The Toronto Blue Jays are a team entrenched in a rebuild, and lucky for them they have a system ready to deliver talent to the Majors. We saw a glimpse of it last season, with Danny Jansen and Sean Reid-Foley arriving, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is arguably the best prospect in the game. Throw in a few more second generation stars and there’s a lot working in their favor. Let’s take a look:
1) Vladimir Guerrero
Jr. – Third Baseman
Grade – A
ETA – 2019
The questions for Guerrero aren’t if he will arrive in 2019 or how good he will be when he makes his MLB debut. Instead it’s how early the Blue Jays will summon him, as it is assumed that he’s going to flourish immediately. Considering these numbers from 2018 it is hard to argue against it:
- Double-A (234 AB) – .402 with 14 HR and 60 RBI
- Triple-A (110 AB) – .336 with 6 HR and 16 RBI
He also had 13 AB between Rookie Ball and High-A, ultimately hitting .381 with 20 HR and 78 RBI over 357 AB while walking (37) nearly as much as he struck out (38). Of course there was a little bit of luck (.378 BABIP), there’s the risk that the strikeouts rise (9.9% SwStr%) and there’s no guarantee that the rebuilding Blue Jays, who stand little chance to compete in ’19, push Guerrero to the Majors quickly.
All that is said just to temper your expectations, at least a little bit. There is no arguing how good Guerrero is, as he’s among the premier prospects in the game and should arrive and make an impact in short order.
2) Bo Bichette –
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019
Another second generation star, Bichette played the year at Double-A (595 PA) hitting .286 with 11 HR and 32 SB. While he didn’t show significant power, he added 43 doubles and 7 triples so there’s plenty of upside for the 20-year old (he’ll play 2019 at 21-years old). Maybe he doesn’t profile as a 35+ HR monster, but would it be surprising if he regularly hit 20+ HR (with a 25+ HR or two coming as he benefits from playing half his games in Toronto)?
He may not be able to maintain quite this much speed as he matures physically, but again 15+ SB annually would be more than enough. We’ll have to watch the strikeouts a little bit (10.0% SwStr%), though it again isn’t an outrageous number and isn’t going to sink him.
A middle infielder who should hit .280+ with 20/20 stuff? It’s hard not to like him.
3) Danny Jansen –
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
Jansen has arrived as one of the best catching prospects in baseball, playing at Triple-A and the Majors last season, thanks to his excellent approach. Just look at his strikeout rate // SwStr% at each level:
- Triple-A – 13.6% // 4.4%
- Majors – 17.9% // 6.8%
That alone is going to put him on the map, but his power is also starting to develop. No he’s not going to be a 30+ HR catcher, but he combined to hit 15 HR over 379 AB last season while adding 21 doubles and 1 triple. That’s not a void in terms of power, and with his average upside to go along with 15-20 HR annually? He’s going to be one of the top options at the position moving forward.
4) Jordan Groshans –
Grade – B-
ETA – 2022
Groshans was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft (12th overall), hitting .296 with 5 HR (as well as 13 doubles) over 186 AB. That’s going to be his carrying skill, and something that should be there, as long as he can keep the strikeouts in check. Obviously we aren’t going to put too much stock in his mark from last season, considering it was his first taste of professional baseball (and a relatively small sample), but a 14.2% SwStr% will be something that needs to be monitored closely.
5) Cavan Biggio – Second Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – 2020
When you see a bloated 26.3% strikeout rate you likely see it as a significant red flag and something that’s going to drag him down the rankings. However it’s more of a case where he’s too patient at the plate, as evidenced by these numbers from Double-A last season:
- Walk Rate – 17.8%
- SwStr% – 9.9%
Biggio needs to learn to get his pitch and be more aggressive, and that’s something that can be taught. While he doesn’t have big speed (despite 20 SB last season) he does have power (23 doubles, 5 triples and 26 HR) and that could play even more once he learns to take advantage of his pitch. While others are down on him, don’t be surprised if a strong start changes the narrative.
6) Nate Pearson – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
Injuries cost Pearson in ’18, as a back injury got his season started late and just 5 outs in he took a line drive off his forearm causing a fracture and ending his season. That dampens the outlook, at least a little bit, though the back issue obviously is of bigger concern. He’s only thrown 21.2 innings since being selected in the first round of the ’17 draft, so it’s hard to draw many conclusions. He has the size (6’6”, 245 lbs.) and should be able to hold up to a starters workload, plus he has shown an ability to hit triple-digits in short stints (he needs to prove that he can maintain his velocity). The upside is there, he just needs to stay healthy and show it.
7) Kevin Smith – Shortstop (Grade – B-)
When a player puts up 25 HR and 29 SB between Single-A and High-A it’s easy to get excited. Throw in adding 31 doubles and 6 triples, backing up the power, and things look that much better. A 12.7% SwStr% is a red flag, and something that needs to be monitored closely. It’s possible that he started to focus on his power a bit too much, at the expense of his contact, and seeing him dial it back a little bit could happen. Of course would anyone complain about a 20/20 player with a solid average?
8) Sean Reid-Foley –
Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Reid-Foley bounced back last season, splitting time between Double-A (44.1 IP) and Triple-A (85.1 IP) and posting a 3.26 ERA and 1.18 WHIP as well as making his MLB debut. While he continued to show strikeouts regardless of the level, his control wavered in the Majors (5.67 BB/9 over 33.1 IP) and he saw his groundball rate regress as he advanced:
- Double-A – 54.5%
- Triple-A – 42.7%
- Majors – 37.2%
The regressed marks could lead to home run issues (1.62 HR/9 in the Majors), and those two things are going to loom large. Strikeouts are nice, but in the AL East it isn’t enough.
9) Eric Pardinho – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Signed out of Brazil in 2017, Pardinho played last season at 17-years old so there are a lot of ways things could go between now and when he ultimately arrives in the Majors. That said there is no questioning the pure stuff he brings, with a mid-90s fastball being paired with a duo of swing and miss pitches. At 5’10” there are going to be questions about his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (and perhaps ultimately he lands in the bullpen), but could he still further mature physically?
10) Forrest Wall – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
The former Rockies’ prospect could be suffering from a little bit of prospect fatigue, though he delivered some solid numbers last season hitting 10 HR with 38 SB. He needs to improve upon a 23.8% strikeout rate (courtesy of an 11.6% SwStr%, which jumped to 12.2% at Double-A), and he particularly struggled at Double-A after the trade (31.3% over 147 PA). The speed is his carrying tool, and that’s important with it down across the game, but he needs to show an improved approach so he can continually tap into it.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists: