Top 10 Prospects (2017): Toronto Blue Jays: Where Does Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Fit & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Toronto system certainly is not among the best in baseball, though they have a pitcher who appears to be on the verge emerging as one of the top prospects in the game.  Then you got the surprising signing of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., further deepening the system, as well as a few others with potential (like Anthony Alford) and there are some intriguing names on the list.  Who are the best?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Sean Reid-Foley – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018

While the Blue Jays’ system may lack star quality, laying in wait is someone who could quickly become a big pitching prospect.  Just look at his numbers (split between Single-A and High-A) in the three skills that we generally target from any pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 10.1 K/9
  • Walks – 3.0 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 1.40 GO/AO

The control was the big turnaround, after posting a 6.3 BB/9 in ’15.  The second round pick is clearly still developing, and at 21-years old he has time to continue honing his secondary offerings.  That said, scouting reports have him potentially bringing three average or better pitches to the table (depending on the development of his changeup) so the upside is there for a front of the rotation arm.

 

2) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Third Baseman
Grade – B+
ETA – 2020

He’s the son of former great Vladimir Guerrero, so we know he has the bloodlines for success.  Considering his age (17-years old), his plate discipline is impressive (12.7% strikeout rate, 12.0% walk rate) and the potential is there to fully tap into his power potential as he matures and gains experience.  He’s not burner, but the speed is average and he showed an ability to steal bases in his first taste of professional baseball (15 SB in 20 attempts over 276 PA).

The biggest question hanging over him is where he fits defensively, with there being a good chance that he ultimately settles into a corner outfield slot.  That said, with his upside at the plate the Blue Jays are going to find a place for him to call home before long.

 

3) Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – Infielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018

The 23-year old brother of the Astros’ Yulieski Gurriel, there’s still development to be done but the upside is tremendous.  He showed control of the strike zone while playing in Cuba, despite his age, with 136 K vs. 117 BB over 1,098 PA.  Obviously the competition level isn’t the same and there is likely going to be some growing pains, but it’s promising all the same (though there are reports that it may not translate).

There’s also the potential for some power to develop, though we aren’t necessarily talking about a 35+ HR hitter.  Think 20ish without much speed, so what he does and how he adjusts is going to be important.  It was a great signing, especially at the price, but don’t consider him a slam dunk to hit the ground running.

 

4) Anthony Alford – Outfielder
Grade – B (B+ if he’s healthy)
ETA – 2018

Last season was supposed to be the year that he figured things out, devoting all of his attention to baseball (instead of splitting his time between baseball and football).  Instead injuries helped to limit him to 92 games (339 AB) and he struggled as he hit .236 with 9 HR and 18 SB.  It makes sense that strikeouts were his biggest issue (29.2%), considering the amount of time he missed and his history of splitting his attention.  The hope would be that a full season of baseball only would help him refine his approach, and with his proven ability to draw a walk (13.2% last season) there’s little doubt that he has a good feel of the strike zone.  It’s going to come in time.

He added 17 doubles and 2 triples, showing that there’s power potential, and going 18-for-24 in SB attempts is a solid number.  There’s no question that he can run, and 15/30 is a realistic upside.  The question is going to be if he can stay on the field and improve on his strikeout rate.  If he does, watch out.

 

5) T.J. Zeuch – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2018

The team’s first round pick in 2016 stands at 6’7” and he certainly impressed over his first 34.0 innings of professional baseball, with 38 K vs. 7 BB while generating a ton of groundballs (3.62 GO/AO).  Obviously it’s a miniscule sample size, but it shows just how much upside he truly has if he can develop his secondary pitches (most importantly his changeup).  Worst case scenario would have him settling in as a lights out reliever, but with his skillset you know Toronto is going to want to give him every opportunity to thrive as a starting pitcher.

 

6) Richard Urena – Shortstop
Grade – B-
ETA – 2018

It’s possible that he reaches the Majors in 2017, having gotten his feet wet at Double-A last season (124 AB), but a 2018 arrival is a bit more realistic.  That said, the biggest question hanging over him is what plus skill does he bring to the table, after posting 8 HR and 9 SB between High-A and Double-A last season.  It would appear that there’s a lot more speed potential, with 12 triples, though he’s hardly a blazer on the bases.  While he showed a strong ability to make consistent contact (strikeout rates of 14.8% and 14.4%), he hasn’t shown much ability to draw walks:

  • High-A – 5.8%
  • Double-A – 3.0%

That’s something that upper level pitching is going to exploit, so it’s something that needs to be closely monitored.  There’s obviously significant upside, but his 2016 performance has left some significant questions.

 

The Rest:

7) Justin Maese – Right-Handed Pitcher

8) Rowdy Tellez – First Baseman

9) Bo Bichette – Shortstop
The son of former MLB standout Dante Bichette, he was a 2016 second round pick and produced an eye popping 15 extra base hits in his first 82 AB.  That alone is going to garner our attention.

10) Harold Ramirez – Outfielder

Just Missed
Jon Harris – Right-Handed Pitcher
The 2015 first round pick has potential, but 26 K over 45.0 IP at High-A isn’t going to garner much enthusiasm.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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