|Original Published Date: Dec. 3, 2013|
Things did not work out for Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013. With the belief that the AL East had weakened and the Blue Jays were just a few players away from competing, they cashed in on their deep farm system and went for it. Unfortunately, the approach didn’t work and the Blue Jays lost 88 games and, oh yeah…the weaken Boston Red Sox won the World Series – with the Blue Jays former manager. Yeah, it wasn’t a good year!
While the system is down, there are still several elite prospects and young players with significant upside. Aaron Sanchez has one of the best arms in the minor leagues but still has yet to master controlling it. However, he is improving and could be ready by 2015 to contribute in Toronto. 2012 first round pick Marcus Stroman also has an electric arm but his small frame could eventually push him to the bullpen. While both are flawed, their upside is significant.
Further away are two high upside prospects. D.J. Davis is one of my favorite talents in the minor leagues and is a burner with the potential for 15 home runs. While he’s young and still toiling in short season ball, he could easily breakout in 2014 and rise very quickly on prospect lists. Franklin Barreto was considered one of the best talents during the 2012 J2 signing period and hasn’t disappointed. He has above-average power upside with plus speed and could easily become the Blue Jays top prospect as early as next year.
Sean Nolin, Daniel Norris, and Robert Osuna are three pitchers with major league talent and are working their way through the system. Osuna showed great promise in 2012, but Tommy John reconstructive surgery ended his year early and we wait to see if he returns to form.
With the ninth and eleventh pick in the 2014 draft as well as additional money to spend internationally, the Blue Jays should restock their system quickly.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Aaron Sanchez takes a little dreaming and ultimately a little believing that great stuff and an effortless delivery will equal success. So far, his statistical success has been good but not great. Through 256 innings in the minors, he’s only given up 203 hits and posted a 9.32 K/9 but he’s also walked 4.71 per nine.
He has a premium arsenal that starts with a four-seam fastball this sits 94-95 MPH and can top out at 96 to 97 with a lot of sink. His career GO/AO ratio is an impressive 3.02. He also throws a cut fastball that sits in the upper 80’s and a 12-6 curve ball that while inconsistent, could be a plus offering as well. The change-up is improving but lags the other two pitches.
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 4.17 BB/9, which improved significantly from 2012. 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.
In seeing him during the Arizona Fall League this October, the scouting report is still accurate. The arsenal is electric but he still struggles to control it. However, I’m a believer in athletic pitchers and ultimately believe Sanchez will get his walk rate to below four per nine. He’ll never have elite control but it should allow his arsenal to play with a chance to meet his number two ceiling. If it doesn’t, he could be an option for a late inning bullpen arm.
Fantasy Impact: While Sanchez upside is still extremely high, he’s still a high-risk/high-reward asset for a Dynasty League. While he might have more upside than Kyle Zimmer, Robert Stephenson, and former teammate Noah Syndergaard, I’ll rate him behind each, solely based on managing my downside risk.
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 5-9 Weight: 185||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
For a while, I was beginning to think that Marcus Stroman didn’t really exist. Every time I was scheduled to see him pitch, circumstances caused him not to be pitch on his scheduled day. Even in my two visits to this fall’s Arizona Fall Leauge, I kept missing him. However, on October 11th, I finally caught up to him and had a chance to see what all the hype was about.
Two things are certain: he throws really hard and he’s really diminutive. Scouts talk about arm-speed and Stroman has it. His delivery is free and easy, but once he starts his motion, the ball is out of his hand quickly. His fastball sits 93-94 MPH but can hit the 95-96 MPH in short-burst, ala when I saw him relieving in the AFL. He also throws two sliders. The first is probably more of a cutter that he runs up to the plate at 89-90 MPH. The second, his true slider, is only a few MPH slower but with the same nasty sharp break. Both are plus pitches already and can really miss bats. He also throws a change-up that lags behind his other pitches, but is still at least an average pitch.
It’s the arsenal of an ace and on many levels, his performance supports that ceiling. In 111.2 innings in Double-A, he struck out 129 while only walking 27. He also gave up 99 hits, or less than a hit per inning. The concern is that he also gave up 13 home runs, which points to Stroman’s Achilles heel – he stands 5-foot-9.
In the modern game, ideal starters are 6-foot-3 and up. Organizations are not only looking for length in order for pitchers to get downward plane, but also the size to log 200 innings a year. Stroman just doesn’t have the physicality to support this theory. Yes there can be exceptions and everything else indicates a top-of-the-rotation talent, most sources believe that he is destined for the bullpen. Where do I stand? I’m going with the masses and suggesting long-term, he’s bullpen bound.
Fantasy Impact: Marcus Stroman is a tough call in a Dynasty League. He’ll provide high strikeout rates, a low WHIP but could also have an ERA that is above 3.75, maybe higher. There’s also the uncertainty that he moves to the bullpen. That said, the arm is special and I would be buying in 2014. However, if he has early success in the majors, I would then be a seller as long-term, I think he moves to the pen in the mold of Neftali Feliz.
|2014 Age: 19||Ceiling: Role 6
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
I was really bullish on D.J. Davis in 2012, ranking him in our Top 100 list of prospects. While it was aggressive, Davis’ 80-grade speed, bat speed with the potential for 15-20 home runs, continues to have me excited. He’s a raw premium athlete that still needs to work on his hit-tool, but the potential is all there.
I was hopeful that Davis would have started the year in Lansing, but the Jays instead held him back in the Complex League and started him mid-season in the Appy League. His performance was ok as he posted a .240/.323/.418 slash line. On the positive, he showed nice pop by hitting six home runs in only 225 at-bats but he also struck out too much, posting a poor 66% contact rate.
The swing is simple with a quiet setup and bat speed that allows him to explode on the ball. While he has an approach at the plate, showing a great deal of patience (11.6% BB/9), he also struggled with breaking stuff away. It’s a common problem, particularly for young and inexperienced kids like D.J. Davis. Will he sort it out? I don’t know, but that’s what the development process is all about.
Davis should start 2014 in Low-A and will be one of the youngest players in the level. He’s a premium athlete with speed and above-average power potential with a Role 6 ceiling.
Fantasy Impact: Davis needs to be owned in all Dynasty League formats as he has the potential for 40 plus stolen bases. Whether he becomes a Michael Bourn/Carl Crawford player or Joey Gathright will depend on his ability to hit. I’m betting the over.
|2014 Age: 18||Ceiling: Role 6
|Ht:5-9 Weight: 174||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
Signed for $1.4 million dollars in 2012 as a J2 player, Franklin Barreto showed his massive potential in 2013 by posting a .276/.343/.482 slash line in rookie ball as a 17-year-old.
As with Marcus Stroman, Barreto stands 5-foot-9 and is extremely athletic. His swing is short and compact with excellent bat speed which results in hard contact. His .482 slugging supports the scouting report despite Barreto only hitting four home runs. While I’m not sure the body will enable him to have plus future power, he could hit 15-20. That combined with being an above-average runner gives him a ceiling of a Role 6 player.
Barreto is currently playing shortstop but most sources believe he’ll move to the keystone or outfield long-term. While the athleticism is there, his mechanics are poor; particularly as he moves to the right. His arm is also erratic. This showed up in 19 errors in only 59 games in 2013.
Based on his performance, Barreto could start 2014 in full-season ball as an 18-year-old. While he needs work to harness his explosive tools, there is enough upside for Barreto to become the top ranked prospect in the Blue Jays organization as soon as this time next year.
Fantasy Impact: While he’s only in rookie ball, Barreto needs to be owned in all deep Dynasty League. Remember, it could be four to five years before he makes it to Toronto, so owners will need to show great patience. It could be worth the wait as his fantasy upside is 20/30 with a .270 average hitting at the top of a lineup.
|2014 Age: 19||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 230||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
At 16-years-old, Roberto Osuna was acquired by the Blue Jays in 2011 for $1.5 million dollars. His 2012 professional debut was impressive with a memorable game on July 28th where he struck out 13 in 5.1 innings.
2013 started off promising for the 18-year-old Mexican as he posted a 31K/4BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in four April starts. However in his last start, he left his outing early complaining of elbow discomfort. He was later diagnosed with a partial tear in his UCL and was prescribed rest.
Osuna returned to the mound on July 9th and looked great but things started to fall apart shortly afterwards and in late July he succumbed to Tommy John reconstructive surgery and was lost for the remainder of the year. It was yet another reminder of the fragility of pitchers.
When healthy, Osuna has a plus arsenal that consists of a 91-93 MHP fastball with heavy sink and late life. His secondary pitches also show a lot of promise with a hard curve ball and a change-up that has a lot of splitter-like action. The arsenal can definitely miss bats and that has been demonstrated in his 9.54 K/9 rate over 105.2 professional innings.
Osuna also has excellent control, posting an impressive 3.15 BB/9 so far in his minor league career. 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 lose 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.
As with all pitchers returning from TJS, there are huge risks surrounding Osuna effectiveness once he takes the mound. He has a special arm and mechanics that give him the ceiling of a number two starter at the highest level. Plus, he only turns 19-years old in February, so time is clearly in his favor.
Fantasy Impact: While Osuna doesn’t have the same upside as Lucas Giolito, there is a similar buying opportunity that is now presented to fantasy owners. If I’m in a deep Dynasty League, I would be trying to acquire Osuna as he has youth on his side and could still see the Major Leagues by the time he’s 22-years-old.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2016|
Considered one of the top left-handed high-school pitchers in the 2011 draft, Norris struggled in his debut in 2012. While he posted an ugly 8.44 ERA, his 9.07 K/9 and 2.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio pointed to the talent underlying his poor surface stats.
Norris has a nice three pitch mix with a plus fastball that sits 90-92 MPH and can touch 94 and a change-up and curve that both flash plus. When a pitcher has the chance for three above-average pitches, teams will pay a premium and the Blue Jays did; paying Norris an over-slot two million dollar signing bonus. Of course, Norris can’t quite command his arsenal and therein lies the development opportunity.
The command issues start with his pitching mechanics. The biggest issue is his constant battle with his balance. To compensate, he toes the rubber on the extreme third base side so that his momentum caused by him not squaring up his delivery will pull him back to alignment. I can only assume the Jays have decided to do this approach instead of cleaning up his mechanics. It can work, but the margin of error is small as he’ll never land squarely. On the positive, he has nice momentum to the plate and this allows his arsenal to get a little more life.
Norris should begin 2014 in Dunedin with a chance to see Double-A by the end of the year. It will be about controlling his arsenal and then learning to throw quality strikes. My axiom is to bank on athletes with quality arms and let the development process do the rest. While it doesn’t always work out that way, I’m pretty bullish that Norris will figure it out with a ceiling of a number three or possibly more.
Fantasy Impact: Norris is a high-risk/high-reward asset in a Dynasty League. While many owners will remember his 8.44 ERA from 2012 or even his 4.20 ERA from 2013, the arsenal should eventually produce better results. Believe in the talent and invest.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: #5 starter|
|Ht: 6-5 Weight: 235||Bats: Left Throws:Left||ETA: 2013|
Sean Nolin had one of the more impressive years in Double-A as he posted a 3.01 ERA with a 103K/25BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 92.2 innings. He did it more based on command and control as opposed to stuff, but the results were there.
Taken as a JuCo player in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, Sean Nolin is a solid 6-foot-5, 235 pound control and command lefty. The arsenal consists of an 88-90 MPH fastball, a 73-74 MPH curveball, and a low 80’s change-up. While the arsenal is solid, it plays up because Nolin throws strikes and isn’t afraid to throw any one of his pitches.
I had a chance to see him on May 12th against the Trenton Thunder and he threw 17 pitches in the first inning – seven fastballs, six curve balls, three change-up, and a cutter (I think). He started the first batter of the inning with a fastball and then started the following two with his curve ball. He struck out two of the first three batters and that setup him up for the remainder of the game. Essentially, the Thunder batters were guessing the rest of the evening.
Depending on how the off-season goes for the Blue Jays, Nolin could be in-line for significant innings in Toronto for 2014. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter and should be able to post league-average ratios while missing plenty of bats.
Fantasy Impact: Nolin’s ability to post above-average strikeout totals makes him an interesting asset for a fantasy team. He’ll likely be hittable and despite his size, does pitch up in the zone which should put pressure on his ratios.
8. Mitch Nay (3B)
Taken in the supplemental round of the 2012 draft, Mitch Nay’s carrying tool is plus raw power. His swing is long and that will make him susceptible to high strikeout totals, but he does have the ability to hit 25 home runs at the highest level. With that brief report, his stat line in 2013 did not support the scouting report. In 230 at-bats in the Appy League, he had an 85% contact rate and only hit six home runs. Do we attribute this to a small sample size in a rookie league or a change in approach? I’m going to suggest it’s a small sample size. Although I did have a report from someone who saw Nay in high-school and he believes the swing is more compact. If that is the case, he could rise through the Jays Top 10 list quickly.
9. Andy Burns (3B)
Drafted as a shortstop in 2011 out of the University of Arizona, Andy Burns is now manning third and had one of the best seasons in the Blue Jays minor league system. He makes good contact and has an approach at the plate. While he doesn’t have plus bat speed, he’s a strong kid that uses his body effectively to drive pitches. The power results were encouraging as he hit 15 home runs across the Florida State and Eastern League. He’s also an above-average runner which was demonstrated by his 32 stolen bases.
10. Dawel Lugo (SS)
The Blue Jays invested $1.3 million dollars in 2012 on Dominican shortstop Dawel Lugo. Lugo is known for his above-average hit-tool that he demonstrated with an 86% contact rate in 192 at-bats in the GCL. The success earned him a late season promotion to the Northwest League where he continued to perform. Lugo does have bat speed and given his 6-foot and 180 pound frame, it’s not surprising that he’s already showing some pop; even as a teenager. On the negative side, he likes to swing the pole and will need to learn to walk more than once every two weeks. In 261 at-bats, he walked six times.
2014 Emerging Prospect:
Taken in the 30th round in the 2013 draft, Tellez signed an $850,000 signing bonus based primarily on his plus-plus raw power. While the home runs did not show up in his first taste of professional ball, he did hit the ball hard and showed better than advertised bat-to-ball skills. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Tellez profiles exclusively at first base and therefore his bat will have to carry him to the big leagues.