Toronto Blue Jays: Top 10 Prospects

1. Adam Lind, of
2. Travis Snider, of
3. Ricky Romero, lhp
4. Ryan Patterson, of
5. Curtis Thigpen, c
6. Francisco Rosario, rhp
7. Brandon Magee, rhp
8. Jesse Litsch, rhp
9. David Purcey, lhp
10. Balbino Fuenmayor, 3b
Best Hitter for Average Adam Lind
Best Power Hitter Travis Snider
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Curtis Thigpen
Fastest Baserunner Adam Calderone
Best Athlete Yuber Rodriguez
Best Fastball Francisco Rosario
Best Curveball Chi-Hung Chen
Best Slider Brandon Magee
Best Changeup Ricky Romero
Best Control Josh Banks
Best Defensive Catcher Brian Jeroloman
Best Defensive Infielder Jonathan Diaz
Best Infield Arm Sergio Santos
Best Defensive Outfielder Chris Emanuele
Best Outfield Arm Brian Pettway
Catcher Curtis Thipgen
First Base Lyle Overbay
Second Base Russ Adams
Third Base Troy Glaus
Shortstop Aaron Hill
Left Field Travis Snider
Center Field Vernon Wells
Right Field Alex Rios
Designated Hitter Adam Lind
No. 1 Starter Roy Halladay
No. 2 Starter A.J. Burnett
No. 3 Starter Ricky Romero
No. 4 Starter Dustin McGowan
No. 5 Starter Gustavo Chacin
Closer B.J. Ryan
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Roy Halladay, rhp Blue Jays
1998 Roy Halladay, rhp Blue Jays
1999 Roy Halladay, rhp Blue Jays
2000 Vernon Wells, of Blue Jays
2001 Vernon Wells, of Blue Jays
2002 Josh Phelps, c Tigers
2003 Dustin McGowan, rhp Blue Jays
2004 Alex Rios, of Blue Jays
2005 Brandon League, rhp Blue Jays
2006 Dustin McGowan, rhp Blue Jays
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Vernon Wells, of Blue Jays
1998 Felipe Lopez, ss Nationals
1999 Alex Rios, of Blue Jays
2000 Miguel Negron, of Cubs
2001 Gabe Gross, of Brewers
2002 Russ Adams, ss Blue Jays
2003 Aaron Hill, ss Blue Jays
2004 David Purcey, lhp Blue Jays
2005 Ricky Romero, lhp Blue Jays
2006 Travis Snider, of Blue Jays
Ricky Romero, 2005 $2,400,000
Felipe Lpez, 1998 $2,000,000
Gabe Gross, 2001 $1,865,000
Russ Adams, 2002 $1,785,000
Travis Snider, 2006 $1,700,000
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Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have come a long way from their last-place 2004 season, and they managed to finish higher than third place for the first time since they won back-to-back World Series in 1993. To take the next step–making the playoffs–Toronto once again will have to rely on an increased payroll rather than major contributions from its farm system.

Toronto had baseball’s sixth-lowest payroll at $46 million in 2005, but jumped to 16th overall at $72 million by Opening Day 2006. With little impact talent in their farm system, the Blue Jays signed free agents A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan and traded for Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay. General manager J.P. Ricciardi isn’t shy about pointing out the payroll discrepencies that exist between his club and the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox in the American League East.

Ownership has signed off on another payroll increase, and Ricciardi likely will have as much as $95 million at his disposal for 2007. Finding a shortstop is Toronto’s top priority, and the club’s hole at that position is all the more glaring considering the Blue Jays used first-round picks on college shortstops Russ Adams and Aaron Hill in Ricciardi’s first two drafts. Neither was considered a lock to stay at the position, and Adams regressed on both offense and defense in 2006.

In their five drafts under Ricciardi, the Blue Jays have focused almost solely on college players, with more of an emphasis on a track record of statistical success than on potential high ceilings. Adam Lind, who hit .367 in his September debut, may be the first impact bat drafted since Ricciardi’s arrival, but there are few behind him in the system with the exception of 2006 first-round pick Travis Snider. The system is stocked primarily with control pitchers, with most of the electric arms (led by 2006 rookie righthanders Brandon League, Dustin McGowan and Francisco Rosario) signed on former GM Gord Ash’s watch.

Snider, a high school outfielder, snapped Toronto’s five-year streak of taking a college player with their top pick. He won MVP honors in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, as did Lind in the Double-A Eastern League. Because the Blue Jays gave up their second- and third-round picks in the 2006 draft to sign Burnett and Ryan, they invested $725,000 in 16-year-old Venezuelan third baseman Balbino Fuenmayor after he had an impressive workout at Rogers Centre. They also gave six-figure bonuses to four late-round choices: righthanders Chase Lirette (16th), Kyle Ginley (17th) and Graham Godfrey (34th), plus second baseman Jonathan del Campo (20th).

On the field, the Blue Jays’ aggregate minor league winning percentage slipped under .500 for the first time since 2002. Three teams advanced to the playoffs, with Dunedin advancing the furthest, losing in the high Class A Florida State League finals. Toronto announced at season’s end that it won’t operate an Appy League team in 2007, ending a four-year stint at Pulaski. If the Jays don’t add an affiliate in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, they’d be the only organization with just five North American affiliates.