Toronto Blue Jays

Original Published Date: Nov. 24, 2012

The Toronto Blue Jays front office has been extremely aggressive in adding talent to their minor league organization.  In particularly, they have focused on young high ceiling talent in the first year player draft who were either considered difficult signs or dropped in the draft due to injuries.  I’m convinced if Lucas Giolito would have dropped one more slot this past June, the Blue Jays would have made them their first pick.  He embodies the type of high risk/high reward talent the Jays typically like to acquire.

The big question – has it worked?  While their minor league organization has depth, the truth is…not yet.  However, what a deep organization has afforded them is the opportunity to use some of their talent as trading chips as was done in the megadeal that sent Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and others to the Miami Marlins for Jose Reyes and Friends.  While the organization has taken a hit, there is still quality in the system.

One of the Top 10 prospects in all of baseball is catcher Travis d’Arnaud.  He has the ability to be a first division two-way catcher with an all-star ceiling.  The big three pitchers have become the big two pitchers with Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard still regarded as two of the best young pitching prospects in the entire minor leagues.  Sanchez has better stuff but Syndergaard is the more polished pitcher.

D.J. Davis and Roberto Osuna are two 17-year-old teenagers with high ceilings albeit a ton of risk.  Davis was drafted with the number 17 overall pick in the 2012 draft and was considered one of the best athletes in the entire draft.  Osuna emerged onto the scene with an amazing 13 strikeout performance in his first outing in the college heavy Northwest League.  Again, both are young but with a ton of upside.

For a definition of our star rating system, click here.

1. Travis d’Arnaud (C)

2013 Age: 23 BP: California (HS)
Ht:6-2  Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 AAA 279 45 16 52 1 .333 .380 78.9 6.8 .376

On the morning of June 25th, things couldn’t have been going better for 23 year-old Travis d’Arnaud.  He was tearing up Triple-A with 16 home runs and batting .333 while everyone was speculating when he was going to make his Major League debut.  However, that evening, he tore his PCL and spent the rest of the year on the DL.

From all account, d’Arnaud has nothing left to prove in the minors and is ready to take on the big stage in Toronto.  However, given his shorten 2012 season, he could very well start 2013 back in Triple-A (this time in the International League) before eventually being called up mid-season.

d’Arnaud is an elite prospect with a solid all-around game.  He has very good bat speed to accompany a natural lofted swing and while his 16 home runs in 279 at-bats were PCL inflated, there is plus power in the bat.  He swing is also compact, which is not always the case with right-handed hitters with power.  In fact, his swing mechanics should allow him to hit for both power and batting average.

That said he has a very aggressive approach at the plate that will put pressure on his batting average.  Unfortunately the 7% walk rate he posted in 2012 is pretty typical of what he has done throughout his minor league career.  Unless he improves the approach, expect a .260 batting average.

The Blue Jays are clearly trying to compete in 2013 and d’Arnaud should be an upgrade both offensively and defensively over J.P. Arencibia .  However, will the Blue Jays entrust their revamped pitching staff to a rookie?  I’m not sure anybody knows that answer today but do not be surprised if d’Arnaud is moved slowly into the role.

Fantasy Impact: Travis d’Arnaud has a ceiling of an all-star catcher and should be drafted early in all Dynasty Leagues.  However, the big question is should I draft him in a re-draft league for 2013?  At the time of this writing (late November), I don’t know.  However, my gut says that while d’Arnaud has an all-star ceiling, you will not see that level of play in 2013 or 2014.  Remember, catching is the most demanding position on the field and immediate success usually does not occur.

2. Aaron Sanchez (RHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: California
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 LowA 90.1 64 25 3 5.08 9.66 2.49 1.27

Aaron Sanchez takes a little dreaming and ultimately a little believing that great stuff and an effortless delivery will equal success.

Sanchez was part of the big three on the Lansing rotation that had prospect nerds like me salivating.  While statistically Sanchez had the poorest year of the three, he still has the highest ceiling as his stuff is crazy good.  His fastball sits in the mid-90’s with a ton of movement and sink (3.21 G/F) while his 12-6 curve is just as effective.  Both are plus pitches if not more.  His changeup is still fringy but the delivery is solid and ultimately I believe it has a chance to be a solid offering.

His delivery is very easy and that works to improve the life on his fastball as it gives the illusion that the ball is jumping up on the hitter.  However, his posture is not great and while his landing is good, it’s more a testament to his athletic ability instead of good pitching mechanics.  This uncoiling in his mechanics is part of the reason that he had a 5.08 BB/9.  The other reason is just his inability to control the arsenal as the natural movement of his fastball and the break in his curveball are falling outside the strike zone far too often.  Finally, there is some scapular loading in his mechanics that might point to arm trouble down the road.

Fantasy Impact: Sanchez has the stuff in which aces are made.  However, the control is poor so there is a long way to go.  From a fantasy as well as baseball standpoint, he’s a bit of a lottery pick and therefore, I would be taking him later in drafts even though based on his upside, he’ll be ranked high on my prospect list.

3. Noah Syndergaard (RHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 200 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 LowA 103.2 81 30 3 2.69 10.59 2.60 1.08

If you believe in polish over stuff, then you rate Noah Syndergaard as a better prospect than Aaron Sanchez.  If you believe in the opposite, then Sanchez should be ranked higher.

Syndergaard arsenal consists of a plus fastball that sits 93-94 MPH with a lot of movement and sink.  While I think it’s a four-seamer that he’s throwing, he has so much downward plane that it behaves more like a two-seamer and generates a ton of ground balls (3.21 G/F).  His breaking pitch is primarily a curve and candidly, I don’t really like it.  The spin is not tight and the Jays might decide to have him switch to a slider as an alternative.  The changeup though has promise and I believe could turn into a real weapon in the long run for Syndergaard.

Not only is Syndergaard 6-foot-5, he also has a high three-quarters delivery that provides even more downward plane to his pitches.  His posture is excellent and this is leading to very good balance on his landing and helping him keep his release point consistent which is translating into a 2.69 BB/9.  It all just works well together.

There’s a lot to like with Noah Syndergaard with the only thing truly missing is an above average breaking pitch.  High-A will therefore be an important level as he will need to work on throwing it for strikes.

Fantasy Impact: While Sanchez has a higher ceiling, Syndergaard is the safer pitcher to own on your fantasy team. In the end, I think the curve/slider that he will develop will be good enough to get major league batters out.

4. D.J. Davis (OF)

2013 Age: 18 BP: Mississippi
Ht:6-1  Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2015
2012 R-SS 228 42 5 18 25 .250 .348 60.3 11.8 .340

I’m sure some of you reading this profile are perplexed as to why I have D.J. Davis ranked so high.  In a nutshell, he’s very young, is a crazy athlete with 80-grade speed (at least) that has a swing that I believe will work even though he made terrible contact in his first exposure to professional ball.

First, Mississippi has never been a hotbed of major league talent even though the state enjoys nice weather year round.  I’m sure there are socio-economic reasons that go beyond the scope of this profile, the lack of success of players from certain parts of the country or even colleges do play a role in how players are evaluated during draft preparation.  However, for me, I see a player with a nice tight compact swing that can absolutely fly.  I believe the swing will play and also believe that he’ll have some pop in his bat (8-10 home runs).

But what about all the strikeouts?  First, he’s very young at 17-years-old and did not have the opportunity to play high school ball against great competition and also did not have the financial means to travel extensively to many of the showcase events that elite prospects attend.  Therefore, he struggles recognizing and hitting breaking pitches.  Am I making excuses…absolutely, but for me, the swing will work and I believe there is enough athleticism that he will make the necessary adjustments at the plate.  In fact, I received a number of comments to that effect in preparing this profile.

Fantasy Impact: D.J. Davis is a lottery pick.  He could be Michael Bourn or Joey Gathright.  Granted, you’d have to objectively lean to Gathright at the moment, however, there is a lot to “dream on” with D.J. Davis.  For me, I’m taking a late round flyer in a deep dynasty league.

5. Roberto Osuna (RHP)

2013 Age: 17 BP: Mexico
Ht:6-2 Weight: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 R-SS 43.2 32 11 2 3.05 9.98 3.20 1.06

I love Twitter and what it has done to bring instantaneous information of not only traditional news to the world but also semi-obscure news such as the result of minor league prospect performances.  On July 28th, the world became aware instantly of Roberto Osuna as he struck out 13 in five innings in his first start in the Northwest League.  Sure, over the next four starts he only struck out a grand total of 12, people saw the potential in that one magical night.

Roberto Osuna is from Mexico and is listed generously at 230 pounds – in a nutshell, he’s a big boy already and he doesn’t turn 18 until next February.  His arsenal consists of a low 90’s fastball that he can throw for strikes.  He has a plus changeup with a lot of depth and fade but a below average slider.  At 17-years-old, I’m not too worried about the lack of a breaking pitch but I’m more impressed that he was able to pitch so well in the college dominated Northwest league.

His excellent control is generated by good but inconsistent pitching mechanics.  For the most part, his delivery is free and easy but sometimes he muscles up on the ball which causes him to over throw and loose his release point.  He definitely pitches better from the wind up and in fact his delivery with runners on base is rather slow.  That said, I would rate his mechanics a 50 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale and I would only expect his command to improve in the future.

Fantasy Impact: There’s a lot to like with Osuna and if you’re in a really deep Dynasty League, you should definitely add him to your minor league roster.  However, he still has a long way to go with his arsenal and in general, teenagers get bigger as they enter their 20’s and Osuna is already a healthy 230 pounds on a 6-foot-2 frame.

6. Marcus Stroman (RHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: New York
Ht: 5-9 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 SS-AA 19.1 16 3 1 4.24 10.74 1.41 1.31

The Blue Jays drafted Marcus Stroman with their second of two first round draft picks in 2012.  Draft report cards indicated that Stroman was very close to being big league ready with a complete arsenal and the pitchability to match. Unfortunately, we only got to see him in 19.1 innings as he tested positive for Methylhexaneamine, which is a stimulant and not a PED, and was suspended for 50 games.

In my review of Stroman, I see a good arsenal – a low 90’s fastball that really jumps up on hitters and an absolutely nasty slider that will generate a ton of swing and misses.  The changeup looks good as well to me.  However, he stands 5-foot-9 and pitches from a low three-quarters delivery.  Yes, the slider is nasty but without downward plane, his margin for error is razor thin.  However, he pitched well in college and everyone I spoke to said that they felt like he would be in the major leagues in 2013, but most likely as a reliever.

Fantasy Impact: I’m clearly struggling with Stroman.  He made my Top 10 as I like the fastball/slider combination and he clearly knows how to pitch, but I just don’t think the delivery and size point to a starter.  Time will tell, but I will not be adding him to my fantasy teams.

7. Matt Smoral (LHP)

Sleeper Alert!  I really liked Matt Smoral as an amateur and so did a lot of others.  Unfortunately, he broke his foot in the spring and that dropped him to the Supplemental Round where Toronto shelled out a $2 million dollar signing bonus.  He’s big at 6-foot-8 with a nice combination of a mid 90’s fastball and a plus slider.  His mechanics are funky as he pitches with a low three-quarters delivery.  It clearly adds deception but long-term, I believe Toronto needs to change the delivery to get him more upright in order for him to take advantage of his height and reduce the strain on his arm.

8. John Stilson (RHP)

Stilson was considered one of the better college pitchers entering the 2011 draft but a shoulder injury dropped him to the 3rd round where Toronto took a gamble on him.  He had a successful 2012 campaign first by pitching injury free and second by striking out nearly eight batter per nine while walking 3.62 per nine across High-A and Double-A.  While his stuff is that of a starter, the delivery is one of maximum effort and therefore he might be best suited for the bullpen.

9. Santiago Nessy (C)

Signed out of Venezuela for $750K in 2009, Santiago Nessy is a big boy at 6-foot-3 and a generous 230 pounds.  He has excellent bat speed with natural loft that generated nine home runs in 2012; granted against low minor talent.  Reports indicate that from a catching standpoint, Nessy might progress into a good defensive catcher at the highest level.  While I don’t see Nessy ever being a star, he has a chance at a major league career as a second division starter or backup catcher.

10. Daniel Norris (LHP)

I really didn’t want to put Daniel Norris on this list but after the graduation of several key prospect and multiple trades, I’m left with a guy with an electric arm who put up a brutal 7.97 ERA in the Appy League and it got worse once he moved to the Northwest League.  Norris was signed in 2011 for a two million dollar signing bonus and can pump up his fastball to the mid-90’s.  He can also spin a breaking ball.  However, his mechanics need work as he’s not finishing his pitches off very well and this is causing him to loose his release point.  Is there hope?  Of course and in fact, ultimately I think the talent will win out.  Remember, he’s a lefty that throws hard and that kind of talent doesn’t grow on trees.

13 comments on “Toronto Blue Jays

  1. What is wrong with D.J. Davis? I can’t find any stats on him and I can’t find if he is hurt and if he is hurt, how long is out for and if he is hurt, does the injury hurt his status as one of the top 10 in the Jays Organization?

  2. More likely to stick in a rotation Matt Smoral or Daniel Norris?

  3. I got a Jake “the snake” Marisnick in a dynasty league, What’s your write up on him?

  4. Hi Rich – thoughts on Deck McGuire? I’ve read that he could be promoted to AAA this year with a possible call-up late 2013.

  5. What about Nicolino? Why is he not in the top ten Jay’s prospects?

    • Unfortunately he got traded to Miami after I did the Miami writeup but before I did the Toronto report. So he and Marsinick are in no-mans land. Both are Top 100 Prospects for me. I did write about the trade here. After the first of year, I’ll change the Top 10’s to reflect all the recent movements.

  6. How did u get a 12/2/92 DOB for Davis. What is his real age, i’ve seen 6/27/93 and 7/25/94.

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