2016 Toronto Blue Jays

Hitters

  • 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.  

Pitchers

Toronto’s UTR-OAS rankings the last two seasons resemble Boston’s, with the lack of pitchers repeating. The difference with the Blue Jay’s was that I hit on several quality pitchers, but the organization dealt them off t0 other teams. The likes of Kendall Graveman (OAK), Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris (DET) all made it the Show with their new clubs. Chase De Jong is doing very well with the LA Dodgers at Double-A Tulsa and getting one Triple-A start. Some of those listed last season faltered and thus won’t make a mention below. Connor Greene (7th Rd-2013) basically put-up identical peripherals according to TPS. He scored .101 in 2015 and .100 this season and dropped off the UTR radar with his mid-season promotion to Double-A New Hampshire. Greene did, however,  garner almost enough Factor Score points to be ranked, coming in at #6; nudging out  Angel Perdomo. The 2014 “One to Watch” LHP Shane Dawson started the 16′ season at New Hampshire, but struggled with control issues. One pitcher that showed promise within my system was Lupe Chavez, who was “just off my OTW radar” last Spring. Unfortunately, he was traded to Houston, so look for him to possibly arrive on the Astros UTR-OAS list in December. Top prospect Jeremy Gabryszwski (2nd Rd-2011) spent the whole season at New Hampshire and waned toward the end of the season by posting ERA’s above 7.50 the last two months. Hard-throwing right-hander Yennsy Diaz was my “One to Watch” for 2016 and also had command issues tacking on a 4.3 BB/9 rate and 5.79 ERA.
 
The two season’s internationally for the Blue Jay’s were about as dry as our Summer months in these parts. Joel Espinal was on my Watch List for this season and it was looking real good early on. The then 19-year-old made his U.S. debut in the Gulf Coast League and absolutely dominated,  posting a 0.62 ERA and 7.5 SO/BB ratio in 29 innings (5 starts). He was promptly promoted to the Appy League, and there, he met his match. The righty made 7 starts and saw his SO/BB ratio dip to 0.94 (18 BB/17 K) with a 8.62 ERA. After this season, my spreadsheet was loaded with numerous options to chose from for the 2017 International Watch List. Early leaders would be 20-year-old RHP Adams Cuevas, who posted the lowest TPS (.076) on my spreads, RHP Dany Jimenez, and LHP Elio Silva, who was listed within my Top 10. 
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / TPS
 
1.  RHP Francisco Rios – 23/.101 “Legit UTR / Instant Add
  • 21 years old (LoA Lansing / HiA Dunedin)
  • International Free Agent – 2102
  • I’ve said it numerous times…..my system isn’t perfect and I’m really not that comfortable touting it until it becomes tried and true. I continue to tweak and squeeze with different combinations, as you have already seen with this years’ UTR-OAS rankings. But when I begin my post-season breakdowns, and a kid like Francisco Rios rises to the top, it makes one very at ease that the direction you are heading in is solid. Just the other day (Oct 27th), during the Blue Jays Baseball America Prospect Chat, someone asked John Manuel about which under the radar prospect could make some noise. Mr. Manuel stated that no one has questioned about Francisco Rios, who he stated has a chance to be slated a middle-reliever or back-end starter soon. In working on my draft, I had already tagged Rios as a “Legit UTR with an Instant Add”. It’s a great feeling getting the reassurance and that we here are not leading our readers astray with some of our picks. Rios has a projectable frame that throws a mid-90’s fastball and flashes good secondary offerings.
2. RHP Sean Reid-Foley– 24/.071
  • 21 years old (Lo A Lansing/ HiA Dunedin)
  • 2nd round – 2014
  • 2015 Organizational All-Star – #1 TPS
  • Reid-Foley recently received the honor of being ranked within the top 5 in the Blue Jays system according to Baseball America. He also made the BA 2nd-Team Minor League All-Stars at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Reid-Foley advanced to HiA Dunedin with a much improved fastball that displayed good movement. He also whacked his BB/9 rate from 6.6 in 2015 to 3.0 this season. He missed quite a few bats striking out 130 over 115.1 innings, which is the most work he’s seen since turning pro. He did experience some elbow soreness that shutdown his season in early August.
 
3. RHP Jon Harris– 17 /.112
  • 22 years old (LoA Lansing / HiA Dunedin)
  • 1st round – 2015
  • Harris took a big step in 2016 after only throwing 36 innings with Short-Season Vancouver in 2015. He threw 129.2 innings and posted a 2.71 ERA, but his average control reared its ugly head with a 2.6 BB/9 and 6.9 K rates. Look for him to be back at HiA Dunedin to being 2017.
 
4. LHP Ryan Borucki–  16.5/.130
  • 22 years old (HiA Dunedin / LoA Lansing)
  • 15th round – 2012
  • 2015 “One to Watch”
  • It’s good to see Borucki back within a UTR list. He’s suffered many injuries starting with Tommy John surgery in 2013 and more elbow (along with shoulder) problems in 2015. He came back with a vengeance in 2014, but was limited to 57 innings. There were no limits this past season, as he threw 135.2 innings. He had a rough start at HiA Dunedin, which the organization then sent him to Lo-A Lansing where he posted nice stats. I read in a publication (memory fails me, sorry) this past Spring where Borucki’s situation was “sort-of” compared to the New York Mets’ Steven Matz. I’ll be watching in 2017 to see if 6’4″ –  175 lb. lefty can get back to the hype in choosing him as my 2015 OTW choice.
 
5. LHP – LHP Angel Perdomo 18.5/.070     “Legit UTR”
  • 22 years old (LoA Lansing)
  • International Free Agent – 2011
  • 2014 Organizational All-Star – #3 TPS (Relief)
  • 2015 Organizational All-Star – #2 TPS (Starter)
  • Perdomo recorded his first full season as a pro and was one of the most dominate pitchers in the Midwest League. The big-bodied lefty (6’6″ 200+ lbs.) makes a 3-peat as an UTR Organizational All-Star. He led the organization and Midwest League in strikeouts with 156 in 127 innings. He has an unique knack of throwing with deception with all three of his offerings. There is still room for some polish, but any indication of improvement over his 2016 performance, the Blue Jays have a gem on their hands.
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / TPS
 
1. RHP Starlyn Suriel – 5/.088
  • 22 year old – (LoA Lansing / Hi Dunedin / Double-A New Hampshire)
  • International Free Agent – 2013
2. RHP Jackson Lowery – 3/.087
  • 24 year old – (Hi Dunedin / Short-Season Vancouver / LoA Lansing)
  • Undrafted – 2015
3. RHP Jared Carkuff– 2/.071
  • 23 year old – (GCL Blue Jays / Short-Season Vancouver)
  • 35th round – 2016