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Though the Blue Jays now shy away from spending early picks on high school righthanders, League is the third in recent years to top this list, joining Roy Halladay (1997-99) and Dustin McGowan (2003). Coming out of high school, League was committed to Pepperdine before the Blue Jays persuaded him to sign for $600,000. Toronto initially took a slow-track approach as it did with McGowan and didn't let League make his full-season debut until his third year as a pro. Yet he still managed to reach the majors at 21 and didn't look intimidated in his debut. He entered his first game at Yankee Stadium with two outs, the bases loaded and Gary Sheffield at the plate. He overpowered Sheffield, getting a harmless grounder, and worked 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings. After working almost exclusively as a starter before 2004, League responded to a move to the bullpen. The Jays hoped to accelerate his timetable by shifting him to relief, and he highlighted his breakthrough campaign by hitting 102 mph on the stadium radar gun at the Eastern League all-star game. League is one of the hardest throwers in the minors, and he has the potential to become either a frontline starter or dominant closer, depending on what Toronto wants. He features a heavy fastball that sits at 95-97 mph. The lively sink and running action on his heater make the pitch difficult for hitters to center. He generates his velocity and life with a lightning-quick arm and throws from a whip-like, lower three-quarters arm slot. Former Blue Jays pitching coach Gil Patterson says the movement on League's fastball reminds him of Halladay's. League works down in the zone and generated a 2.7 groundball/flyball ratio in Double-A. His 87-89 mph slider is also a plus pitch. He has developed an effective third pitch in his changeup, so scouts say he won't have to be limited to short-relief work. League's work with pitching instructors Dane Johnson and Rick Adair contributed to his rise, but he has further adjustments to make. He needs to maintain his arm slot. He tends to over-rotate in his delivery and drag his arm, which keeps him from staying on top of his slider. Scouts did note that League's delivery was much improved in 2004, as he looked cleaner and used less effort. For a guy with such an electric arm, he doesn't blow away as many hitters as might be expected. After earning MVP honors in the Eastern League playoffs, League continued to open eyes with his performance in Toronto. He'll go to spring training with a good chance to make the big league club and figures to get his feet wet in the Jays bullpen in 2005. With no established closer in Toronto, League's power repertoire could land him that role. But he also has enough stuff to project as a quality starter and could be more valuable in that role.
Hill was the Southeastern Conference player of the year in 2003, and the Jays drafted him with the idea he'd move quickly. He finished his first season at high Class A Dunedin and spent his first full year in Double-A. When Russ Adams bowed out of the Futures Game with a ribcage injury, Hill replaced him on the U.S. roster and claimed the game's MVP award. Hill offers average to above-average tools across the board, but what sets him apart is his ability to optimize them. He's short to the ball with an easy, compact swing, makes adjustments and uses the entire field. Hill should have at least average power as he learns how to incorporate his lower half for more leverage. He has a tremendous arm and shows good speed and instincts on the basepaths. While there's little doubt Hill profiles as an everyday big leaguer, some scouts question his quickness and footwork at shortstop. He compensates for a lack of range by making good reads on balls. Hill should start 2005 at Triple-A Syracuse, with his major league debut on the horizon. Whether he or Russ Adams sticks at shortstop and forces the other to move has yet to be determined.
Signed for $1.2 million, Quiroz missed time late in 2003 with a partially collapsed lung, and missed most of May and June in 2004 after he broke his left hand. He returned to make his big league debut in September. Quiroz has above-average catch-and-throw skills, with plus arm strength and a quick release. At the plate he makes contact, does a good job of working the count and displays plus raw power. In 2003, Jays coaches used videotape of Quiroz taking batting practice as an example to hold up for other players because he exemplified the organization's approach to hitting. Even before he was hurt last year, Quiroz showed up for spring training out of shape, affecting his performance. His swing can get long, and he may never hit for much of an average. A year after catching 44 percent of basestealers, he nailed just 22 percent in 2004. Quiroz could use more time in Triple-A, but the Jays need help behind the plate and he's not far from sticking in Toronto.
Rosario emerged as one of the Blue Jays' top pitching prospects with a dominant showing in 2002, but his ascent stalled when he blew out his elbow in the Arizona Fall League that offseason. Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2003, and he returned last May before missing six weeks with an upper-arm injury unrelated to his elbow. Rosario has a loose, easy arm action that helps him fire explosive fastballs in the mid-90s while maintaining solid command. The ball jumps out of his hand from a three-quarters slot, and he creates good sinking life on both his fastball and above-average changeup. Rosario rushes his delivery, causing his arm to drag and his pitches to flatten out. He needs to do a better job of staying on top of his slider for more of a downward tilt through the strike zone. Headed for Triple-A, Rosario has the power stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He still hasn't quite regained his overpowering form and pinpoint control from 2002.
Purcey was selected in the 20th round by the Mariners out of high school, but declined their $1 million offer and headed to Oklahoma. He also turned down the Yankees as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2003, after going in the 17th round and starring in the Cape Cod League. It all paid off when he signed for $1.6 million as the 16th overall selection last June. Purcey has a loose, fluid arm to go with an imposing frame. He shows the makings of three average to plus pitches, and his primary weapon is a lively 90- 95 mph fastball. He also throws two variations of a 75-79 mph curveball that's becoming an above-average pitch. One is a 12-to-6 hammer, while the other is more of a slurve. His changeup grades as solid-average. Purcey's inconsistent mechanics need to be cleaned up to improve his pitch quality and command. He tends to get under his fastball and get on the side of his curveball, costing him movement on both pitches. He didn't pitch well in his two previous draft years, causing some scouts to question his mental toughness. The Jays hope to push Purcey quickly through the system. He'll begin 2005 in high Class A.
Adams blazed through the Jays system, reaching Double-A in his first full season and the majors by the end of his second. He was selected for the 2004 Futures Game but missed it because of a ribcage injury. The day after he returned, he began a 16-game hitting streak. Adams employs a compact, line-drive stroke with quick hands. He profiles as a No. 2 hitter with gap power, and he has the ability to command the strike zone and make consistent contact. He has plus speed and keen baserunning ability. Defensively, he has soft hands, quick feet and improved range. Adams has below-average arm strength, but compensates with his positioning, reactions and release. He won't ever become a home run threat, though he finds the gaps with regularity. Playing shortstop on artificial turf will be a challenge for Adams, but Toronto likes the progress he has made in the field. He's similar offensively to the Orioles' Brian Roberts and is primed to take shortstop and the leadoff role in Toronto this spring. Aaron Hill could push Adams to second base in the future.
McGowan looked like he was headed for the Toronto rotation after a hot start that had him on the verge of a promotion to Syracuse in early May. But before he reached Triple-A, he learned he needed Tommy John surgery. Elbow troubles coming out of high school nearly caused the Blue Jays to void his $950,000 bonus, and they proceeded with caution by limiting his workload and pitch counts early in his career. When healthy, McGowan brings legitimate frontline starter stuff to the mound. His fastball sits at 94-95 mph and tops out at 97 with above-average life. He has a plus curveball with tight spin and bite, along with a sharp mid-80s slider. He maintains his fastball arm speed when he throws his changeup. The elbow injury clearly affected McGowan's command after he made significant progress the year before. He'll need to re-establish his control as well as the touch on his changeup once he returns. McGowan's rehabilitation has gone well, and Blue Jays officials say they're optimistic he can regain his overpowering stuff and are targeting a May return. He probably won't be at full strength until 2006.
After emerging in the Cape Cod League in 2003, Jackson transferred from Louisville to Texas A&M and spun a seven-inning no-hitter in his first start for the Aggies. The Blue Jays targeted both David Purcey and Jackson with the No. 16 overall pick, and were thrilled Jackson was still on the board for them at No. 32. He signed for $1.0175 million. Jackson has more polish than Purcey. His mechanics and easy arm action allow him to command three effective pitches. He hides his tailing 89-93 mph fastball well, and he'll cut it on occasion. He also throws a deceptive circle changeup and an improved slider with late depth. Jackson does a good job of pitching inside and locating his fastball. Jackson doesn't have a true swing-and-miss pitch. He relies more on setting hitters up, making them hit his pitch and depending on his defense to make plays. The Blue Jays limited Jackson to 50 pitches in each of his four pro starts after he worked a staff-high 121 innings at Texas A&M during the spring. He should be a workhorse in the long run, however, and he'll join Purcey in the Dunedin rotation in 2005.
Banks' first-round aspirations were dashed when he came down with blister problems shortly before the 2003 draft. He also missed time as a Florida International sophomore with a strained elbow ligament, but neither injury has kept him from pitching like a first-round talent since signing for $650,000. A reliever in college before his junior season, Banks projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter. He keeps hitters off balance with a five-pitch repertoire, including a 90-94 mph fastball. His 83-85 mph splitter is an out pitch, and he mixes in an 80-82 mph slider, a curveball and a changeup. After getting promoted to Double-A, Banks initially struggled because he left the ball up in the strike zone too much. He made adjustments and finished his first full season with a four-game win streak. He still has work to do with his fastball command, and his slider can become slurvy at times. Banks will head back to Double-A to start 2005. He's on a path similar to that of David Bush, which could put him in Toronto around midseason.
Chacin signed out of the Jays' Venezuela academy for $50,000 and reached Double-A by age 19, but disappeared from the prospect radar when he scuffled and was demoted to the bullpen. He rebounded in 2004, leading the minors with 18 wins and being named Eastern League pitcher of the year before beating the Yankees in his major league debut. Chacin had been a fastball/changeup pitcher with a show-me curveball, and his success can be attributed to the addition of a cut fastball, which helped him get righthanders out. He changes speeds with his 83-89 mph cutter by varying his grip and pressure points. He also gives hitters a difficult look with a slight stutter in his delivery. His two-seam fastball ranges from 87-92 mph, and his changeup is average with good movement. Chacin's curve is still a below-average pitch, and he needs to improve it or find a pitch he can fight lefthanders with. Chacin has pitched his way into the Jays' plans and will vie for a spot at the back of the rotation in spring training.
Gross was a two-sport star at Auburn, where he started at quarterback as a true freshman. His father Lee was an offensive lineman in the NFL during the 1970s. Gross hurt his right elbow in mid-April last year, and while he didn't require surgery he was limited to DH duties for six weeks. He's a big, physical athlete with solid tools across the board and employs an advanced approach at the plate, uncommon in most former two-sport athletes. He has made strides driving the ball to the opposite field with his long, lofting swing. He has an average arm and gets down the line in 4.4 seconds, slightly below-average from the left side. Gross has yet to show the above-average power the Jays projected when they drafted him 15th overall in 2001, though the new scouting regime still believes it's only a matter of time. He needs to be more aggressive, as he'll get passive after working counts into his favor. Gross also has a bad habit of opening up his front side too quickly on his swing, costing him bat speed and allowing lefthanders to exploit him on the inner half. He managed just one hit in 11 at-bats against southpaws in the majors after hitting .233 with one homer against them in Triple-A. He was overmatched at times with Toronto, but his tools are hard to ignore. The Jays will give him the chance to win the left-field job in spring training.
Rodriguez may have the highest upside of any position player in the Jays system. He earned all-star honors during his second stint in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, ranking among the leaders in several offensive categories. Managers considered him the top athlete in the league. Rodriguez has a projectable body with plenty of room for added strength. He displays plus raw power, speed and arm strength, and he's a sound center fielder. He has enough bat speed to catch up to quality fastballs and has a chance to develop into a middle-of-the-order threat. Rodriguez' pitch selection has improved, but he still needs to cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone. He'll get his first dose of full-season ball in 2005, as he heads to Toronto's new low Class A Lansing affiliate.
After vaulting to No. 8 on this list a year ago on the heels of his breakthrough 2003 season, Perkins was slowed by injuries in 2004. A back injury forced him to miss most of May and June, and he hurt his elbow six starts after he returned, costing him another six weeks. When he's right, Perkins' stuff is second only to Dustin McGowan's in the system. He can run his fastball up to 94-97 mph with good movement, but he needs to improve his command. He complements his plus velocity with a good changeup and improving power slider in the upper 80s. The slider has nice tilt and has potential as a strikeout pitch. Perkins' arm appears to be sound, as he topped out at 95 mph in instructional league. As long as he doesn't have another setback, he'll start 2005 in the Double-A rotation. He has the repertoire to be a quality starter in the majors, though some scouts say his aggressive delivery and workhorse build are better suited for late-inning relief.
A two-way player at Southwest Missouri State, Marcum was the starting shortstop and closer on the Bears' 2003 College World Series team. His bat wasn't as impressive as his arm, however, so it was a given that he'd move full-time to the mound once he signed. Like David Bush, another star closer in college, Marcum worked in the rotation in his first full pro season. Toronto didn't make the change just to give him more innings, however. He has a four-pitch arsenal that could allow him to start in the majors. His best pitch is a sharp slider, and he throws an 87-92 mph fastball, an average curveball and an improved changeup. Though Marcum didn't need his changeup much in college, he maintains his arm speed and achieves late movement on the pitch. His control has been exemplary thus far, as he has averaged just 1.3 walks per nine innings as a pro. Marcum's defense was his strong suit as a shortstop, and he continues to field his position well. He'll head to Double-A to start 2005, and the Blue Jays expect him to move fast.
Thigpen was a member of three College World Series teams in three years at Texas, where he caught sparingly. Taylor Teagarden, a potential 2005 first-round pick, handled most of the catching duties, while Thigpen played first base. But the Blue Jays saw enough of him behind the plate to take him in the second round as a catcher last June. His offense is ahead of his defense at this point. Thigpen starts from a balanced stance, and he has quick hands and a line-drive stroke. He uses the whole field and has a solid approach, but he doesn't have a lot of lift in his swing. Though he showed good pop in his pro debut, he could have a harder time hitting for power against better pitching. He's agile behind the plate, though his catch-and-throw skills are ordinary. He threw out 29 percent of basestealers in the short-season New York-Penn League. He can play anywhere on the diamond except for shortstop and center field, so even if he doesn't become a big league regular he could become a versatile utilityman. He could handle a jump to high Class A, but Robinzon Diaz is one rung ahead of him in the system, which may mean Thigpen will begin 2005 in low Class A.
Ramirez had never won more than six games in any of his previous five pro seasons before leading the high Class A Florida State League with 15 victories in 2004. The FSL's most valuable pitcher was a bit old for his level, but he has a nice fastball that should get outs against more advanced hitters. He uses a quick arm action and over-the-top slot to achieve a downward plane on his 90-93 mph heater. The Jays worked with Ramirez to slow down his delivery and keep him more in line to the plate, eliminating his tendency to fly open and elevate pitches. He has a slight hesitation that throws off batters' timing. He throws strikes with all three of his pitches, and his changeup and slider can be plus pitches at times. Ramirez has a good feel for pitching and great competitive makeup. He's finally ready for Double-A.
Some Blue Jays scouts say Lind is the best hitter they've selected in the three drafts under general manager J.P. Ricciardi's watch. An eighth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in Indiana in 2002, he batted .372 in two seasons at South Alabama, including a Sun Belt Conference-best .392 average in 2004. Toronto took him as a draft-eligible sophomore with the second of two draft picks it received for the loss of free agent Kelvim Escobar. Lind kept hitting in his pro debut, making the New York-Penn League all-star team, topping the league in doubles and ranking among the leaders in several categories. He has a fluid lefthanded stroke, bat speed and raw power that presently shows up mainly as doubles. His strike-zone judgment and pitch recognition can improve. Lind's bat will have to carry him because his speed and defense are below-average. He played first base as a freshman and right field as a sophomore, then mostly left field as a pro. He was just adequate there and may face a return to first base in the future. The Jays could challenge him by moving him to high Class A to begin his first full season.
Diaz won the Appalachian League batting title in 2003 and earned a trip to the Futures Game last summer. While he has a free-swinging approach, he displays tremendous bat control and has established himself as one of the most difficult hitters in the minors to strike out. He has an inside-out stroke and sprays the ball to all fields, though he needs to do a better job of controling the strike zone and getting on base, especially if he wants to get the attention of the Blue Jays brass. Diaz also has shown little power at the plate. Behind the plate, his biggest assets are his leadership skills and ability to block pitches. He has an average arm and release, regularly getting the ball down to second in about 2.0 seconds on steals. He erased 28 percent of basestealers in 2004. Diaz has made progress in calling games. With Guillermo Quiroz and Curtis Thigpen ahead of him on the catching depth chart, Diaz' athletic ability enabled him to work out at second and third base during instructional league to enhance his versatility. He'll move up one level to high Class A this year. If Thigpen is there as well, Diaz could split time between catching and playing the infield.
A member of Taiwan's 1996 Little League World Series championship club, Cheng continued to pitch for national teams in Taiwan as he got older. His heavy amateur workload scared off clubs that scout Asia extensively, but the Jays were undaunted. They signed him for $400,000 after he went 0-1, 5.40 in four appearances at the 2003 World Cup in Cuba. They also agreed to let him pitch in the 2004 Olympics if Taiwan wanted him, but he didn't make the cut. Cheng's health wasn't an issue in his pro debut, as he led the Appalachian League in strikeouts. His advanced feel for pitching was one of the main attributes that attracted the Jays' interest, and it allowed him to carve up Rookie-level hitters. He has a clean delivery, throws strikes and projects to add velocity as he matures physically. He currently operates with an 86-90 mph fastball, a hard-biting curveball and a developing changeup. He'll pitch in low Class A this year.
Tablado has added 30 pounds since signing as a fourth-round pick out of high school in 2000, and his power also grew last year. But he missed six weeks early in the year with a pulled quadriceps muscle, then was suspended at the end of the season when he tested positive for a banned substance (reportedly from an over-the-counter supplement). After hitting 25 homers in his first four pro seasons, he broke out with 21 in just 84 games in high Class A in 2004. The ball carries well off his bat and he now shows above-average raw power. Tablado also matured mentally and impressed the Blue Jays with his renewed focus. He did a better job of staying on pitches rather than pulling off of them, as he had in the past. Tablado still doesn't have the plate discipline that Toronto preaches, however, and his walk rate dipped in 2004. Though he has a strong arm and reliable hands, he doesn't run well enough or have enough range to play shortstop in the majors. He profiles better as a third baseman. Tablado is destined for a full year in Double-A as he seeks to make up for time lost last season.
Vermilyea fits perfectly in an organization that relishes drawing walks and abhors giving them up. He owns a 154-32 strikeout-walk ratio in 165 pro innings, and he showed off his fine command by spinning a seven-inning perfect game in his third outing in Double-A. The Blue Jays shuttled Vermilyea between the rotation and bullpen all year to get him extra work, and he'll likely be a reliever in the majors. He has a more diverse repertoire than most relievers, starting with an 89-91 mph fastball with plus run and sink. His 79-82 mph slider features sharp, late break. He changes speeds and planes with his 80-83 mph splitter, his curveball and his fading changeup. He even added a cutter late in the season to attack lefthanders. Vermilyea struggles with his delivery from the stretch because he lacks balance, but he generates average arm speed with a three-quarters arm slot and gets good extension out front. He could open 2005 in Triple-A and make his major league debut later in the year.
Isenberg's 8-8, 5.95 junior season at James Madison didn't scare off the performance-oriented Blue Jays. They knew he pitched in a hitter-friendly home ballpark, and they liked his athleticism (he also played the outfield for the Dukes) and fluid arm action. He quickly repaid their faith, as his 1.63 ERA in his pro debut easily would have led the New York-Penn League had he worked another one-third of an inning to qualify. Isenberg found the going rougher in his first full pro season, getting demoted from high Class A at midseason and missing a month with soreness in his biceps. He still has interesting stuff, however. He throws strikes with a 90-91 mph fastball, an average changeup and an effective curveball. He had trouble maintaining his release point, causing him to leave hittable pitches up in the strike zone. He also added a slider, which is still a work in progress. Isenberg, who profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter, will get another opportunity at Dunedin in 2005.
Of the Blue Jays' top picks in each draft from 1987-2002, Negron (first round, 2000) is the only player who hasn't reached the majors. While he's progressing slowly, though, he's still likely to extend that remarkable streak of success. Negron might have the best raw tools of any Toronto prospect. His defensive ability in center field, complete with plus arm strength and the best speed in the system, is enough by itself to carry him to the big leagues as a reserve outfielder. The question is his bat. He spent parts of three seasons in low Class A before rising to Dunedin last season. Nagging hamstring and elbow injuries have hindered his progress, but he's equipped with good bat speed and average raw power. The Blue Jays are encouraged by his improved knowledge of the strike zone, but he'll need to work counts more and strike out less to be more than a defensive replacement. He will make his Double-A debut in 2005, when the Jays hope he can get 500 at-bats for the first time in his career.
A sixth-round pick out of an Oklahoma high school by the Red Sox in 2001, James went one round better as a sophomore-eligible coming out of Missouri. He was the highest-drafted Tigers alum since the Astros picked Dave Silvestri in 1988's second round. James cruised through his first two pro stops before stalling in high Class A in the second half of 2004. In order to adjust, he'll need to slow down his mechanics and improve the consistency of his slider, which could become an above-average pitch. James runs his fastball into the low 90s with a maximum-effort delivery that lacks deception. Coming into last season, his changeup was his best pitch. But he didn't fool lefthanders with it as he had previously, and they hit .337 against him. Like many of Toronto's recent picks, he keeps the ball in the yard and throws strikes. He's also aggressive about pitching inside. James could return to high A to open 2005, though he could wind up in Double-A if he has a good spring. He may move to the bullpen in the future.
Griffin topped the .400 mark in all three of his seasons at Florida State, where he set a school record with a .427 career average and Seminoles coach Mike Martin called him the best pure hitter in the program's storied history. The Yankees made him a first-round pick in 2001, and two trades later he has yet to make it past Double-A. Griffin has been disappointing for the Blue Jays, who thought they were getting a nearly major league-ready hitting machine. He repeated Double-A last year and didn't make the expected adjustments. He launched a personal-best 22 homers, but at the expense of his ability to hit for average (a career-low .248) and his strike-zone judgment (a career-worst 128 whiffs). He has a smooth, quick swing from the left side and needs to get back to his natural hitting instincts. He fell into the bad habit of working deep counts only to strike out looking on good pitches to hit. Griffin's defense is a significant concern as well. He had surgery on his throwing shoulder after his sophomore year at Florida State, and his arm has been below-average ever since. He injured his wrist in spring training and had to spend most of 2004 as a DH. He's limited to left field or first base, and he's going to have to produce a lot more offense to cut it at either position. Griffin will get an opportunity to turn things around in Triple-A, but his time is running out.
Josh Phelps was leading the Blue Jays in RBIs in early August, but they were frustrated by his inconsistency at the plate and not thrilled about the prospect of going to arbitration with him. They tried to slip him through waivers, only to have the Indians claim him. When Cleveland offered Crozier to the Jays, they decided not to pull Phelps back. When he got called up in September, Crozier joined former Cardinals outfielder Terry Bradshaw as the only Norfolk State products to reach the majors. His lefthanded power is his best tool. He hit 40 homers in the minors over the last two seasons and went deep twice after his promotion. Crozier doesn't load his hands well, so his swing gets long, hampering his ability to hit for average. He's a decent athlete who moves and throws OK. Though he has mostly played first base, he can help on either outfield corner. Crozier has a chance to make the Blue Jays as a reserve in 2005, and could get consideration to replace Carlos Delgado at first base.
Davenport got his career off to a fast start when he hit .345 in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2000, but he hit a wall when he reached the Florida State League in 2002. It wasn't until 2004, his third FSL season, that he began to show more offensive potential. He recovered from a .200 April to bat .296 the rest of the way, setting a Dunedin record with 40 doubles in the process. He has a pretty lefthanded stroke, makes hard contact and does a good job of using the whole field. Toronto would like him to see more pitches, as he has a tendency to attack early in the count. His speed and arm strength are average, and he improved his defense in right field last year. He also has taken well to spot duty at first base. Davenport will arrive in Double-A in 2005, and his bat will determine whether he can make it as a big league reserve.
The first player ever drafted out of Guam, Hattig also is trying to become the first from the island territory to reach the majors. His chances appeared remote after he made little progress in his first four pro seasons, but he turned a corner after deciding to take his conditioning seriously. When the Red Sox were looking for bullpen help in July, they sent him to Toronto for Terry Adams. Hattig's 22 homers last year were six more than he had totaled in his five previous seasons. He works counts to get himself in a position where he can take advantage of his plus raw power. High fastballs give him trouble, however, and he swings and misses a lot. Hattig's arm is playable at third base, but his lack of first-step quickness eventually will force him to move to first base. Back spasms cost him most of June, and his weight will be an ongoing concern. But he has earned a trip to Triple-A and could get a call to Toronto in 2005.
Drafted as a two-way player out of junior college, Alfaro nearly made the Astros out of spring training last year. A late cut, he settled for making his major league debut in September after his eighth full season in the minors. Despite his limited major league experience, Alfaro will challenge for a utility role in Toronto after signing as a minor league free agent. Alfaro has solid all-around skills. He can swing the bat, owns gap power and is versatile defensively. He played six positions in 2004: shortstop, third base, second base and all three spots in the outfield. His best tool by far is his strong arm, and he also has average speed. Alfaro employs a narrow, straight-up stance, and he incorporates a toe tap as a trigger mechanism. He has a compact stroke, and though he takes aggressive hacks he doesn't strike out excessively. He does lack the home run power and patience to project as an everyday player.
Janssen spent his first three years at UCLA as a two-way player, homering in his first college at-bat and seeing time at both first base and on the mound. He became a full-time pitcher in 2004, with promising results, going 10-4, 3.16 as a senior. He also improved his draft stock, going from a 49th-round pick by the Orioles in 2003 to a fourth-rounder who signed for $150,000 last June. Janssen has a lean, athletic body with room for added weight and strength. He has a no-windup delivery with a high leg kick, and easy arm action from a high three-quarters slot. His best pitch is an 89-92 mph two-seam fastball with good command and sinking action. Janssen also throws a changeup with fastball arm speed, a curveball and slider that have good rotation and spin, and a cutter. He commands and mixes all his pitches well. He figures to start 2005 in Class A.
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