by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
You can argue that the Blue Jays’ system is a bit top heavy, with a pair of impressive prospects at the top, a few intriguing names following them and then everybody else. Things got even shallower when they traded outfielder Edward Olivares, who had been ranked #9 (B- grade) on our original Top 10 as part of the deal to acquire Yangervis Solarte. Let’s look at how the rankings now look:
1) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Third Baseman
Grade – A
ETA – 2019
The son of potential Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, as an 18-year old who split time between Single-A and High-A he showed a highly impressive ability to make consistent contact:
- Strikeout Rate – 11.8%
- Walk Rate – 14.4%
- Swinging Strike Rate – 8.4%
That’s right, the teenager walked more than he struck out and showed better numbers upon reaching High-A (7.3% SwStr%). Add that to the clear power potential, which he should start tapping into as he continues to mature and develop, and it’s easy to envision the sky being the limit. The only question is where he ultimately fits defensively, as he could shift to a corner outfield spot or first base. Regardless, he’s one of the truly elite.
2) Bo Bichette – Shortstop
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019
Another second generation prospect, Bichette was nearly as impressive as he shared the spotlight and split his time between Single-A and High-A. He showed a little more power, at least at this point, as he added 41 doubles and 4 triples to go along with 14 HR. Obviously no one is going to believe he’s a .362 hitter, and his plate discipline appears to be a small step below that of Guerrero:
- Strikeout Rate – 16.2%
- Walk Rate – 8.4%
- Swinging Strike Rate – 10.1%
His line drive rate also dropped in his 40 games at High-A (20.3%) and again there are questions where he ultimately fits defensively. That said his upside is apparent and while he may be a small step behind Guerrero, the two clearly represent the future in Toronto and are coming quickly.
3) T.J. Zeuch – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
He’s 6’7” and 225 lbs., so the first thought would be that control would be an issue for the 2016 first round pick. However he posted impressive command, with a 2.60 BB/9, and he was a groundball machine with a 61.0% mark over 65.2 IP as he topped out at High-A. He hasn’t shown a big strikeout rate, with a 6.99 K/9 last season, and a pair of DL stints (for undisclosed reasons) does put a little bit of damper on the excitement. That said, he had 15 K vs. 4 BB over 18.1 IP in the Arizona Fall League and while a 9.8% SwStr% isn’t going to blow you away it shows a bit more promise. Think Marcus Stroman upside, and what exactly is wrong with that?
4) Anthony Alford – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
There has long been hype hovering over Alford, and we’ve said that with his focus finally solely being on baseball (he also played football in college) we needed to give him time to develop. Splitting time across three levels (he spent the bulk of his time at Double-A) and he also got a cup of coffee in the Majors, Alford showed off his speed (19 SB) while hitting .299 with 5 HR. An 11.7% SwStr% does show a bit of a risk, as his average came courtesy of a .355 BABIP, and there’s risk that the 17.0% strikeout rate rises significantly.
That said he has the speed to carry an elevated BABIP, he should start to tap into his power a bit more and he showed strong plate discipline with an 11.0% walk rate. He needs to avoid injury, but the potential is there to develop into a 15/30 type player at the top of the order. Considering the other talent that is developing in the system, that’s a perfect fit.
5) Nate Pearson – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2019
A first round pick in 2017, Pearson got his feet wet at Low-A in ’17 (19.0 IP) showing some impressive skills as he posted an 11.37 K/9 and 2.37 BB/9 as he generated a 13.6% SwStr%. Obviously as a 20-year old at that level we don’t want to read too much into it, and the question is if he’s going to be able to develop his secondary pitches enough to stick in the rotation. That said, even if he fails in that regard the 6’6”, 245 lbs. pitcher would profile as a closer of the future if a move is made.
The Next Five:
6) Ryan Borucki – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
Note – Injury had suppressed him previously, but the southpaw saw time across three levels last season (one start at Triple-A) and posted a 2.93 ERA over 150.1 IP while displaying strikeouts (9.40 K/9, 13.3% SwStr%), control (2.16 BB/9) and groundballs (52.1%). He is 23-years old, which lowers his ranking a little bit, but the upside is there.
7) Logan Warmoth – Shortstop (Grade – B)
8) Sean Reid-Foley – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
9) Richard Urena – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
10) Danny Jansen – Catcher (Grade – C+)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: