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McGowan ranked as the organization's No. 1 prospect entering 2003, and he finished that season strong by going 7-0 in Double-A. He started strong in 2004 and seemed on the verge of his first big league promotion when a torn elbow ligament halted his progress. He had Tommy John surgery in May 2004 and didn't return to the field until June 2005. Interestingly, the Blue Jays nearly voided his first pro contract ($950,000 as a supplemental first-round pick in 2000) when they discovered he had an inflamed elbow. It's conceivable that he may now be pitching with a healthy elbow for the first time as a pro. McGowan rehabbed vigorously from surgery, as evidenced by his relatively brief 13-month recovery period, working without a ball to refine his mechanics. His focal points were working to stay back during his delivery so his arm could catch up to his body, and getting on top of his pitches to deliver them on more of a downhill plane. McGowan pitched respectably in his first taste of the majors, going 61⁄3 innings in his debut to register the win, but seemed more relaxed on the mound when he moved to the bullpen in September to limit his workload. In his final appearance of the year, he struck out all four batters he faced with electric stuff. McGowan has overpowering frontline stuff and pitches down in the zone with explosive life. He has four major league weapons to attack hitters with, starting with a 92-94 mph four-seam fastball that he frequently dials up to 96 in relief. His fast-developing change is already his second pitch, and it's an effective weapon against lefthanders. He maintains fastball arm speed with the pitch. McGowan's breaking stuff is less consistent but does show promise. He gets good rotation on a downer curve, though his 86-88 mph slider has more the look of a potential out pitch. When it's working for him, his slider features sharp twoplane break. McGowan is athletic, quiet and diligent, and he has shown the aptitude to make adjustments to his level of competition. Like many young power pitchers, McGowan struggles to command his fastball, and sometimes his heater lacks movement. Big league hitters weren't as prone to chasing his breaking stuff out of the strike zone, so he'll need to get ahead in the count with his fastball. He's also seeking more consistency with his breaking pitches. The Blue Jays believe his curve and slider will be better than average once he learns to command them in the strike zone. McGowan showed a lot of growth in 2005, but he still has much improvement in front of him. He'll need to refine his fastball command if he's to become the front-of-the-rotation starter the Blue Jays envision. He'll compete for a rotation spot in spring training, but would benefit from a few months pitching at Triple-A Syracuse.
A second-team All-American as a junior, Romero was the first pitcher selected in the 2005 draft. The Blue Jays took him sixth overall and signed him for a club-record $2.4 million. He was one of Cal State Fullerton's two aces on its 2004 national championship team. Romero is poised on the mound and attacks hitters with command of three above-average pitches. He moves his fastball in and out and usually throws it at 90-92 mph. He gets late action in the zone with his two-seamer. His power downer curve is sometimes his second pitch, while other times it's his changeup, which he uses to combat righthanders. Romero doesn't have dominant stuff. While his delivery is efficient now, the Jays are working to get his fastball on a more downward plane. After a heavy amateur workload, Toronto limited him to a strict 50-60 pitch count during his debut. Romero likely will return to high Class A Dunedin to start 2006; with a strong spring, he could start in Double-A. He should move quickly and is a safe bet to reach his ceiling as a No. 3 starter.
After turning down lucrative offers to turn pro with the Mariners (out of high school) and the Yankees (as a draft-eligible sophomore), Purcey signed with the Blue Jays for $1.6 million as the 16th overall pick in 2004. He started his first full season in high Class A and reached Double- A by the end of July. Purcey's 91-93 mph fastball tops out at 95 and explodes on batters as it arrives at the plate. He also generates awkward swings and misses with his plus 12-to-6 curveball, one of the best in the system. He has the makings of a quality changeup and has good arm speed with the pitch, but it's not as advanced as his other offerings. Command has been by far Purcey's biggest stumbling block, in part because he has difficulty repeating his release point. The Blue Jays are also working with him to improve his pitch efficiency and stamina by not maxing out on every pitch. Purcey is a physical pitcher with power stuff. He won't reach his potential as a No. 2 starter if he doesn't consistently throw strikes. He almost certainly will begin 2006 back in Double-A.
One year after Lind signed with the Blue Jays as a draft-eligible sophomore, he has become the best hitting prospect in the organization. He led the high Class A Florida State League in doubles and extra-base hits while ranking second in batting and hits. Lind has the quickest bat in the system, making him Toronto's only position prospect with star potential. Described as a natural-born hitter by one Jays official, he uses a picture-perfect lefthanded swing to make hard contact to all fields. He's doesn't panic when he falls behind, as his advanced two-strike approach allows him to be more selective and get pitches to hit. Lind's desire to improve defensively has been questioned. To his credit, he worked doggedly to improve his left-field play, taking two rounds of batting practice flyballs a day to hone his jumps and routes. His arm is fringy and he's a below-average runner. Lind is expected to start 2006 at Double-A. The Blue Jays see him as their left fielder of the future and a middle-of-the-order presence capable of hitting .300 with 40 doubles and 20 homers. If his glove proves unplayable in left, he may return to first base.
A strained elbow ligament in 2002 and recurring blisters on his pitching hand may have scared teams off, but the Blue Jays snagged Banks in the second round of the 2003 draft. He has shown improvement in each of his first three pro seasons. Banks is one of the minors' finest control pitchers and went eight straight starts without a walk last year. In the second half, he began to pitch down in the zone more effectively, something he didn't do in his first taste of Double-A in 2004. Banks commands both sides of the plate with a solid-average fastball that sits at 90-91 mph and touches 93. His splitter is a major league out pitch. Banks made strides with his fringy curveball late in the season, gaining the confidence to go to it when behind in the count. Less frequently, he'll go to his slider or changeup. He's still perfecting his pitch sequencing. He's vulnerable to homers, perhaps because he is so resistant to giving up walks. The durable Banks finished among Eastern League leaders in innings, strikeouts and complete games. He's bound for Triple-A and the Jays are excited about his future as a No. 3 or 4 starter.
A two-way player at UCLA his first three seasons, Janssen devoted full attention to pitching his senior season. He went from a 49th-round pick by the Orioles in 2003 to a fourth-rounder by the Jays in 2004 to one of the system's best prospects in 2005, when his 2.18 ERA ranked fourth in the minors. Janssen commands four pitches for strikes. He creates good natural cutting movement on his 89-91 mph two-seam fastball. He throws a solid-average slider with good bite, a changeup with tailing action and an average though soft curveball. He follows a gameplan when he pitches, keeps the ball on the ground and is adept at holding runners. None of Janssen's four pitches projects as above average, and it's uncertain how his stuff will play against more advanced hitters who swing and miss less frequently. He wore down a bit as the season progressed, so he needs to get stronger. With his ability to throw strikes, Janssen looks like a future No. 4 starter in the majors. He'll open the season in Double-A.
No. 1 on this list a year ago, League saw his progress stall after his callup to Toronto at the end of 2004. He made the Jays' Opening Day roster in 2005, struggled in the majors and never got back on track in Triple-A. Switching roles from starter to reliever and back probably hasn't helped his development. League has a special arm. He throws everything hard. He popped 101 mph on the radar gun in the big leagues and typically sits at 94-96 mph with diving action in the strike zone when he's on. His hard slider clocks in at 88-91 mph. League's changeup has sinking action and is thrown so hard (88-92 mph) it looks like a two-seam fastball. League gets in trouble when he can't locate his pitches. He can't get away with pitching up in the zone because his stuff flattens out. He doesn't consistently repeat his low three-quarters release point and is far more hittable than he should be with his stuff. The club still thinks League will one day close in the majors. They believe that with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and a veteran staff, they have the support system in place to facilitate his growth.
Rosario was just starting to blossom in 2002 when he injured his elbow in the Arizona Fall League and required Tommy John surgery. He hasn't fully recovered the feel for his stuff. The Blue Jays neglected to call him up in 2005 despite the need to bolster their bullpen. Rosario was shifted to the bullpen in August to begin grooming him for a late-inning relief role. He throws his plus fastball at 93-96 mph. To complement his heater, he throws an above-average 86-88 mph changeup with late action and an 85-88 mph slider. All of his pitches were sharper when he worked in relief. Despite his arm strength and velocity, Rosario has a tendency to lose life and command on his fastball. He also lacks feel for his secondary stuff, especially his slider. Some observers think he pitches as if he fears hurting his elbow again. Because he missed the entire 2003 season, Rosario has one option remaining, so he won't have to clear waivers if he doesn't make the big league team in spring training. He should open the season in the Triple-A bullpen.
A member of three College World Series teams in three years at Texas, Thigpen saw more action at first base because the Longhorns had one of college baseball's top defensive catchers in Taylor Teagarden. Thigpen has taken to full-time catching even better than the Blue Jays expected, throwing out 40 percent of basestealers and reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. Strike-zone judgment and athleticism are Thigpen's calling cards. He's a line-drive hitter with a short stroke and gap power. He's a cerebral catcher who studies ways to set up opposing hitters, and he works well with his pitchers. He's versatile enough to play anywhere but shortstop and center field. Thigpen is agile behind the plate and has made strides with his footwork, but still can improve his receiving skills. When his mechanics break down, his arm can rate as slightly below-average. The Jays see Thigpen as an everyday catcher and will give him every opportunity to succeed. His strong finish at Double-A was encouraging. He'll likely start 2006 back with New Hampshire.
Perkins was a Little League and high school teammate of Rich Harden while growing up in Victoria, British Columbia. Perkins reached Double- A in 2005, though he missed time with a strained ribcage after having back and elbow injuries in 2004. Perkins' power arm rivals any in the system. The action on Perkins' heavy 93-96 mph sinking fastball has been likened to a bowling ball, and it's a true out pitch. He throws two average secondary pitches: a hard 86-87 mph slider and a developing changeup. He gets high marks for his mound presence and makeup. Pitch efficiency never has been Perkins' strong suit because he struggles with his command. Despite having a prototypical pitcher's frame, he doesn't have ideal mechanics. He often throws across his body and his shoulder flies open when he uses his slider. He needs to slow the pace of his delivery and repeat his motion. Command is often the last thing to come for power pitchers, and the Blue Jays are optimistic Perkins will figure it out. If not, he could have a bright future in the bullpen. His spring-training performance will determine if he's ready for Triple-A.
Marcum was the starting shortstop and closer for Southwest Missouri State's 2003 College World Series team. He has moved quickly since turning pro and made his major league debut last September by not allowing a run in five relief appearances, including two-inning stints against the Red Sox and Yankees. Marcum doesn't have a knockout pitch, but he commands his stuff and he works ahead of batters. He throws his two-seam fastball at 88-91 mph to both sides of the plate. His changeup, which he uses to combat lefthanders, is a plus pitch because he maintains fastball arm speed. Marcum's late-breaking, 81-83 mph slider is effective and he can spot it when he falls behind in the count. His curveball is fringy and likely to be shelved if he stays in the bullpen. He has a quick arm, and his upright delivery might be best suited for relief. He got into home run trouble at Triple-A when he would catch too much of the plate in fastball counts. It's all about sequencing and location for Marcum, who doesn't have a large margin for error. Despite working mostly as a starter in the minors, he's a strong candidate to rejoin the Toronto bullpen at some point this season.
Quiroz has been largely invisible since his huge 2003 season in Double-A, missing chunks of the past two seasons to injury. It's now uncertain what kind of return the Blue Jays will get on their initial $1.2 million bonus investment in Quiroz. His troubles started during his breakout year, when he suffered a collapsed lung toward the end of the season. He was stricken with the same problem last spring, and had surgery to build scar tissue in an attempt to prevent another reoccurrence. His left hand was broken by a pitch in 2004, and he has played a total of 141 games during the last two years. Quiroz has gotten rusty after the layoff from live pitching, but he has a good batting eye and is capable of delivering bigtime power for his position. He does have a long swing, however, and never has hit for much of an average. His receiving looked shoddy in the Arizona Fall League, and though he has plus arm strength and a quick release, he threw out just 29 percent of basestealers in 2005. He has well below-average speed on the bases. Quiroz' injuries have been fluky, and he played through his first collapsed lung for a time, thinking it was just a severe chest cold. But now he's heading into his eighth season in the system, and Curtis Thigpen has passed him in the Jays' long-term plans. Quiroz will have to fight for the big league backup job in spring training, though he may be better served by getting more regular playing time in Triple-A.
A fourth-round pick who signed in June for $162,500, Patterson arrived in pro ball with an impressive hitting résumé. A third-team All-American in 2005, he hit 50 homers as a collegian and led the Cape Cod League with a .327 batting average in 2004 after finishing eighth at .288 the year before. Despite being a little old for the short-season New York-Penn League--he was a senior sign who went undrafted as a junior--Patterson couldn't have made a stronger impression, as he led the league in RBIs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage. He's an aggressive hitter who's locked in at the plate and likes to jump on the first pitch he can handle. Though his swing is somewhat unconventional, it's compact and his bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time. He has shown an ability to hit fastballs and breaking balls in any count. Patterson played center field in college and in his pro debut, but he profiles more as a right fielder. He has the arm strength for right field and he's an average runner. Expected to begin 2006 in high Class A, Patterson will try to make the same jump Adam Lind did last season.
Cheng had a decorated amateur career in Taiwan, pitching for the 1996 Little League World Series championship club and several other national teams. His heavy workload scared off other clubs that scout Asia, but he hasn't had any physical problems since signing for $400,000 following the 2003 World Cup. Cheng led the Rookie-level Appalachian League in strikeouts during his 2004 debut and finished third in the low Class A Midwest League last year, when he was the youngest pitcher on a Jays full-season affiliate. Cheng's out pitch is a plus curveball. He commands it better than his 86-88 mph fastball, which features so much life that he struggles to throw strikes with it. He led the MWL in walks. Cheng is still developing his changeup. He has made great strides acclimating to the U.S. culture and he's learning English rapidly. Toronto would like to see Cheng pitch more to contact and be more aggressive instead of trying to be too fine. He'll tackle high Class A in 2006 and the Jays project him as a future starter. With his curveball, Cheng at least should become a lefty reliever.
The Blue Jays gambled on Yates when he was a nondescript reliever pitching behind the likes of Huston Street and J. Brent Cox at Texas, and it's paying dividends. Yates emerged in 2005, his second pro season, making more progress than any pitcher in the organization save Casey Janssen. Yates's curve is a true 70 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale and is the best in the system. His 88-90 mph fastball is just fringe average, though he can hit 92 consistently out of the pen. After learning a changeup in instructional league in 2004, Yates was switched to a starting role at low Class A Lansing last year and took to it with aplomb. He took advantage of his starts and side sessions to refine his changeup, which he didn't use in relief. After Yates was promoted to high Class A, pitching coach Rick Langford implored him to mix his pitch sequences and not become too reliant on his curve when going for strikeouts. Yates also needs to be more attentive to how batters are reacting to him, something working with more experienced catchers might correct. He's a safe bet to begin 2006 in high Class A, where he'll continue to get innings as a starter. He may return to the bullpen in the future.
Area scout Marc Tramuta liked Cannon so much that he advocated drafting him in the second round in 2004. The Blue Jays waited until the eighth round and signed him for $25,000, a discounted rate because he was a college senior. Cannon powered through three full-season leagues in 2005, hitting a total of 32 homers to rank fifth in the minors. He tore up two Class A leagues before finding the going tougher in Double-A. Cannon doesn't pick the ball up well against lefthanders, and Double-A southpaws fanned him 25 times in 48 at bats. He does have the best pop in the system, as well as the batting eye and patience to take walks. Because he was born with two club feet and had three operations on each foot as a child, Cannon has trouble starting and stopping on the bases and in the field. Limited to first base, he has a well above-average arm for his position and was clocked at 90 mph as a pitcher at The Citadel. After exceeding Toronto's wildest expectations in 2005, he'll take another crack at Double-A this season.
Cosby looked to be on his way up after a solid 2003 performance in high Class A and a stellar spring-training follow-up, but five games into the 2004 season he completely tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his knee and missed the rest of the year. He showed few ill effects once he returned last year, finishing among the Eastern League leaders in average, doubles and slugging percentage despite playing his home games in the brutal offensive environment of New Hampshire's Fisher Cats Ballpark. He's not patient at the plate, but Cosby makes contact and drives the ball, producing for both power and average. Defensively, he has quickness, solid hands, a strong arm and average range at third base. He's still working to regain his full speed and agility, and he's still learning how his knee will react to spins and throws on the run. The Blue Jays expect Cosby to be fully recovered in 2006, two years away from his injury, and he destined for Triple-A.
The Florida State League's 2004 pitcher of the year, Ramirez moved up to Double-A last year and was nearly as effective except for becoming much more vulnerable to homers. He sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of Toronto's upper-level pitching prospects, but he has good stuff. He throws a sinking 90-92 mph fastball that can reach 94. His slider and changeup can be plus pitches at times, though he doesn't produce as many groundballs as someone with his sinker/slider combo should. Ramirez uses his changeup as his main weapon against lefthanders, and he'll need to refine it to remain a starter. A streaky pitcher, he gets hit when he falls behind in the count. His mechanics place stress on his elbow--he came down with tendinitis at season's end--and the Blue Jays are working with him to close his delivery, which also will aid him in keeping his pitches down. He employs a slight pause in his windup to help throw off hitters' timing. He may return to Double-A to start 2006, but Toronto would like to see him force his way to Triple-A in his eighth season in the organization.
Pettway enhanced his draft stock by shedding 20 pounds for a junior season that culminated in second-team All-America honors as he helped Mississippi get within a game of the College World Series. Several Southeastern Conference opponents considered Pettway, and not Indians second-round pick Stephen Head, the Rebels' most dangerous hitter last spring. After Pettway signed for $440,000 as a third-round pick in June, he struggle more than expected against pro pitching. He had trouble making contact, which may be the result of a brief layoff during negotiations and/or a lack of advanced wood bat experience. Pettway is an aggressive hitter who favors swinging at the first pitch, and he was frequently induced to put less-than-optimal pitches in play. He utilizes a level, consistent swing to hit for average and he's expected to develop power--some think he'll have more than Ryan Patterson-- as he matures. A two-way player who also relieved at Mississippi, Pettway played catcher when he arrived in college and has enough arm for right field. He has below-average speed and ordinary range, so he profiles more as a left fielder. After working on his selectivity during instructional league, he'll head to low Class A to begin this season.
Diaz won the Appalachian League batting title in 2003 and has earned league all-star honors in each of the past two seasons. With quick wrists and hands positioned over the plate, Diaz can get his bat on just about any pitch. He's a classic bad-ball hitter who puts the ball in play nearly every at-bat, resulting in low walk and strikeout totals. A spray hitter with an inside-out swing, he has yet to develop much power. Diaz has a live body and runs surprisingly well for a catcher. He has a strong arm, throwing out 36 percent of basestealers in 2005, and he blocks balls well. His gamecalling needs a lot of improvement, as he needs to work better with his pitchers to formulate gameplans. With Curtis Thigpen moving ahead of him, Diaz may have to repeat high Class A until an everyday job opens in Double-A.
The first player ever drafted out of Guam, Hattig joined the Blue Jays in a July 2004 trade for Terry Adams. Hattig was in the midst of a career year that saw him hit 22 homers, but he failed to build on that effort in 2005. He hurt his elbow in spring training, sidelining him for six weeks, before lingering hamstring problems ended his season after 37 games. Hattig has a good swing from both sides of the plate and controls the strike zone, though he rarely has hit for much power with the exception of 2004. Hattig isn't much of an athlete and needs to spend more time on his conditioning, a lingering concern. He's adequate at third base, where his arm is average, but lacks first-step quickness and likely will have to move to first base in the future. He has the makeup to put bad at-bats and errors behind him. His quest to become Guam's first big leaguer will resume in Triple-A this year.
Griffin led the Triple-A International League in home runs and RBIs in 2005, finally showing the power three organizations had been looking for since the Yankees drafted him 23rd overall in 2001. New York sent him to Oakland in the Jeff Weaver trade in July 2002, and the A's moved him to the Blue Jays for Jason Perry in January 2003. In college, Griffin was known more for his ability to hit for average. He topped .400 in each of his three seasons at Florida State, set a Seminoles record with a career .427 mark and had coach Mike Martin call him the best pure hitter in the program's history. But after slugging a mere .430 during his first two pro seasons, Griffin spent his next two in Double-A learning to identify which pitches he could drive. The tradeoff for his power has been a drop in batting average and a spike in strikeouts. At least he still draws his share of value. Griffin's value consists entirely of what he can do with the bat. He's a below-average runner, thrower and defender who's limited to left field and first base and may fit best at DH. The Blue Jays rewarded Griffin's 2005 performance with his first major league callup to give him an idea of what he has to do to make the club, and he homered off Kansas City's Jimmy Gobble on the final day of the season. Griffin will get the chance to make Toronto as a reserve outfielder and pinchhitter this spring.
A teammate of Brian Pettway's at Mississippi, Fowler was the fifth of five Rebels to go in the first five rounds of the 2005 draft. A fifth-rounder who signed for $182,500, he has a down-breaking curveball that's already a major league pitch. He backs up his curve by using a quick arm action to throw an 88-91 mph fastball, which he locates down in the zone. Fowler's fastball is deceptive in that it looks faster than its velocity and has late life, running in on lefties. His changeup is average at times but remains a work in progress. He'll have to get stronger after tiring down the stretch at short-season Auburn, which affected his control. He'll have to refine his command and maybe add a slider, but otherwise the Blue Jays are pleased with his progress and think he mainly needs experience. He may make a two-level jump to high Class A this year.
The Rockies tried to sign Litsch as a 37th-round draft-and-follow from 2003, and considered redrafting him in 2004. When he declined both offers, the Blue Jays took him in the 24th round in 2004 and came to terms with him as a draft-and-follow after he spent a second season at South Florida Community College. Litsch had a dominant pro debut, overmatching Appy League hitters with four pitches and excellent control. He goes straight after hitters, mixing his 88-92 mph four-seam fastball, which cuts away from righthanders; a slider he throws at 84-86 mph with plus potential; a fading changeup; and a solid-average curve he throws to alter batters' eye levels. He's an aggressive pitcher, though sometimes he'll try to be too fine and throw a perfect slider when he just needs to throw the pitch for a strike. Toronto is trying to get him to throw his pitches on more of a downward plane, as he occasionally loses his direction to the plate. He'll head to low Class A to begin 2006.
Rodriguez struggled out of the gate in his full-season debut in 2005, hitting .173 for the first two months and just reaching the Mendoza Line at season's end. Unlike Lansing teammate Chi-Hung Cheng, who made a smooth transition to his new surroundings, Rodriguez had trouble adapting to the colder temperatures and more extensive travel in the Midwest League. A raw five-tool talent, Rodriguez has a long way to go to harness his physical abilities. The center fielder is the organization's top athlete and he's a plus defender, thrower and runner. But he doesn't yet possess basestealing instincts and needs to improve his leads and jumps. At the plate, he fell into bad habits early and began pressing. He has good bat speed and power potential, but has several adjustments to make at the plate after striking out 114 times in 111 games. Rodriguez will try to get back on track when he repeats low Class A this year.
Drafted as a third baseman in 2003, Roberts was shifted to second base in instructional league that year and the transition has gone smoothly. He didn't distinguish himself in his first crack at high Class A in 2004, but it took him just two months to master the level in 2005 and he didn't stop hitting after a promotion to Double-A. Roberts has an advanced approach at the plate--he placed third in the Eastern League in on-base percentage--and opposite-field power. He'll take a pitcher's pitch on the outside corner and serve it to right field. While he's an offensive-minded second baseman, Roberts has average speed, range and arm strength, solid hands and an effective double-play pivot. He's a high-energy player whom opposing managers commend for his professionalism. He's ready for Triple-A and getting close to his first big league promotion.
Despite an inconsistent junior season at Texas A&M in 2005, the Blue Jays made Ray a seventh-round pick on the strength of his dominant summer the year before in the Cape Cod League. Ray was more consistent as a pro than he had been in the spring, and Toronto believes he can remain a starter after he pitched in multiple roles for the Aggies. His best pitch is an 89-93 mph fastball with late life, and his heater sat at 92-94 when he came out of the bullpen in Cape Cod. His slider rates a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he also throws an average curve and an in-progress changeup. The Jays were impressed with his feel for changing speeds and attacking hitters. Roving pitching instructor Dane Johnson helped simplify his approach, but Ray will need to improve his command if he's to remain a starter. He also can do a better job of trying to figure out what hitters are attempting to do against him. He'll open his first full pro season in low Class A.
Romero generates surprising velocity for a pitcher who's generously listed at 5-foot-10, getting his fastball up to 91-92 mph. He ranked third in the Florida State League in strikeouts last year, and when he's on he throws strikes with his fastball, locates his changeup and puts batters away with his above-average, sweeping curveball. At other times, he'll pitch in the high 80s and be much more hittable. Romero is athletic and very sound mechanically. He's using a new low-three-quarters arm slot, suggested by roving pitching instructor Dane Johnson to improve the width on his curve. Romero struggles at times to set batters up for future at-bats, and he pitched well coming out of the bullpen, suggesting a likely future role of lefty reliever. The Jays would like to see Romero make a run at their Double-A rotation this season.
Butler led Nevada with a .340 batting average as a senior in 2005, piquing the Blue Jays' interest with his plate discipline and hitting approach. After they nabbed him in the eighth round and signed him for $25,000 last June, Toronto has compared him to former Wolf Pack stars Ryan Church and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Butler was too advanced for the Appalachian League but headed there because the Jays had too many corner outfielders at Auburn. He made the most of his assignment, finishing second in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and extra-base hits. Promoted for the New York-Penn League playoffs, Butler had a five-hit, six-RBI game in the semifinals. Butler has sound pitch-recognition skills, making adjustments to offspeed pitches, and plus power. He's limited to left field by an average arm and below-average running speed. The Jays are optimistic about his chances against advanced competition and could push him to high Class A, though he'll probably begin this year in low Class A.
The Blue Jays wanted to take an advanced high school hitter early in the 2005 draft, but their targets kept getting taken by other clubs. They settled for Stone in the 11th round, making him the only prep player they signed last year and their earliest high school hitter selected during general manager J.P. Ricciardi's tenure. Because they lack a complex league team, Toronto was looking for a polished hitter who could make a quick adjustment to the pros. Stone delivered on both counts before fading in August. His best tool is his bat, though he needs to get stronger to take advantage of his projectable power. The Jays were impressed with Stone's batting eye, but he struggled to make consistent contact in his debut. Quiet and a diligent worker, Stone is capable at second base but could stand to improve his footwork around the bag. While his arm is average, he needs to speed up his pivot to catch up with the faster level of competition. He made strides in that regard during instructional league. He could open 2006 in low Class A if he has a good spring.
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