For the original pre-season list with comments, visit our old page here.
Updated September 3, 2013:
1. RHP Aaron Sanchez – Dunedin (1) – Sanchez apparently is working on a sinker to cut down on pitch counts. His strikeouts may be down but his efficiency is up. He’s also working in his breaking stuff more and has been known to hit 96 and 97 well into his starts (according to Tyler Murray, the Dunedin play-by-play commentator). Sanchez will get at least one playoff start (most likely Wednesday in Dunedin) and will pitch in the Arizona Fall League to make up some innings lost due to injury.
2. RHP Marcus Stroman – New Hampshire (3) – Stroman finished strong but still tends to give up home runs. He’s proven that his stuff can play at the higher levels and that he can stretch it out as a starter. Now we need to see him tested against better competition.
3. RHP Roberto Osuna – Lansing (2) – Heal up, Roberto. Surgery’s over, hopefully he’ll be back pitching off a mound by June or so. He’ll only be 19 in the off-season and was way ahead of most pitchers his age. This is not really a set back.
4. LHP Sean Nolin – New Hampshire (4) – Nolin has moved up to Buffalo where he’s been good, but unspectacular. His “back of the rotation” label looks more and more like where he’ll fit in on a big-league staff. He didn’t get a September call-up but
will head to the Arizona Fall League this October.
5. Daniel Norris – Dunedin (10) – Someone asked me on Twitter where I thought Norris would be in the next update. I said in the 5-6 range, and really, it’s only because he’s still 2 years away from the majors. His upside is higher than Nolin’s. While Nolin has plus pitches and a solid fastball, Norris’s heater is at least one tick better (he sits at 93-94 and can hit 96) and from what I’ve seen in person, his slider and changeup are already plus pitches (at 20 years old). Look for him to pitch to more contact this year and next.
6. 3B Andy Burns – New Hampshire (6) – Some people say that the adjustment from A ball to AA is one of the biggest jumps in the minor leagues and that the Double-A level presents one of the biggest tests for a young player. Andy Burns has responded very well after a period of struggle on his initial promotion to New Hampshire. He finishes at the level with a .253/.309/.419 line with 7 home runs, 19 doubles and 12 stolen bases, setting up the 23 year old well for his Arizona Fall League debut.
7. C A.J. Jimenez – Buffalo (7) – Jimenez got the call up to Buffalo and didn’t hit much, although his time was cut short due to some nerve irritation in the elbow that had Tommy John surgery last season. He was slated to be a September call-up but the injury has put a damper on that for now. He is scheduled to go to the Arizona Fall League, so we hope he’s healthy and ready for that.
8. RHP Chase DeJong – Bluefield/Vancouver (8) – DeJong is my dark horse from the Bluefield pitching staff. Everyone is gaga over Tirado (who I didn’t get a chance to see) but I love DeJong’s polish and his peripheral numbers. His FIP is lower than both of them (1.90), his K% is higher (28.1%) and his BB% is lower (4.3%). He was supposed to pitch Game 3 of the 1st playoff series for Bluefield but they were swept in two, so the Jays shipped him up to Vancouver to pitch in the playoffs for the Canadians.
9. OF Dalton Pompey – Lansing (9) – The 20 year old center fielder out of Mississauga finished out the year strongly, hitting 4 home runs over his last 6 games and closing things out with a .261/.358/.394 line showing both speed (38 steals) and some power (22 doubles, 9 triples and 6 HRs). His walk rate was strong (12.3%) and his strikeout rate wasn’t horrible (20.7%). With his .358 OBP, a slightly high strikeout rate is definitely acceptable.
10. RHP Tom Robson – Vancouver (10) – Robson is a young 20 year old (turned 20 at the end of June) who has had mind-boggling success this year both in Bluefield and Vancouver. His ground ball rates and walk rates are fantastic and he’s continued his success at the higher level by posting a 20.3 % K rate as well as a 7.7% walk rate. He’s got an ERA in Vancouver of 0.94, a WHIP of 1.02 and a FIP of 2.55. Robson is a guy who pitches to contact early in the count, pounding the strike zone with his heavy sinker, but has the stuff to get strikeouts when he needs them.
11. RHP Alberto Tirado – Bluefield (11) – Tirado is having a strong year in Bluefield and has some drool-worthy stuff. On the downside, his FIP was 3.39 this season (despite a 1.68 ERA) and he had solid but not spectacular K and BB numbers. He’s still young 18, so I can see one more year of short-season ball for Tirado. He only pitched 48 1/3 innings (plus another 3 1/3 in the playoffs) and the Lansing 3 averaged around 90 innings in their piggy-back season meaning that the Jays will probably want to keep him in the 70-80 range in 2014.
12. OF Dwight Smith, Jr. – Lansing (12) – Solid. That’s the best way I can describe Dwight Smith, Jr.: solid. He hit .284/.365/.388 as a 20 year old in the Midwest League and showed a lot of maturity, especially in his consistency and ability to keep from long slumps. While his tools aren’t as eye-popping as Pompey’s or D.J. Davis‘s, he doesn’t have any real deficiencies except for the fact that he’s probably only average with the glove. The question is, will he hit enough to have a future as a corner outfielder in the (good) Melky Cabrera mold.
13. SS Dawel Lugo – Vancouver (15) – Lugo was excellent at the plate in Bluefield and has been fairly solid in Vancouver, coming alive a bit the last couple of weeks. He doesn’t walk much (not in the Gustavo Pierre universe, but still) and his Ks took an uptick in Vancouver. He’s only 18 but I can see him being the every day shortstop in Lansing next year.
14. SS Franklin Barreto (nr) – Yes, I’ve added Barreto to the list. Getting enough eyes on him over the course of the season has convinced me to add him. He’s a smaller guy with defensive issues at shortstop but the kid can hit (and he’s just 17). I’ve heard that he’s made strides at shortstop and the Blue Jays will almost certainly keep him in short-season ball next year and either a) work on his defense intensely, or b) have him start to learn a new position. I’m thinking they give him at least another year at SS.
15. RHP John Stilson – Buffalo (15) – With the consensus being that Stilson is going to be a relief arm rather than a starter, he falls down to 15. He’s been very good in Buffalo as one of the youngest players (23) on a very veteran team. He’s probably about 11th or 12th on the depth chart for the Toronto bullpen right now so he won’t be rushed. He’s sporting a 4.1 BB/9 ratio and an 8.2 K/9 ratio right now and both need to improve a bit before he’s ready. If he’s going to be an elite bullpen arm, he has to be able to put guys away and keep them off the bases.
16. OF D.J. Davis – Bluefield (16) – I have the same things to say about Davis that I did last month: he’s a quiet, reserved 19 year old from Mississippi who’s putting together a solid season in the Appy League. Most impressive is the power that he’s showing in addition to his raw speed. Everyone knew that Davis was raw coming into pro ball and he’s made some big strides but still needs to reign in his tendencies to be fooled by off-speed pitches out of the zone (as evidenced by his 76 strikeouts in 58 games). The extra base hits are a very encouraging sign, however. Look for Davis to be next year’s Dalton Pompey, holding down center field in Lansing in 2014.
17. 3B Mitch Nay – Bluefield (17) -Nothing Nay did over the remainder of the season changed my mind about him. He has a great bat although he did tend to make a lot of errors in the field (17). The 19-year-old hit .300/.364/.426 with a share of the team home run lead with 6 in his first pro season. He’s only above his teammate (and extended spring training roommate) Matt Dean because of his position.
18. 1B Matthew Dean – Bluefield (nr) – Dean came charging up the rankings with an August that had him hitting almost .400 which allowed him to win the Appalachian League batting championship with a .338 average. He also had a .390 OBP and .519 SLG making him the team leader in those categories as well. When I saw him in July I thought his swing could get a little long at times, but it looks like he’s made that adjustment to great success. Dean is one of the season’s best stories in the Jays’ minor leagues system.
19. LHP Matt Smoral – GCL Blue Jays (18) – The numbers aren’t pretty for Smoral who walked 26 and struck out 27 in 25 2/3 innings. He’ll need to start putting things together next season as a 20-year-old. I can see him in Bluefield next year.
20. RHP Miguel Castro – Bluefield (nr) – Another new name to look out for, Castro had a phenomenal season in the Dominican Summer League and was brought over to close out the season in the US with the GCL Blue Jays and then the Bluefield team. What impresses most about the 18-year-old is his control (just 14 walks over 70 innings combined). The 6’5″ righty also has a lot of room to fill out being listed at just 190 lbs. I may be the first to add Castro to a Top Prospects list, but I certainly won’t be the last.
Honourable Mention (keep your eyes open next year)
RHP Clinton Hollon – Hollon was drafted this year and didn’t allow a run in the GCL.
SS Richard Urena – He’s another Dominican shortstop and only 17 years old. He played 7 games at the end of the season with the GCL Blue Jays and my sources tell me he’s a better defender than either Lugo or Barreto.
OF Brad Glenn – While technically not a prospect at 26, Glenn will join a crowded outfield (if everyone on the Blue Jays is healthy) in Buffalo in 2014. He showed no problems with the higher level after his promotion and is a solid bat with a good arm.
LHP Matt Boyd – The Jays’ 6th round pick this year, Boyd throws in the low-90s with very advanced command, good off-speed stuff and a good feel for pitching. He could be in Double-A by the end of next year. He’s definitely a starter but certainly has the potential to be a left-handed reliever in the majors, especially considering that it’s been reported that he’s touched as high as 94 on the radar guns while in college.
OF Mike Crouse – A B.C. boy, Crouse redeemed his poor 2012 (that saw him get demoted to Lansing and still struggle) with a very solid season in Dunedin. Crouse is a big guy who’s just starting to tap into his power at the age of 22 but also has some unexpected speed. He hit 18 doubles and 8 home runs (in an injury shortened season) with 21 stolen bases and a .250/.343/.403 slash line. He still strikes out too much but could be a dark horse.
1B K.C. Hobson – While Hobson’s power numbers soared in Dunedin (22 2Bs, 19 HRs), his batting average and OBP plummeted (.215/.258/.414). He’s a 23 year old first baseman and unless he can put together a big season in Double-A next year, his prospect status will have rubbed off.
*Note: All photos copyright Blue Jays from Away 2013