The Blue Jays Next Wave

The Toronto Blue Jays must decide within the next few weeks whether to make a final push for a playoff spot or focus on the future. While they are still reportedly evaluating potential additions for a second half run, the organization spent a large part of their minor league capital over the off-season, and will have to decide how much more they want to dip into that pool to make a run at a wild card spot.

The Jays began the 2012 season with one of the strongest minor league systems in Major League Baseball. After the trade deadline deals and winter flurries, though, the system fell to the middle of the pack. The depth helped to ensure there are still interesting players in the system but the majority of intriguing prospects are high-risk, high-reward guys that are in A-ball or Rookie ball. The big league club has already suffered from a lack of depth at the upper levels of the system by relying on players such Munenori Kawasaki (a solid backup but a stretch as a starting shortstop), Andy LaRoche, Chien-Ming Wang, Ramon Ortiz, Thad Weber, Mickey Storey, Justin Germano, Edgar Gonzalez, and the list goes on and on.

The Jays system has been depleted somewhat, but it isn’t barren. For interest’s sake, let’s look at some players still in the system that could be part of the team’s future, or could be used to make a short-term upgrade in pursuit of a 2013 playoff push.

D.J. Davis, OF (Rookie ball): The 17th overall selection in the 2012 amateur draft, Davis is an electric athlete but he’s raw, as witnessed by his need to spend two seasons in short-season ball, and his high strikeout rates. On the plus side, he has more pop in his bat than the typical speedster.

Anthony Gose, OF (Triple-A): Trading Gose at this point would be a terrible idea as the speedy outfielder’s value is currently in the toilet due to poor numbers and a benching due to questionable efforts on the field.

A.J. Jimenez, C (Double-A): Jimenez has the potential to develop into a solid but unspectacular big league catcher. He’s shown the ability to hit for a solid average but he possesses little to no power. He’s a strong defensive catcher but is currently spending time as both a catcher and a designated hitter while recovering from Tommy John surgery. As a result, his trade value is down.

Dawel Lugo, SS (Rookie ball): A top July 2 international signee from 2011, Lugo is an extremely aggressive hitter but he’s held his own in North America over the past two seasons even though he just turned 18 this past December.

Mitch Nay, 3B (Rookie ball): Nay caught the Jays’ attention at an Arizona high school in 2012 and they nabbed him with the 58th overall selection. The infielder hurt himself shortly after signing his first pro contract and didn’t start his career until this June when the short-season leagues got underway. The time off didn’t cause any rust and he came out swinging with 19 hits in his first 15 games.

Santiago Nessy, C (Low-A): Toronto has already traded away one top-shelf catching prospect in the past 12 months (Travis d’Arnaud) but still has solid catching depth in the system with the likes of Jimenez and Nessy.

Sean Nolin, LHP (Double-A): Although he has a modest ceiling as a potential No. 3 or 4 starter, Nolin is one of the few upper-lever arms that could be attractive to another club — but trading him would also significantly compromise the Jays’ upper-level depth.

Daniel Norris, LHP (Low-A): Norris has very little trade value at this point despite being handed $2 million to forgo a scholarship to Clemson University. After posting a 9.58 ERA in April, Norris managed to bring his number down to 5.80 before he got hurt. A team who scouted and liked Norris in high school may look to him as a buy-low option.

Kevin Pillar, OF (Triple-A): Pillar is the prospect that Toronto should be trying to build a deal around. The outfielder’s value has never been higher and he’s split the 2013 season between Double-A and Triple-A. Since reaching the upper lever, he’s been on fire with 25 hits in 18 games, including 14 extra base hits. Pillar can hit for a solid average but his tools are average across the board and his lack of prototypical power that teams look for from a corner outfielder and he modest range in center field could prevent him from playing there on a consistent basis at the big league level. Pillar’s ceiling seems similar to former Jay and current Brave Reed Johnson.

Aaron Sanchez, RHP (High-A): The top pitching prospect in the system, Sanchez’s season was interrupted by a shoulder injury that cost him almost a month. He’s looked OK since returning but it would be hard to justify parting ways with him for a rent-a-player.

Matt Smoral, LHP (Rookie ball): Signed to an above-slot draft deal in 2012, Smoral did not pitch until this season due to a variety of ailments. The teenaged southpaw has made just two pro appearances and is extremely raw but has an immense ceiling.

John Stilson, RHP (Triple-A): Stilson has a checkered medical past, which is one of the reasons why he’s been moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. He’s reached Triple-A in just his second pro season and flashes the potential for two plus pitches but his command and control have both been hit or miss.

Marcus Stroman, RHP (Double-A): Like with Nolin, a trade of the 2012 first-rounder would hurt the depth and Stroman possesses a higher ceiling — assuming he can in fact stick as a starter. Other teams may have a difference of perception when it comes to Stroman’s overall value given his small stature and questions about his ability to hold up to a starter’s workload. The right-hander would be worth more on the trade market if he stood 6’2” or 6’4”.

Alberto Tirado, RHP (Rookie ball): Tirado is a hard-throwing, but raw, teenager hurler who came over from the Dominican Republic in 2012. He’s the type of arm that you can really dream on.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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everdiso
Member
everdiso
3 years 2 months ago

great write up. surprised not to see Osuna listed – IMO the best prospect in the system, even if he seems destined for TJ this year. probably just an oversight.

and I’m guessing you left out the GCL guys for now but IMO all of CF Alford, SS Barretto, and SPs Solarte and Cabrera look pretty good so far, did last year too, and have good tools.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
3 years 2 months ago

oh and my main man Mikey Crouse! that gangly kid just might turn himself into a prospect yet. seems to finally be getting his Ks under control, and now we just gotta wait for that power to show up.

Steve
Guest
Steve
3 years 2 months ago

What the Blue Jays need is an American fan base. Nationals switched nationalities and they were rewarded (Harper, Strasberg anyone). Until this happens, failure!

Kevenoitch
Guest
Kevenoitch
3 years 2 months ago

Get fucked.

Charlie
Member
Charlie
3 years 2 months ago

I just thought of a great baseball name if the Blue Jays moved to American: “The Libertarians.” After all, America could use more of them.

Charlie
Member
Charlie
3 years 2 months ago

America* – don’t you love keyboards.

Nicolas C
Guest
Nicolas C
3 years 2 months ago

Actually I think there are far more than enough of those here.

Dirck
Guest
Dirck
3 years 2 months ago

Actually far too few Libertarians and far, FAR too many big-government socialists .

tommy
Guest
tommy
3 years 2 months ago

this is a baseball site. f-off with your agenda.

Billy
Guest
Billy
3 years 2 months ago

I’m not sure if that was meant sarcastically or not. I’m pretty sure the Nats got a hold of Strasberg and Harper because they happened to be awful in really convenient years, not for moving to this country. I think Toronto is actually a really good market for a baseball team and they’d make good $ if they start to win.

Eh, don’t take this comment in too antagonistic of a way. I guess for me, geographically based snobbery is just one of my pet-peeves.

siggian
Guest
siggian
3 years 2 months ago

The Expos/Nats happened to be awful because the Loria/Minaya/Bud triumvirate of evil gutted the team of all talent at pretty much all levels to murder any chance of the team staying in Montreal.

Steve Holt
Guest
Steve Holt
3 years 2 months ago

I can remember Steven Goldman describing the Expos as “Omar’s Pillage Hut” when they were trading away whatever assets they had for questionable return.

Billy M
Guest
Billy M
3 years 2 months ago

It’s not amazing obviously, but the fact we fill more of our capacity than 10 American cities (including Chicago WS and Atlanta, who have a playoff team right now!) and our average attendance is 13th in the league, I’m thinking the Jays don’t need to move to America, seems like we up in Canada care about the Jays just fine Steve ;)

http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance (for when you want to check and try and prove me wrong)

BJ
Guest
BJ
3 years 2 months ago

+1 for needing Osuna on this list.

Sean
Guest
Sean
3 years 2 months ago

Also Franklin Barreto… young (born in ’96), small, and expected to move off short, but a pure hitter.

tbj_fan
Guest
tbj_fan
3 years 2 months ago

AA just needs to be realistic. The core of this team is signed through 2015, and a lot of them have club options for 2016.

It’s not worthwhile to destroy the future just to salvage a chance at a 1 game playoff.

Look ahead to 2014, 2015 & 2016

Grady
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

This is a good point and really can’t be ignored. Any big-sh trade isn’t necessarily going to be buying for this year, but rather, will be building upon the current crop for 2014 (i.e. an upgrade at catcher or 2b).

Billy
Guest
Billy
3 years 2 months ago

I agree. What the Jays need to do is just stay with the status quo. When teams turn over half their roster, it takes time to adjust to a new city, team, league, etc sometimes. Give this more than 4 months and see what happens. The roster has WAY too much talent on it to be this bad 3-4 years in a row.

That being said, see what we can get for Josh Johnson. Esmil Rogers has pitched like Josh Johnson used to and with Morrow and Happ rehabbing, we can trade JJ (who is a FA who will demand more than we likely want to pay him) and use Morrow or Happ in his place, or Chad Jenkins if those 2 still aren’t fully recovered. Johnson can still fetch us a decent enough return because of his future value and his ceiling if he’s on so it’s something to look at, at least, in my opinion.

Ulysses
Member
Ulysses
3 years 2 months ago

Pretty lazy comments on Norris ? sure, he had a 7.97 ERA, but he also had an 3.80 FIP and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings. This year he’s striking out even more batters after more or less skipping low A (although his control seems to be way off, which is a problem). There’s tons of potential there if he can improve his control, and he’s thrown less than 100 pro innings at this point.

Ulysses
Member
Ulysses
3 years 2 months ago

Also, as of yesterday he seems to be pitching again.

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