Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects Chat With Nathan Rode




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Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.


    Nora (DC): How far off the top 10 was Hechavarria?

Nathan Rode: Greetings everyone! What do you say we get this show started? I had an absolute blast writing up the Blue Jays list this year. Last season the challenge was finding 30 guys I was excited about. This year it was tough to keep it under 40. On to Nora's question. Hechavarria was very, very close. I strongly considered him for the Top 10, but left him off in the end simply because I was a little more confident in the 10 listed. That's not really a knock on Hechavarria though. It's more a testament to the Jays' system. It's pretty darn deep now.

    JAYPERS (IL): I'm curious as to how Arencibia fell five spots since last year's list, especially given the year he's had. While his defense may need some tweaking, no one can deny his bat is certainly legit and major league ready. You said it yourself that he will soon be their everyday catcher. Was it merely a case of the three 2010 draft picks in the list pushing him down, or did his stock drop at all in your opinion?

Nathan Rode: Upset city, Jaypers wasn't the first questioned answered. I may have done that on purpose though...You nailed it with the draft picks point. There was a big influx of talent this year and it pushed a lot of guys down the list even though their stock may not have necessarily dropped. I don't think Arencibia's dropped, but I do think d'Arnaud has moved him front of him for long-term purposes. But Arencibia's power is undeniable. I'm just not sure he'll hit for much average and he may end up being pushed from behind the plate because d'Arnaud is the superior defender. With that being said, if Arencibia hits .250-.260 with 30 home runs and provides just solid defense...I know a lot of teams that will take that in a heart beat.

    Morris (PA): Last year, the Jays ranked 28th overall, according to the Handbook. While I realize your staff hasn't put together your rankings for next year, would they sniff your personal Top 10? Top 5?

Nathan Rode: While I haven't stacked them up against the other 29 teams, I think the Jays are easily in the Top 10, for me at least. Top 5 isn't out of the question either. The one knock against it is that while there is a lot of upside, a lot of these guys are far away from the major leagues.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): If Overbay walks, is there any way in the world David Cooper is a dark horse candidate for first base? Perhaps with a good spring training he puts himself in the discussion.

Nathan Rode: I don't think so. Cooper needs to show more with the bat and he doesn't seem ready for the big leagues. He also needs to work more on his defense. I believe there might be an outside chance that if comes out of the gate well, he might find himself in the big leagues by the end of the season, but I wouldn't really bet on it at this point. Someone else will have to man first base next season.

    Bryan (San Francisco): Is Eric Thames a prospect? Seems like he put up very good numbers in his second full season, and it was the first time he had been healthy in a while. Does he have a chance at cracking Toronto's lineup in 2011? What is his ceiling? Thanks for the chat!

Nathan Rode: Absolutely he's a prospect. I'm a big fan of this guy. Without the huge addition of talent through the draft and international signings, Thames would have made the Top 10. He was considered for it even with the influx. I think it's possible you'll see him in Toronto at some point in 2011, probably in the second half. He just needs to stay healthy. There's a good chance of that though because he shifted his offseason focus. He still lifts, but he's incorporated yoga into his routine so he can be more flexible. That clearly paid off in 2010. He's very strong and will be an offense-minded left fielder. He can hit for average and power. He can be an average defender in left.

    Dawson (Calgary, Alberta): You said Stewart has two plus pitches, an average third one, and good command. That sounds like front of the rotation starter, if not number two starter, to me.

Nathan Rode: I said the third pitch, a changeup, "has the potential to become an average offering." Doesn't mean it is or necessarily will be. It's a matter of consistency. But if it does, I can see him be a No. 2-3. I don't throw a No. 1 label out very often and I wouldn't with Stewart.

    Charlie (Houston): The draft report card said that Kellen Sweeney has a plus bat and plus power and can stay at third. Would you agree with this? Could he become an all star?

Nathan Rode: Mostly, yes. He's an advanced hitter and could develop plus power as he gets stronger. It's not quite there yet. I think he can stay at third. He's a better defender than most players his age and he has enough arm. If not, I had reports that said he could play second as well. I like Sweeney more and more every day.

    Drew M (Toronto, Ontario): Adeiny Hechavarria didn't make the top 10 despite all the publicity as a sought-after SS prospect from Cuba. Are the Jays top 10 really that good or did Hechavarria's stock drop after his first season with the Jays? On a different subject - who do you see getting the the majors quicker? Marisnick or Gose?

Nathan Rode: I'll try to put Hechavarria concerns to bed here. The system is that good and Hechavarria didn't have an overwhelming debut. Don't be troubled. He's a good defender that will stay at short. He has a quick bat that make evaluators think he'll hit for average. He won't have much power, maybe 10-12 home runs a year, but with his defense and speed that's not a problem. As for Marisnick/Gose, I'll go with Gose simply because he has a bit of a head start. He has a full season in High A already while Marisnick has just a handful of at-bats in Low A.

    Mike (Minnesota): Future starting SS—Hechavarria, Justin Jackson, Tolisano, or someone else? Who's got the highest upside of these three?

Nathan Rode: Hechavarria and Hechavarria. I'm not counting on much from Jackson and Tolisano anymore. Four seasons, none above A-ball.

    Jon (Peoria): How surprised were you that the Blue Jays acquired Olivo? What does this mean for Arencibia's future with them next year? Will they platoon?

Nathan Rode: They traded for him and immediately declined his option so I wouldn't expect to see him in Toronto. The Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration since he's a Type B free agent. Then they'll get compensation in the 2011 draft if he declines and signs elsewhere. It's actually a shrewd move but there's always risk in any move. I suspect Arencibia and Jose Molina will be the pair sharing time.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): Hi Nathan: How far has the stock of Ahrens and Jackson fallen? Can either one project to be a big league regular?

Nathan Rode: Pretty far. I wouldn't count on it for either.

    Ryan (Elon, NC): Nasty Nate, What have you been hearing on Chad Jenkins? He's been pretty hittable so far in his MiLB career, and with a GB-heavy pitcher like him, it's tough to figure how much slack to cut him in light of playing in front of a minor league (and possibly substandard) defense. I expected him to move fairly quickly, but although more Ks would be nice, it's tough for me to see him as a disappointment thus far. How's his stuff looking, and is my cautious optimism on him warranted? Thanks!

Nathan Rode: Good question Swanzinator. Jenkins is a workhorse type. He'll go for a lot of bad, early contact so he can get ground balls and pitch deep into games. I wouldn't look for a lot of strikeouts from him, but he won't walk many guys either. His sinker is still a plus pitch and the slider has the potential to be plus. It just needs some consistency. I wouldn't look at him as a disappointment. I would've liked to have seen him start in High A and for from there, but I'm not really concerned with him at this point.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Where does Sam Dyson begin next year? If his arm holds up, would you take him over Stewart as the closer of the future?

Nathan Rode: Just underwent Tommy John surgery so he'll miss 2011. I'd give Stewart every chance to start at this point. And I'd like to see Dyson stay healthy. I'll go Stewart at this point.

    Jon (Peoria): I was surprised that Henderson Alvarez didn't make the list. What kept him off? How do you see his ceiling?

Nathan Rode: I had him in the Top 10 early, but I was concerned with the lack of swing/miss stuff. He found some more velocity and still has the good changeup, and command, but he didn't strike many guys out and gave up a lot of hits. He may have simply thrown too many strikes if you can imagine that. It was a learning experience for Alvarez. If he misses some more bats and his breaking ball becomes more consistent he can be a mid-rotation guy.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): How much of the stagnation with the high school hitters from the 2007 draft can be attributed to the coaching/instruction in the system?

Nathan Rode: This actually kind of came up in a conversation I had with a scout recently. While the coaching aspect might have played somewhat of a role, I'd look more at the scouting side. Just glancing at the 2001-2006 drafts, I counted four or five high school picks in the first 10 rounds. Then in 2007 they took five in the first 10 rounds. Granted, they had extra picks that year, but after being so college-heavy for so long you have to wonder if they really knew how to project on high school players. That's the bigger part of it for me.

    ryan (ns): Nathan, What are scouts saying about Drew Hutchison? Was he a near miss for this list or a little further down the top 30?

Nathan Rode: Hutchison is a good one to watch. He's polished, 90-92 with the fastball and has a good slider. He shows feel for a changeup too. He's athletic and repeats well which leads to good command. He's further down the top 30, but still pretty good. There was another question about him making it to Double-A in 2011. I wouldn't count on it. He'll start with Lansing next season and might have a shot at High A. But I'd look for him in Double-A in 2012.

    K.S. (Batavia): So, if Kellen Sweeney is a potential All-Star caliber player, w/power and good average potential...how does he not make this top-10 list? Is he in the 11-20 range then?

Nathan Rode: Who said all-star potential? Like I've said, this is a very deep list so it was tough to crack for a lot of very good prospects. I don't like putting an all-star potential label on a guy unless he'll be a perennial all-star because a lot of guys can be an all-star a time or two based on popularity. I don't think Sweeney is a perennial all-star, but the only thing that kept him out of the top 10 is the depth. It's really, really good.

    carlos (toronto): Moises Sierra 11-20?

Nathan Rode: It was kind of a lost year for Sierra because of injuries. I won't divulge where he ranked because you should buy the Prospect Handbook (available for pre-order here: https://www.baseballamerica.com/store/store.cgi?browse=cat_books). He'll play some winter ball to catch up on at-bats and try to get back on track in 2011.

    Bart (Toronto, ON): We were very excited to learn of the signing of Adonis Cardona. What is the word on him? Is he on your overall 30?

Nathan Rode: He's in the 30. He has a projectable frame and will likely add to his fastball that already sits 89-91 and touches 93. He needs work on his secondary stuff and the delivery is a little violent. It's way too early to label him as a starter or reliever, but there are some good ingredients to start with.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): There appears to be an increasing boomlet for Darin Mastroianni within the ranks of Blue Jays Nation. Though he seems to have been permanently consigned to the ranks of fourth-outfielderdoom by most, do you see him making any kind of impact with the parent club next year?

Nathan Rode: He was 24-25 at Double-A this season and will likely see a lot of time in Triple-A next season. If he gets to Toronto in 2011 I think it'll be as an extra outfielder and pinch runner. There's some value with his speed but I don't see him having a really big impact for the Jays.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Lansing should have one of the more loaded minor league squads next year, correct?

Nathan Rode: Tom is clearly bored at work today. Yes, Lansing will be pretty loaded. Off the top of my head you'll see Marisnick, Sweeney, Hutchison, Crouse, Knecht, Sanchez, Perez, Hobson and Pierre there in 2011. Maybe even Griffin Murphy and Thon at some point.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Do you think Daniel Webb works strictly as a bullpen guy next year?

Nathan Rode: I think the Jays will let him start for a while longer. It'll help give him more development if he's throwing more innings than a reliever. I like the idea of letting a guy start in the minors until he proves he can't do it. I'd only move a guy to the bullpen if I knew if he was better off there and would move a lot quicker. I don't think that's the case with Webb. There's a lot he needs to do to keep progressing.

    Kyle (NH): Brad Emaus had a very good year by all accounts between AA and AAA this year. Any chance he factors into the Blue Jays plans at 2nd (would need a Hill injury I suppose) or 3rd next year? I personally like the guy, but I only have the stats to go by.

Nathan Rode: I like him too and I think there's a chance you'll see him in the big leagues at some point in 2011. He doesn't quite have the power to profile at third, but he's shown an ability to hit and get on base.

    K.S. (Batavia): You just said "Mostly, yes" when Charlie asked you earlier in this chat if Kellen Sweeney had all-star potential...check the queue, brother...

Nathan Rode: If you want to get picky, I agreed mostly with the plus bat and plus power part of the question. Could he become an all-star? At some point, sure, since it's based on fan voting. But he's not a perennial all-star.

    Lloyd (Lakewood): Hi Nathan, With 3 ctachers in the top ten, who ultimately gets the big league job? Rob from Alaska asks: Great list, thanks for the chat. Can't really quibble with the placement of Carlos Perez after d'Arnaud and Arencibia, but would it be fair to say he has the highest ceiling of the three? He seems exceptionally well-rounded for such a young player.

Nathan Rode: Trying to answer a couple questions in this one. I'd ultimately say d'Arnaud gets the job. He's the better defender of the three and the most well-rounded. Arencibia clearly has the best power, then d'Arnaud, then Perez. Perez will probably hit for the best average, then d'Arnaud, then Arencibia. Then it's d'Arnaud-Perez-Arencibia on defense. Some Jays personnel even told me they felt that Perez was athletic enough to play elsewhere on the diamond, like third or second. Here's what you should take from it: There are options, which is a big deal. Say Cooper doesn't pan out. Arencibia has the power for first base and d'Arnaud would catch. There's also a better chance of having an everyday catcher in the future when you have three that show the potential.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Nathan, thanks for the chat. Your thoughts on the junior Thon? And I'm sneaking in a HS Q here: top player for you at Jupiter this year?

Nathan Rode: He's a good athlete with good strength. He's not a flashy defender at short but looks to be steady over there. He has good power potential as well. Top player from Jupiter: Josh Bell. It was hard to convince myself to watch other games when I knew he was playing.

    Jeff (LA): How close did Chris Hawkins come to cracking the top 10?

Nathan Rode: Not very close. He's in the 30, but toward the back. It's unclear what position he'll play right now. He played SS in high school, but moved to third in pro ball while seeing some time in left. Some thought he could play center with his plus speed, but a corner might be best. He needs to iron some things out in his swing. His arm is average but he has a quick release. Couple that with his speed and the arm grade may play up a little.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Would you say, at this point, that Michael McDade is the only hitter from the 2007 draft class whom has a chance of making an impact at the big league level?

Nathan Rode: If you're referring to the high school picks specifically, then yes, and even that's a small chance. But the Jays also got Arencibia and Emaus that year.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Who's more projectable, Sanchez or Syndergaard?

Nathan Rode: Sanchez. He has a lot more room to fill out. Syndergaard isn't maxed out, but he's a big, big dude already. Might be 6-foot-6, 215 at this point and might be a 6-6, 6-7, 230-pound guy when it's all said and done. His fastball touched 95 in instructs. He has a good changeup and can spin a breaking ball.

    Dan (D.C): Hmmm, you certainly know more about it than I do, but I was surprised to see you describe the Jays as a top 5-10 system. Is there just THAT much depth? I don't see a lot of star power behind Drabek.

Nathan Rode: I do think so. There is a lot of depth and it goes well beyond Marisnick at No. 10. You'll have to get the Prospect Handbook to see for yourself. Like I said the big thing with this system is there a lot of upside, but it's far away. But look at the Royals. They are a candidate to be the top system in baseball. But at this time last year, many of their guys hadn't played above High A. Now a bunch of them proved it Double-A and the system looks a lot better. I think the Jays are a Top 10 system, but I don't have the final say. If they ended up 10-15, I don't think I'd be terribly upset. But there's also some good college guys with polish on this list that could easily find themselves finishing 2011 in Double-A.

Nathan Rode: That's going to do it for me today everyone. I've got to go meet with Conor Glassey and hash out our High School Top 100 list now. I'm on Twitter, @bahighschool, and will try to answer some Blue Jays questions there if you have them. Otherwise, it's all about high school prospects. Thanks for all the questions and sorry for not getting to all of them. All of them were really good. So long everybody!