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The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

 

1.  Daniel Norris, LHP

Born: 04/25/93  Age: 22   Height: 6-2   Weight: 180   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Mauricio Robles, Eduardo Sanchez, Luke Jackson, Henry Sosa, Thomas Palica
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A 85.7 4.20 3.62 10.4 25.9% 4.6 11.5% 0.63 69.6%
2014 21 A+ 66.3 1.22 1.91 10.3 29.0% 2.4 6.9% 0.00 83.8%
2014 21 AA 35.7 4.54 4.03 12.4 31.6% 4.3 11.0% 1.26 75.0%
2014 21 AAA 22.7 3.18 2.21 15.1 44.7% 3.2 9.4% 0.79 72.9%

Background: After dealing away many of the system’s top prospects since November 2012 – Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Franklin Barreto, Sean Nolin, diamond-in-the-rough Yan Gomes, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, and Jake Marisnick – Toronto’s farm still boasts one of the top left arms in the minors: former second round pick Daniel Norris. “The 6-foot-2 southpaw,” I wrote in last year’s book, “has averaged just below 10 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, though it’s just 133.1 innings at this point. The control is problematic right now – seemingly typical of young left-handers – but the K-rates have been pretty tantalizing.”

Norris took the big leap forward in his development last season, trimming his walk rate down to just a touch over three free passes per nine innings while actually setting a career best in K-rate (11.8 K/9). The Science Hill HS alum began the year by rattling off 13 dominant starts with Dunedin, breezed through eight more appearances in the Eastern League, and posted a ridiculously absurd 38-to-eight strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 22.2 innings in Class AAA.

The front office, out of the playoff picture, called Norris up to the big leagues in August, where they allowed him to make five more appearances, only one of which lasted longer than an inning.

Norris finished his 2014 minor league campaign with some notoriety: his combined strikeout percentage, 32.5%, was higher than any other minor league pitcher with at least 100+ innings, and his strikeout-to-walk percentage, 23.9%, tied with Kyle Lloyd, a non-prospect in San Diego’s system, as the second best.

Projection: Prior to the year I pegged the left-hander as having a 3.0- to 3.5-win ceiling, which, admittedly, seemed quite generous at the time. But Norris blew that initial evaluation out of the water and looks like he’s a genuine front-of-the-rotation caliber arm. His fastball sat in the low- to mid-90s during his stint in Toronto, and complemented it with a 80-ish mph slider, curve, and changeup. He’ll likely battle fellow prospect Aaron Sanchez for the final spot in the rotation.

Ceiling:  4.0- to 4.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

2.  Dalton Pompey, CF

Born: 12/11/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-2   Weight: 195   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Dan Brewer, Casey Craig, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Cunningham, Byron Buxton
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 511 .261 .358 .394 .752 .133 12.3% 20.7% 115
2014 21 A+ 317 .319 .397 .471 .868 .152 11.0% 17.7% 150
2014 21 AA 127 .295 .378 .473 .851 .179 11.0% 14.2% 138
2014 21 AAA 56 .358 .393 .453 .846 .094 5.4% 17.9% 137

Background: Coming off of a .261/.358/.394 campaign as a 20-year-old in Low Class A, I wrote: “Speed and patience are his best assets. Below-average hit tool and pop will most assuredly doom him to a life of fourth outfielder-dom. Pompey, a switch-hitter, has struggled against southpaws thus far, hitting just .230/.316/.372 since 2011.” Well, something clicked for the former 16th round pick, because he looked like a completely different ballplayer in 2014.

Taking the same path as budding ace Daniel Norris, Pompey began the year in the Florida State League, where he slugged .319/.397/.471 with 12 doubles, six triples, and setting a new career high with six homeruns. He maintained his hot start by hitting .295/.378/.473 upon his promotion to New Hampshire and upped the ante by going 19-for-53 in 12 Class AAA games. Toronto called him up in early September where he made 43 semi-productive trips to the plate.

Overall, Pompey finished his minor league campaign with a .317/.392/.469 triple-slash line, with 22 doubles, nine three-baggers, nine homeruns, and 38 stolen bases.

Projection: The front-runner and likely starter on Opening Day, Pompey improved in every single area that I highlighted as a problem/red flag in last year’s book. He posted a career best .152 Isolated Power and smoked MiLB lefties to the tune of .316/.397/.481. Plus speed with the ability to run down anything in center fielder. He’s a table setter and potential All-Star caliber player. His defensive value has a chance to add significant value down the line.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

3.  Aaron Sanchez, RHP

Born: 07/01/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-4   Weight: 200   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Manny Banuelos, Oswaldo Sosa, Mike Foltynewicz, Dan Cortes, Rafael Dolis
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 20 A 90.3 2.49 3.57 9.7 25.7% 5.1 13.5% 0.30 75.6%
2013 20 A+ 86.3 3.34 3.67 7.8 20.8% 4.2 11.1% 0.42 66.4%
2014 21 AA 66.0 3.82 4.16 7.8 20.0% 5.5 14.0% 0.27 67.6%
2014 21 AAA 34.3 4.19 4.87 7.1 18.0% 4.5 11.3% 1.05 70.3%

Background: The other baby-faced Blue Jay to make his much anticipated debut in 2014, Sanchez, believe it or not, surpassed half of his previous career total in innings pitched last season – 256.0 vs. 133.1 – despite being in Toronto’s system since 2010. The former supplemental first rounder has battled a variety of injuries throughout his career, but finally healthy last season he started to cash in on his potential by making stops in Class AA and Class AAA before eventually finding a home in the Jays’ bullpen.

Sanchez opened the season with 14 starts, got bumped up to the International League for another eight games, and was finally promoted to Toronto in late July, where he was absolutely dominant. While his overall minor league numbers are unimpressive last season (100.1 IP, 84 K, and 57 BB), it appears that he’s just scratching the surface.

Projection: During his 33-inning big league stint, Sanchez uncorked his trademark high-90s heat, a low 90s changeup, and a wicked snap-dragon. His control has, to put it mildly, been atrocious in the minor leagues; he’s walked 12.5% of the batters he’s faced in his career. But it took a gigantic leap forward during his time in the pen, so it might behoove the organization, if they keep him in the big leagues, to leave him there in 2015 and slowly stretch him out. Front-line starting potential, but, again, he needs to refine the control.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

4.  Max Pentecost, C

 

YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 R 22 .364 .364 .455 .818 .091 0.0% 13.6% 135
2014 21 A- 87 .313 .322 .410 .731 .096 2.3% 20.7% 100

Background: Armed with two of the top 11 picks in last June’s draft, one of which came courtesy of failing to sign Phil Bickford, Toronto gambled on injured right-hander Jeff Hoffman and took the safe route by grabbing Pentecost with their second selection. Pentecost, widely recognized as the most complete, well-rounded catcher in the 2014 draft class, torched the competition during his final season at Kennesaw State, hitting a Ted Williams-esque .422/.475/.627 while setting career highs in doubles (24), homeruns (9), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (30-to-26).

Toronto pushed the 6-foot-2 backstop to the Gulf Coast for a successful six game stint before bumping him up to Vancouver in the Northwest League. He finished his professional debut with a .324/.330/.419 triple-slash line.

Projection: Prior to the draft I wrote,

“I’m a big believer in the bat. He’s done nothing but hit since turning down the Rangers’ contract offer and heading to college. Through more than two-and-a-half seasons of data, Pentecost has slugged .330/.402/.472 while making strides in his contact rate.”

I continued,

“Kennesaw’s home field tends to inflate offensive numbers a bit, but the power, patience, hit tool, and speed are average across the board. [He’s] a potential solid everyday backstop peaking around 3.0, maybe 3.5-wins above replacement.”

Ceiling:  3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

5.  Jeff Hoffman, RHP

Born: 01/08/93  Age: 22   Height: 6-4   Weight: 185   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: N/A

Background: There was some talk heading into the season that Hoffman had the best chance to unseat N.C. State southpaw Carlos Rodon as the #1 pick in the draft. Well, Hoffman succumbed to injury and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, and Rodon didn’t live up to the unfair expectations, and the Astros selected – and failed to sign – prep southpaw Brady Aiken. For the first time in his collegiate career, Hoffman, a 6-foot-4 right-hander out of East Carolina, missed more than a bat per inning.

Projection: Prior to the draft (and injury) I wrote,

“I’ve been fairly hard on Hoffman to this point – the lack of strikeouts, something that improved tremendously over the last month-plus, was pretty alarming. But in one of his most recent starts – April 17th against Middle Tennessee – Hoffman spun an absolute gem: 8.0 IP, 16 strikeouts, one walk, and three hits allowed.”

I continued,

“He isn’t ace-type potential, at least not in the same way as Rodon or TCU’s Brandon Finnegan. Instead, Hoffman’s more of a good #2-type option that can offer glimpses of the ability to take games over. Think like a lite version of Gerrit Cole – a live-armed starting pitcher capable of chewing innings and averaging 7.8 K/9 with solid average control.”

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2017/Early 2018

 

 

6.  Roberto Osuna, RHP

Born: 02/07/95  Age: 20   Height: 6-2   Weight: 230   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Michael Main, Daniel Missaki, Arodys Vizcaino, Ty Boyles, Luis Lugo
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 16 R 24.0 1.50 3.25 9.0 25.3% 2.3 6.3% 0.38 85.4%
2012 16 A- 19.7 3.20 2.97 11.4 29.4% 4.1 10.6% 0.46 66.4%
2013 17 A 42.3 5.53 3.69 10.8 29.0% 2.3 6.3% 1.28 55.1%
2014 18 A+ 22.0 6.55 4.07 12.3 29.7% 3.7 8.9% 1.23 67.0%

Background: Fun fact – In 2011, the average age in the Mexican League was about 29-years-old; Osuna made 13 appearances for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico that year…at the ripe ol’ age of 16. Since coming stateside in 2012, the 6-foot-2 right-hander has been all business. He split time between Bluefield and Vancouver as a 17-year-old and was sporting a 51-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio the following year with Lansing before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Finally healthy, Osuna made seven appearances in the Florida State League last year, where he continued to wow with a fantastic 30-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Projection: Despite the layoff due to injury, Osuna will spend 2015 as a 20-year-old. And while his time in the stateside minor leagues is incredibly limited, it’s been downright fantastic. He’s a solid, mid-rotation-type arm who should move quickly, especially the further he’s removed from surgery/rehab.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

7.  Miguel Castro, RHP

Born: 12/24/94  Age: 20   Height: 6-5   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Michael Main, Jose Rios, Jonathan Correa, Lucas Giolito, Ramon Rodriguez
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 15.0 2.40 1.99 8.4 25.0% 1.2 3.6% 0.00 69.2%
2014 19 A- 50.3 2.15 3.48 9.5 26.4% 3.6 10.0% 0.36 81.2%
2014 19 A 21.7 3.74 3.95 8.3 24.1% 2.9 8.4% 0.83 59.2%
2014 19 A+ 8.7 3.12 6.28 5.2 16.1% 3.1 9.7% 2.08 95.2%

Background: It took the 6-foot-5 man-child parts of two seasons to get out of the Dominican Summer League, but Castro, who originally signed with Toronto for $180,000 in 2011, hasn’t looked back. After throwing 17.0 innings in both stateside rookie leagues, Castro strung together 10 impressive starts with Vancouver (50.1 innings, 53 strikeouts, 20 walks) and another four solid games in the Midwest League (21.1 innings, 20 strikeouts, seven walks), before getting a brief taste of the Florida State League. Overall, the Dominican-born right-hander tossed a combined 80.2 innings with a 78-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.68 ERA.

Projection: With an incredibly limited data sample heading into the year, I still pegged the big right-hander as “another young arm to keep an eye on.” I also noted that he’s “shown a tremendous feel for the strike zone, something beyond his years.” Fast forward a year, the data sample is still limited – he’s thrown 171.0 innings in his career – but Castro started hinting at the potential to become a mid-rotation arm.

Ceiling:  2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

8.  Richard Urena, SS

Born: 02/26/96  Age: 19   Height: 6-1   Weight: 170   B/T: L/R                                                        
Top CALs: Henry Castillo, Gioskar Amaya, Edwin Diaz, Cristian Toribio, Daniel Barbuena
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 280 .296 .381 .403 .785 .107 10.7% 15.4% 137
2013 17 R 31 .333 .400 .407 .807 .074 9.7% 19.4% 143
2014 18 R 236 .318 .363 .433 .796 .115 6.8% 21.6% 129
2014 18 A- 37 .242 .297 .364 .661 .121 8.1% 13.5% 83

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $725,000 in 2012, Urena opened up his professional career by hitting .296/.381/.403 in 64 games in the DSL before a quick crash course in the Gulf Coast two years ago. And the front office, not wanting to stray from its aggressive development style, pushed the lefty-swinging shortstop straight into the Appalachian League last season, where he hit .318/.363/.433 with 15 doubles, a pair of triples, two homeruns, and five stolen bases. Just like the previous year, the club bumped him up a level for a handful of games to close out the year.

Projection: Solid-average power potential, especially from a middle infield position. Urena posted a .115 ISO as an 18-year-old in short-season ball. The only red flag he raised two years ago, his work against LHP, was alleviated as he batted .283/.340/.370 against them with Bluefield. There’s some regular potential here.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  2019

 

 

9.  Matt Smoral, LHP

Born: 03/18/94  Age: 21   Height: 6-8   Weight: 220   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Casey Fry, Grayson Huffman, Tyler Sample, Zach Russell, Angel Cruz
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 R 25.7 7.01 6.07 9.5 20.5% 9.1 19.7% 0.35 61.8%
2014 20 R 33.7 3.48 2.41 13.6 32.5% 4.8 11.5% 0.00 71.2%
2014 20 A- 20.0 2.70 4.47 8.6 23.2% 6.8 18.3% 0.00 80.7%

Background: There are not too many people in the world that won’t have to look up to the young 6-foot-8 southpaw. Smoral missed most of his senior year in high school and all of his first professional season as he recovered from a stress fracture in his fourth metatarsal. The lefty out of Solon, OH, who was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2012, tossed just 25.2 innings two years ago, showcasing a promising ability to miss bats (27) and the strike zone (26). The club bumped him up to Bluefield last season, where he showed vastly improved control (4.8 BB/9) while punching out 51 in 33.2 innings. He was then promoted to Vancouver where his control regressed mightily in 20.0 innings.

Projection: Despite being drafted three years ago, Smoral has totaled just 79.1 innings in his career. And we basically know three things: (1) he’s massive, (2) he’s going to miss a lot of bats, and (3) he’s going to be dealing with some problematic control in the near future. Still, though, 6-foot-8 left-handers with a potential premium swing-and-miss ability don’t grow on trees, so he’s definitely one to watch moving forward.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

10.  Devon Travis, 2B

Born: 02/21/91  Age: 24   Height: 5-9   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Steve Singleton, Drew Anderson, David Adams, Jose Pirela, Gerson Montilla
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 21 A- 107 .280 .352 .441 .793 .161 7.5% 9.3% 136
2013 22 A 339 .352 .430 .486 .916 .134 10.3% 9.4% 160
2013 22 A+ 237 .350 .401 .561 .962 .210 7.6% 13.5% 174
2014 23 AA 441 .298 .358 .460 .817 .162 8.4% 13.6% 126

Background: The former 13th rounder out of Florida State University exploded in the Midwest League two years ago and continued his Ruthian ways with Lakeland in High Class A. And in last year’s book I wrote, “A bit tricky to analyze. Travis performed well, but he’s a polished collegiate player tearing up the [lower] minor leagues. And everything about his time in Low Class A screams fluke – his age, background, .375 BABIP – except that he performed even better upon his promotion to High Class A. He’s likely to show more development as a hitter next season, though his overall production could decline as his BABIP drops.”

Well, his BABIP dropped to more realistic .327 in Class AA last season. But he still managed to hit .298/.358/.460 with 20 doubles, seven triples, 10 homeruns, and 16 stolen bases en route to posting a 126 wRC+.

Projection: Travis enters the year as a dark horse candidate to win the second base job, a position that’s been an issue for several years, out of Spring Training. He doesn’t own a true standout tool and CAL remains pretty boorish by linking him to Steve Singleton, Drew Anderson, David Adams, Jose Pirela, and Gerson Montilla.

Ceiling:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

**All Statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**



About

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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