2013 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.

    Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): In a recent BA podcast, John Manuel and Jim Callis described Toronto's system as "not as good as we thought it would be". Can we assume you would beg to differ with this assessment? Would you consider it to be the best in the A.L. East?

Nathan Rode: Good afternoon everyone. It's that wonderful time of year at BA. We've got Top 10s coming out just about every other day and we'll have some draft/college recruiting content for you next week. Without further ado let's get this chat rolling. Kelly's question is a great place to start. I don't know that I'd necessarily beg to differ on their opinion though I've had longer discussions with my co-workers than what may have been on the podcast. We all like the Blue Jays system very much. There's good depth in the organization with good pitching and up the middle guys with upside. But I think it tails off a bit after No. 9. Finding the 10th guy was a challenge. There were several players in the mix, but they all had some kind of significant concern. Stilson's role is likely as a reliever, albeit a very good one, but he has health concerns too. Daniel Norris has excellent upside, but he had an awful season that raised a lot of questions. A.J. Jimenez is showing he can handle the bat on top of his supreme defensive skills, but he had Tommy John surgery this season. Matt Smoral also has big upside, but he made two appearances in the spring before being injured and didn't see time on the mound until very late this year. I do think it's at or very near the top of the AL East though.

    Brad (Montreal): Where did Yan Gomes rank on your top 30, now that he's departed for Cleveland's system? Your thoughts on him overall?

Nathan Rode: The recently departed Yan Gomes was on my Top 30 that I sent to Jim Callis. He's versatile, with the ability to play catcher, third and first. He has bat speed and strength that lends to power. It's a solid acquisition for the Indians.

    Fred (Illinois): Do you see Syndergaard developing an effective change up? Do you see him as a starter without one?

Nathan Rode: Yes I do. I saw him pitch in 2011 and it seemed he had a little bit of feel then. It's just a matter of finding consistency for a young pitcher like him. Without it, it's harder to see him as a starter, but I don't think it'll be an issue. He's a front-of-the-rotation guy.

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): What was the deciding factor in ranking Jake Marisnick above Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard? Industry consensus appears to favour the two right handers over Marisnick, who struggled adjusting to Double-A.

Nathan Rode: This is a good question and one I definitely pondered before turning the list in. I know Marisnick struggled after his promotion, but there aren't a lot of guys that hit right away in Double-A. His hit tool was a question in high school and I think he's shown so far that he should be able to hit enough to be an everyday player. In the end, I gave him the edge because he was just a tick further along and still has that high ceiling. There's very little space between those three and you could mix them up in any order and have a very good defense.

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): How tough was it to rank the "Lansing 3" of Nicolino, Sanchez and Syndergaard? It's been discussed all year long, but how close was the final decision for you?

Nathan Rode: This seems like a good one to follow up with...the Lansing 3 are all very good, but the toughest part of the ranking was Syndergaard vs. Sanchez and that was probably the biggest discussion Jim Callis and I had. I've loved Sanchez since I saw him at the Tournament of Stars a few years back. If he can find average command, he's right there with Syndergaard and maybe a tick ahead. If his command develops better than that...look out.

    Fran (Hawaii): What have scouts said about Osuna's command?

Nathan Rode: There's a lot of love out there for Osuna. For a pitcher his age, he's very polished and has good command. When I saw him he was really working on fastball command so I didn't see a lot of offspeed stuff, but he located to both sides of the plate very well and that's what I hear from evaluators as well. His conditioning and body was a concern when he signed, but it looks like he's done a very good job of keeping that in check so I'm sure those worries have been tempered a good bit.

    Gary (Queens, NY): Could D.J. Davis pose a serious threat to Hamilton's stolen base record in the foreseeable future?

Nathan Rode: In a word...no. D.J. Davis is very fast and some scouts in the draft thought his speed would rival Hamilton's, but Davis doesn't have the same quickness as him. Davis could be a very good base stealer, but I don't think we're going to see someone approach Hamilton's record for a long time.

    Carly Rae Byron (New York, Maybe): Im suprised to see Christian Lopes as the second base of the future. Does he have the bat and glove to be a regular, or is this just a testament to how little the Blue Jays have as up the middle infield prospects? Thanks!

Nathan Rode: I do think Lopes has the bat and glove to be a solid player, but him in the lineup is more a testament to the lack of options the Blue Jays have there. Yunel Escobar's troubles are well documented and Mike Aviles was in that slot until he was traded obviously. Although, take this into account...I heard Dwight Smith Jr. was given some short looks at second base in instructional league. It wasn't nearly a long enough trial to make a fair judgement on his abilities there, but it's at least a thought in the organization that's being entertained.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Nathan, does your gut tell you Sean Nolin is a starter, or a bullpen guy? Thanks.

Nathan Rode: I think he profiles as a starter, but for an organization like the Blue Jays he might crack the rotation with the depth and options they have to fill one out. He has an average fastball, plus changeup and solid curveball that shows some potential.

    Jack (Geneva, IL): I'm dumb, Derek Norris not making the list is not much of a surprise. No Daniel Norris, eh?

Nathan Rode: Glad you caught yourself Jack...there's a few questions about Norris. I honestly don't really know what to make of his season and I got that feeling from several others too. The stuff is there, despite his velocity being down quite a bit this season, and if you look at the stats he's striking guys out a good clip and not walking a lot of batters. He just got hit, hard and frequently. There were some delivery concerns on him in high school and he seemed to get out of sync this season which led to poor command and leaving the ball up in the zone too much. I think he has the stuff and mindset to turn things around, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned.

    gerry (Toronto): How were the opinions on Chris Hawkins? At times he hit very well, other times he struggled.

Nathan Rode: He makes consistent contact, though it's not always with authority. He tends to expand the zone and put balls in play that he can't drive. He needs to be more selective.

    Horatio (Toronto): Hi Nathan, thanks for the chat. I am wondering which you heard anything of note about any of the Jays late round 2012 draft picks, any interesting sleepers in that bunch?

Nathan Rode: Keep an eye on Ryan Borucki out of Mundelein (Ill.) HS. Toronto took him in the 15th round and signed him for $426,000. He has some injury history that will give you pause, but when he's healthy he's a lefty with a lively 90-93 mph fastball and developing offspeed stuff.

    Andrew (Connecticut): Nathan, I remember sitting next to you watching Asher Wojciechowski pitch in a game at Elon a few years ago. He had impressive stuff with some good velocity but I recall his velocity dropped off some in 2011. Any word on what his stuff looked like in 2012 and what to project for him down the road? It looks like he made some progress this season.

Nathan Rode: He was pretty filthy that night wasn't he? Dominated my alma mater...and Elon's head coach Mike Kennedy gets a lot of credit for the development of Wojo's slider thanks to their time with Team USA. Pretty ironic. Since he wasn't in the organization I didn't really get into Wojo with anybody, but from what I hear it seems his stuff may have come back a little bit. He didn't dominate, but the numbers look good. I still think he fits better in the bullpen. Let the fastball/slider combo play up in short stints.

    Feng (New York): I understand that Osuna is labeled as really mature for his age, which seems to be why No.3 ceiling is given to him in most place. However, his velocity has ticked up this year and I've heard that he hits 96/97 and sits at 92-94. Isn't it conceivable for his fastball to tick up even higher given his age? Why is there such pessimism about his projection?

Nathan Rode: I don't think anyone is really shocked his velo has increased since signing. He was so young and had some projection so when he turned some baby fat to muscle it figured to bring the fastball along. The thing about his remaining projection is that there's just not a ton left. He's not your typical 6-foot-4+, lean pitcher with room to fill out. He's listed at 6-2, 230 and there isn't much room to fill out. But he's shown he's capable of staying in shape so far so it's not as big of a concern as it was.

    Dan (TO): What was the industry reaction to the Blue Jays aggresive approach to the first draft under MLB's new rules? Was there much shock that they basically punted the latter half of the top 10 rounds?

Nathan Rode: I don't think there was much shock that they did that just because they had to if they had a prayer of signing those top guys. I've talked to a few people that see both sides of it. They like the gamble on upside, but the best point I heard from a front office person was that they're looking for big leaguers in each round at the prices slotted. So they'd rather take a guy with maybe a lower upside because he fits into the cost and they might have him as a safer bet to contribute in the big leagues. The Jays' draft is really boom or bust. There's a ton of upside in those top picks and it could go very, very well for them. But at the same time, it could go really poorly. Stroman is about as safe a bet as you can get. Davis has a high ceiling and feel for hitting, but the track record of Mississippi high schoolers isn't very good. Smoral has excellent upside, but he hasn't pitched much this year so there's still a lot of projecting on him. Who knows if Alford will ever see a baseball field again. Tyler Gonzales has electric stuff, but scouts were already talking about him being a reliever (albeit a setup man or closer) during the draft.

    Jack (Toronto): How many of the Jays top 10 would make the MLB top 100 prospects list? 5 for sure and a few maybes?

Nathan Rode: We're all still a ways off from putting our lists together, but the first four are in for sure for me. Then Nicolino, Osuna and Stroman would be in consideration.

    Dale Smith (Toronto): If Anthony Gose and Drew Hutchison were still eligible for the list, what would their ranking be?

Nathan Rode: Both would be in the Top 10. Gose would be in that mix with Marisnick, Syndergaard and Sanchez. Hutchison I'd have behind the Lansing 3, maybe behind Osuna and Stroman too though not for sure.

    Jerry (Toronto, ON): Travis d'Arnaud is widely considered as perhaps the best catcher in the minors. Yet, you gave the title of "Best Defensive Catcher" to A.J. Jimenez this year. What does he possess that Travis doesn't?

Nathan Rode: I think you're running into some semantics there. I think d'Arnaud is the best catching prospect in the minors in that he's the best prospect that plays catcher. He's a good defender and I don't see any major reasons why he won't stay there, but Jimenez is a superior defender. He has better arm strength, is quicker, is a better receiver. He's thrown out 42 percent of base stealers so far in his career while d'Arnaud is usually hovers in that 25-30 percent range, which is obviously good. If d'Arnaud can do that in the big leagues while hitting what he's capable of then he's an all-star. But in the very specific category of best defensive catcher, Jimenez is the guy. And he received that vote overwhelmingly from Jays personnel too.

    Greg (ohio): Any concerns about Justin Nicolino's size & future workload, durability? 6'3" 160 lbs is a very slight build.

Nathan Rode: I haven't heard any concerns over it, but 160 is the only slight part of that frame. He may weigh more than that now. Sometimes those listed heights and weights don't get updated quickly or even frequently. He has the height and projection to fill out and add strength.

    Warren (New London): Thanks for the chat. Can you please reassure me that Marcus Stroman isn't the new Jeremy Jeffress?

Nathan Rode: Don't know how much I can really convince you simply through a chat, but he's not. Jeffress has gotten into trouble for recreational things. Stroman's was performance enhancing, but I don't think it really made a difference in his game and I like to think it won't be an issue for him moving forward.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Mike McDade seems to be the last man standing from the 2007 draft. Any chance he sees the big leagues next year?

Nathan Rode: I do think there's a chance, but I don't think he's really going to be a factor for them unless a lot of guys get hurt (which is obviously possible as evidenced by 2012). Encarnacion and Cooper are ahead of him right now and then you factor in the possibility that someone like d'Arnaud might force his way into a lineup that would cause some shifting among positions.

    Wes Iredale (Cincinnati, OH): Has Brett Lawrie's projected ceiling dropped a little bit from what was seen before the 2012 season started? Or was it just a matter of injuries limiting his results last year? Thanks.

Nathan Rode: I don't think his ceiling has necessarily dropped much. Injuries have bitten him some, but I also think he's still in that adjustment period. Pitchers probably figured him out after his debut and he's now at that point where he has to make his own adjustments at the plate. I wouldn't be concerned.

    Paul (Denver CO): Did Deck McGuire's stock fall in your eyes this past season? About how far down the list did he fall?

Nathan Rode: It certainly did. It took a little hit even last year, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt in the rankings. He's just not commanding his pitches like he needs to. When his command is on, he's good, but it's been far too inconsistent for him to find success. He's in the Top 30, but he took a sizeable hit. You'll have to buy the book to see exactly where he landed!

    Mike (Tampa, FL): What exactly did Stroman test positive for, to those uninformed? Is this likely to delay the plan to aggressively promote him to the bigs by a noticeable margin?

Nathan Rode: Methylhexaneamine. It obviously delays his progress since he'll miss 50 games, but I still think he moves quickly in a relief role and could be in the big leagues by the end of 2013. You can see our short blog on his suspension here: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/2012/08/josh-sale-marcus-stroman-to-serve-50-game-suspensions/

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): Hey Nathan, can you give us an update on some of the young hitters from the 2011 draft, notably Matt Dean, Jacob Anderson and Dwight Smith Jr.? What are the odds that each of those players starts the 2013 season with Class-A Lansing?

Nathan Rode: Man it was a tough year for those guys. Dean and Smith were on the list I turned in with Anderson on the outside looking in, but close enough that he could sneak back in before we finalize things. While I have concerns about all of those guys, I'm least concerned about Smith. He hardly swings and misses and the contact he makes is always hard. I watched 2-3 games of him this summer and he made loud contact every time, but it was right at guys. Of that group, Lopes stands out the most. He had fallen out of favor after being 'famous' in high school, but put up good numbers this year, showed good instincts and has good bat speed.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Are you reasonably confident that Alford will choose baseball in the future? How close was he to the top 10?

Nathan Rode: I thought about him for that 10th spot, but I just don't know how much he'll see the diamond in the future. I hope he chooses baseball simply because he's a freak athlete with plus speed and power. Just look at the photo on his high school's baseball site (http://www.petalbaseball.com/). He's the one soaring over the dog pile on the left. But he obviously loves football and might have a future in that.

    Frank (Chicago): Your input on the progress of Adonys Cardona? Is he a future frontline rotation guy to you?

Nathan Rode: Not a good sign repeating the GCL and having the numbers he did. Signs point to him being a reliever.

    Dan (TO): Which of the prospects sent to Houston in the JA Happ trade had the most upside, and was likely the hardest for the Blue Jays to part with?

Nathan Rode: I really liked Kevin Comer. I don't think the Jays are really sweating over any of those guys, but he'd be the one I would've had the hardest time parting with. He's a good athlete with a fastball that could be plus down the road and his curvebal showed a lot of potential as well. Carlos Perez is a solid catcher with a feel for the barrel, but he'll need to show he can hit above A-ball. I like Wojo in some ways too. He'd slide in between Comer and Perez for me I think.

Nathan Rode: Ok folks that's gonna do it for me. Lots of really good questions. Much more thoughtful (and civil) than some Facebook posts I've seen the last 24 hours. Come back Friday as John Manuel wraps up the AL East with the Yankees Top 10. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@bahighschool) and look for a High School Top 100 next week!