|Original Published Date: December 14, 2018|
The top of the Jays system should look familiar to all our readers. Vlad Guerrero Jr. separated himself throughout the year as the best prospect in the game with visions of Miguel Cabrera dancing through everyone’s head. It’s hard to believe that he played the entire season as a teenager. Bo Bichette had been matching him level-for-level but couldn’t keep up when the Jays decided to promote Vlad Jr. to Triple-A over the summer. That’s no disrespect to Bichette as he has 20-20 potential and an all-star ceiling.
After Vlad and Bo, the talent understandably drops off. However, there is still quality major league potential talent in the system. Danny Jensen should see considerable time behind the plate in Toronto next season with uber-talented Anthony Alford hopefully getting another shot. If Alford can stay healthy and hit, there is still significant fantasy upside.
Eric Pardinho is the most intriguing of the arms in the system. He has a very promising arsenal with a feel for pitching. However, it’s hard to believe that a 5-foot-10 pitcher (I think he’s shorter) can succeed at the highest level as a starter. But, that’s what makes my job fun and the development process so unpredictable. I’m here to paint a picture of not only what is possible, but also what is likely. Unfortunately for Pardinho, he’s likely a bullpen arm, but perhaps a closer.
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1. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (3B/1B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 Player
Every once in a while, a prospect comes along that is just the best player on the field; no matter who he plays with, he’s the best…the alpha male. Vlad Guerrero Jr. is that guy. Yeah, I know…at this point, you’re sick of hearing all of the accolades. In fact, some of you might hope he doesn’t live up to the hype, because…well, you’re sick of hearing about him. How can this guy be that good?
I had a chance to see him play four times in the Fall League and well, he’s that good. His hands are lightning quick. He can get to inside velocity as well as adjust to off-speed pitches with ease. He hits everything. Ok, sure, he might not have 30 home run power out of the gate, but he will.
What he will do though is hit. He is the definition of an 80-grade future hitter. The strong hands, the ability to pick-up spin, adjust on the fly and just make hard contact is indeed impressive. While there is a certain level of luck in hitting .300 every year, I think the chances are very good that he will challenge that level every year.
Looking for a comp? For me, he has the hit tool and the raw power of Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols. He’s not as physically imposing as either player, but the raw power he shows in batting practice will translate. But, he’s 19-years-old and trying to put a 30 home run season on him at age 20 or 21 is just not fair. Could he do it? Sure. But I would think 20 to 25 is more likely with a high average, high OBP and tons of runs and RBIs.
Ok, enough of the accolades. What are his improvement opportunities? What is the soft underbelly of Vlad Jr? Three things.
- It’s a bad body. While he’s athletic, it’s in a Pablo Sandoval way. He moves well for his size, but you do worry that he’ll outgrow third and that conditioning will be a problem.
- He’s a below average defender at third. He can be adequate there for a while, but eventually, he’ll have to move to first. Kind of like Miggy.
- Finally, there is little speed. Sure, he might steal the occasional base, but as he matures and fills out, he’ll be…well…Miggy Cabrera.
The upside for me is off the charts. He could be an MVP. He could be a Triple Crown winner. He could one day be considered for the Hall of Fame. He’s got that upside. Will it be in 2019, 2020, or further out? I don’t know, but if you draft him in the third or fourth round next year, I would not give you a hard time. The kid is good…really good.
2. Bo Bichette (SS)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 SS/3B
While Vlad Jr. might have the rare distinction of being an 80-grade hitter, his friend, and teammate, Bo Bichette might be a 70-grade hitter. And guess what? There are not that many guys in the major leagues with that level of a hit tool.
In Double-A this year, he struck out 17% of the time while walking 8% of the time. He did it while playing the entire season as a 20-year-old. He also has plus raw power with a chance to hit 20 or more home runs annually. Want more…he’s currently a plus runner and while he stole 32 bags in 2018, that might wind up being his outlier season.
If you add it up, the profile looks like a potential .300/.370 hitter with 20 home runs and 15 to 20 stolen bases. That’s a monster fantasy player and a likely first-round pick or early second round pick. While Vlad might be ahead by a couple of months, don’t be surprised if Bichette sees the major leagues sometime in the second half of next season or by early 2020 at the latest.
3. Danny Jansen (C)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 Catcher
Danny Jansen had another solid season and was rewarded with a late-season call-up to the Big Leagues. He continued to show an excellent ability to control the strike zone by walking nearly as much as he struck out. He also started to show some pop hitting 12 home runs in Triple-A while adding another three in limited action in Toronto.
Defensively, he’s a solid receiver but doesn’t have a strong arm. In scouting terms, that makes him “playable”. Think of Yasmani Grandal or Jorge Pasada. While I don’t think Jansen will have that kind of power, he could be a better hitter with a chance to hit 20 home runs annually. I have the upside at a .270 hitter with 20 home runs. If he achieves that, he’ll be a top 10 catcher, perhaps more. If you’re an owner and are worried about Russell Martin, don’t be. Look, they will likely split time early in 2019, but by mid-season, Jansen will be the primary starting catcher and shouldn’t look back.
4. Jordan Groshans (3B)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
With the 12th pick in last year’s June MLB Draft, the Toronto Blue Jays signed high school infielder Jordan Groshans. While he was drafted as a shortstop, given his size he’s likely bound for third base and in fact, he played there for part of last season. He got off to a strong start hitting .296/.353 with five home runs across the GCL and the Appy League.
His carrying tool is his plus bat speed and plus raw power. There will likely be holes in his swing, so strikeouts will be a problem. However, with his approach, he should get on base enough to mitigate the strikeouts. The upside is a solid regular at the major league level with a .260/.350 average with 25 plus home run potential. He’s currently an average runner, but as he fills out, stolen bases will not be a big part of his profile. In his younger years though, he could steal 5 to 10 bases annually.
5. Forrest Wall (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
I know, I probably have Forrest Wall too high on this list, but call me a gluten for punishment. I’m just unwilling to give up on a toolsy kid who I think can hit. In fact, if you look at his season in total, it was actually quite good. In 128 games across High and Double-A, he posted a .263/.343/.402 slash line with 10 home runs and 38 stolen bases. His strikeouts jumped a bit to a 23% K/9, but he continued to post a 9.4% walk rate. The best news is he stayed healthy, something that has plagued him throughout his career.
I still believe he’s a major leaguer with a chance to get full-time at-bats in centerfield, leftfield or even back at second. The speed will play and I also believe there is more pop in the bat. Is he a Top 100 prospect? Maybe not, but if he sneaks in at number 100, well, don’t roll your eyes too much.
6. Nate Pearson (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Nate Pearson only pitched 1.2 innings in 2018 after beginning the season late and then taking a line drive off his elbow in an early May game. It was unfortunate, to say the least, but he was healthy enough to pitch in the Fall League where I was able to catch him twice.
In his first outing, he couldn’t throw strikes and gave up seven earned run and was taken out in the second. He had good stuff with a fastball that sat 94 to 96 MPH and a good hard slider. In fact, he struck out the side in the first while given up two runs, a walk, and two very hard-hit balls. Perhaps it was just the long layoff because when I saw him two weeks later, the control was much better. He lasted four innings but struck out six while only walking one.
Pearson has the size and stuff to be a workhorse in the major league. While he flashes a plus slider, his curve and change-up need a lot of work. I’ve put the ceiling as a number three starter, but there could be even more upside.
7. Kevin Smith (SS/2B)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS/2B
After that Vlad Jr. fellow, you can argue that Kevin Smith was the second-best performer in the organization. In 129 games across Low and High-A, he slashed .302/.358/.528 with 25 home runs and 29 stolen bases. I’m assuming Dynasty League owners are chomping at the bit to see a 25-25 guy in their lineup.
While the season was impressive, he was old for the Midwest League and fortunately, the Jays quickly moved him up a level. While the 18 home runs in the FSL put him near the league lead, I don’t believe his swing is geared to a 30 home run bat. In fact, it appears he sacrificed contact for power and believe he’ll move back to the guy he really is. And who is that guy you ask? I think the upside is a .260/.330 hitter with 15 home run potential with 15 to 20 stolen bases. For the record, that is a sneaky good player.
8. Anthony Alford (OF)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
I continued to be intrigued by the tools of Anthony Alford. He’s got plus speed, plus bat speed that could eventually turn into hitting a lot of home runs. But, it just hasn’t come together and 2018 was another year that I kept looking at the stat line, shaking my head. He spent most of the year in Triple-A where he hit .240/.312 with five home runs and 17 stolen bases but also posted a 27% strikeout rate with a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He did see time in the Major Leagues in September but didn’t do much.
The approach continues to be the problem. He’s aggressive and continues that aggressiveness no matter the count. It’s ultimately leading to him striking out too much. But, the tools…the tools are what keeps you coming back and what will give him ample opportunities. It would also help if Alford could stay healthy. It’s been a big part of his slow development.
What do Dynasty League owners do? I’m still holding out hope but do understand it could take a couple more years. Granted, he’s already 24 and at some point, you just have to move on.
9. Eric Pardinho (RHP)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or Bullpen Arm
One of the more intriguing players signed last year during the International signing period was 5-foot-10 Brazilian right-hander Eric Pardinho. The Blue Jays paid him a $1.4 million dollar signing bonus and brought him to their complex to start the process. The work is starting to pay off as his fastball has taken a noticeable tick up and his secondary pitches can now consistently miss bats.
While he’s only performed in rookie ball, the results have been outstanding. He’s pitched to a 2.93 ERA while striking out over 11 per nine and walking 2.5 per nine. He’s also given up five home runs and that points to the concern. He’s only 5-foot-10 and while he his delivery helps him stay “tall”, he’s going to be prone to giving up the long ball.
Ultimately, I think he becomes a bullpen arm but the Blue Jays will keep him starting for the foreseeable future.
10. Cavan Biggio (2B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 SS/3B
I get the narrative. You sign three former major league star’s kids and have them work through the system together and arrive roughly at the same time. It’s the thing movies are made of. The problem is that Cavan Biggio is not at the level of Vlad Jr. and Bichette – not even close. In fact, after seeing him play multiple times in the Fall League, I question whether he’s more than a second division player.
Biggio did get off to a tremendous start in 2018. However, after a June and July where he hit below the Mendoza line, questions about his ultimate ceiling surfaced again. As August rolled around, he was back to his Spring form, batting .364 with a .773 SLG. The inconsistency is clearly not good and when you dig into the skills, there are red flags. First, the bat speed is not great and he’s only an average runner. But, if you look at the stat line, you see 147 strikeouts and 100 walks. While that’s too many strikeouts, the 100 walks are impressive. After seeing him though, the approach is passive and I saw him strikeout looking multiple times. Once he makes it the majors with guys who have plus control, the approach is just not going to work.
So, I’m clearly down on Biggio. Does he have a chance to be a solid major leaguer? Maybe, but I’m betting the under for now. If you own him in a Dynasty League, I would be moving him on the name and the narrative that clearly people are talking about.
11. Orelvis Martinez (SS)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
The Jays went in big when the signed Orelvis Martinez to a $3.5 million dollar signing bonus last July. As one of the Top International Free Agents, the Blue Jays hope they got a kid when future plus power who can also hit for average. Signed as a shortstop, at 5-11 and already 180 pounds, the likelihood of him staying at short is not high. In fact, I have put his future position at third base. For Dynasty League owners, sure he’s 16 and you’ll have to wait 5 or more years for him to develop, but $3.5 million dollars speak volume and the Jays are on a roll in developing Latin Players.
12. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
Sean Reid-Foley bounced back after a poor season in 2017 where he gave up 22 home runs to balloon his ERA to 5.09 in 27 starts in Double-A. He returned to the scene of the crime to begin the 2018 season and things went better and after eight starts, he was promoted to Triple-A. After 16 starts, he was promoted to the Major Leagues where he finished the year.
Reid-Foley has been on our Jays list since he was drafted as a teenager in 2014. We thought his ceiling was a mid-rotation starter when he was drafted and we believe that is still the case five seasons later. The stuff is solid with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 with average secondary pitches. He’s not a star, but he could be a serviceable starter on a fantasy league with a chance to pitch to slightly better than league average.
13. Miguel Hiraldo (3B)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
There is not one path to becoming a Major League player. Some start off as toolsy players who can’t hit and learn and others start off as hitters that you hope their secondary tools will develop (power and speed). Miguel Hiradlo falls into the second category. There’s no question he can hit. In 54 games in the DSL, he hit .313/.381 with a 30-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Blue Jays were impressed enough to promote him to the GCL and invite him to the Instructional League in the Fall.
Not only can he hit, but there is enough bat speed to suggest average future power and enough speed to suggest he’ll steal a few bases. I don’t see a star, but he could get full-time at-bats down the road. And when I say, down the road, we are talking five years away.
14. Logan Warmoth (SS/2B)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Words and baseball clichés like high-floor, safe, High Baseball IQ come to mind when describing Logan Warmoth. In other words, he’s a solid player who is likely a major leaguer, but the upside, particularly from a fantasy standpoint is likely limited. Why? There just isn’t enough power or speed to make it interesting for owners.
He can hit though and that should get him to the major leagues, but it could be as a utility player. In fact, he played both second and short last season and don’t be surprised if you see him manning the outfield to expand his defensive flexibility.
15. David Paulino (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
David Paulino was originally drafted by the Tigers but achieved prospect fame as part of the Houston Astros. He was traded as part of the Roberto Osuna trade over the summer and spent September in Toronto. But after making our Top 100 list in past years, he’s dropped this year. Injuries, disciplinary concerns and just his lack of development have soured us on the big 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher.
I’ve moved his ceiling to a closer and perhaps it was based on how the Jays handled him this year. The stuff is solid and in short spurts, his fastball should improve a grade. In fact, if healthy, which is a big if, I wouldn’t be surprised if he breaks camp next year with the big league club.