On the heels of today’s Toronto Blue Jays 2021 Top 10, Ben Badler answered Blue Jays questions below.
Ben Badler: Hey everyone, thanks for joining the chat today. Obviously it’s a much different year than usual to put these lists together, but we’ve been able to get a lot of good new information on what every player did and any changes they made in 2020 from the alternate site, instructs, the Constellation Energy League, or their own independent training from different sources that I’m excited to be able to share with you all now that we’re releasing our Top 10s and putting together the Prospect Handbook. Let’s get started.
- Information from the alternate site was hard to come by with the COVID restrictions. Was there anyone outside of the top 10 who stood out at the alternate site or instructional league?
Ben Badler: At the alternate site, I would say Riley Adams and Josh Palacios. Not that their stock made a big swing, but Adams does have huge raw power and you could see adjustments he made in his swing to keep his weight back longer, which helps him stay behind the ball better, and he went on a home run binge toward the end of camp. Palacios stood out for his offensive performance at the alt site. He’s 24 with Double-A experience, so he should be ahead of some of the younger guys there, but he’s very much in the picture to make his major league debut next year.
Ben Badler: From instructs, a couple of hitters getting attention early on: Leo Jimenez, smooth shortstop who has lacked strength for a while but was driving the ball with more impact this year, and Will Robertson was hitting hitting well too.
Dasan Brown (Toronto):
- I see Dasan Brown listed several times on the Best Tools list. How far away from the Top 10 is he, and should I be encouraged by that, or does he still have a lot of work to do? Help me make sense of this.
Ben Badler: He is super tooled up. I really wish we could have seen what he would have done had he played a normal 2020 season, even if it was short-season/rookie league, so at this point it’s still more raw tools than skills. But it’s elite speed, a really fast bat and more raw power than what he showed in games in his brief GCL time last year. A lot of tools but a lot of risk that comes with it.
- Who are a couple sleeper prospects to watch going into the 3021 season and why?
Ben Badler: Vladimir Guerrero XXVIII?
Ben Badler: Assuming you mean 2021, Estiven Machado and Victor Mesia are two young 2019 international signings I think have breakout potential but aren’t as well known to the general public. Machado has a short stroke, twitchy athlete, well-rounded player in the middle of the diamond. Mesia is a catcher who should stick behind the plate and has a chance to hit with some power.
- I’ve seen some people question whether Simeon Woods Richardson can stick as a starter, or if he’s ultimately destined for the bullpen. Have you heard similar concerns? How confident are you in him sticking in the rotation?
Ben Badler: No idea where that would come from. Polished pitcher for his age with a repeatable delivery, excellent control, four average to plus pitches…. I don’t know what about that skill set would make someone think that’s a reliever.
- Can you go over the catching depth in the system?
Ben Badler: I think it’s excellent. You have Kirk who is still prospect eligible, and he’s showing more people that, sure, he’s not a fitness model, but he can barrel up everything in the strike zone with good plate discipline. Gabriel Moreno wasn’t at the alternate site long but was one of the top performers there; if you wanted to argue that he should be higher up the list, I wouldn’t fight it much, it’s just a strong system, but he helped his stock this year. Then Adams has big power, Phil Clarke had a good instructs, Mesia is a nice sleeper. After shortstop (with a lot of players who are “shortstops” but will move), it’s probably their strongest position for prospects.
GMS (Del Mar, Ca):
- Any chance we see Jordan Groshans in Toronto on 2021. If Vlad goes back to third could Groshans potentially be at first base. Seems like he’s a bit under the radar right now?
Ben Badler: I don’t think so, I think he probably starts at High-A next year. As huge of a fan as I am of Groshans, he only played 23 games in Low-A last year, and while he showed some promising signs at the alternate site, it wasn’t to the point where I would see him getting fast tracked to the majors by next year.
Ben Badler: Then again, I say that with all the caveats that apply to ETAs on players after the 2020 season, and Groshans’ situation is more unusual than most given how talented he is and how much time he missed in 2019.
- 1. What is the probability that Martin plays third? Centerfield? 2. Will the planned reduction in MiLB systems hurt the Jays more than most teams, or less? 3. Alex Manoah – starter or high-leverage reliever?
Ben Badler: Martin is sort of a puzzle piece the Blue Jays will plug in based more on the construction of the other players on their major league roster than anything else. I think he’s going to develop mainly as a shortstop but with exposure to other positions like CF, 3B, 2B. Realistically, with Bo Bichette the incumbent at shortstop, I don’t see Martin ever playing there for the Blue Jays, so CF/3B/2B is most likely and may just depend how their roster is shaping up for 2022, 2023 and beyond.
Ben Badler: As for the second part, I don’t see why the Blue Jays would be hurt disproportionately from other clubs. They did choose to have both a Northwest League and an Appy League team, so that is fewer roster spots for them compared to some other clubs. There are players they have held back in extended spring training and sent there like Kloffenstein, Hiraldo and Jimenez, thinking they were too good for the GCL but not quite ready for Low-A yet, so that won’t be an option now, but that probably just means the competition level at the complex leagues will be a little higher than it was in the past.
Ben Badler: Manoah should be able to start, but I’d like to see how the stuff plays over a full season against pro hitters.
- Martin & Groshans are both SS (for now). When will each move off the position (if at all)? Where do you see them playing defensively at the major league level? What are the ETAs for each?
Ben Badler: Touched on Martin earlier, but I think Groshans is an ideal fit at third base with Bichette at shortstop. Groshans doesn’t have Martin’s speed to be able to go out to center field, but he’s well suited for third base both in terms of his defensive skill set and the expected offensive production you’re getting from him. Of course then you have Orelvis Martinez behind him who you could say the same thing about, which is a nice “problem” to have to sort through.
Mikeleelop (St Catharines):
- Seems like the list is missing OF prospects. Would that be an area to focus on for the Jays?
Ben Badler: Yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s something the Blue Jays need to prioritize, because you just want to get the most amount of talent in the system you can and you can have infielders move to the outfield like Gurriel or Biggio a little bit, or what may end up happening with Austin Martin. But they are definitely lighter in the outfield. Maybe only 4-5 outfielders in their top 40 prospects and none of them in the impact group at the top.
- Speaking of shortstops who could move, did Austin Martin play SS primarily at the ATS or other positions? Any prediction as to where he’ll end up positionally in the future?
Ben Badler: A lot of questions on Martin, understandably. He’s an exciting guy and getting him fifth overall in the draft is tremendous value. They announced him as a shortstop on draft day, he played a lot of shortstop at the alternate site, but they bounced him around to third base and center field too. His throwing accuracy was an issue as a third baseman at Vanderbilt (granted, this was a small sample), so he spent a lot of time in the infield to work on his footwork, which is where some of those accuracy issues may have stemmed from, so that he can put himself in better throwing position with better direction to first base. Next year, I think it’s still up in the air what the plan is, but my bet is most likely his priority reps will be in the infield with some exposure to center field as well throughout the year, especially if he’s at the same affiliate as Groshans and they want to get them both regular ABs.
Craig (Oneonta, NY):
- At this point, does TJ Zeuch have much of a chance to be a quality MLB starting pitcher, or at best is he destined to be a pitch-to-contact, groundball-inducing reliever?
Ben Badler: More of a fungible, up-and-down 4A type arm for me. I just don’t see him having the stuff to miss enough bats against major league hitters.
- When do you think the Blue Jays will be on a similar level with the Yankees and Rays and competing for a division title?
Ben Badler: Depending on what happens this offseason, why not 2021? Great young nucleus in the lineup with Bichette, Teoscar, Gurriel and Biggio returning. I think Vlad Jr. got a wakeup call and could come back with a monster 2021, plus hopefully more Alejandro Kirk ABs. Ryu is coming back to lead the rotation, a healthy Pearson all season would be huge behind him. Pitching still needs to be a priority, but whether it’s through free agency or using one of the best farm systems in the game to beef it up through trades, I think 2021 is very realistic for the Blue Jays to be able to compete for the division.
- 1. A general question, how did BA update the rankings without the benefit of minor league games to watch? 2. What are the probabilities that Martin will end up being a third Baseman? A centerfielder? 3. Alex Manoah – starter or high-leverage reliever? 4.Who among the Jays prospects do you see possibly jumping into the Top 100? 5. Will the planned reductions in MiLB systems hurt the Jays more than most teams or less?
Ben Badler: I think I hit on 2, 3 and 5 earlier, but on the first question regarding process, yeah, it definitely makes things more challenging without a normal regular season. Luckily we have new information on these players from their MLB time, the alternate sites and instructional league (where opposing scouts are allowed). So one advantage we have at BA is we have a staff of writers who have been doing this for a long time, so we have relationships built up with a lot of scouts and player development people to be able to help us go over what each player did in 2020. And when you’ve known people for more than a decade and they trust you, they generally shoot you pretty straight on players, sometimes to the point of brutal honesty (which is always appreciated). Then we have access to some video, internal stats, Trackman/Rapsodo data, and I’ve bounced things off players at the alt sites/instructs too just on background to make sure we’re getting as complete information as possible on all of these players.
Ben Badler: So for us, really more so than getting access to the information, the challenging part is figuring out how to weight everything, which is an issue teams are running into as well on their own players. The alt site stuff is helpful to have, but it’s still only a couple months, it’s not the same as real games and the competition level varies from teenagers to Triple-A/MLB shuttle guys. And oh yeah—a lot of players shut things down for a couple months after spring training because we’re still literally in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s understandable if a player’s strength training routine was messed up or he came into the alt site with his timing at the plate off (like Groshans, I would say) since they weren’t used to seeing live pitching. Or Gabriel Moreno, who showed up to the alt site later in camp and looked tremendous, but that was over an even shorter window. So I think we have a lot of new information that is helpful for us and I hope adds a lot of value to these reports in the Top 10s and in the Prospect Handbook, but the biggest challenge is figuring out how much to weight that 2020 information on a case-by-case basis for each player.
Ben Badler: On the Top 100, we currently have five Blue Jays prospects in there. I think Orelvis Martinez has a strong case to be in there. You could make an argument for Manoah, Moreno, maybe even Kloffenstein, but they may have to wait to show it more in real games in 2021 to make that jump.
Ben Badler: It’s also just harder to make the Top 100 right now than a usual year, since we had the 2020 draft class come in but also had fewer graduations than we normally would have because of the 60-game MLB season.
Jack (New York):
- Is there any individual TOR pitcher who you don’t like as a starter, but has one wipe out pitch that may lead them to success as a reliever?
Ben Badler: Hatch and Murphy. Don’t know if that’s a cop out answer because they’ve already had some time out of the bullpen in Toronto, but Murphy has a big fastball/curveball combo that looks like it should work in a relief role. The wild card pick would be Yosver Zulueta. Cuban signing from 2019 (or end of the 2018-19 signing period), was up to 98 mph but had TJ right after signing, so he would have missed 2020 anyway. A lot of unknown there but definitely an arm to monitor for ’21.
- Which “off the board” prospect are you looking forward to follow in 2021?
Ben Badler: I’ll wipe away anyone from the alternate site or instructs as on the board, so I’ll go with Cristian Feliz, 6-5 corner outfielder the Blue Jays signed out of the Dominican Republic last year. Big time size, bat speed and raw power if it clicks.
- Hello Ben: thanks for doing this chat. Which players outside of the top 10 do you see as potential fast risers in the system? Would you put Van Eyk, De Castro, Jimenez, Machado, or Lopez in this category? Are there any top 30 sleepers Jays fans should keep their eyes on?
Ben Badler: Van Eyk was just on the cusp of the top 10, you could flip him ahead of Hiraldo and I wouldn’t put up a fight there. De Castro has a longer ways to go as a hitter, but I think Jimenez and Machado are the two with the most breakout upside potential for next year.
Craig (Oneonta, NY):
- Did Riley Adams’ power show signs of fruition at the alternate training site this past summer for him to be tabbed the best power prospect in the organization? With Griffin Conine’s exit, I thought maybe Jordan Groshans or Orelvis Martinez would get the nod. Combining his power potential with his solid defense, did Adams creep into the Blue Jays 11-20 prospect range?
Ben Badler: For that category, with Conine gone, Adams got the nod more just for the best raw power, whether you want to measure that by more traditional scouting measures or the exit velocities they’re posting. Long term, I expect Groshans and Martinez to have more productive in-game power because they’re better hitters who are going to make more contact and tap into their power more against live pitching. It’s not a huge gap, but we went with Adams for the raw power edge.
- Hey Ben, thanks for dong this and all the great work. I just have a quick question about Eric Pardinho. With the injury issues, how far has he fallen, and was he close to consideration for this list at all?
Ben Badler: We’re not dropping him too far past the top 10. Some of that is because what happened in 2019, where he was hurt, then came back, and his stuff just didn’t look as crisp as it did in 2018, both the fastball and the breaking stuff, and we had him dropped just out of the top 10 coming into the year. So while it’s obviously not a good thing that one of your best pitching prospects is having Tommy John surgery, the hope is that he just wasn’t pitching at full strength in 2019 and that when he comes back next year, his stuff looks more like the 2018 Pardinho that had everyone so excited.
The Koz (Ontario):
- Hi there…thanks for taking the time out to answer our questions. I am encouraged by what I saw out of El Capitan Kirk this year…definitely love his bat. What are the chances that he can stick at catcher? Is it already a non-starter, or is there potential… I’m really pulling for the guy…he is so fun to watch!!
Ben Badler: I think he can catch. Some people just get immediately turned off by his body and reject him too quickly, but he has soft hands, receives well, does a lot of technical things well behind the plate. He just played the 2020 season at the same age as a college junior, so some things like game calling and other finer point details he needs to work on, but I think he can do it.
- Should Gabriel Moreno be getting more top 100 buzz?
Ben Badler: Going back to what I was saying earlier about the challenge of how much to weight 2020 reports compared to our priors, Moreno was one of the more difficult cases to assess. He’s always had great hand-eye coordination, but he has made some swing changes over the years to be able to drive the ball with more impact, and just watching him you can see the rhythm, balance and athleticism in his swing that looks really good now. And the performance was loud at the alt site, but again, he was there even less time than most guys, so we’re going from small sample to even smaller sample size. So yeah, it would be aggressive, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable either.
Ben Badler: I have a scout call I have to hop on now, but it’s always fun to talk with you guys about a system with this type of talent. It’s obviously been a strange year, but I think we have a lot of new information (more than I expected) to add for every player in the 2021 Prospect Handbook, if you want to go to the store on our site to order one now. Thanks again for spending time with us and supporting BA!