- C – Ryan Hissey – 22 yo
- 2.32/.563 – PAG/APPA (LoA Lansing)
- 2016 stats: .246/.310/.337; .647 OPS; 19 doubles, 4 home runs .992 Fld%; 27% CS
As much as I hate to come across as negative, the 2014 William and Mary draftee simply defaulted as this year’s OAS choice. Hissey debuted in 2015 with a combined 2.92/.711 for the Gulf Coast League and then Short Season Vancouver. He was promoted to LoA Lansing this season and hit a wall. Hissey offers good defensive chops, but there is a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball. There are a few good catchers toiling in the Jays lower minors. However, I don’t think top catching prospects Max Pentecost or Dan Jansen have to look over their shoulders anytime soon.
- 1B – Bradley Jones – 21 yo
- 4.36/1.039 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Bluefield)
- 2016 stats: .291/.336/.578; .914 OPS; 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 16 stolen bases. .993 Fld%
Guys like Bradley Jones remind me of the fantasy football adage that says you can always wait to draft a quarterback. You don’t need that stud because there’s always a great option further down in the draft. Well, the Blue Jays did a great job waiting until the 18th round of the 2016 draft to grab the 6’1″ – 200 lb. lefty out of the University of Charleston (SC). Jones brought to the Jays a strong combination of power, speed and good defense. He hit the ground running in the Appalachian League leading Rookie Bluefield in hits (69) and doubles, while his 55 RBi’s, 16 home runs and 137 total bases led the entire league. With top prospect Rowdy Tellez poised to see AAA Buffalo in 2017, I envision Jones being assigned to Short Season Vancouver. With a hot start, he could see LoA Lansing by seasons end.
- 2B – Cavan Biggio – 22 yo
- 2.90/.643 combined – PAG/APPA (SS Vancouver – 2.96/.660; LoA Lansing – 2.56/.548)
- 2016 stats combined: .273/.371/.349; .720 OPS; 12 doubles, 3 triples
With Devon Travis manning the keystone at the Rogers Center for the foreseeable future, the Blue Jays second base vector is pretty wide open in the low minors. Andy Burns is the lone second baseman listed in a few Toronto top prospect lists, but after making his major league debut at 25-years-old, he’s destined for a utility role. That leaves us with promising young kids John La Prise and this year’s OAS choice Cavan Biggio. La Prise garners quite a bit of praise due to his bat-to-ball skills and overall athleticism. However, in direct statistical comparison, the son of former Houston Astro great Craig, had a better season. After being taken in the 5th round out of Notre Dame this year, Biggio began in Short Season Vancouver batting .282 with 11 doubles, yet it was his 29:28 BB:K rate that was most impressive. The 6’1″ – 200 lb. lefty saw a late-August promotion to LoA Lansing, which is where I predict Biggio will spend all of 2017.
- 3B – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 17 yo
- 3.74/.841 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Bluefield)
- 2016 stats: .271/359/.449; .808 OPS; 12 doubles, 8 home runs; 33:35 BB:K ratio.
There’s the old song lyric that says, “You got to know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em.” Well, when it comes to the UTR vision, we have to know when it’s a good idea to not bother looking for a “notspect” when a system boasts one of the best players in all the minors. In looking at top third base prospect Vladmir Guerrero Jr’s numbers, you’d think that they’re evenly comparable to other kids. But when you take into account that the son of former great Vladimir Guerrero Sr. is playing in the Appalachian League at only 17-years-old, against competition four years his senior? That’s when it hits you how damn good this kid is now, and is going to be. He’s an absolute beast. So, soak it in because he’s only going to get better.
- SS – Bo Bichette – 18 yo
- 5.73/1.385 – PAG/APPA (Gulf Coast League Blue Jays)
- 2016 stats: .427/.732/.; 1.182 OPS; 9 doubles, 4 home runs .983 Fld%
Here again lies the issue where the “notspects” are no match for those who rank amongst the best in the system. Twenty-year-old Dominican Richard Urena sits stop the Blue Jays prospect rankings and he should. He’s a switch-hitting uber-athlete with power, speed to spare and making enough defensive strides to be a major league regular at the position. However, Bichette, a 2016 – 2nd rounder out of Lakewood HS (St. Petersburg, FL) made a pretty big splash in his pro debut. The son of former Colorado Rockie great Dante Bichette, Bo was assigned to the GCL where the 6’1″ – 200 lb. righty killed GCL pitching. In only 22 games, Bichette still lead his GCL squad in RBi’s with 36. Bichette may receive an aggressive promotion skipping SS Hudson Valley and heading straight to LoA Lansing.
- LF – Connor Panas – 23 yo
- 2.88/.7.36 – PAG/APPA (LoA Lansing)
- 2016 stats: .231/.343/.430; .773 OPS; 10 doubles, 16 home runs
When you look at the offensive calling card for the left field position, aside from Panas’ batting average, he’s exactly what you want. The 2015 – 9th rounder out of Canisius College (Buffalo, NY) hits for power, fields his position well, has a strong arm. Tools that also describe a third baseman, which is the 6’0″ – 215 pounders natural position. But the Blue Jays shifted Panas to the outfield and while polishing his glove/route skills, he’s held his own in two seasons as a pro. He posted a combined 3.14/.792 PAG/APPA in his pro debut with Gulf Coast League and Short Season Vancouver. This year, he regressed a little, but still ranked 3rd in the Midwest League in home runs.
- CF – Joshua Palacios – 20 yo
- 3.10/.708 combined – PAG/APPA (GCL – 2.85/.698; SS Vancouver – 3.50/.778; LoA Lansing – 2.22/.500)
- 2016 stats combined: .330/.397/.426; .824 OPS
It’s no secret that 2012 – 3rd rounder Anthony Alford is centerfielder of the future in Toronto. The Mississippi native was a pre-season top 50 overall prospect in most major prospect publications; and if he stays healthy, his natural athleticism and baseball acumen should push him to the Rogers Center by 2018. Hopefully Palacios, a 2016 – 4th rounder out of Auburn University could be right on his heels. Palacios can flat out hit. In his final season at Auburn, he challenged for the SEC batting title before suffering an injured wrist while diving for a fly ball on April 7th vs. Missouri. The switch-hitter controls the strike zone, makes hard contact and shows occasional power. He has good speed and went errorless in 2016. I envision Palacios playing a full-season at LoA Lansing.
- RF – Jonathan Davis – 24 yo
- 3.46/.801 – PAG/APPA (HiA Dunedin)
- 2016 stats: .252/.376/.441; .818 OPS; 21 doubles, 14 home runs; 33 stolen bases.
I can’t recall the last time, (if ever) when I placed a hitter on my UTR OAS list that heading into the following season, he will no longer qualify. That’s ok, because it’s an annual All-Star list; and if there’s any Blue Jay that deserves to be on the list this year, it’s the 2013 – 15th rounder out of the University of Central Arkansas. The 5’8″ – 190 lb. righty packs big power inside his small frame. The ranked 3rd in the Florida State League in runs scored (74), triples (8) and walks (70), his 14 home runs ranked 5th and his 33 stolen bases were three shy of Yankee Jorge Mateo‘s league-leading 36.