Toronto Blue Jays

Original Published Date: December 7, 2015

In the final four of baseball, each team had one thing in common – their farm system played a major role in their success.  The Cubs, Mets, and Royals developed their core players and eventually they became mainstays on their major league roster.  The Blue Jays used their system differently.  While Kevin Pillar and Roberto Osuna were both signed and developed in their system, Alex Anthopolis primarily used his system as trade chips to bring in major league talent; Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and R.A. Dickey the three most notable recent adds.

While the system has taken some major hits, the Jays drafting of young projectable talent has seeded their organization well.  However, most of the talent is in the lower levels and while there are several players with huge upside, it’s clearly a high risk system.

Anthony Alford is the Jays number one prospect and a legitimate impact talent with an intriguing power/speed combination and a better hit tool than most people thought.  Vlad Guerrero Jr. is another intriguing talent with the right blood lines and the potential for future plus raw power.  Rowdy Tellez will not get a lot of love in other list, but we like him, and like him a lot.  He has plus raw power and can really hit.

Jon Harris, Sean Ried-Foley and Conner Greene are the top ranked pitchers and all have the upside to be solid number three starters.

1. Anthony Alford (OF)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A,A+ 413 91 4 35 27 .298 .398 73.6 13.8 .393

Anthony Alford’s journey to baseball was not typical.  In high school, he was a two-sport star in both football and baseball and wanted to play both sports at Southern Mississippi.  While other teams backed off, the Jays did not and drafted Alford in the third round of the 2012 first year player draft.  What was unusual is that the contract he signed allowed him to play football in the “off-season” and baseball with the Jays in the summer.

While it was a risk, it worked out for the Jays as circumstances surrounding Alford got strange.  In his freshman year, the Golden Eagles went 0-12 causing the coach to get terminated and releasing Alford from his commitment.  He then transferred to Mississippi where he played in four games before getting into an on-campus fight.  Shortly after that, he decided that maybe baseball was the better path and gave up football to focus on his dream of playing in the major leagues.

With that renewed commitment, Alford showed his elite athleticism in 107 games across Low and High-A in 2015 where he slashed .298/.398/.421 with four home runs and 27 stolen bases.  He also showed a surprisingly mature understanding of the strike zone by walking 67 times.

Scouting Report:  Despite the warm weather, the state of Mississippi has not produced a ton of major league players.   Because of this, positional players from Mississippi will many times struggle with their approach as they face more advanced pitching.  That has not been the case with Alford.  He has a solid approach that led to a 74% contact rate and a 14% walk rate; and this is for a player who hadn’t focused on baseball in two-years.

If the hit tool continues to develop, Alford has super star potential.  He has plus bat speed and raw power that could eventually lead to above-average if not plus future in-game power.   He’s a double-plus runner and the 27 bases he stole in 34 attempts is just a glimpse of his potential.  He just needs time: practice time, game time to let his natural skills develop.

Fantasy Impact:  Alford has a chance to be an impact fantasy player with the ceiling of a 20 HR/40 SB player.  If his hit tool continues to develop, owners could also be looking at a .270/.340 player.  If it all comes together, he’s a first round draft pick.  If you’re in a new Dynasty League, don’t be afraid to treat Alford as a top 20 minor league player and take him in the early rounds of your draft.

2. Rowdy Tellez (1B)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 245 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2017
2015 A,A+ 401 53 14 77 5 .289 .347 79.1 8.5 .329

The Blue Jays went way over slot in 2013 to sign Chicago area high schooler Rowdy Tellez for an $850,000 signing bonus.  Tellez was our 2014 Emerging Prospect and started to translate his plus raw power into in-game power this year.  In 447 plate appearances across Low and High-A, he posted an .801 OPS with 14 home runs.  While we always thought he would hit for power, what has been impressive is his mature approach at the plate and his ability to make contact.  In those same 447 plate appearances, he posted a 79% contact rate and an 8.5% walk rate.

Scouting Report:  I had a chance to lay eyes on Tellez in the Arizona Fall League and I left very impressed.  First, he’s a big boy…not fat, not chiseled, but just big and imposing.  The swing is what impressed me.  It was shorter to the ball than I expected and he had very good barrel control.  He didn’t try and pull everything but instead, he went where the ball was pitched.  The approach should eventually give him power to all fields with a reasonable strike out rate.  It won’t be Altuvian, but if he can keep his contact rate at 75% to 80%, he should be able to carry a .270 batting average, but more importantly, get to his power.

One concern that I saw was he doesn’t have premium bat speed and at times, he had trouble catching up to velocity.  Was it due to a long season, a potential injury, or is his bat just slow?  All are possible but it’s something to monitor as it could be the difference between an everyday regular and a bench player.

Fantasy Impact: While many sites will downgrade Tellez because he is a first base only prospect with questionable defensive skills, we are fully buying in; so much so he could sneak into the back-end of our Top 100 list.  The ceiling is a middle of the lineup bat, hitting .270 with 20 to 30 home runs annually.  The caveat is again his bat speed.  For now, I’m discounting the concern until I can see more.

3. Jonathan Harris (RHP)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 SS 36.0 48 27 1 8.00 5.25 6.75 1.92

After failing to sign Jon Harris out of high school in 2012, the Blue Jays finally got their man, using their first round pick (pick 29) in the 2015 first year player draft.  After signing a $1.94 million dollar signing bonus, the Blue Jays assigned him to the Northwest League where he put up awful numbers. In 12 games (11 starts), he posted a 6.75 ERA, striking out 32 and walking 21 in 36 innings.

Most people believe that he was simply tired after a long season at Missouri State where he pitched very well in 103 innings across 15 starts in his breakout year.  His strikeout rate shot up to over 10 strikeouts per nine while maintaining a walk rate of just over three.

Scouting Report:  At a listed 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds, the Blue Jays believe that Harris still has some physical projection remaining and could add a mile or two to his fastball.  Currently, it sits 91 to 93 MPH and while he gets plane on the pitch, he does pitch up in zone with it.  His curve ball is his best secondary pitch with reports of it being big league ready.  He also throws a change-up and slider to compliment the arsenal.

With a solid arsenal and some remaining projection, Harris has a ceiling of a number two starter.  We are going to give him a mulligan on his performance in the Northwest League.  The Jays will likely start him in Lansing to begin the 2016 season with a chance to see Dunedin before the season is over.

Fantasy Impact:  Harris is a pitcher that Dynasty League owners should be targeting in their drafts.  He’s a bit under-the-radar given where he was drafted but with some projection remaining and a college pedigree, there’s a lot to like.

4. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (OF)

2016 Age: 17 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2020
2015 DNP

I just finished watching Gabby Guerrero play this evening and he looks so physically like his famous uncle it’s spooky.  In looking at photos, his son Vlad Guerrero Jr., looks just like him as well.  What the Jays hope is that he has some of the similar tools that gave Vlad Sr. an MVP and a good chance to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  At a minimum, they made a significant investment, paying the 16-year-old a $3.9 million dollar signing bonus.

Scouting Report:  I rarely put 16-year-olds in Top 10 list because there is 1) very little known about them and 2) so much that can go wrong.  However, the reports I have been given by sources who have seen Vlad Jr. live, make him worthy of inclusion.  He has plus bat speed and natural raw strength that should translate into at least above-average future power.  At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he doesn’t have the kind of foot speed that his dad had in his youth.  Furthermore, as he mature and fills out, the average speed he currently has will likely regress.

Vlad also doesn’t have the hose that his father had and is likely not going to profile in right field.  Since he lacks the foot speed for center, he’s likely a left fielder or first baseman.  Assuming his hit tool is advanced as the reports I have received indicate, he should have enough bat for either position.

Fantasy Impact:  Vlad Guerrero is only 16 and is likely 5 years away from being considered for the big leagues.  A lot can go wrong but there will be someone in your draft who jumps early for him.  Should you?  I personally don’t think so, but I do understand the allure.  The upside is a 30 home run bat, plus he’s a potential HOF’s kid in which the Jays just paid a fortune.  Did I mention he was five years away?  I suggest you risk adjust and bid accordingly.

5. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A,A+ 96.0 82 45 4 6.28 11.72 4.22 1.55

The Jays love to gamble on high-upside athletes when approaching both the international signing period and the annual amateur draft.  In 2014, they drafted Sean Reid-Foley, a polished high school pitcher with the 49th overall pick.  While he doesn’t have the crazy upside of some of their previous picks, he has a ton of talent with the ability to be a solid mid-rotation starter.

The Blue Jays have been very aggressive with Reid-Foley, starting him in Lansing to begin the season and then pushing him to Dunedin mid-season.  While his 4.22 ERA in 25 starts wasn’t great, if you look a little deeper, you see why the Jays are so excited.  In 96 innings, he struck out 125, posted a 1.61 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio while only giving up one home run.  The problem was his control.  In those same 96 innings, he walked 67, or over six per nine.

Scouting Report: At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Reid-Foley has a great pitchers body that should allow him log big innings as a professional.  There’s not a lot of projection remaining but with a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH and can burst higher, it’s already a plus pitch.  His best secondary pitch is his slider with nice two-plane movement that can miss plenty of bats.  His change-up is a still a work-in-progress.

His poor control can be traced back to his mechanics.  First, there is easy velocity in the mechanics; meaning, it looks like he’s simply playing catch but throwing 95 MPH.  The arm speed is not manic and there is very little effort in the delivery.  He also gets very good extension, which allows his plus fastball to be even more explosive.  The reason for his control problems is that he can’t repeat his delivery.  The arm slot is floating and it looks like he just gets out-of-sync.  Also, there is a pretty obvious inverted-W in his delivery that will put pressure on his elbow, making him more susceptible to an elbow injury.

Fantasy Impact:  Reid-Foley should be rostered in all Dynasty Leagues with 200 or fewer minor league players.  The stuff is premium and while he has below-average control, I expect that to improve with more instruction and repetition.  The ceiling is a Top 50 pitcher with eight strikeouts per nine but with only average ratios given his struggles with throwing strikes.

6. Conner Greene (RHP)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 165 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A,A+,AA 132.1 136 52 6 2.65 7.82 3.54 1.32

Conner Greene did his best Daniel Norris impression in 2015 by tearing through three minor league levels.  It wasn’t until he got to Double-A that the 20-year-old right-hander hit any resistance.  He handled the Midwest League without much trouble, striking out close to a batter an inning with a 3.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  In 40 innings in the Florida State League, he was even better, posting a 4.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.25 ERA.

By now, most of you are asking…who is this guy?

Scouting Report:  Taken in the seventh round of the 2013 first year player draft, the Blue Jays liked Greene’s athleticism and thought that as he added weight to his 6-foot-3, 160 pound frame, his velocity would increase.  Both happened and now he’s sitting 91 to 94 MPH (T95) with two promising secondary pitches.  His change-up is ahead of his curve but when I saw him late in the season, I liked the curve as well.  He was able to throw it for strikes and it had nice sweeping movement.

Greene’s pitching mechanics show a lot of promise as well.  He rakes his hands over his head on his windup and gets excellent extension on his stride.  He has good balance and is able to repeat his delivery.

Fantasy Impact:  The Jays really like Greene and he’s responded to every challenge they’ve presented.  He’s likely still two years away but has a chance to a solid mid-rotation starter.

7. Richard Urena (SS)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 170 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A,A+ 508 71 16 66 8 .262 .284 78.3 3.0 .302

Up until 2015, Richard Urena was known more for his glove than his bat, however after hitting 15 home runs in 91 games in the Midwest League as a teenager that might be changing.  Even though he was our emerging 2015 prospect, we didn’t see this coming.  Last year we wrote the following:

“For fantasy players, Urena profiles as a below-average player as he’s more of a defensive-first player with limited secondary tools (speed and power). “

While he’s very young and therefore difficult to project his ceiling, I would guess that it’s high single-digit home runs and stolen bases with a .280 batting average.  The question is…is it for real?

Scouting Report: Urena has always had good bat speed with a short and compact swing.  What caused the power explosion last year was just a kid getting bigger and stronger.  I still believe the swing is more line-drive oriented and hopefully he will not focus on trying to become a slugger.  If he stays with his current swing mechanics, he could hit 8 to 12 home runs annually which will work just fine as a shortstop.

The area of development is with his approach.  In 536 plate appearances, he walked just 16 times.  While he’ll likely always be an aggressive hitter, it’s going to be difficult to be an effective big leaguer when you walk once a week.  Pitchers will simply not give him anything to hit and the .266 batting average he posted last year will likely be 20 points lower.

Fantasy Impact:  Urena should now be on all Dynasty League owner’s radar.  I do not believe he’s a 20 home run player but would down shift to 10 to 12.  I do worry about his overly aggressive approach at the plate and if that doesn’t change, he’ll be a liability in on-base percentage leagues.

8. Dwight Smith (OF)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 5-11 Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 AA 460 74 7 44 4 .265 .335 86.1 9.2 .294

We had high hopes for Dwight Smith last year after he showed emerging power and speed in 121 games in the Florida State League.  With his promotion to Double-A , things got a little tougher.  In 117 games, Smith posted a .265 batting average with seven home runs and only four stolen bases.   He did show an ability to control the strike zone with an 86% contact rate while walking 9.2% of the time.

Scouting Report: Having seen Smith play several times in the Eastern League, the swing is much more conducive to doubles than over-the-fence power.  I still believe he has enough bat speed and physicality to hit 8 to 12 home runs annually.  I am not surprised at the decrease in stolen bases as he’s only an average runner but I still believe he’ll steal low double-digit bases annually.

What Smith can do is hit.  He controls the strike zone very well and makes great contact with a short and compact swing.  Is that enough to make him an everyday player?  Probably not with the Blue Jays, but he’ll likely be traded in the next year or two and could become a solid second division outfielder.

Fantasy Impact:  I always invest in players that can hit and therefore continue to believe in Smith.  He won’t be a star but assuming he gets playing time, he could post a .280 batting average with 10 to 12 home runs and handful of stolen bases.  That should be enough to make him a number four or five fantasy outfielder.

9. Max Pentecost (C)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
2015 DNP

Taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft, Max Pentecost spent the entire 2015 season on the disabled list.  He had two off-season shoulder surgeries to repair a torn labrum and then during his rehab process, developed bicep tendonitis.  Not only was it a lost season, but all shoulder surgeries to pitchers and catchers need to be taken very seriously.

Scouting Report:  Assuming Pentecost comes back fully healthy, he has the upside of a first division major league catcher.  He has a great swing that is built more for contact than power. When he does hit for power, he dips his shoulder and pulls the ball. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, he should grow into more strength which should allow the over-the-fence power to emerge. Once that develops, a .270 average with 12 to 18 home runs ceiling could emerge.

Defensively, Pentecost has the ceiling of an above average defender. He’s athletic with excellent lateral movement and an above average arm. He also shows significant leadership ability when calling games; constantly talking to his pitcher and keeping the infield on it’s toes.

Fantasy Impact:  It’s a tough call for Pentecost owners in Dynasty Leagues.  He’s 23-years-old, has had major shoulder surgery and missed an entire year of development.  While owners in one-catcher formats should considering dropping him, owners in two-catcher formats should hold tight.  However, if he continues to struggle to stay healthy, owners might want to consider moving on.  Remember, the opportunity cost for minor league slots is very high.

10. D.J. Davis (OF)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2018
2015 A 496 77 7 59 21 .282 .340 76.0 7.0 .353

I’m sure I will regret putting D.J. Davis on this list but I’m just not ready to give up on the speedster from Mississippi.  He was very raw, even more than the Jays thought when they took him 17th overall in the 2012 first year player draft.  After a rough year in Low-A in 2014 where he had a 67% contact rate, the Blue Jays sent him back to Lansing to try it again.  This time, he was much better.  He improved his contact rate to 76% and finally started to look like a player with a major league future.  While that future could be as a fourth outfielder, he still has an intriguing profile that should not be dismissed so quickly.

Scouting Report:  Davis carrying tool is double-plus speed that he’s still learning to use on the base paths.  He did improve from his 50% success rate in 2014 to steal 21 of 31 bases last year.  He also uses his speed well in the outfield with the ability to run down balls quite easily.  Davis is also not a small guy with enough strength and loft in his swing to hit high-single digit home runs annually.  So the dream is a 10 HR/30 SB player that can play a very good center field.  The question is will he be able to make enough contact.

The good news is that he’s made tremendous strides since he first entered the league.  Learning to hit is difficult and from all accounts, Davis is a hard worker.  If he continues to make improvement, he’ll be a big leaguer and he could be a very good one at that.

Fantasy Impact: Davis made our Top 100 list in 2013 and many of you drafted him on your fantasy team; I know as I got some very ugly emails.  I get it…it’s been rough, but Davis is improving.  There’s still a ton of talent and I’m not giving up on him.  I hope you don’t either.

2016 Emerging Player

Roemon Fields (OF)

The ceiling of Roemon Fields may ultimately be an extra outfielder, but he has 80-grade speed and is a pesky hitter that can be a tough out.  He makes excellent contact and can steal bases at will.  I got him at 3.86 from the left-side beating out an infield hit at the Arizona Fall League.  He got on and immediately stole second.  There is no power and he can get overly aggressive at the plate, but if he gets 250 at-bats at the major league level, he could steal 20 bases, ala Jarrod Dyson.

Bonus Player

Dalton Pompey (OF)

I had already written up Dalton Pompey when he got an October 1st start that pushed his at-bats over the 130 limit.  I guess in this case, the early bird did not get the worm, but you get to read my ramblings, on Mr. Pompey.

Dalton Pompey had a storybook year in 2014.  He tore through three levels of the minor leagues, played 17 games in Toronto and just for kicks, 19 games in the Arizona Fall League.  He excelled at every level including holding his own in the big leagues.  The Blue Jays rewarded him with the starting center field job out of Spring Training.  Unfortunately, that’s where things went awry.

In his 23 games to begin the year, Pompey batted .193 with a .276 on base percentage and worse of all, his plus defense abandoned him.  He was demoted on May 2nd to Triple-A and played so poorly in Triple-A, that he was further demoted to Double-A.  The game of baseball is the ultimate humbling sport.

Much to his credit, Pompey turned it around in the second half and the skills that he showed in 2014 returned.  He tore the cover off the ball in both Double and Triple-A and returned to his home town team to celebrate an AL Division crown in September.

So what happened?  First, at 22-years-old, he was one of the youngest players in the major leagues. Second, the league adjusted and started to bust him inside with hard stuff out of the strike zone and he wasn’t able to layoff causing an inflated 24.7% strikeout rate.  Plus, he got away from driving his pitches and started muscling up, which just caused him to beat everything in the ground resulting in a .237 BABIP.  Did the offensive problems lead to concentration issues in the outfield?  Perhaps, but in the end, maybe he just wasn’t ready.  I think he is now, but the job is no longer his as Kevin Pillar has earned the role and will likely have a long leash as the defense in superb.

While the Blue Jays emptied the minor leagues to push the team over the finish line, they did keep Pompey and put him on their post season roster.  I think that says a lot.  While he could ultimately be moved, I still believe he will fit into their plans in a meaningful way in 2016.

Scouting Report:  Pompey’s scouting report remains as it was last year.  He has a great approach, makes excellent contact with some pop and plus speed.  If you combine what he did in Double and Triple-A this year, that should be a good baseline of what he can do if given a chance in the big leagues:  387 AB, .307 batting average, 7 home runs and 23 stolen bases.

Fantasy Impact:  Pompey will be on my late round buying list next year.  I think the Blue Jays will find a way to get him his at least 300 at-bats and possibly more if injuries hit their outfield.

2 comments on “Toronto Blue Jays

  1. […] You can see the Jays 2016 Prospect List here. […]


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