages in the big leagues and the strength to hit 40 doubles annually with 20-25 home runs. He has great baseball instincts, to go with soft hands and a solid arm.
The Bad: Wallace's bat is his only tool, as he's not athletic and slow. While he held his own at third base on balls hit to him, his range was extremely limited, and he will be moved to first base in 2010. While he had a reputation as an on-base machine in college, he's not even drawn one walk per ten ABs as a pro, with just 62 unintentional walks 734 career at-bats.
Ephemera: During his high school career at Justin-Siena in Napa, California, Wallace played in the 2004 AFLAC All-American game and had three stolen bases. He has one stolen base in 192 career games as a pro.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a good offensive first baseman, possibly in the mold of current Blue Jay first baseman Lyle Overbay.
Path to the Big Leagues: Wallace is all but big-league ready, but currently blocked by Overbay.
Timetable: Barring a deal, Wallace will begin the year at Triple-A Las Vegas, but he should make his big-league debut during the year. He'll be taking over the first base job by Opening Day 2011 at the latest.

3. Travis d'Arnaud, C
DOB: 2/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Lakewood HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .255/.319/.419 at Low-A (126 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4 (Phillies)

Year in Review: He's a high-ceiling catcher who recovered from a slow start to hit .302/.366/.473 during the seasons' second half before moving to Toronto in the Halladay deal.
The Good: D'Arnaud is the rare catcher with above-average potential both offensively and defensively. He has plus raw-power and should hit 20+ home runs annually as his swing matures. He's an excellent athlete for a catcher who moves well behind the plate and has a plus arm. Scouts like his take-charge attitude behind the plate.
The Bad: D'Arnaud's swing can get pull-conscious, especially in clutch situations, leading to timing issues. He was much better in the second half when he started using all fields and letting his strength work for him more naturally. His arm strength is mitigated by a well below-average pop time, and he needs to work on his release.
Ephemera: D'Arnaud is one of 48 players drafted out of Lakewood High in Southern California. His older brother, Chase, a prospect in the Pirates chain, is not one of them.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be an above-average everyday catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: J.P. Arencibia's closeness to the big leagues represents a bigger blockade than John Buck ever would.
Timetable: D'Arnaud has the ability to establish himself as a top-100 prospect if he builds on last year's second half. He'll attempt to do that in 2010 at High-A Dunedin.

4. Chad Jenkins, RHP
DOB: 12/22/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Kennesaw State University
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of two big talents at Kennesaw State going into the season, Jenkins made a slow and steady rise on draft charts throughout the spring, finally landing at 20th overall.
The Good: Jenkins is a prototypical power right-hander. He sits at 91-93 mph with his fastball, but he entices scouts with his ability to touch 95 with regularity. The pitch has good movement, and unlike many young, physically large pitchers, he has a consistent release point and offers well above-average control. His low-80s slider flashes plus, and his changeup is advanced for his experience level.
The Bad: Jenkins needs to find more consistency with his secondary offerings to develop into a star. Some labeled his massive frame as soft, and conditioning could become an issue down the road.
Ephemera: No pitcher drafted out of Kennesaw State has ever won a big-league game, with right-hander Brett Campbell, who pitched four games for the Nationals in 2006, coming the closest.
Perfect World Projection: Jenkins will be a good middle-rotation innings eater.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Blue Jays have a number of options for their current starting rotation, but few that project to be what Jenkins could be.
Timetable: Jenkins signed too late to make his pro debut in 2009, so he'll look to make up for lost time in 2010, beginning the year at High-A.

5. J.P. Arencibia, C
DOB: 1/5/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, University of Tennessee
2009 Stats: .236/.284/.444 at Triple-A (116 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: A 2007 first-round pick, Arencibia continued to show some of the best power among catchers in the minors, but little else.
The Good: Arencibia offers rare offensive skills for a catcher, as he's capable of hitting 25+ home runs from the position, and nearly half of his hits in 2009 went for extra bases. He's very athletic for a catcher and projects for many extra-base hits as a plus defender down the road.
The Bad: Arencibia's plate discipline is severely lacking. It's not just a matter of chasing a single type of pitch, as it just seems that his strike zone both in and out, and up and down, is about a foot wider than it needs to be. He's still honing his catching skills, as he needs to improve his receiving skills and quicken his release.
Ephemera: In the third, sixth, and seventh innings combined, Arencibia hit .331 (48-for-145). In any other frame, that fell to just .193.
Perfect World Projection: His power makes him valuable at the position and should make up for his on-base problem. Miguel Olivo with defensive chops?
Path to the Big Leagues: John Buck's one-year deal gives Arencibia some time.
Timetable: Arencibia will return to Triple-A in 2010, but he's expected to take over catching duties for the Blue Jays in 2011.

6. Zach Stewart, RHP
DOB: 9/28/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Texas Tech University
2009 Stats: 2.13 ERA (42.1-47-8-32) at Single-A (7 G); 1.46 ERA (37.0-29-10-31) at Double-A (7 G); 0.73 ERA (12.1-11-8-16) at Triple-A (9 G) with Reds; 3.38 ERA (13.1-18-6-14) at Triple-A (11 G) with Toronto
Last Year's Ranking: Just Missed (Reds)

Year in Review: Stewart, a third-round pick in 2008, was having a breakout year in his full-season debut for the Reds before getting shipped to Toronto in the Scott Rolen deal.
The Good: Stewart pounds the strike zone with an excellent low-90s sinker that leads to a healthy ground-ball rate and few home runs. His power slider is a second plus pitch, and he does a good job of using his fastball to set up the pitch, and vice versa. His changeup is usable, and he pitches with a bit of a nasty streak.
The Bad: There is a lot of debate as to Stewart's ultimate role. Some feel his sinker/slider combination is enough for him to be a late-innings reliever, while others think his frame and three-pitch mix is more than enough for him to be a third starter. His slider can flatten at times, and he needs to use it as a chase pitch more, as an over-focus on throwing strikes leads to more hits allowed than someone with his skill should.
Ephemera: In a strange case of small sample sizes, Pacific Coast League lefties went 2-for-23 with ten strikeouts against Stewart after his trade to Toronto, while righties went 16-for-32.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a good third starter or very good eighth-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: With multiple options, he's very close.
Timetable: Barring an electrifying spring training, Stewart will begin 2010 at Triple-A, remaining a starter for now to keep his arm stretched out.

7. Carlos Perez, C
DOB: 10/27/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/193
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2008
2009 Stats: .291/.364/.433 at Rookie-level (43 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: This Venezuelan catcher made a strong impression in his pro debut, giving an overall weak system a downright plethora of catching prospects.
The Good: Perez is a high-ceiling catcher with a chance to develop into a star. He has a good idea of the strike zone, an instinctive feel for contact, and should develop some power as he develops. He was the best defensive catcher in the Gulf Coast League last summer, showing off good agility behind the plate and a plus-plus arm.
The Bad: Perez still has some rawness in his game. His swing currently focuses on line drives, so he rarely drives balls. He'll stab at pitches at times, instead of truly receiving them, and he needs to improve his game calling.
Ephemera: In the six games that Perez hit cleanup for the GCL Jays, he went 9-for-18 with two doubles and three triples.
Perfect World Projection: It's a star-level ceiling…
Path to the Big Leagues: …but he's very far away.
Timetable: Toronto will use the spring to decide if Perez is ready for a full-season league. If not, he won't show up in a box score in 2010 until the New York-Penn League begins.

8. Jake Marisnick, OF
DOB: 3/30/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2009, Riverside Poly HS (CA)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Toronto tried to make up for not signing three of their top picks by signing Marisnick in the third round for $1 million.
The Good: Few players in the draft could match Marisnick on a tools level, with one scout commenting, "It's rare to find a fast-twitch athlete with his kind of size." Broad-shouldered and strongly built, Marisnick has plus raw power, as well as well above-average speed with a gliding stride that covers significant ground in center field. His arm is also a 60-65 tool on the 20-80 scouting scale, giving him true five-tool potential.
The Bad: All of the tools won't mean a thing if Marisnick can't hit, and questions about his bat are what kept him out of the first round. His swing is slow and complicated, and some believe it will need a complete overhaul as a pro. With his size, many believe he'll profile better as a right fielder.
Ephemera: Despite his athleticism, Marisnick is not even the toolsiest outfielder ever to come out of Riverside Poly High, as the school graduated Bobby Bonds in 1964.
Perfect World Projection: His upside is massive.
Path to the Big Leagues: Marisnick has yet to play as a pro, and there's little reason to believe he's the kind of player who can move quickly.
Timetable: Marisnick is likely not ready for a full-season assignment, so he'll spend the first half of 2010 in extended spring training.

9. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
DOB: 4/18/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2009 Stats: 3.47 ERA (124.1-121-19-92) at Low-A (23 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: The Venezuelan righty developed into an ace at Lansing, finishing fourth in the circuit with a 1.13 WHIP.
The Good: Alvarez has arguably the best command and control in the system, painting both sides of the plate with an average to plus fastball to get ahead in the count, and then striking out hitters with a plus-plus changeup that drops off the table. His mechanics are simple and clean, and he never walked more than two batters in any start.
The Bad: While Alvarez' style of pitching tortured Low-A hitters, some question whether it will work at the upper levels. His fringy slider is more of a sweepy pitch without downward action, and he doesn't have blow-away velocity.
Ephemera: Henderson was stingy with walks throughout 2009, but no more than when beginning an inning, as he walked just three of the 128 hitters he faced that were leading off a frame.
Perfect World Projection: He profiles as a back-end starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Alvarez will have to prove himself at the upper levels before being taken seriously.
Timetable: Alvarez will take one step forward in 2010 with an assignment at High-A Dunedin.

10. Tim Collins, LHP
DOB: 8/29/89
Height/Weight: 5-7/155
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Non-drafted free agent, 2007
2009 Stats: 2.37 ERA (64.2-47-28-99) at High-A (40 G); 5.68 ERA (12.2-12-7-17) at Double-A (9 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 11

Year in Review: A minuscule lefty, Collins just kept getting it done, reaching Double-A as a teenager while increasing his career mark to 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Good: Collins is an absolute joy to watch. His five-foot-seven listing is generous, but with arm action reminiscent of Tim Lincecum, he somehow generates low-90s heat while touching 94 mph with one of the shortest levers in the game. His curveball is a plus breaker, and his natural delivery creates plenty of deception, allowing both pitches to play up. He's utterly fearless on the mound, throws inside, and challenges all hitters he faces.
The Bad: As much as one tries, it's hard to get past Collins' size. His control and command can disappear at times. He rarely throws his below-average changeup, but his size alone makes him a relief prospect only, so the two-pitch mix isn't as much of a concern.
Ephemera: In his pro career, left-handers facing Collins have gone 20-for-179 (.112) with 74 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He's not a closer, but he's certainly a big-league reliever who is deadly against lefties.
Path to the Big Leagues: All the Blue Jays can really do is keep moving him up and seeing if it keeps working.
Timetable: Undrafted out of high school, Collins is already well ahead of the development curve, so there's no need to rush him. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2010.

11. Gustavo Pierre, SS
DOB: 12/28/91
Height/Weight: 6-2/183
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008
2009 Stats: .259/.272/.431 at Rookie-level (48 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Pierre, a Dominican shortstop, signed for $700,000 and showed plenty of promise in his pro debut, but he also showed plenty of causes for concern.
The Good: Some scouts think Pierre has the tools to rocket up this chart, with one saying, "Within two years, we'll be talking about him being No. 1." He's a big, athletic shortstop with easy power potential and above-average speed. Defensively, he's got smooth actions and an above-average arm.
The Bad: There's nothing about Pierre's potential until he curbs his swing-at-everything approach, as he drew just three walk in 182 Gulf Coast League at-bats. Scouts are mixed as to his ability to stay at shortstop long-term, as he could grow out of his body and end up at third base.
Ephemera: Pierre didn't draw a single walk in his last 31 Gulf Coast League games.
Perfect World Projection: He can be an up-the-middle run producer.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's so, so far away.
Timetable: Just 18, Pierre will work on refining his game in extended spring training in 2010 before playing in the New York-Penn League.

The Sleeper: A 10th-round pick in 2008, righty Daniel Farquhar had a 1.87 ERA in 2009 with 74 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings by changing his arm angles (he goes all the way down to nearly sidearm) while touching the mid-90s. With better control, he has very real big-league bullpen possibilities.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Travis Snider, OF
2. Brandon Morrow, RHP
3. Kyle Drabek, RHP
4. Brett Wallace, 1B
5. Marc Rzepczynski, LHP
6. Travis d'Arnaud, C
7. Ricky Romero, LHP
8. Brett Cecil, LHP
9. Chad Jenkins, RHP
10. J.P. Arencibia, C

Yes, I still think Travis Snider is an impact player in the big leagues. Morrow was a fantastic pickup. There might not have been a better "change of scenery" player in the game, and Toronto paid little for his potential. The trio of young lefties might be interchangeable for some, as all are third-fifth starters at best. Rzepczynski's ability to get ground balls and miss some bats gives him the edge, and I fear that Romero is a classic once-through-the-league type, while Cecil might be better off as a reliever.

Summary: The Roy Halladay trade gave a system bereft of talent a new 1-2-3, but not all is lost. It's still a bad system, but there is finally some high ceiling (but also high risk) talent at the lower levels after years of conservative drafting.

Next up: the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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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