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Some scouts considered Snider the best hitter in the entire 2006 draft and he has done nothing to dispel that notion since turning pro. As a high school senior, he led Jackson High in Mill Creek, Wash., to a No. 2 national ranking. After signing for $1.7 million as the 14th overall pick, Snider earned MVP honors and No. 1 prospect status in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he batted .325 with 11 homers. He might have led the league in homers had he not lost the last week of the season to wrist tendinitis. Snider nearly repeated as MVP of his circuit in 2007, when he led the low Class A Midwest League with 35 doubles, 58 extra base hits, 93 RBIs and a .525 slugging percentage. That last figure was particularly impressive, seeing as Snider was the only MWL qualifier to slug better than .500. Snider also finished second in the batting race at .313, but MWL voters chose West Michigan outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who led only in stolen bases, as MVP. Snider hit .405 in April, and after pitchers adjusted to him, he regrouped, batting .333 with eight of his 16 homers in the final month. After the season, the Blue Jays assigned the 19-year-old Snider to the Arizona Fall League. The only younger player in the AFL was Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, yet Snider batted .316 with four homers. Snider is extremely advanced for a young hitter. He has a quick, powerful swing from the left side and already can handle southpaws and offspeed pitches. He has the tools--strength, bat speed and a simple swing--necessary to hit for both average and power in the big leagues. He stays balanced throughout his swing, thanks to a sound hitting base, and shows advanced hitting instincts. When they saw the baby-faced Snider for the first time in the AFL, veteran pitchers tried to blow the ball past him. But after he connected for a few line drives to the gaps, he encouraged opponents to modify their plans of attack. His mental and competitive makeup is off the charts. Though he's already strong for a player his age, some Toronto officials think he has a chance to get even more physical. Snider is more athletic than he appears, and he has improved his reads and routes enough to project as an average defender on an outfield corner. He has enough arm for right field and topped the MWL with 16 outfield assists. Snider is physically mature with a muscular build that served him well as a high school running back until he broke his leg as a junior. But that frame--he already plays at a weight in the neighborhood of 245 pounds--means he'll have to stress conditioning as he matures, especially with regard to his heavy lower half. He will accumulate some strikeouts, but they don't cost him much in the way of production. He has below-average speed but isn't a bad runner once he gets underway. Snider has exceeded expectations thus far, and those expectations were high to begin with. He could move more quickly now that he has been exposed to the AFL and has put the MWL, the toughest hitting environment he'll encounter, behind him. Ticketed for high Class A Dunedin in 2008, he'll eventually bat in the middle of Toronto's order and has a big league ETA of 2010.
Cecil worked primarily out of the bullpen in three years at Maryland, where his body, arm action and stuff improved significantly during his college career. He turned in a strong Cape Cod League performance in 2006 to cement his draft stock. After the Blue Jays drafted him 38th overall in June and signed him for $810,000, he shifted to a starting role and ranked as the short-season New York-Penn League's top prospect. Cecil has four key ingredients working for him--a 90-92 mph fastball that features sink and tops out at 94, a plus slider, command to both sides of the plate and poise. His knockout 85-87 mph slider was one of the draft's best breaking balls, and he can get the pitch in on righthanders. Turning pro improved Cecil's aggressive nature, seeing as he no longer had to contend with a small home park or metal-bat home runs. With a good move to first and the ability to vary his times to the plate, he already shows a nuanced feel for controlling the running game. Auburn pitching coach Tony Caceres helped Cecil with his changeup grip, and while the pitch is still developing, it's a swing-and-miss offering against righties at times. He also has a fringy curveball that he'll use as a show-me pitch. As he gets acclimated to starting, he'll have to prove he can hold his velocity after it tended to drop off quickly in the NY-P, where he was limited to a 55-pitch maximum in the regular season. Toronto was elated that Cecil fell into the supplemental first round. His frontline stuff and bulldog demeanor should make him at least a No. 3 starter. He'll begin his first full season in high Class A.
The best position player in Texas in another strong draft year in the Lone Star State, Ahrens added power and the ability to bat lefthanded after his junior season, and the returns were immediate. He kept hitting from both sides of the plate as a senior, prompting the Blue Jays to select him with the 16th overall pick. They signed him for $1.44 million. With hand speed, a feel for his swing from both sides of the plate and a firm grasp of the strike zone, Ahrens projects to hit for average and power. A natural righthander, he has more power and better pitch recognition from that side. Drafted as a shortstop, he moved to third base in mid-July, as scouts had predicted. He showed solid hands, good lateral movement and a plus arm. Charging in on balls and making throws on the run posed little challenge. Ahrens may have put too much pressure on himself while debuting in a lineup full of fellow high draft picks. His bat isn't as quick from the left side as it is from the right, but he'll have plenty of time to hone that and adjust to hitting with wood as he moves up the ladder. He's a below-average runner, but not a baseclogger. The selection of Ahrens marked the second straight year Toronto opted for a high school talent with its first pick. He may not make the same splash at low Class A Lansing that Travis Snider did, because Ahrens has to adjust to a new position and refine his lefthanded swing. Regardless, he continues to draw Chipper Jones comparisons and has huge upside at the hot corner.
Arenicibia tied Alex Rodriguez' career record with 17 homers at Miami's Westminster Christian High, and he led USA Baseball's college national team with nine homers in the summer of 2006. A strained muscle in his back contributed to a lackluster junior season at Tennessee, but he still went 21st overall in the 2007 draft and signed for $1,327,500. It took him some time to get comfortable in pro ball, and he was hit by a pitch on his left wrist in midsummer, which sapped his power. Power long has been Arencibia's calling card. He's an aggressive hitter with juice to all fields. He has decent mobility and a strong arm, which he employed to throw out 34 percent of basestealers in his debut. He blocks balls well and made progress calling games. He's a natural leader who's also fluent in Spanish. Arencibia's swing gets long and he tends to have too much of an uppercut. He'll need to shorten his stroke and tighten his strike zone to hit for average. His receiving skills were rudimentary at best in college. The Blue Jays have worked on his setup to help him better receive the ball to his glove side, with his elbow down instead of out. Though his arm is strong, his footwork often prevents him from getting off quicker throws. He's a below-average runner. With Curtis Thigpen and Robinzon Diaz close to being big league ready, Toronto can afford to take its time with Arencibia. He'll begin his first full season in high Class A.
The first pitcher selected in the 2005 draft, Romero went sixth overall and signed for a club-record $2.4 million. He missed the first month of the 2006 season with elbow stiffness, then struggled through much of his Double-A stint upon his return. He again had a difficult time at New Hampshire again in 2007, and again missed time with injury, in this case shoulder soreness. At his best, Romero has two offspeed offerings that grade as plus pitches. His changeup, which travels about 10 mph slower than his fastball and bottoms out as it reaches the plate, is a go-to pitch versus righthanders. He also throws an 83-84 mph vulcan change, which behaves like a splitter. His weapon of choice against lefties is his 12-to-6 curveball. He has good life on his fastball, which sits at 89-91 and touches 93. For someone who was supposed to be a polished college pitcher, Romero's command has been disappointing. The Blue Jays have worked to simplify his delivery, trying to make it easier for him to get extension out over his front leg, enabling him to work down and to the corners. When he doesn't, his pitches are elevated and his curveball is flat. He has much more success throwing his curve as a chase pitch than he does throwing it for strikes, mostly because it has such huge break. Often he finds his slider easier to command, but it's not nearly as devastating as his curve. His injuries haven't been serious, but they have limited him to just 218 innings in his two full seasons. Romero has gone 5-13, 4.98 in 30 Double-A starts, and he has taken his pro struggles hard. He'll return to New Hampshire, where a strong first half would give him some needed confidence and put him back on track to become a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues.
Hailing from the same Roberson High (Asheville, N.C.) program that produced Marlins No. 1 prospect Cameron Maybin, Jackson started at shortstop for the U.S. junior national team in the fall of 2006. Though his offensive potential was called into question during his senior year, Jackson nevertheless was the third shortstop drafted in June, going 45th overall and signing for $675,000. Like most of the other talented teenagers with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Jays, he struggled with the bat in his pro debut. A long-armed, wiry athlete, Jackson has natural infield actions, excellent hands and a strong arm. He could become an even better defender as he becomes more efficient with his footwork, but he already fields the ball out in front. Jackson's simple swing is repeatable and he has a good approach, though his bat speed is just average. He's so physically projectable that he might hit for power down the road. Once he's underway, he has average to slightly above-average speed. Strength is the missing link to Jackson's offensive game, an area he was to address in an offseason conditioning program. High school pitchers were able to exploit holes in his swing and he'll need to use the opposite field more often against pros. Though his first step is good on defense, Jackson is slow to accelerate out of the batter's box. Jackson projects as exactly the type of shortstop defender the Blue Jays haven't developed since trading away the likes of Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez and Michael Young earlier in the decade. Jackson may take several years to develop, but he's Toronto's shortstop of the future.
Tolisano has been on Baseball America's radar since 2003, when we named him the top 14-year-old player in the United States. Though he was home-schooled, Tolisano played for Estero (Fla.) High, where he was considered one of the nation's top underclassmen as a freshman and sophomore. His stock slipped somewhat afterward and he lasted until the second round last June. Signed for $391,500, he led the Gulf Coast League with 10 homers in his debut. With strength and loft in his swing from both sides of the plate, Tolisano is short to the ball and has average bat speed and solid-average power to all fields. His swing is more fluid from the left side, and he tends to get out on his front side too much as a righty. He commands the strike zone and is more mature than most players his age, suggesting he'll get the most out of his abilities as a hitter. He's an average runner and has a strong arm for a second baseman. Tolisano's days of playing shortstop are behind him, and he still has work to do to stay at second base. His hands don't work particularly well and his footwork has a long way to go. Some scouts suggest he'll end up in right field. While the Blue Jays concede that Tolisano never will be much better than an average defender at second, his bat might be enough to carry him. He'll head to low Class A, where he could continue to provide more immediate returns than Toronto's other early-round high school draftees from 2007.
Thigpen was a member of three College World Series teams at Texas from 2002- 04. More advanced as a catcher than the Blue Jays thought, he reached Double-A in his first full season and the major leagues in his third. Thigpen commands the strike zone and handles the bat well, spraying line drives all over the field. He exhibited those skills in Toronto, as well, though his gap power wasn't as evident. He gets good backspin on the ball, hinting that the potential to hit for power is there. An agile athlete, he offers mobility, actions and soft hands behind the plate. He has average arm strength and a quick release. His biggest drawback behind the plate is inconsistent footwork, and he has been slow to improve in that regard. He threw out just 17 percent of basestealers at Triple-A Syracuse, but that number rose to 36 percent in Toronto. His power is below-average but in line with the positional demands. He may lack the build to hold up as a catcher over the course of a grueling season. Much of Thigpen's value is tied to him staying behind the plate. But because he's athletic and light on his feet, he often takes ground balls at the infield corners, and he runs well enough to play the outfield corners. He even has gotten minimal exposure to second base. Toronto will give him every opportunity to stay at catcher, though he could become an extremely versatile utilityman.
The 16th overall pick in 2004, Purcey has yet to pay off on the Blue Jays' $1.6 million investment. But after having surgery in June to remove cysts in his forearm and triceps, he threw as well in the Arizona Fall League as he had since turning pro. He had been plagued by minor maladies throughout his career, and Toronto hopes the surgery will help him turn the corner. Purcey is capable of dialing his fastball up to 93-95 mph, but the Blue Jays have toned him down to the low 90s to improve his location. It also prevents him from maxing out on every pitch. He gets such good spin off his fingers that his fastball has serious life down in the zone. Like his fastball, his biting curveball is a plus pitch when he commands it. He's big and works on a tough downhill plane. With inconsistent mechanics affecting his release point, Purcey often finds command elusive. As a result, he often runs up high pitch counts. His changeup is usually below average, and he uses it mostly to keep batters off his fastball. Toronto has toyed with the idea of moving Purcey to the bullpen, where he wouldn't have to worry about efficiency or setting up batters as much. Despite the strong AFL showing, Purcey has made minimal progress the past two seasons. He'll get another crack at Double-A in 2008, and the Blue Jays still believe he'll blossom into a mid-rotation starter or power lefty reliever.
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. Upon turning pro, Patterson led the New York-Penn (.595) and Florida State (.520) leagues in slugging percentage in his first two seasons. His progress was halted in spring training 2007 when he a pitch from Boston's Edgar Martinez shattered his right forearm, requiring the insertion of a metal plate. Originally slated to miss three months, Patterson returned to the field April 30. Patterson stays on the ball well and uses his short, powerful swing to drive the ball to all fields. Most of Patterson's home-run power is to left field. He provides average speed, arm strength and corner-outfield defense. Patterson likes to swing at the first pitch he can handle, and his lack of selectivity hampered him in Double-A. While his unorthodox swing works for him despite a number of moving parts, he can get off balance at times. The Blue Jays have minimized the sink in his load that he displayed in college, in an attempt to keep his eye level steady. Because he never admitted to lingering pain, it's difficult to know how heavily Patterson's gruesome spring-training injury factored into his mediocre Double-A performance. If he comes to spring training in the same physical shape he did last year, he could open 2008 in Triple-A.
Magnuson walked on at Louisville and helped lead the Cardinals to the College World Series as a closer in 2007. Louisville's postseason success worked against him, because he was a fifth-year senior who would have become a free agent had his season ended before the draft. One of four Canadians drafted by Toronto in 2007, he went 56th overall and signed for $462,500. His uncle Keith Magnuson was an 11-year NHL veteran who appeared in two Stanley Cup finals during the 1970s. The Blue Jays plan to use Magnuson as a starter, but they held him out of action after he signed because of mild elbow soreness. His velocity surged from 88-89 mph into the mid-90s last year. He has learned to take advantage of his 6-foot-7 frame, using it and an easy delivery to drive the ball down in the zone, and he still has room to fill out. He also throws an average slider in the mid-80s. Magnuson will work on sharpening the break on his slider and developing a changeup as he begins his career as a starter in high Class A this year.
Though not as heralded as some of Toronto's other international signees, Chavez has shown the most potential. He made his U.S. debut in advanced Rookie ball at age 17 in 2006 and more than held his own, though a sore wrist at midseason cut into his playing time and hampered his power output. Chavez took a step back when the Blue Jays switched to a Gulf Coast League team in 2007, but that didn't stop him from flashing above-average power, ranking ninth in the league with a .494 slugging percentage. Though he has strength and bat speed, Chavez starts with his hands low--one club official compared his setup to Rondell White's--leading to questions about whether he'll hit for average against better pitching. He would benefit by driving the ball the other way more frequently and by not expanding his strike zone. Already a physical specimen, Chavez has a rangy build that suggests the potential for added muscle. He has enough range, speed and arm for right field, but spent most of the summer in left. He's on the right track and he'll advance to low Class A with a good spring training.
Free of Curtis Thigpen's shadow for the first time since 2004, Diaz thrived in Double-A last year. He had earned postseason all-star honors in the previous four seasons, and he might have done so again in the Eastern League had he not moved up to Triple-A in late July. Both Diaz and Thigpen are athletic receivers and righthanded batters with strong contact skills and good speed for catchers. Diaz is a free swinger with exceptional hand-eye coordination and he rarely strikes out. Though he makes lots of contact, Diaz doesn't drive the ball consistently because of a flat plane to his swing and an inside-out approach. He's also a classic bad-ball hitter who draws few walks. With loose actions and average arm strength, Diaz gets good carry on his throws, and he nailed 32 percent of basestealers in 2007. His game-calling has improved considerably over the past two seasons. Diaz will play every day in Triple-A this season.
A brilliant performance at the 2006 Area Code Games thrust Eiland into the mix as a possible first-round pick for 2007. An up-and-down senior season ended that talk, though, as he battled left hamstring problems that robbed him of his speed and even forced the natural center fielder to right on occasion. The Blue Jays took Eiland, an all-state safety who drew significant Division I football interest, in the second round and signed him away from a Texas A&M commitment for $384,750. While Eiland is the least-refined early-round pick of general manager J.P. Ricciardi's tenure, he has supreme body control and exciting tools. He has a below-average arm, but the other four tools are present, and one club official likened his body type to that of an NFL cornerback. A 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, Eiland shows the potential to be a plus center fielder. He has a longer way to go with the bat, though he has good bat speed and no glaring flaws in his swing. The Jays will stress adding a more pronounced load and staying through the ball, two techniques to help him add game power. He also needs to figure out how to make consistent contact after whiffing 62 times in his first 51 pro games. If everything clicks, Eiland will become an all-star, though he may move more slowly at first than Toronto's other high school picks from the early rounds of the 2007 draft.
A power reliever at Clemson, Farina improved his velocity and slider during his junior season when he lengthened his stride and got better extension out front. The Blue Jays invested a third-round pick and $254,250 in him with the intention of making him a starter because they like his arm action and mechanics. He joins Brett Cecil and Trystan Magnuson as 2007 draftees who will go from college relievers to pro starters, a move Toronto successfully pulled off with David Bush and Shaun Marcum. Because he spins the ball so well out of his hand from a high three-quarters arm slot, Farina gets above-average life on his 91-93 mph fastball, which tops out at 95. Listed at 5-foot-11, Farina also can two-seam the ball and shows two above-average breaking balls at times. His two-plane slider reaches as high as 86 mph and has hard tilt, and his downer curveball also shows promise. A turned ankle limited Farina's innings in his pro debut, but he'll take his first steps toward developing a changeup and improving his stamina in Class A this year.
It took him nine years, three organizations and one Tommy John surgery, but Wolfe finally established himself as a major league reliever. Drafted in 1999, he languished for five years in the Twins system before needing elbow surgery in 2004. He returned in 2005 but was released that May, hooking on with the Brewers for the remainder of that season. The Blue Jays acquired him in the January 2006 trade that sent Corey Koskie to Milwaukee. Wolfe established himself as a key late-inning reliever for Toronto in the second half of 2007, after injuries knocked closer B.J. Ryan and setup man Brandon League out of action. With a cutting fastball he throws up to 96 mph, Wolfe doesn't miss many bats but he does get plenty of mis-hits. He held righthanders to a .130 average, the lowest figure among AL relievers. His curveball is average and he uses it as a change of pace. The curve generates plenty of funny swings by batters looking for his fastball. Because of his poise and his cutter, Wolfe should remain a factor in the big league bullpen.
After losing their 2006 second- and third-round picks for signing free agents A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, the Blue Jays tried to compensate by handing out six-figure bonuses to four players drafted after the 15th round. Ginley, who had planned on transferring to NCAA Division II power Florida Southern, signed for $155,000. With a true swing-and-miss fastball that ranges from 91-94 mph, he pitched the entire season in low Class A at age 20, finishing seventh in the Midwest League with 129 strikeouts in 122 innings. Though he lacks a quick arm, Ginley's long arm action generates plenty of power and sink, with the ball jumping out of his hand. He learned to throw an 86-88 mph cutter in 2007 and it instantly became his No. 2 offering. His curveball is a get-me-over pitch at this stage and he needs to continue developing his changeup by throwing it more often. Despite cleaning up his delivery and showing better direction toward the plate, Ginley still saw his command waver throughout the season. He also struggled to pitch deep into games and to put batters away. Shut down at the end of August with shoulder tendinitis, Ginley could receive a bump to high Class A to begin 2008. He profiles as a No. 4 starter or setup man.
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 became one of the top senior signs in the 2006 draft, nabbing a $155,000 bonus in the fourth round. After a modest pro debut in 2006, Magee jumped to high Class A and dug himself into a hole, going 0-2, 9.56 in April. Once he stopped overthrowing, he reduced his ERA to 3.91 by season's end and ranked third in the Florida State League with 157 innings. The key for Magee is extension out in front, which is crucial to adding sink and movement to his 91-93 mph fastball down in the zone. He uses his above-average slider as an out pitch. Magee has shown modest aptitude for a changeup, and he's learning to command a cutter to give him a third weapon. Many scouts see him as a reliever because of his sinker/slider repertoire, lack of a reliable third pitch and the effort in his delivery. At best, he profiles as a back-end starter on a good team. Keeping the ball down and getting innings will be Magee's main goals as he moves to Double-A in 2008.
On the strength of his defensive tools, Jeroloman entered 2006 as the top catching prospect in college baseball. Then he hit just .242 and was just the eighth college catcher drafted that June. Pitchers love throwing to Jeroloman, the top defensive catcher in the system, because he's an above-average receiver and game caller. His average arm plays up because of his athleticism and trigger-fast release, with his throws to second base averaging 1.9 seconds. He threw out 28 percent of basestealers in 2007. Jeroloman has a sound swing but he's actually more valuable when he's not swinging the bat. He led Florida State League batters with 85 walks and finished second with a .421 on-base percentage. He offers little in the way of power or speed, though, and doesn't make enough hard contact to hit for much average. Because of his lefty bat, strike-zone discipline and impeccable defensive tools, he's a safe bet to become at least a big league backup. He'll open 2008 in Double-A.
The Blue Jays made Mills a 22nd-round pick in 2006, but as expected, the civil-engineering major opted to return to Arizona for his senior year. A former walk-on, he improved his draft status by 18 rounds in 2007 and received $140,000 to sign. Mills excited scouts by touching 92 mph as a junior, but he reverted to his more customary 87-88 last season. It didn't help that he received a cortisone shot late in the spring to help a balky back, then missed time with a strained oblique after turning pro. Deception is Mills' biggest asset as a pitcher, as he leans back in the middle of a herky-jerky, over-the-top delivery, and he perfectly disguises his offspeed offerings. Even playing catch with Mills presents a challenge. He gets tight rotation on his four-seam fastball and his average 12-to-6 curveball, but it's his changeup that's his equalizer pitch. He shows quality arm speed on the changeup, his lone above-average offering. The Blue Jays would like Mills to concentrate on pounding the bottom of the strike zone, which should be easier once he's free of injury this year in Class A. He projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever.
One of the top college senior arms in the 2007 draft, Rzepcynski represented a good value after he signed for $110,000 as a fifth-round pick. He rebounded from elbow soreness and a broken left knuckle during the college season to pitch well in the New York-Penn League, where he teamed with fellow lefties Brett Cecil and Luis Perez in a formidable Auburn rotation. At his best, Rzepcynski throws an 87-89 mph fastball with sink and bore (topping out at 92) and a hard slider, giving him one weapon he can command to each side of the plate. His long, slinging arm action from a three-quarters slot generates plenty of life on his pitches. He locates an average changeup down in the zone, and his competitive makeup makes his stuff play up even further. Rzepcynski showed none of the lapses in command with Auburn that he had early in UC Riverside career. Though he lacks an out pitch, he isn't afraid to throw any pitch in any count, and he profiles as a No. 4 or 5 starter. He'll likely open his first full season in high Class A.
The Blue Jays selected Wells with the 11th overall pick in major league Rule 5 draft, but his amateur draft experience was much more meager. Drafted by the Cubs in the 38th round as a catcher in 2002, he converted to pitching by the end of 2003, in part because he grew to 6-foot-5. Adding intrigue to the conversion, Wells never had pitched in high school or junior college. But then he didn't hit as a pro, either, batting just .157 with two doubles in 124 at-bats, none above low Class A. Wells pitches at 90-92 mph but can flash 93-94 on occasion. His slider is inconsistent but shows promise, as does his changeup. The Cubs, though, were disappointed that his secondary stuff didn't improve as quickly as they hoped, and that his control regressed in 2007. Interestingly, Chicago left Wells unprotected only to trade up in the Rule 5 draft to select another catcher-turned-reliever, Tim Lahey. With Toronto, Wells will compete for a long-relief role. If he doesn't stick with the big league club, he has to clear waivers and be offered back to the Cubs for half his $50,000 draft price before he could be sent to the minors.
The Cubs tried for three years to convert Coats into a shortstop, but it wouldn't take, as the erstwhile outfielder committed 114 errors in 303 games at short from 2003-05. Back in the outfield for the 2007 season, Coats hit well in Triple-A but was traded to the Reds in August, after he'd been designated for assignment, for Class A righthander Marcos Mateo. The Blue Jays acquired him in December for righthander Justin James, who was the club's fifth-round pick in 2003. A good athlete who runs well, Coats has the range and arm to capably play all three outfield spots. He has a sound lefthanded swing, makes reasonable contact, commands the strike zone and has some gap power. But he doesn't do anything particularly well offensively, so it's hard to project him as a regular. His versatility (he has played seven positions as a pro) and modest offensive profile mark him as a strong candidate for a roster spot in 2008.
Following an impressive workout at Rogers Centre in front of general manager J.P. Ricciardi, Fuenmayor signed for $725,000 in 2006. Nothing went right for Fuenmayor in his pro debut last year, as he hit .174 and struck out a Gulf Coast League-leading 68 times. In his defense, he was one of the younger players in the GCL, which presents a tough environment for young hitters. Fuenmayor has a compact swing and solid bat speed, but he has yet to show the ability to pull pitches--not even in batting practice. Furthermore, he struggled mightily with his pitch recognition, which led to all the strikeouts. Though he has average arm strength, the athletic Fuenmayor showed below-average lateral movement at third base, which could improve with better footwork. He's a slightly below-average runner and will slow down as he fills out. More was expected of Fuenmayor because of the bonus he received, but the Blue Jays remain optimistic. More than likely, he'll get another shot at the GCL.
Banks has been nothing if not durable. He reached Double-A 26 starts into his pro career and has averaged 163 innings over his four full seasons. His control and pitch efficiency have translated to an eye-popping 4.9-1 K-BB ratio in Double-A and Triple-A, though he also has a 4.63 ERA because he may be around the strike zone too much. Banks pitches primarily with a straight 90-91 mph fastball, and he cuts it to get in on lefthanders. He's also tried to sink it more to alleviate some of his longball problems. Banks' splitter remains his best secondary offering, as his curveball never has developed into anything more than a show pitch. He'll also mix in an occasional changeup. While leveling off in Triple-A the last two years, Banks has tumbled down the organizational pecking order. He's headed back to Syracuse and will be ready if injuries strike the big league rotation.
From 28th-round afterthought and fledgling minor league starter to power reliever, Dials came as far as any Toronto farmhand in 2007. Because he had trouble staying healthy as a starter, the Blue Jays moved him to the bullpen, where his fastball and slider played up a grade. Where previously his fastball had been 87-90 mph, it sat at 92-95 with incredible sink when he came out of the bullpen. His slider went from 80-83 to 83-86 with late tilt, and he was throwing it for first-pitch strikes. Even as an amateur, Dials struggled to repeat his delivery and stay online to the plate, but his entire mindset changed as a reliever, as he realized he could just air it out. He still has a changeup that he learned as a starter, but it's below average. Dials has yet to pitch above low Class A, but he could move quickly if he keeps improving in 2008.
Lirette lasted 16 rounds in the 2006 draft, despite strong performances in the Cape Cod League the previous summer and with South Florida as a junior that spring. He received one of four six-figure bonuses Toronto handed out after the 15th round that year, turning pro for $135,000. Mostly a reliever in college, Lirette had to make mechanical adjustments when the Jays made him a starter. He worked to not stay so tall in his delivery and to become more flexible in his upper body. Lirette is sturdily built yet athletic, and he gets good extension on a 90-91 mph fastball that comes out of his hand cleanly. His changeup is his second pitch and it's above average at times. His slider has a little further to go. Lirette missed the season's final two months with a shoulder injury, but he was feeling well enough to throw side sessions during instructional league. He may get a refresher course in low Class A to begin 2008.
On the heels of two productive seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, Carreno made a rousing U.S. debut in 2007, leading the Gulf Coast League with 64 strikeouts in 65 innings. He gets above-average movement on his two-seam fastball, which he delivers from a high three-quarters arm slot. He impressed GCL observers with a loose arm and 89-93 mph heat, and his changeup also showed plus potential. His sweeping slider needs to be cleaned up. He repeats his delivery well, but he has a tendency to fly open and sling the ball. A tremendous competitor, Carreno showed improved mound presence as the season progressed. Because he pounds the zone with above-average sink, he might grade out as a reliever down the line. If he has a strong spring, he could make his full-season debut in low Class A this season.
Hatch provided good value for a 13th-round pick, hitting for average and power in the low Class A in 2006, when he emerged as a sleeper prospect. Injuries have limited him, though, as he was unable to participate in instructional league after the 2005 or '06 seasons. He had surgery on both his wrists in 2006, which hurt his bat speed last season. Still, Hatch nearly doubled his previous career-high for at-bats, showing surprising power that he generates from an angular and wiry 6-foot-4 frame. He stays through the ball well and gets good backspin on it, so the potential for more juice is there. The Blue Jays experimented with Hatch all over the infield in 2006, but abandoned the plan last year, letting him play his natural position of third base, where his range and arm are average. He's an average runner as well. Hatch next will face the challenges of Double-A, where he could see time at second base or in the outfield to increase his versatility.
Sierra and Venezuelan outfielder Yohermyn Chavez both received six-figure bonuses from the Jays during the 2005 international signing period. While Chavez made his U.S. debut in 2006, Sierra remained in the Dominican, waiting until 2007 to come over. He didn't do much to distinguish himself and he was overshadowed in instructional league by the Blue Jays' best position-player prospects. But Sierra has two above-average tools that could garner him attention in coming years: a right fielder's arm and raw power. "Raw" might be the best way to describe Sierra's game. He struggles to command the strike zone and comes out of his swing easily, but he has as much upside as any of Toronto's international prospects. Sierra's speed and defensive range are no more than average, but his arm definitely puts him in right field. He'll likely get another go at the Gulf Coast League in 2008.
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