Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Lind was an eighth-round pick by the Twins out of an Indiana high school in 2002 but opted to attend South Alabama. He showed a fluid stroke and promising raw power in college, but only hinted at the hitter he would become. He hit a more-than-respectable .269 with wood bats in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2003, then won the Sun Belt Conference batting title with a .392 average as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2004. After the Blue Jays took him in the third round, he signed for $445,000. He had no problem adapting to pro ball, leading the short-season New York-Penn League in doubles (23) and ranking second in extra-base hits (30) and RBIs (50). In his first full season, Lind jumped to high Class A and topped the Florida State League in doubles (42) and extra-base hits (58). He began to develop more over-the-fence power in 2006, when he won the Double-A Eastern League MVP award despite being promoted in late July. The Jays have named him his team's MVP in each of his three pro seasons, and only Carlos Delgado and Luis Lopez have won the award three times as well. Lind had one of the best seasons in the minors--batting a cumulative .330/.394/.556--and was just as dangerous during his September callup. In the final game of the season, he pushed Toronto into sole possession of second place in the American League East with a ninth-inning, two-run shot to dead-center off a 98 mph fastball from Kyle Farnsworth at Yankee Stadium. Lind's classic lefthanded swing projects more power because his bat stays in the zone longer than that of most hitters. His hands are quiet and he's adept at staying inside the ball. Lind has exceptional balance at the plate and hits for power from line to line. His spread and slight crouch help him stay back on breaking balls. Every time he has moved up to a new level in pro ball, he initially has tried to go up the middle and to the opposite field. His first major league home run went to left-center. Once comfortable, though, he began to pull the ball with more authority. Lind doesn't seem to let anything bother him and is comfortable hitting behind in the count. A first baseman in college, Lind isn't a great athlete and never has been much of a defender. He has come a long way with the glove in left field, working in batting practice by taking live rounds off the bat to improve from well below average to adequate. His arm is also below average but playable. Some scouts believe he'll eventually wind up at first base or DH. Lind is slow coming out of the batter's box, though he has average speed once he gets underway. His strike-zone judgment is certainly acceptable, but he could stand to draw a few more walks. With Frank Catalanotto's departure for Texas as a free agent, Lind and Reed Johnson are frontrunners for Toronto's left-field job. But with Frank Thomas on board, DH is no longer an option for Lind. Either way, he should be one of the AL's top-hitting rookies. He figures to be batting in the middle of the Jays lineup by no later than 2008.
One of the top high school bats available in the 2006 draft, Snider led Jackson High (Mill Creek, Wash.) to a No. 2 national ranking. After signing for $1.7 million as the 14th overall pick, he won MVP honors and rated as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He was leading the league in home runs when wrist tendinitis shelved him for the final week of the season. Snider is physically mature with a muscular frame that served him well as a high school running back until he broke his leg as a junior. Hitting and hitting for power are Snider's best tools, as his powerful swing generates above-average bat speed and tremendous raw power. He displays advanced hitting instincts, stays back on breaking balls and hangs in against lefties. His mental and competitive makeup is off the charts. The only knock on Snider leading up to the draft was his thick frame, especially his heavy lower half, and concerns about how it would project down the line. He worked hard on his conditioning and is more athletic than he appears. With work, he can be an average right fielder with a solid-average arm. He's a below-average runner but hustles. Snider will head to low Class A Lansing to begin 2007. He has the tools and desire to become an impact corner outfielder in the majors, and his bat should allow him to move more quickly than most high schoolers.
The first pitcher selected in the 2005 draft, Romero went sixth overall and signed for a club-record $2.4 million. He teamed with Jason Windsor (now with the Athletics) to lead Cal State Fullerton to the 2004 national title as a sophomore, and was a second-team All-American as a junior. Romero missed the first month of the 2006 season with mild elbow stiffness, though it's not a concern. Romero's best pitch is a plus changeup, which bottoms out and is highly effective against righthanders. He pitches at 91 mph with his fastball and can go get 93 when he needs it. He features above-average life on his fastball, including good arm-side movement with his two-seamer. His curveball is average if inconsistent. Romero struggled upon his promotion to Double-A New Hampshire when he couldn't locate his curve. He developed some bad habits at high Class A Dunedin, where he could put hitters away using just his fastball and changeup. Everything seemed to click, though, once he adjusted his delivery to improve his direction to the plate. His fastball and curveball command improved, and he threw on a better downhill plane. Romero advanced to Double-A in his first full season and finished strong, going 2-3, 2.75 in the final month. He'll likely return there to begin 2007 but should reach Triple-A Syracuse at some point during the season. He's on schedule to join the Toronto rotation no later than 2008.
Patterson had a successful career at Louisiana State but wasn't drafted as a junior in 2004, nor was he signed as a free agent after winning the Cape Cod League batting title with a .327 mark that summer. He tore up the New York-Penn League in his pro debut in 2005, leading the league in extra-base hits (40), RBIs (65) and slugging percentage (.595). Proving that was no fluke, he led the Florida State League in slugging percentage in his first full season before a promotion to Double-A. Strong and compact, Patterson is a hitting machine. He ranked second in the Jays system in homers and RBIs and finished among the minor league leaders in extra-base hits (65) and total bases (266). Though he doesn't employ a classic swing, he's short and direct to the ball. Because he sinks into his load, he has a flatter swing plane than the typical power hitter, enabling him to get backspin on the ball. He shows the instincts to make adjustments during an atbat. He has average speed and is a good baserunner. Patterson likes to jump on the first pitch he can handle, though he's not a free swinger. The Blue Jays believe his plate discipline will catch up with his level of competition. Patterson can play center field in a pinch, but his range and arm fit best in left. Toronto pushed Patterson to Double-A in his first full season, and he responded after a rough start. He'll likely begin 2007 back with New Hampshire, and he could see Triple-A and maybe the majors later in the year.
Thigpen was a member of three College World Series teams at Texas from 2002-04. The Blue Jays drafted him as a catcher, even though he got little time behind the plate as a teammate of defensive standout Taylor Teagarden. More advanced as a catcher than Toronto thought, Thigpen reached Double-A in his first full season, and managers rated him the Eastern League's top defensive catcher in 2006. Thigpen commands the strike zone and excels at making contact, spraying the ball all over the field. His power is gap-to-gap, and he generates good backspin and carry on the ball. Behind the plate, Thigpen is extremely mobile and athletic for a catcher. He's a solid-average defender with good hands and slightly above-average receiving and blocking skills. His makeup is impeccable and he has the agility to handle the corner infield or outfield positions. Thigpen has average arm strength and a quick release, but his mechanics are inconsistent. He threw out just 24 percent of basestealers in 2006, including one of 14 in Triple-A. New Hampshire manager Doug Davis focused his attention last season on getting Thigpen's feet in sync with his release. An early-season staph infection cut into Thigpen's development time behind the plate. Toronto views Thigpen as its catcher of the future. His bat was probably ready for Triple-A this season, but the organization left him at Double-A to get extra time with Davis. Ticketed for Triple-A in 2007, he could make his major league debut in the second half.
Rosario has been a member of the organization for eight seasons and a fixture on this list since his breakout 2002 season, after which he zoomed to No. 4. He tore a ligament in his elbow in the Arizona Fall League that fall, requiring Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2003 and much of 2004. He has bounced between starting and relieving the last two seasons, and didn't pitch again after experiencing lower back pain in early August. Rosario employs true power stuff: a mid-90s fastball peaking at 98 mph with life, an 85-88 mph slider and a hard split-grip changeup. He located his fastball in the second half in Triple-A, working more aggressively on the inside part of the plate. After pitching tentatively in 2005, he seemed to clear that hurdle both physically and mentally. Despite his experience, Rosario still isn't a finished product. He can't reach his potential as a mid-rotation starter without learning to command his slider. He would benefit from greater focus on the mound. While in the majors, he sometimes overthrew and tried to muscle his way out of jams, which resulted in more hittable pitches. Rosario is out of options, so he'll have to be exposed to waivers if he can't crack Toronto's roster out of spring training. Unless he makes strides with his slider command, he'll probably have to make the club as a middle reliever.
Magee began his college career as Bradley's closer but blossomed into a starter and finished with 260 strikeouts, one shy of the school record. He would have gone between the eighth and 12th round as a junior in 2005 had his signability not been cloudy. He became one of the top senior signs in 2006, turning pro for $155,000 in the fourth round. Added strength allowed the tall, lean Magee to increase and hold his fastball velocity in the low 90s as a senior. He gets well above-average sink on his two-seamer, can dial it up to 94 when needed and delivers it on a steep downward plane from a high three-quarters delivery. He posted a strong 2.1 ground/fly ratio in his debut. Magee's plus slider was his bread-and-butter pitch in college and is the best in the system. Magee's slider was so good that he used it too much in college, and the Jays tried to get him to de-emphasize it somewhat and mix in more changeups. He also showed a tendency to keep his back foot locked to the rubber after delivering a pitch, and made a slight mechanical adjustment to correct it. There's some effort in his delivery, and some scouts believe he's better suited to be a reliever. The Jays believe Magee's ceiling, as a No. 3 starter, rivals that of any pitcher they've drafted in the past five years. Because he's already 23, he likely will be challenged with an Opening Day assignment to high Class A.
The Rockies failed to sign Litsch as a 37th-rounder out of high school in 2003, and the Jays had to wait an additional year to land him as a draft-and-follow after taking him in the 24th round in 2004. He moved to high Class A to start his first full season after spending much of his pro debut dominating the Appy League, and he earned a promotion to Double-A by July. The aggressive Litsch is unafraid of contact. He has no knockout pitch, but he commands an 88-92 mph four-seam fastball with enough natural cutting action to put hitters away. He also throws a two-seamer, curveball, slider and changeup. He's able to throw his curveball for strikes and get hitters to chase it out of the zone. The Blue Jays can't say enough about his makeup. Litsch struggled in his first exposure to Double-A because he relied too much on his cutter, which hitters recognized. His slider was also less effective because it was too similar to his cutter. Toronto would like to see Litsch incorporate more curveballs and changeups into his mix. Litsch recovered to give up just two runs in his final three Double-A starts and is a safe bet to begin back at New Hampshire in 2007. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Following a strong spring training, Purcey opened 2006 in Triple-A. He pitched well in April, but shaky command got the best of him in May and he was sent down to Double-A in June. He never got untracked at New Hampshire, so it was mostly a lost season. Few lefthanders can match the raw stuff Purcey possesses. His fastball and biting curveball are plus offerings when he commands them. He likes to dial up his four-seam fastball to 93-95 mph, but achieves more sinking and boring action when he throws his two-seamer at 90-92 mph. He works on a good downhill plane and has made some progress with a slider. Because of his large build and inconsistent release point, Purcey continues to battle his mechanics and to find command elusive. He frequently runs up high pitch counts and backs off once batters string together a few hits. He has made just modest strides with his changeup, which remains a below-average pitch. Purcey's first trip to Triple-A was a false start, and the Blue Jays acknowledge they may have pushed him too fast. Because he's inefficient with his pitches but durable, he might be better suited to relief. Toronto remains optimistic that he's taking a bit longer to harness his power stuff, which they feel is good enough to dominate with even slightly below-average command.
Following an impressive workout at Rogers Centre in front of general manager J.P. Ricciardi, Fuenmayor signed with the Blue Jays for $750,000. Toronto last invested heavily in a Venezuelan talent when they signed catcher Guillermo Quiroz for $1.2 million in 1998. Quiroz once ranked among the club's best prospects but was derailed by injuries and was claimed off waivers by the Mariners last April. Fuenmayor is athletic and has a chance to grow into power as he fills out. He has a lot of polish for a youngster, and his hitting ability is more advanced than his pop at this stage. He has a compact stroke with solid bat speed and the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. At third base, he shows easy arm strength to go with good hands, footwork and range. As with many teenagers, Fuenmayor isn't very refined defensively. While his arm is strong, he'll have to improve his throwing accuracy. Questions about his power potential will remain unanswered until he shows what he can do in pro ball. Because the Blue Jays won't operate an Appy League club in 2007, it's unclear where Fuenmayor will be assigned at the conclusion of extended spring training.
Fowler was the fifth of five Ole Miss players to go in the top five rounds of the 2005 draft, a group that includes Blue Jays outfielder Brian Pettway. Fowler had no trouble in his debut and didn't miss a beat when he skipped a level and went to high Class A last season, finishing 10th in the Florida State League with a 3.74 ERA. Fowler is a three-pitch lefthander who has made strides with his fastball command. While he won't blow anybody away with his 88-91 mph velocity, he locates his fastball to both sides of the plate and gets groundballs with its plus sink. Fastball command is key for Fowler, who needs it to set up his sharp curveball, his out pitch. He has a fluid, repeatable delivery. To combat righthanders at higher levels, he'll need to continue improving his average changeup. As far as Fowler came with his fastball command this season, he'll need to take it a step further by throwing more strikes early in the count. He's ready for Double-A and profiles as either a back-end starter or a middle reliever.
Banks entered 2006 as one of the system's top pitching prospects after finishing among the innings and strikeout leaders in the Eastern League, and he did the same in the Triple-A International League last season. But his status has taken a hit. While Banks is durable and has fine control, he hasn't fooled upper-level hitters. Banks has a 5.05 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A, and his 35 homers allowed last year were by far the most of any Triple-A pitcher. His 90-91 mph fastball has below-average movement and often catches too much of the plate. He would benefit from pitching more out of the zone, expanding it when he gets ahead. His best pitch is his plus splitter, but his curveball, slider and changeup are all below average. Banks is an intense competitor who's working to enhance the movement on his fastball, either by cutting it or sinking it. The Blue Jays once hoped he could become a No. 3 starter, but at this point he looks more like a back-end starter or a middle reliever.
Cheng has pitched three seasons in the U.S. without advancing past low Class A since signing for $400,000 following the 2003 World Cup. The Blue Jays wanted him to iron out his command issues before tackling high Class A, so he repeated the Midwest League and again finished among the league leaders in ERA, strikeouts and walks. Cheng achieved better balance and fastball command in part by separating his hands over the rubber, rather than over his head, though he still didn't throw strikes consistently. MWL observers said they were more impressed with him in 2005 than in 2006. Not a hard thrower, Cheng occasionally hits 90 mph but pitches at 84-87 with above-average life. His curveball is his best pitch, though he relies on it too much at times and scouts question whether his approach will work at higher levels. His changeup has the potential to become a plus pitch. Cheng has learned English and adapted to U.S. life quickly. His heavy amateur workload concerned some teams, but he showed no physical problems until he needed to have a slight tear in his labrum repaired in October. The Jays characterize the surgery as minor and believe he'll be throwing again by spring training. Cheng will try to develop a better fastball and changeup to go with his curve this year in high Class A. If he can't, he's likely destined for a relief role.
Regarded as the top defensive shortstop in the Cape Cod League in 2003, Klosterman went in the fifth round of the draft the following year. His heady play and polished approach served him well in his pro debut, then he slumped in 2005 before rebounding with surprising pop in high Class A last season. None of Klosterman's tools stands out, but he can make the routine play at shortstop, hit a few home runs and steal a few bases. He's short to the ball and exhibits surprising pull power for his size, though he could stand to make better contact. An average but smart runner, Klosterman is fast out of the box and succeeded on 26 of 29 steal attempts in 2006. His range and arm are merely adequate at shortstop, though he compensates with strong footwork and a quick transfer. He turns the double play well, but he needs to improve his reads on balls off the bat and his ability to gauge the speed of baserunners. Klosterman began playing some second base in Double-A to prepare him for a potential big league role as a utilityman. He also saw time at third base in the Arizona Fall League, where he broke the knuckle on his right middle finger. He should be 100 percent by spring training. Klosterman did little with the bat following a midseason promotion to New Hampshire, so he'll return there in 2007.
Accustomed to pitching in obscurity in the same University of Texas bullpen as Huston Street and J. Brent Cox, Yates broke out by going 11-6, 3.22 as a starter in his first full pro season in 2005. While he struggled in his first crack at Double-A this season, he got back on track during a brief demotion to high Class A and regrouped when he returned to New Hampshire. Yates' plus secondary offerings are ahead of his fringy fastball, which sits at 87- 88 mph and sometimes creeps into the low 90s when he works in relief. He has tight spin on a hard curveball that can buckle the knees of lefties and righties alike. He trusts his changeup and the action he generates on the pitch makes it a key weapon against lefties. His stuff plays up out of the bullpen, where he moved in late July. Yates led the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts and could be a darkhorse candidate for the major league bullpen in 2007 if he polishes his command.
Not much went right for Santos in his first year in the organization after coming over in the trade that sent Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson to Arizona for Troy Glaus. Renowned as an amateur for his power, Santos has struggled to do much of anything with the bat in two seasons in Triple-A, though he did have a 20-game hitting streak in 2006 and flashed as much raw power as any Syracuse batter. Quality breaking balls fool Santos--he batted just .194 against righthanders--and his swing gets out of whack when he tries too hard to make things happen. He needs to do a better job of identifying hittable pitches and of getting his legs underneath him on his swing. His plus-plus arm strength and accuracy were evident, however, and he has the best infield arm in the system. Though he makes most routine plays, Santos' average wheels limit his range at shortstop, a problem compounded by Syracuse's rough-hewn artificial turf. He might profile better at second or third base, but his future hinges on his ability to hit at this point. Santos will try to get going again at Triple-A this year.
Hatch has provided good value for a 13th-round pick, hitting for average and power in the Midwest League, where scouts and league managers viewed him as a sleeper prospect. He has surprised the Blue Jays with his bat speed and the leverage in his fluid lefty stroke. He also has one of the best batting eyes in the system. Drafted as a third baseman, Hatch also played shortstop and second base last year. His range, arm and speed all rate as average, though he lacks the actions to profile as a regular shortstop. Toronto hoped to get him more time at second base, but injuries to both wrists shelved Hatch in late July and he missed instructional league for the second straight year. At 6-foot-4, angular and wiry strong, he might not be agile enough for second base, either. But whatever his future position, Hatch has more than enough bat to become a contributing backup or possibly more. He'll get more exposure to second base in high Class A this year.
To compensate for losing their 2006 second- and third-round picks for signing free agents A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, the Blue Jays added talent by handing out six-figure bonuses to four players drafted after the 15th round. The most promising of the group is Godfrey, a draft-eligible sophomore who signed for $200,000 as a 34th-rounder. Godfrey was a junior college all-American in 2005 at Wallace State (Ala.) Community College, where he fashioned a 41-inning scoreless streak and went 8-1, 0.99 as a freshman. After transferring to the College of Charleston, he helped the Cougars win the first NCAA regional tournament in the mid-major program's history. Godfrey signed after Toronto followed him during the summer in the Cape Cod League. He already throws 90-94 mph with projection still remaining in his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. His curveball is a solid No. 2 pitch and ranks as the best bender among the Jays' 2006 draftees. Control, command and an improved changeup will be his points of emphasis when he makes his pro debut this year, most likely in low Class A.
Another of Toronto's late-round investments in the 2006 draft, Ginley turned down a Florida Southern commitment for a $155,000 bonus. He possesses a true swing-and-miss fastball, and he lasted 17 rounds only because of questions about his signability. He throws downhill effectively, getting above-average sink on his 91-93 mph fastball. He has the potential to add velocity as he matures, as he's the youngest pitcher on this list. Though Ginley is around the plate, he'll need to sharpen his secondary offerings, a slider and changeup, both fringy pitches at this stage. The slider shows more promise. Ginley should be able to handle a jump to a full-season league to begin 2007. His ultimate role may be in the bullpen, but he'll remain a starter for now to hone his breaking ball.
Romero continued to overachieve in 2006, pitching in the Futures Game and making short work of Double-A and Triple-A on his way to Toronto. He also represented Panama in the World Baseball Classic, surrendering three unearned runs in his one-third of an inning. Though his listed height of 5-foot-10 is probably generous, Romero throws deceptively hard, consistently reaching 88-90 mph with his fringe-average fastball and usually pitching a tick below that. He hides the ball well and his three-quarters delivery and sweeping curveball are assets in left-on-left matchups. With four pitches, he has the stuff to attack righthanders, too. He keeps them honest with a slider he can get in on their hands and finishes them off with a fading changeup. Romero is a strike-thrower and while he started exclusively in Double-A, his stuff translates better to a relief role. He's a prime contender for a spot in Toronto's 2007 bullpen.
Phillips has some of the best raw arm strength in the system, but his command comes and goes. At times he showed first- or second-round potential as an amateur, but labrum surgery forced him to miss part of 2003 and all of 2004 and scared many clubs off. Phillips pitches at 92-93 mph and tops out at 96 with his fastball. He shows better control at lower velocities and can fall in love with his radar-gun readings. When it's on, his mid-80s slider is a plus pitch, but his command of his slider is even more tenuous than that of his fastball. Phillips looks like an elite relief prospect if both pitches are working, but he struggled mightily when the Blue Jays pushed him to Double-A. He doesn't have much of a changeup, so lefthanders could give him trouble at higher levels. Phillips in an intense competitor and has a strong frame, though he tends to drag his shoulder in his delivery. He'll probably open 2007 in high Class A next season, and if he stops trying to make a perfect pitch every time and his command falls into place, he could move fast.
Pettway hasn't come close as a pro to living up to his billing as a top Southeastern Conference slugger. He has struck out 211 times in 181 pro games, and adversity has yet to result in motivating him to improve his pitch-recognition skills and two-strike approach. Sharpening both would enable Pettway to use his raw power, the equal of any Jays farmhand's, in game situations. He finished fifth in the Midwest League in extra-base hits in 2006, but he also was quite old for low Class A. Pettway played at a lower level because he lacked the advanced wood-bat experience as an amateur. Pettway is a hard worker who was equally hard on himself when he struggled. He has a strong throwing arm from his days as a two-way player in college, but his below-average range probably limits him to left field and he's not a factor on the bases. His bat will have to carry him and he needs to kick into gear at high Class A this year.
The most promising of Toronto's international signees in 2005, Chavez made enough improvement with his swing and approach in extended spring training to warrant a roster spot with Rookie-level Pulaski at age 17. While he seemed a little timid at first, he more than held his own, though a sore wrist at midseason cut into his playing time and likely hampered his power output. He showed much more present ability and aptitude than Dominican third baseman Lee Soto, who also signed with Toronto in 2005. While Chavez already has good size for his age, he likely will fill out more and add the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. Like a lot of young batters, he's prone to chasing pitches out of the strike zone because he doesn't go the plate with a plan. His defensive game also has room for growth. Without the speed or instincts for center field, Chavez is a corner outfielder with an arm that presently rates as fringe-average. He has adapted well to a new culture. Chavez will go as far as his bat takes him, and he'll likely play at short-season Auburn in 2007.
Ramirez has toiled for eight years in the organization and started to garner attention the past three seasons. The Florida State League's 2004 pitcher of the year, Ramirez has posted consecutive solid seasons in Double-A. His solid-average fastball sits at 90-92 mph and has reached 94, but he has trouble locating it down in the zone because he struggles to get over his front side in his delivery. He also has trouble repeating his mechanics, as he frequently flies open, affecting his command. His sharp slider is his best pitch and his below-average changeup will need more refinement for him to succeed against lefthanders. Soreness in his triceps delayed Ramirez' promotion to Triple-A. He'll probably open 2007 in the Syracuse rotation, though his long-term future is likely as a swingman or middle reliever.
Taubenheim made one of the more remarkable jumps in the organization last season after being acquired in the trade that sent David Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson to the Brewers for Lyle Overbay. Taubenheim ended 2005 in Double-A and found himself starting for the Blue Jays in late May because of injuries to A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin. Despite his large frame, Taubenehim is a control pitcher without an above-average offering. He's fearless and often shows plus command. He spots his fastball on the corners and is usually clocked at 89-91 mph with above-average sink. He complements it with an average slider he throws in any count and a fringe-average changeup. He also has a curveball he seldom uses. Taubenheim exceeded expectations with a solid spring training and had modest success as a big league starter, but profiles as a back-of-the-rotation guy. He tended to rely too heavily on scouting reports instead of pitching to his strengths in the big leagues. Taubenheim was placed on the disabled list in July with a staph infection in his left ankle, but he'll be fully recovered in time for spring training. He'll likely begin the season in Triple-A and be on call if an opening in the big league rotation arises.
Roberts was the Southland Conference player of the year and nearly won the league triple crown as a senior in 2003, yet lasted until the 18th round. He completed his climb to the majors last August by homering off the late Cory Lidle. Roberts has more power than his frame suggests, with the ability to drive the ball from right-center field to the left-field line. While his swing stays on a level plane for a long time, it can get big, diminishing his ability to hit for average. Drafted as a third baseman, he moved to second base in instructional league in 2003 and has made steady progress ever since. His range, hands and arm are average, and he turns the double play well. He's a below-average runner and brings very little on the bases. Roberts is a hard-nosed, high-energy player who may be able to carve out a utility role in the majors.
Area scout Marc Tramuta was such a big Cannon booster that he pushed to draft him in 2004's second round, though the Jays were able to wait until the eighth and sign him for $25,000 as a college senior. Cannon has justified Tramuta's faith by slugging 32 homers at three stops in 2005 to rank fifth in the minors, then topping the Eastern League with 27 last year. He continued to mash in the offseason, earning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League by leading the league in homers (11), RBIs (29) and slugging (.714). For all his power--and he has few rivals in the system-he needs to develop a more consistent approach, especially with two strikes. He has the discipline to draw walks, but struck out 158 times in 135 games last season. He made improvements against lefthanders, hitting .265 with nine homers in 136 at-bats, after they fanned him 25 times in 48 Double-A at-bats in 2005. Because Cannon was born with two club feet and had three operations on each as a child, he has trouble starting and stopping on the bases and in the field. His range suffers as a result, though he has an above-average arm. Because he hit just .248, the Blue Jays may send Cannon back to New Hampshire to begin 2007, though his AFL performance may help him get to Triple-A.
Diaz has been remarkably consistent. Starting in 2003, when he won the Appalachian League batting title, he has earned all-star recognition and ranked among the top contact hitters in each of his leagues. He repeated high Class A in 2006 because the Jays wanted him to improve his game-calling and had Curtis Thigpen in Double-A. Diaz is a classic bad-ball hitter who puts the ball in play in nearly every at-bat, resulting in low strikeout and walk totals. With a flat plane to his swing and an inside-out approach, he doesn't hit many homers. He runs well for a catcher and threw out 31 percent of basestealers in 2006 with a strong, accurate arm. His blocking and receiving skills are average. He doesn't project as a regular but he could eventually become Thigpen's backup in Toronto. Diaz will move up to Double-A this year.
Despite strong performances in the Cape Cod League in 2005 and at South Florida last spring, Lirette lasted 16 rounds in the 2006 draft. After signing for $135,000, Lirette's first task was to make mechanical adjustments. He worked to not stay so tall in his delivery and to become more flexible in his upper body. Once he got accustomed to the changes, he pitched better toward the end of his pro debut. Lirette gets good downhill plane on an 89- 91 mph fastball and shows a real feel for the strike zone. He gained confidence in his slider and changeup as the season wore on, but both pitches need improvement. A fast worker on the mound, Lirette has begun to get a feel for adapting to what batters are trying to do against him. Mostly a reliever in college, he likely will wind up in the bullpen but may pitch out of the rotation in low Class A this season to get innings.
On the strength of his defensive tools, Jeroloman entered 2006 as the top catching prospect in college baseball. Though not much was expected from him with the bat, he hit just .242 as a junior and was just the eighth college catcher drafted in June. His brother Chuck is an infielder in the Red Sox system. Brian, who signed for $165,000, came as advertised. He receives high marks for his sure hands, sound footwork and above-average blocking and receiving skills. His arm strength is above-average and he features a quick, accurate release, which he used to throw out 42 percent of basestealers. Jeroloman is agile behind the plate and has advanced game-calling skills. At the plate, Jeroloman still showed traces of a metal-bat swing, and he had trouble keeping his hands inside the ball and getting the barrel on the ball. He has below-average power and speed. While his hitting needs work, Jeroloman's lefty bat, willingness to take walks and impeccable defensive tools make for an intriguing package. He may open 2007 in low Class A in an attempt to build his confidence at the plate.