Toronto Blue Jays: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Toronto Blue Jays: Scouting Reports

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, 2007.

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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.

1. Adam Lind, of   Born: July 17, 1983B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: South Alabama, 2004 (3rd round)Signed by: Joel Grampietro
Adam LindBackground: Lind was an eighth-round pick by the Twins out of an Indiana high school in 2002 but opted to attend South Alabama. He showed a fluid stroke and promising raw power in college, but only hinted at the hitter he would become. He hit a more-than-respectable .269 with wood bats in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2003, then won the Sun Belt Conference batting title with a .392 average as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2004. After the Blue Jays took him in the third round, he signed for $445,000. He had no problem adapting to pro ball, leading the short-season New York-Penn League in doubles (23) and ranking second in extra-base hits (30) and RBIs (50). In his first full season, Lind jumped to high Class A and topped the Florida State League in doubles (42) and extra-base hits (58). He began to develop more over-the-fence power in 2006, when he won the Double-A Eastern League MVP award despite being promoted in late July. The Jays have named him his team's MVP in each of his three pro seasons, and only Carlos Delgado and Luis Lopez have won the award three times as well. Lind had one of the best seasons in the minors—batting a cumulative .330/.394/.556—and was just as dangerous during his September callup. In the final game of the season, he pushed Toronto into sole possession of second place in the American League East with a ninth-inning, two-run shot to dead-center off a 98 mph fastball from Kyle Farnsworth at Yankee Stadium.

Strengths: Lind’s classic lefthanded swing projects more power because his bat stays in the zone longer than that of most hitters. His hands are quiet and he’s adept at staying inside the ball. Lind has exceptional balance at the plate and hits for power from line to line. His spread and slight crouch help him stay back on breaking balls. Every time he has moved up to a new level in pro ball, he initially has tried to go up the middle and to the opposite field. His first major league home run went to left-center. Once comfortable, though, he began to pull the ball with more authority. Lind doesn’t seem to let anything bother him and is comfortable hitting behind in the count.

Weaknesses: A first baseman in college, Lind isn't a great athlete and never has been much of a defender. He has come a long way with the glove in left field, working in batting practice by taking live rounds off the bat to improve from well below average to adequate. His arm is also below average but playable. Some scouts believe he'll eventually wind up at first base or DH. Lind is slow coming out of the batter's box, though he has average speed once he gets underway. His strike-zone judgment is certainly acceptable, but he could stand to draw a few more walks.

The Future: If Frank Catalanotto departs as a free agent, Lind and Reed Johnson would be the frontrunners for Toronto's left-field job. Lind is also a candidate for the DH role, which he filled most of his time in September. Either way, he should be one of the AL's top-hitting rookies. He figures to be batting in the middle of the Jays lineup by no later than 2008.
New Hampshire (AA).310.357.54334843108240197125872
Syracuse (AAA).394.496.59610920437051823181
2. Travis Snider, of   Born: Feb. 2, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS--Everett, Wash., 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Brandon Mozley
Travis SniderBackground: One of the top high school bats available in the 2006 draft, Snider led Jackson High (Mill Creek, Wash.) to a No. 2 national ranking. After signing for $1.7 million as the 14th overall pick, he won MVP honors and rated as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He was leading the league in home runs when wrist tendinitis shelved him for the final week of the season.

Strengths: Snider is physically mature with a muscular frame that served him well as a high school running back until he broke his leg as a junior. Hitting and hitting for power are Snider’s best tools, as his powerful swing generates above-average bat speed and tremendous raw power. He displays advanced hitting instincts, stays back on breaking balls and hangs in against lefties. His mental and competitive makeup is off the charts.

Weaknesses: The only knock on Snider leading up to the draft was his thick frame, especially his heavy lower half, and concerns about how it would project down the line. He worked hard on his conditioning and is more athletic than he appears. With work, he can be an average right fielder with a solid-average arm. He’s a below-average runner but hustles.

The Future: Snider will head to low Class A Lansing to begin 2007. He has the tools and desire to become an impact corner outfielder in the majors, and his bat should allow him to move more quickly than most high schoolers.
Pulaski (R).325.412.5671943663121114130476
3. Ricky Romero, lhp   Born: Nov. 6, 1984B-T: R-LHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Demerius Pittman
Ricky RomeroBackground: The first pitcher selected in the 2005 draft, Romero went sixth overall and signed for a club-record $2.4 million. He teamed with Jason Windsor (now with the Athletics) to lead Cal State Fullerton to the 2004 national title as a sophomore, and was a second-team All-American as a junior. Romero missed the first month of the 2006 season with mild elbow stiffness, though it's not a concern.

Strengths: Romero's best pitch is a plus changeup, which bottoms out and is highly effective against righthanders. He pitches at 91 mph with his fastball and can go get 93 when he needs it. He features above-average life on his fastball, including good arm-side movement with his two-seamer. His curveball is average if inconsistent.

Weaknesses: Romero struggled upon his promotion to Double-A New Hampshire when he couldn’t locate his curve. He developed some bad habits at high Class A Dunedin, where he could put hitters away using just his fastball and changeup. Everything seemed to click, though, once he adjusted his delivery to improve his direction to the plate. His fastball and curveball command improved, and he threw on a better downhill plane.

The Future: Romero advanced to Double-A in his first full season and finished strong, going 2-3, 2.75 in the final month. He'll likely return there to begin 2007 but should reach Triple-A Syracuse at some point during the season. He's on schedule to join the Toronto rotation no later than 2008.
Dunedin (Hi A)212.47101010584851461.224
New Hampshire (AA)275.08121200676572641.256
4. Ryan Patterson, of   Born: R-RB-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 210
 Drafted: Louisiana State, 2005 (4th round)Signed by: Matt Briggs
Ryan PattersonBackground: Patterson had a successful career at Louisiana State but wasn't drafted as a junior in 2004, nor was he signed as a free agent after winning the Cape Cod League batting title with a .327 mark that summer. He tore up the New York-Penn League in his pro debut in 2005, leading the league in extra-base hits (40), RBIs (65) and slugging percentage (.595). Proving that was no fluke, he led the Florida State League in slugging percentage in his first full season before a promotion to Double-A.

Strengths: Strong and compact, Patterson is a hitting machine. He ranked second in the Jays system in homers and RBIs and finished among the minor league leaders in extra-base hits (65) and total bases (266). Though he doesn't employ a classic swing, he's short and direct to the ball. Because he sinks into his load, he has a flatter swing plane than the typical power hitter, enabling him to get backspin on the ball. He shows the instincts to make adjustments during an at-bat. He has average speed and is a good baserunner.

Weaknesses: Patterson likes to jump on the first pitch he can handle, though he’s not a free swinger. The Blue Jays believe his plate discipline will catch up with his level of competition. Patterson can play center field in a pinch, but his range and arm fit best in left.

The Future: Toronto pushed Patterson to Double-A in his first full season, and he responded after a rough start. He'll likely begin 2007 back with New Hampshire, and he could see Triple-A and maybe the majors later in the year.
Dunedin (Hi A).288.327.52035465102250196920612
New Hampshire (AA).257.310.439187194814162013502
5. Curtis Thigpen, c   Born: April 19, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 5-10Wt: 185
 Drafted: Texas, 2004 (2nd round)Signed by: Andy Beene
Curtis ThigpenBackground: Thigpen was a member of three College World Series teams at Texas from 2002-04. The Blue Jays drafted him as a catcher, even though he got little time behind the plate as a teammate of defensive standout Taylor Teagarden. More advanced as a catcher than Toronto thought, Thigpen reached Double-A in his first full season and managers rated him the Eastern League's top defensive catcher in 2006.

Strengths: Thigpen commands the strike zone and excels at making contact, spraying the ball all over the field. His power is gap-to-gap, and he generates good backspin carry on the ball. Behind the plate, Thigpen is extremely mobile and athletic for a catcher. He’s a solid-average defender with good hands and slightly above-average receiving and blocking skills. His makeup is impeccable and he has the agility to handle the corner infield or outfield positions.

Weaknesses: Thigpen has average arm strength and a quick release, but his mechanics are inconsistent. He threw out just 24 percent of basestealers in 2006, including one of 14 in Triple-A. New Hampshire manager Doug Davis focused his attention this season on getting Thigpen’s feet in sync with his release. An early-season staph infection cut into Thigpen’s development time behind the plate.

The Future: Toronto views Thigpen as its catcher of the future. His bat was probably ready for Triple-A this season, but the organization left him at Double-A to get extra time with Davis. Ticketed for Triple-A in 2007, he could make his major league debut in the second half.
New Hampshire (AA).259.370.421309498025553652615
Syracuse (AAA).264.304.377533143019290
6. Francisco Rosario, rhp   Born: Sept. 28, 1980B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 215
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 1999Signed by: Tony Arias
Francisco RosarioBackground: Rosario has been a member of the organization for eight seasons and a fixture on this list since his breakout 2002 season, after which he zoomed to No. 4. He tore a ligament in his elbow in the Arizona Fall League that fall, requiring Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2003 and much of 2004. He has bounced between starting and relieving the last two seasons, and didn't pitch again after experiencing lower back pain in early August.

Strengths: Rosario employs true power stuff: a mid-90s fastball peaking at 98 mph with life, an 85-88 mph slider and a hard split-grip changeup. He located his fastball in the second half in Triple-A, working more aggressively on the inside part of the plate. After pitching tentatively in 2005, he seemed to clear that hurdle both physically and mentally.

Weaknesses: Despite his experience, Rosario still isn't a finished product. He can't reach his potential as a mid-rotation starter without learning to command his slider. He would benefit from greater focus on the mound. While in the majors, he sometimes overthrew and tried to muscle his way out of jams, which resulted in more hittable pitches.

The Future: Rosario is out of options, so he'll have to be exposed to waivers if he can't crack Toronto's roster out of spring training. Unless he makes strides with his slider command, he'll probably have to make the club as a middle reliever.
Syracuse (AAA)032.7914801422921350.196
7. Brandon Magee, rhp   Born: July 26, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 205
 Drafted: Bradley, 2006 (4th round)Signed by: Aaron Jerslid
Brandon MageeBackground: Magee began his college career as Bradley's closer but blossomed into a starter and finished with 260 strikeouts, one shy of the school record. He would have gone between the eighth and 12th round as a junior in 2005 had his signability not been cloudy. He became one of the top senior signs in 2006, turning pro for $155,000 in the fourth round.

Strengths: Added strength allowed the tall, lean Magee to increase and hold his fastball velocity in the low 90s as a senior. He gets well above-average sink on his two-seamer, can dial it up to 94 when needed and delivers it on a steep downward plane from a high three-quarters delivery. He posted a strong 2.1 groundout-flyout ratio in his debut. Magee’s plus slider was his bread-and-butter pitch in college and is the best in the system.

Weaknesses: Magee’s slider was so good that he used it too much in college, and the Jays tried to get him to de-emphasize it somewhat and mix in more changeups. He also showed a tendency to keep his back foot locked to the rubber after delivering a pitch, and made a slight mechanical adjustment to correct it. There's some effort in his delivery, and some scouts believe he's better suited to be a reliever.

The Future: The Jays believe Magee's ceiling, as a No. 3 starter, rivals that of any pitcher they've drafted in the past five years. Because he's already 23, he likely will be challenged with an Opening Day assignment to high Class A.
Auburn (SS)313.10111100525111940.254
8. Jesse Litsch, rhp   Born: March 9, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: South Florida CC, D/F 2004 (24th round)Signed by: Tony Arias
Jesse LitschBackground: The Rockies failed to sign Litsch as a 37th-rounder out of high school in 2003, and the Jays had to wait an additional year to land him as a draft-and-follow after taking him in the 24th round in 2004. He moved to high Class A to start his first full season after spending much of his pro debut dominating the Appy League, and he earned a promotion to Double-A by July.

Strengths: The aggressive Litsch is unafraid of contact. He has no knockout pitch, but he commands an 88-92 mph four-seam fastball with enough natural cutting action to put hitters away. He also throws a two-seamer, curveball, slider and changeup. He's able to throw his curveball for strikes and get hitters to chase it out of the zone. The Blue Jays can't say enough about his makeup.

Weaknesses: Litsch struggled in his first exposure to Double-A because he relied too much on his cutter, which hitters recognized. His slider was also less effective because it was too similar to his cutter. Toronto would like to see Litsch incorporate more curveballs and changeups into his mix.

The Future: Litsch recovered to give up just two runs in his final three Double-A starts and is a safe bet to begin back at New Hampshire in 2007. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Dunedin (Hi A)663.5316152089945881.267
New Hampshire (AA)345.06121210698561354.309
9. David Purcey, lhp   Born: April 22, 1982B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 235
 Drafted: Oklahoma, 2004 (1st round)Signed by: Ty Nichols
David PurceyBackground: Following a strong spring training, Purcey opened 2006 in Triple-A. He pitched well in April, but shaky command got the best of him in May and he was sent down to Double-A in June. He never got untracked at New Hampshire, so it was mostly a lost season.

Strengths: Few lefthanders can match the raw stuff Purcey possesses. His fastball and biting curveball are plus offerings when he commands them. He likes to dial up his four-seam fastball to 93-95 mph, but achieves more sinking and boring action when he throws his two-seamer at 90-92 mph. He works on a good downhill plane and has made some progress with a slider.

Weaknesses: Because of his large build and inconsistent release point, Purcey continues to battle his mechanics and to find command elusive. He frequently runs up high pitch counts and backs off once batters string together a few hits. He has made just modest strides with his changeup, which remains a below-average pitch.

The Future: Purcey's first trip to Triple-A was a false start, and the Blue Jays acknowledge they may have pushed him too fast. Because he's inefficient with his pitches but durable, he might be better suited to relief. Toronto remains optimistic that he's taking a bit longer to harness his power stuff, which they feel is good enough to dominate with even slightly below-average command.
Syracuse (AAA)275.40121210524973845.249
New Hampshire (AA)455.601616008810194481.287
10. Balbino Fuenmayor, 3b   Born: Nov. 26, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Signed: Venezuela, 2006Signed by: Rafael Moncada
Balbino FuenmayorBackground: Following an impressive workout at Rogers Centre in front of general manager J.P. Ricciardi, Fuenmayor signed with the Blue Jays for $750,000. Toronto last invested heavily in a Venezuelan talent when they signed another Venezuelan, catcher Guillermo Quiroz, for $1.2 million in 1998. Quiroz once ranked among the club's best prospects but was derailed by injuries and was claimed off waivers by the Mariners last April.

Strengths: Fuenmayor is athletic and has a chance to grow into power as he fills out. He has a lot of polish for a youngster, and his hitting ability is more advanced than his pop at this stage. He has a compact stroke with solid bat speed and the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. At third base, he shows easy arm strength to go with good hands, footwork and range.

Weaknesses: As with many teenagers, Fuenmayor isn't very refined defensively. While his arm is strong, he'll have to improve his throwing accuracy. Questions about his power potential will remain unanswered until he shows what he can do in pro ball.

The Future: Because the Blue Jays won't operate an Appy League club in 2007, it's unclear where Fuenmayor will be assigned at the conclusion of extended spring training. He'll definitely go to Rookie ball, with the Dominican Summer League one possibility, and the Gulf Coast League another if Toronto adds an affiliate there.
Did Not Play--Signed 2007 Contract

Photo Credits:
Lind, Patterson, Litsch: Kevin Pataky
Snider: Sports On Film
Purcey, Romero, Thigpen: Rich Abel
Magee: Mike Janes
Fuenmayor: Jerry Hale