Image credit: Orelvis Martinez (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)
Ben Badler: Hey everyone, good afternoon from Santo Domingo. Just got back from a Dominican instructional league game down here and we’ve got a lot of Blue Jays prospects questions here in the queue, so let’s get started.
Jordan Groshans (Top 20 in 2020?):
- Thanks for chatting with us today Ben! There was a lot of chatter that I was on my way to become a top 20 prospect in all of baseball before my foot injury sidelined me for the rest of 2019. After the loud tools and production I showed in LoA this year, do you think I’m a prime candidate to break into that truly elite top 20 tier with a healthy 2020?
Ben Badler: I do. I love Jordan Groshans. We have him at No. 37 on our Top 100 right now, and if he had stayed healthy all year, I think there’s a good chance he would already be top 25. All the reviews on him since he signed going back to last year in the GCL and this year in an admittedly brief time on the field in the Midwest League were excellent.
Richard (Bend, Ore.):
- Initially, I was surprised Eric Pardinho didn’t make your projected 2023 starting rotation, then shocked that he’s not even in the Top 10. Aside from his elbow issues, why did his stock drop so far?
Ben Badler: A lot of Eric Pardinho questions. The big concern with Pardinho was that, when he came back from the injury, his stuff was down. He was sitting 88-92 mph, whereas last year he was sitting more in the low-90s and getting it up to 96. So pro scouts who went in and saw a smallish, relatively filled out RHP with that type of stuff were pretty down on him. Now, obviously he was coming back from the injury, so there’s certainly hope that he can come back fully heathy in 2020 and the stuff returns, but the stuff being down and the extra injury red flag that added to his profile this year does create more risk. So it’s harder to put him in the top 10 ahead of the position players who performed better like Martinez, Moreno and Hiraldo, or pitchers like Kloffenstein where the now stuff is better or Kay where he’s so much closer to being MLB-ready.
Ben Badler: So basically it’s the combination of strong years from the players who jumped ahead of him, combined with the extra risk Pardinho showed this year with his injury and the stuff being down. I do think he can bounce back to where his stuff was in 2018, but there’s just more risk because of how it backed up this year.
Tom (Portland, OR):
- I know he’s far away, but is Alberto Rodriguez a tweener-type or could he evolve into something more? Thanks.
Ben Badler: A little bit of both? Right now it is sort of an in-between profile, but he has good bat-to-ball skills and can make hard contact, it’s just more of a line drive, low trajectory type approach rather than someone who’s geared to hit for power.
- Is there any hope for Anthony Alford still? Health has been a major issue and he’s a bit later to baseball because of his football history but time is running out. Could he be a post-hype sleeper or is it time to cut bait? Thank you.
Ben Badler: Aflord’s in a difficult spot. He’s strong, he’s athletic, he has fast bat speed … a lot of physical attributes you want. But his swing needs adjustments. His barrel doesn’t stay in the zone for very long, so there are holes in his swing and issues with his timing. The problem is it’s difficult to make those adjustments when you’re in the big leagues and the results matter, and really for him as a 25-year-old in Triple-A, where the performance matters as the clock ticks. I think it’s possible he can make the changes necessary for things to click, but I think the odds are against it happening.
- Orelivs Martinez gets all the hype between the Blue Jays’ main two J2 prospects but how far is the gap between he and Miguel Hiraldo. Their tools and profile actually seem pretty similar. Both look to be bat first IF who will have to move off of SS. Can you see both having a chance at cracking the top 100 in 2020?
Ben Badler: Certainly possible, though maybe more likely with Orelvis. He’s got better breaking ball recognition and plate discipline than Hiraldo and I think his swing is more conducive to putting up big power numbers long term as well.
- Who’s your favourite under the radar Blue Jays prospect that most fans wouldn’t know?
Ben Badler: Estiven Machado, a shortstop they signed out of Venezuela this year, is someone who jumped out to me. And Sam Robberse, a deep sleeper they signed out of the Netherlands this year. His stuff has ticked up quite a bit, heard some good things on him from people who saw him in the GCL. Should have a lot more on both of those guys up on our site soon.
- Griffin Conine came back from suspension and immediately went on to hit 22 home runs in 80 games. I know the strikeout rate is astronomical, but can you see a path to him being a big league regular corner OF?
Ben Badler: Yes, because it’s 70 raw power, and he’s at least getting to it in games for now in the Midwest League. But like you mentioned, the swing-and-miss component of his game where he’s missing balls in the strike zone is a major red flag. It’s a pretty straightforward profile–humungous raw power, but he’s going to have to cut down on the holes in his swing and be able to draw enough walks to offset what is always going to be a lot of strikeouts to go with that power.
Tom (Medfield, MA):
- Hi Ben! How does Kirk vs. Moreno vs Danny Jansen play out – this sort of depth and potential at C is just fascinating. I noticed on the 2023 lineup, it has Kirk at DH and Danny Jansen at C – will Moreno be pushing Jansen by then? Do you see improvement in Jansen’s future? Also, Kirk is such a unique profile – is there anyone that you would compare him to?
Ben Badler: I think Kirk ends up their catcher of the future. He’s a polarizing player, in large part because of his body, but I’m a big believer in his bat and I think he’s better defensively than people initially give him credit for. I think there’s some similarities to Pablo Sandoval, who I was a big fan of when he was a catcher coming up in the Giants system, although Kirk has better strike-zone discipline.
Ben Badler: I also tend to be higher on players with body/athleticism questions like Pete Alonso, Rhys Hoskins, Panda, etc. if I love the bat enough. Sometimes it doesn’t work out (like AJ Reed), but I think Kirk has a lot of high-level hitting components in his game.
Richard (Bend, Ore.):
- Kevin Smith obviously had a difficult 2019, both at AA and the AFL. Why did he struggle so with the bat? Is he still considered a solid defensive SS?
Ben Badler: Ouch. Yeah, one of the most disappointing seasons in the minors given the strides he made in 2018 and how hard he fell this season. He started poorly, and he kept trying to make different adjustments and tinker with things, and over the course of the year it just seemed to get worse and worse. The fact that he’s not THAT far removed from having a a really strong season in 2018 is the glimmer of hope you’re looking for, that he can just get a mental reset in the offseaon and hopefully get his swing back to where it was a year ago, and the power is still there. But obviously you don’t need me to tell you it’s not trending in the right direction.
Ben Badler: Defensive reviews were more mixed… some scouts didn’t like him at SS, thought he should go to 3B…. others said he was fine at shortstop and liked him there. But obviously the bat is the biggest concern right now.
Richard (Bend, Ore.):
- Would it be best for all concerned to move Hector Perez to a relief role? Does he have closer potential, or is his lack of command too limiting a factor?
Ben Badler: I think that will probably happen in the near-ish future. Throws hard, not elite enough stuff (or control) to be a closer, but someone who has a chance to carve out a middle relief role if he can throw more strikes.
- Barring any setbacks, do you see Martinez, Hiraldo and Jimenez all breaking camp with Lansing and rotating between 2nd, 3rd and SS?
Ben Badler: I’m not sure, and I don’t think the Blue Jays know yet. Martinez is the youngest of the group, so you could justify keeping him back in extended, but if you didn’t have those other two there, I think he would most likely be headed to Low-A. Hiraldo and Jimenez both got a taste of Lansing last year, and Jimenez may be the most polished of them all, but he’s also physically the weakest too, so I could see him staying back and maybe heading to Vancouver. Kind of a long way to say we don’t know yet, but just walking through some of the possibilities on a good logjam to have.
- How would you describe Orelvis’ current frame? Do you think he has room to grow into more power, especially considering how young he is?
Ben Badler: It’s a strong frame, built like a 3B, but definitely not maxed out, plenty of bat speed and more space to add strength and see that power continue to grow.
- What’s stopping Nate Pearson from being the best pitching prospect in baseball? He seems to have everything: velocity, command, stuff.
Ben Badler: We have him at No. 7 on our Top 100 and the only pitcher ahead of him is Padre LHP MacKenzie Gore, so he’s not far off, and you can certainly make a case that Pearson is better. Potential No. 1 or 2 SP upside.
Ben Badlers #1 Fan (Funkytown):
- I know you guys haven’t done the Top 10 for every team, but the systems seems quite deep despite many graduations this season (not to mentions elite prospects like Bichette and Vlad). Where does it rank in the top farm systems?
Ben Badler: I think it’s one of the better farm systems in the game. Which, like you alluded to, is pretty impressive for an organization that just graduated two of the top 10 prospects in baseball, plus Gurriel and Bichette as well. You can go at least 20 deep into the system and feel pretty good about those players, and they added another pretty deep wave of international players in their 2019 class that people mostly don’t know yet but definitely stood out when I saw them a couple months ago.
- Who are the outfielders in the Blue Jays system worth being excited about? Seems like that’s a definite weakness. Not a pure prospects question, but do any of the not-yet-established OFs that have reached the big leagues offer any hope? (Hernandez, Fisher, McKinney?)
Ben Badler: Yeah, they’re definitely light on outfielders at the full-season level. Alford and Conine are there, but they both have pretty big red flags. The lower levels have riskier players, like their GCL outfield of Albert Rodriguez, Dasan Brown and Jhon Solarte, but they’re a long ways away. My deep sleeper in their OF is Cristian Feliz, who they signed out of the Dominican Republic this year for $200K. 6-5 lefty bat with vicious bat speed and monster power potential. Super risky, but definitely one to watch in the DSL in 2020.
- Who were the guys that just missed the cutoff? Hard to believe Eric Pardinho didn’t get ranked.
Ben Badler: Pardinho was close, touched on him and the issues with his stuff backing up this year earlier. Patrick Murphy is a tough one to peg because of what happened with his delivery this season, but he’s not far off. Otto Lopez, Leo Jimenez, Griffin Conine, Kendall Williams, those are all guys knocking on the door of that top 10.
Michael Smith (Canada):
- Hi Ben do you think Otto Lopez can become a top 100 prospect ? His numbers have constantly been very good at every level so far. Thank you
Ben Badler: Top 100 might be tough, but he’s definitely put himself on the map as a prospect. The tools don’t wow anyone, but he’s an instinctive/gamer type with a knack for putting the ball in play with an aggressive approach, sometimes to a fault. For me one of the more interesting things about Lopez is the untapped power potential that may still be in there. You wouldn’t think that necessarily from a guy with a .101 ISO, but he makes hard contact, he can drive the ball with impact in BP, it’s just his approach in the game is more line-drive oriented. He has the bat-to-ball skills, so if he can take an approach in games where he looks to drive the ball for extra-base hits, you could see a jump in that SLG at some point.
- Is there a sleeper in the organization who even the diehead fans haven’t heard of? Maybe a backend top 30 type or someone who just missed?
Ben Badler: Mentioned a few players already, but I’ll roll another name out there… Victor Mesia. A catcher the Blue Jays picked up out of Venezuela this year, didn’t get a ton of buzz as an amateur but he’s definitely trending up and looking like one of the better overall catching prospects who signed out of the 2019 international class. Big arm and power in a compact swing.
Michael (Ottawa, ON):
- What do you think of Dasan Brown? Will he be able to hit and where does he start the 2020 season?
Ben Badler: Outstanding athlete, quick twitch, 80 runner, a lot of bat speed and I think more raw power than he got credit for coming out of the draft this year. As a hitter, he’s raw, even relative to his age. A lot of the raw clay athleticism and explosiveness you want, but the pure hitting ability lags behind right now. I would think he’ll stay back in extended and go to either the Appy League or the Northwest League in the summer.
- Hi Ben, Jarred Kelenic has clearly distanced himself as the best pick of the 2018 draft. However, would you rather have Groshans or Gorman long-term? Gorman has more power but Groshans seems to have a higher ceiling with every other tool. Agreed?
Ben Badler: Groshans easily for me over Gorman, better hitter and more defensive value. I actually think it’s closer than that on Kelenic vs. Groshans too, and I’m probably in the minority camp on this because of how much I like Groshans, but you could make a case for Groshans over Kelenic, and I wouldn’t be surprise that happens by the end of 2020. That would be a tough call to make right now after what Kelenic did up through Double-A this year while Groshans was hurt most of the season, but I think a healthy Groshans would have put up comparable numbers, and he offers more defensive value than Kelenic as well.
- Are there a couple players from the 19 draft that you are excited about and that we should be following in 2020?
Ben Badler: After the obvious one in Alek Manoah, I think Kendall Williams is the main one to watch. He’ll probably follow the Kloffenstein development path this year. Tanner Morris, their fifth-round pick out of Virginia, he’s shown a keen eye for the strike zone and simple swing from the left side with the ability to drive the ball the opposite way. He’s another name to watch from that draft class.
- I’ve heard concerns about Simeon Woods-Richardson’s lack of projectability. Is that much of a concern, or does his present stuff offset some of that?
Ben Badler: It’s a relatively filled out frame, but he pitched the entire season as an 18-year-old, there’s room for him to still get stronger and potentially see his stuff kick into an extra gear, but his fastball is already low-to-mid 90s right now with excellent control and a knack for missing bats. If he never gains another mph of velocity, he still has the stuff for midrotation potential, with a chance for more.
Richard (Holly Springs, NC):
- Thanks for the chat. Do you think Alejandro Kirk profiles as a MLB catcher or to get to the show, will he have to switch positions or mainly be a DH?
Ben Badler: I do. I think he needs to get in better shape to be able to catch a full season’s workload as a starting catcher, and that is a legitimate risk with him, but the technical components and tools for catching, I think he has those.
tuker (Ott, On):
- Manoah and Pearson at two big prospects with top of rotation stuff. Do you have concerns that Pearson will be relegated to bullpen duties in the show and do you feel Manoah will reach ML before his 24th birthday?
Ben Badler: No, the only way Pearson ends up in the bullpen is if he has some major durability issues. He has frontline starter stuff.
Dave (Hastings on Hudson, NY):
- The Jays 2017 draft was thought to have several impact players. Pearson has more than lived up to the hype, but #1 Logan Warmoth and #3 Hagen Danner and #4 Kevin Smith had brutal years. Are any of them in the 11-20 range or have they totally fallen off the radar?
Ben Badler: I wouldn’t put any of those three in the 11-20 range in the Blue Jays system. Warmoth has looked very vanilla throughout his time in pro ball. Danner has struggled a lot offensively and is another example of the riskiness in high school catchers that Kyle Glaser has astutely pointed out. Smith’s stock has fallen hard, but of those three, I probably have the most hope for him because he’s at least had some recent success in pro ball, but Toronto’s system has enough depth that I wouldn’t put him in their top 20.
- I know he wasn’t in the Top 10, but what are the chances that TJ Zeuch sticks as a back of the rotation starter? His sinker looks really good, albeit his secondaries seem to lack that bite.
Ben Badler: Maybe a fifth starter, but more likely an up-and-down, sixth starter type. It is a heavy sinker from an uncomfortable angle, but it’s hard to get by against major league hitters without a offspeed pitch you can use to reliably miss bats, and it’s not like he’s an elite command guy either.
- Joey Murray had quite a great season and moved quickly through the system. Can you give us any thoughts on him and his ‘invisiball’?
Ben Badler: Invisiball is a good label, he’s extraordinarily deceptive. He’s barely cracking 90 mph, but he gets an incredible amount of swing and miss on his fastball because he has so much deception and excellent spin on the pitch too. It’s a tough profile to bet on, but he does throw a lot of strikes, the curveball is effective for him at times and he’s had success now at Double-A. He might get hammered when he gets to Triple-A, but if he can have success there, who knows, he might be able to be a deception RHP who is able to make it work.
- Any under the radar names to watch for next season?
Ben Badler: I’ll give you another way under-the-radar name I like: Dahian Santos. Young Venezuelan RHP, arrow-up guy.
Ben Badler: Did I mention the Blue Jays had a deep international class this year?
Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions today, I appreciate all the interest in these players and your support for what we do at BA. We’ve got more Top 10s coming soon, our International Reviews are right around the corner and I think are going to be deeper than ever with information, and the Prospect Handbook work is in full gear. Enjoy the rest of the day.