Toronto Blue Jays Midseason Top 10 Prospects
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While the major league team struggles in Toronto, the farm system is filled with players who have taken significant steps forward this season, led by the game’s best prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a potential MVP candidate. With shortstop Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays have two of the game’s top 10 prospects, both of whom are in Double-A and should be in their big league lineup by early 2019. They have six prospects in the Top 100, with a strong 2018 draft class, good early returns on their 2017 international signing class and the addition of Dominican shortstop Orelvis Martinez, whose $3.5 million bonus is the highest so far of the 2018 international signing class.
The Blue Jays already have one of the best farm systems in baseball and it should get better soon. They missed on an opportunity to trade away big league talent and get a better return for those players coming into the year, but now the Blue Jays clearly have to be sellers, which should add more prospects to the pipeline.
While the Blue Jays do have exciting players at the lower levels of the farm system, the good news is how much talent they have in the upper levels to help next year. Guerrero and Bichette are cornerstone type players. Catcher Danny Jansen, infielders Lourdes Gurriel and Cavan Biggio and outfielder Anthony Alford all have a chance to develop into everyday players soon, while righthander Sean Reid-Foley and lefthander Ryan Borucki could both factor into Toronto’s 2019 starting rotation.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr, 3B
Double-A New Hampshire
Guerrero has a chance to quickly develop into one of the game’s top offensive threats. An 80 hitter with 80 power isn’t out of the question, with Guerrero possessing an elite combination of bat speed, hand-eye coordination, plate discipline and power packed into an efficient swing. The main thing that has slowed Guerrero has been a patellar strained of his left knee, which has sidelined him since June 6. Guerrero has just rejoined New Hampshire. He has a shot to become the first minor league hitter to top .400 in a full season this century.
2. Bo Bichette, SS
Double-A New Hampshire
One of the best hitters in the minors, Bichette has high-end bat speed, an aggressive approach and he has shown more game power as the season progressed, making adjustments to Double-A pitchers who have tried to use his aggressiveness against with with early-count offspeed stuff. While Bichette mostly draws attention for his hitting ability, the most encouraging signs have come on the defensive end, with Bichette now looking like a true shortstop with good instincts and footwork.
3. Nate Pearson, RHP
High Class A Dunedin
The Blue Jays drafted Pearson with the No. 28 overall pick last year and he quickly looked like a steal, overpowering short-season Northwest League hitters and running his fastball up to 101 mph. Signals were pointing toward a breakout season for Pearson, but instead he’s going to miss most of 2018. A back injury kept him from pitching until May 7, when he lasted 1.2 innings before being hit by a line drive that fractured his right forearm. It wasn’t an elbow or shoulder injury, but it still stalls Pearson’s development. The Blue Jays are hopeful he can pitch again in 2018, but there isn’t a timetable for his return.
4. Danny Jansen, C
After a three-level rise in 2017, Jansen has continued his success this year in Triple-A. A high contact hitter with sharp strike-zone discipline and 10-15 home run power, Jansen has the on-base skills to carry him as a potential above-average regular with a chance to reach the big leagues by the end of this season.
5. Lourdes Gurriel, SS/2B
After a layoff from competitive baseball coming over from Cuba in 2016, injuries slowed Gurriel and hampered his performance in his first season with the Blue Jays in 2017. He has looked more comfortable and more athletic in 2018, combining to hit .299/.328/.467 between Double-A and Triple-A. Defensively he’s probably stretched thin as an everyday shortstop, but he has the offensive potential to fit at second or potentially third base as well.
6. Kevin Smith, SS
High Class A Dunedin
In the offseason, Smith called the Blue Jays and asked them when was the earliest possible date he could report to their complex in Dunedin, Fla. He worked with Blue Jays hitting coaches to shorten his swing path and keep his barrel in the hitting zone longer, and those adjustments have fueled one of the biggest breakthroughs in the minors. He’s not a flashy defender but he’s a steady, fundamentally sound fielder with good internal clock.
7. Anthony Alford, OF
While most of the Blue Jays’ top prospects are trending in the right direction, Alford has stumbled in 2018. After striking out in 16 percent of his Double-A plate appearances last year, Alford’s whiff rate has nearly doubled this year in Triple-A as he battles to get his rhythm and timing on point. The tools are still intact and he has time to rebound, but it’s been a discouraging regression from the improvement he showed last year.
8. Eric Pardinho, RHP
The top pitching prospect in the 2017 international class, Pardinho is taking polished for his age to a new level. So advanced that the Blue Jays skipped him over the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and sent him straight to the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he’s filling the strike zone and missing bats at a high clip. He’s one of the most exciting teenage pitching prospects in the game, working off a lively low-to-mid 90s fastball, a plus curveball and a slider he’s been using this year as a putaway pitch too.
9. Jordan Groshans, SS
Rookie-level Gulf Coast League
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Groshans is off to a terrific start in the GCL. He has above-average raw power and arm strength, and he has shown a sound hitting approach as well early in his pro debut. The Blue Jays plan to develop Groshans at shortstop, though a lot of scouts believe his best fit will be at third base.
10. Cavan Biggio, 2B
Double-A New Hampshire
Biggio has gone from a fringe organizational player last year to a legitimate prospect in 2018. He adjusted his load and timing at the plate, lowering his hands a bit to help his bat spend more time in the hitting zone. Biggio still has his holes that lead to a higher strikeout rate, but his combination of patience and above-average power from the left side give him a chance to be an everyday regular at second base.
Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Share Charlotte Stage
Both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez are continuing a trend of major success for Latin American youngsters.
- Righthander Sean Reid-Foley flashed good stuff at times last year but was inconsistent and lacked fastball command, which led to a 5.09 ERA in Double-A. This year his stuff has been more consistent, with a low- to mid-90s fastball, a plus slider and a livelier changeup that has produced far better results in 2018.
- Shortstop Leonardo Jimenez signed with the Blue Jays out of Panama for $825,000 last year. He’s a smooth, fundamentally sound player with strong instincts for the game and a mature hitting approach as a 17-year-old in the GCL.
- Some scouts considered shortstop Miguel Hiraldo one of the most advanced hitters last year out of the Dominican Republic, where the Blue Jays signed him for $750,000. He’s justifying those reports with his performance in the Dominican Summer League, where he’s crushing the ball with both contact and impact.
- Alford entered the season as a Top 100 prospect, and while he has the potential to return to that group by the end of the year, his 2018 season has the arrows pointing the wrong way.
- Shortstop Logan Warmoth was a first-round pick (No. 22) last year out of North Carolina, but he has fallen flat and underwhelmed in his first full season.
- Shortstop Richard Urena moved quickly through the Blue Jays system, but he has hit a wall since getting to the upper minors, and after struggling in 2017, he’s been bad again in 2018.
- Guerrero Jr. missed more than a month with a knee injury.
- The Blue Jays expect Pearson to pitch again this year, but there isn’t a specific timetable yet for his return.
- Warmoth had a nagging injury on his right leg. He missed three weeks, came back and played briefly in mid-June, but he then missed another month when the injury flared up. He’s now rehabbing the injury in the Gulf Coast League.
- The Blue Jays haven’t graduated any significant prospects to the major leagues this year, though Gurriel, Alford, Urena and lefthander Ryan Borucki all have big league time this season.