2013 Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects


System Overview: The system is noticeably weaker after dealing away several of the team’s top prospects this winter — Travis D’arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, and Adeiny Hechavarria. However, there’s still impact talent in the form of Aaron Sanchez, a possible frontline starting pitcher, and the organization had five of the top 60 picks in last season’s draft. It’s a system in transition. But there’s definitely talent developing in the lower rungs of the minors.


#1. Aaron Sanchez, Age: 20, Position: RHP

Nabbed in the first round — 34th overall — out of Barstow High School (Barstow, CA) in 2010, Sanchez was among the youngest hurlers in the Midwest League last season. And in 25 appearances, 18 of which were starts, the 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out 97 (9.7 K/9) but walked a whopping 51 (5.1 BB/9) across 90.1 innings.

According to MinorLeagueCentral.com, Sanchez’s Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was a solid 3.61. He also generated a tremendous amount of action on the ground, sporting a 58.6% GB-rate.

Projection: The Blue Jays have been exceptionally cautious with their prized pitching prospect, making the Orioles’ plan for Dylan Bundy look like a early 90s David Cone start. Sanchez, despite being in the system for over three years now, has totaled just 183.2 career innings. He’s shown an elite ability to miss bats, but his control looks troublesome, of course, that could iron itself with added experience. Sanchez has front-of-the-line potential.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#2. Sean Nolin, Age: 23, Position: LHP

After an impressive showing with Lansing two years ago (108.1 IP, 9.4 K/9, and 2.6 BB/9), Nolin took another developmental step forward in 2012 — albeit one that was shortened a bit by a nagging lat injury. In 101.1 innings, the massive left-hander struck out 108 (9.6 K/9) and walked just 27 (2.4 BB/9).

Projection: Highly underrated heading into this season, Nolin has size, ability and room to continue to add to an already impressive skill set. This season should be the first time the former sixth round pick faces older competition, but there’s no reason to think he couldn’t develop into a good mid-rotation-type guy down the line.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#3. Roberto Osuna, Age: 18, Position: RHP

Osuna, who debuted as a 16-year-old in the Mexican League in 2011, split last season between the Appalachian and Northwest Leagues. And in 43.2 innings, the 6-foot-2, 230 pound right-hander struck out 49 (10.1 K/9) and walked just 15 (3.1 BB/9). He posted an impressive 3.05 SIERA.

Projection: Clearly, too soon to get an accurate read on Osuna’s ceiling. But he could skyrocket up a lot of lists following this season. He’s built well, though may need to keep his weight in check, misses a lot of bats, has a decent feel for the strike zone, and performed well against older competition. He could be special — if he can avoid the injury nexus.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#4. Marcus Stroman, Age: 21, Position: RHP

After an impressive three-year career at Duke, Stroman was picked twenty-second overall in last year’s draft. And the diminutive right-hander tossed 19.1 innings during his pro debut, striking out 23 and walking nine.

Projection: It seems, and correctly so, the Blue Jays will push the 5-foot-9 Stroman into a full time relief role, where he has the ability to not only move quickly but also develop into a dominant end-game reliever. Of course, all that will have to wait till he serves a 50-game suspension for taking a banned supplement.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#5. D.J. Davis, Age: 18, Position: CF

The club’s first round pick in last June’s draft, Davis, who was chosen 17th overall, spent time with three of the organization’s minor league teams (Gulf Coast, Appalachian, and Northwest Leagues). Overall, the lefty-swinging center fielder hit .250/.355/.386 with 10 doubles, three triples, five homeruns, and 25 stolen bases (in 35 attempts).

Projection: Looks like a toolsy-type outfielder, blessed with above-average or better speed and enough pop to keep defenses honest. Per the usual, however, any long term projections for recent draft picks and international free agent signings will be withheld until the following year. He could be an Anthony Gose-type, with a bit more power.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#6. John Stilson, Age: 22, Position: RHP

After a dominating showing during his second season with Texas A&M, Toronto grabbed the 6-foot-4 right-hander in the third round in 2011. Stilson showed some ability in High-A last season (54.1 IP, 7.8 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9), and his K-rate held firm but did see a noticeable decline in his control upon his promotion to Double-A (4.1 BB/9).

Projection: Stilson suffered a shoulder injury during his final collegiate season which cost him a chance as a first draft pick, so obviously the talent’s there. And despite the collegiate background, he was still young for the levels of competition last season. He’s got a mid-rotation ceiling and at the very least could be pushed into a bullpen role.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#7. Christian Lopes, Age: 20, Position: 2B

Lopes, a 6-foot second baseman, began 2012 by hitting .278/.339/.462 with Bluefield. The organization then bumped him up to Vancouver for 10 games, where he performed modestly (.270/.317/.351).

Projection: The Blue Jays aggressively pushed their young second baseman to A-ball this season, despite making just 41 trips to the plate in Low-A. He showed some pop, potentially a solid-average tool, a little bit of speed, strong contact skills and a slightly below-average eye at the plate. Lopes is still several years away, but he’s got a shot to develop into a big league regular.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#8. A.J. Jimenez, Age: 23, Position: C

Lost most of last year due to a cranky elbow that led to Tommy John surgery, Jimenez managed to hit .257/.295/.371 during his injury-marred campaign with New Hampshire. His numbers with Dunedin in 2011, however, remain intriguing (.303/.353/.417).

Projection: Historically speaking, Jimenez has shown a below-average eye at the plate and just a smattering of pop. But he excels by putting the ball in play quite a bit and shows good speed for a catcher. Oh, yeah, prior to the injury he had thrown out 43% of would-be base stealers in his career. Assuming he fully recovers, Jimenez could develop in a defensive-first starter, capable of hitting .260/.320/.380 at the big league level. He could be a Lou Marson-type player.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#9. Matt Smoral, Age: 19, Position: LHP

A huge lefty out of Solon High School (Solon, OH), the Blue Jays grabbed Smoral with the 50th pick last June, despite the fact that he was plagued with foot issues.

Projection: Smoral, a 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, did not make any appearances in pro ball last season.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#10. Santiago Nessy, Age: 20, Position: C

Nessy built upon a solid showing in the Gulf Coast in 2011 by hitting .256/.320/.456 with eight doubles and eight homeruns with Bluefield last season. And according to Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), his production was 13% better than the league average. His overall numbers for the season, however, were dragged down a horrible 25-PA stint in Low-A (.091/.200/.273).

Projection: Nessy has solid-average power, maybe with the ability to top out around 15 or so homeruns, and a decent eye at the plate. But his K-rate last season in the Appy, 26.4%, is already quite troublesome. Defensively, he threw out 35% of would-be base stealers. Nessy’s a decent catching prospect, depending how his power develops. But he doesn’t look like stating material right now.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#11. Javier Avendano, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Avendano absolutely dominated the Low-A and A-ball competition last season, throwing 108.1 total innings with 130 punch outs (10.8 K/9), 43 free passes (3.6 BB/9),  a 1.33 ERA, and 2.89 SIERA.

Projection: Avendano owns some impressive career numbers during his five-plus seasons in professional ball: 9.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a career 1.88 ERA. The problem, however, is he’s now getting to the point where’s he slightly old for the level of competition. And the Blue Jays pushed him back to A-ball to start 2013. Still, though, the numbers are impressive. He could be a backend rotation guy or decent late inning reliever.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low

#12. Mitch Nay, Age: 19, Position: 3B

A first rounder last year — 58th overall — Nay failed to appear in any games as a professional.

Projection: Nothing to go on.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#13.  Tyler Gonzales, Age: 20, Position: RHP

Taken two picks after Nay, Gonzales, a 6-foot-2 175 pound right-hander from Texas, tossed 15 innings.

Projection: Nothing to go on.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#14. Alberto Tirado, Age: 18, Position: RHP

Tirado made a combined 14 starts for both stateside rookie level teams, throwing 48 innings with 39 strikeouts and 17 walks.

Projection: Again, very little to go on. But he performed well against older competition, showing a decent ability to miss bats and a strong feel for the strike zone. He’s at least four or five years away and has to avoid injuries. But he’s one to watch.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#15. Daniel Norris, Age: 20, Position: LHP

Missed a lot of bats with Bluefield (9.8 K/9) and limited free passes reasonably well, but Norris’ overall production was masked by a horrific 8.44 ERA. His SIERA, however, was nearly 4.5 runs lowers.

Projection: Broken record: not much to go on; Norris has thrown just over 50 career innings at this point.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#16. Ryan Schimpf, Age: 25, Position: IF/OF

A fifth rounder out of LSU in 2009, Schimpf hit a combined .269/.368/.500 between High-A and Double-A. Along with 37 doubles, he added a trio of triples, 22 homeruns, and seven stolen bases.

Projection: Middle infield fodder for the organization at this point. His plate discipline improved greatly last season, but, again, he was old for the level. He’s got pop and some positional versatility so he may have a few cups of coffee with the big league club someday.

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate



Photo of Aaron Sanchez Courtesy of Emily Jones/MiLB.com


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.

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