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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Daniel Norris, lhp|
|2. Aaron Sanchez, rhp|
|3. Jeff Hoffman, rhp|
|4. Dalton Pompey, of|
|5. Franklin Barreto, ss|
|6. Max Pentecost, c|
|7. Roberto Osuna, rhp|
|8. Richard Urena, ss|
|9. Miguel Castro, rhp|
|10. Sean Reid-Foley, rhp|
The Blue Jays entered this season with playoff aspirations after struggling in 2013 with a roster bolstered by several big trade acquisitions and seemingly primed for a run at the American League East title. That run came one year later, when Toronto paced the division early in the season.
The Blue Jays went 21-9 in May, spent 61 days in first place and had a six-game lead in early June. But Toronto never led the division again after the Fourth of July. So while the Jays were in playoff contention for the first time since general manager Alex Anthopoulos' inaugural year at the helm in 2010, Toronto extended its playoff drought to 21 seasons—since its back-to-back World Series championship seasons of 1992-93. With the Royals ending their streak, the Jays now own the longest empty stretch in the majors. Toronto's offense bounced back from its league average performance in 2013 to be a top-five offense in the game.
The offense was driven largely by its power, finishing third in home runs and isolated slugging. The The run prevention took a step forward from last year but was roughly average at best by both traditional and advanced metrics in both the rotation and bullpen. The rotation, a liability in 2013, performed better but remained in the bottom third of major league starting staffs, while the bullpen regressed. The trades to acquire major league veterans such as Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes two years ago shipped out numerous prospects—several of whom, such as Henderson Alvarez, Travis d'Arnaud, Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard—have become useful big leaguers or top prospects with the Marlins and Mets. Still, the 2014 season started to showcase the fruits of the organization's approach in the amateur markets under Anthopoulos. Righthander Marcus Stroman, No. 2 on this list a year ago, became one of the team's best starters as a rookie, going 11-6, 3.65, and became a rotation mainstay.
Three of the top four current prospects in the organization—lefthander Daniel Norris, righthander Aaron Sanchez and outfielder Dalton Pompey—also reached Toronto. The quartet forms the core of the next wave of Jays, with another wave coming from the lower levels and a strong 2014 draft class. Toronto selected college players with its first two picks for the first time since 2009. Athletic righthander Jeff Hoffman (No. 9) has the potential to pitch in the front half of a rotation if he returns healthy from Tommy John surgery, which he required prior to the draft.
Catcher Max Pentecost (No. 11) is a premium athlete with a broad skill set and two-way ability behind the plate. Every player to make the Top 30 Prospects list was drafted or signed internationally by the Jays as the organization continues to invest in building homegrown internal assets. The organization had a $137 million payroll in 2014, the largest in club history. It's unlikely the payroll will go up, so reinforcements for a 2015 will have to come internally.
Toronto boasts nearly major league-ready starters in Norris, righthander Kendall Graveman and lefthander Sean Nolin—though the bulk of the organization's potential impact talent is concentrated at the lower levels. Competing in the extremely difficult AL East, Toronto's hope of ending the playoff drought at 21 seasons will rely very heavily on its recent influx of home-grown pitchers.