The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Anthony Alford, CF                                                   
Born: 07/20/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Cameron Maybin, Angel Morales,

Jpe Benson, Dan Brewer, Brandon Nimmo

Height: 6-1 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A 232 14 1 1 0.293 0.418 0.394 0.101 16.8% 25.9% 143
2015 20 A+ 255 11 6 3 0.302 0.380 0.444 0.142 11.0% 19.2% 153

Background: Easily the system’s top athlete – even before the mass exodus left the organization thin on minor league talent – Alford opted to take the two-sport approach and head to Ole Miss after Toronto grabbed the young center fielder in the third round four years ago. The backup safety/backup punt returner decided to ply his athleticism to the diamond fulltime last season, a move that is only cemented as the right decision following by his breakout 2015 campaign. Seeing the ball field for just 25 games between 2012 and 2014, Alford looked at ease as the organization pushed him up to the Lansing Lugnuts in the Midwest League – a promotion that lasted all of 50 games. After topping the Low Class A league average production mark by a whopping 43%, the speedy 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder continued his torrid stretch with Dunedin for another 57 contests. Overall, the former football player-turned-top-baseball-prospect slugged a combined .298/.398/.421 with 25 doubles, seven triples, four homeruns, and swiped 27 bags in 34 attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the average mark by a mind-boggling 48%.

Projection: The most impressive part: remember Alford tallied just 25 games between 2012 through the end of 2014. Meaning: he basically sat out for three years, playing football in the meantime, and came back to establish himself as of the best young outfielders in baseball. Tremendous, tremendous eye at the plate, above-average to plus-speed, and enough wallop in his bat to keep pitchers honest as he moves up the minor league chain. Alford has the potential to a legitimate leadoff stick with the ability to change the game with the bat, on the base paths, and in the field. Simply put, he’s the single best prospect you’ve never heard of – yet.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2017/2018

 

2. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP                                               
Born: 08/30/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Tyler Matzek, Wilmer Font,

Jeremy Jeffress, Blake King, Angel Reyes

Height: 6-3 Weight: 220 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 22.7 1 2 4.76 2.76 9.93 3.97 25.5% 10.2% 0.00 62.5%
2015 19 A 63.3 3 5 3.69 3.44 12.79 6.11 30.7% 14.7% 0.43 71.4%
2015 19 A+ 32.7 1 5 5.23 3.81 9.64 6.61 23.7% 16.2% 0.28 62.5%

Background: Plucked out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, in the second round two years ago, Reid-Foley continued to miss a helluva lot of bats during his brief professional career. After fanning more than a quarter of the hitters he faced in his debut in the Gulf Coast League, the hyphened assassin fanned a remarkable 90 batters in just 63.1 innings with Lansing and averaged more than a whiff per inning after his promotion to the Florida State League. Reid-Foley finished the year with 125 punch outs in just 96.0 innings of work – or just under 12 strikeouts every nine innings. And now the bad news: he walked 67 of the 441 hitters he’s faced last season. Or in other words: nearly 15.5% or over six per nine innings.

Projection: Harkening back to memories of a young Aaron Sanchez, Reid-Foley can fan, and walk, hitters with exceedingly high frequency. Consider the following:

Player Age Level IP K% BB%
Sean Reid-Foley 19 A/A+ 96.0 28.34% 15.19%
Aaron Sanchez 19 A 90.1 25.73% 13.53%

How’s this for impressive: among all hurlers with at least 60 innings in the Midwest League, Reid-Foley finished with the second highest punch out percentage. And how’s this for impressive Part II: Reid-Foley was the only teenager hurler to throw at least 30+ innings in the Florida State League. Anyway, he clearly has front of the rotation caliber potential, whether he can eventually harness it or become the next Kyle Crick is an entirely different question.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

3. Max Pentecost, C                                                     
Born: 03/10/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-2 Weight: 191 Throws: R

Background: Outside of hurlers, arm injuries – particularly of the shoulder variety – are the most damning for backstops. The fact that Pentecost, the 11th overall pick two years ago, underwent two procedures in a matter of four months is incredibly worrisome for his prospects as a catcher. He missed the entire 2015 season.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

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

Now, Kennesaw’s home field tends to inflate offensive numbers a bit, but the power, patience, hit tool, and speed are average across the board. And according to his spray chart, he used the whole field fairly well last summer (warning: sample size of about 150 plate appearances).

Pentecost is a potential solid everyday backstop, [who should peak] around 3.0, maybe 3.5-wins above replacement. The total package is better than the individual pieces, though. Think .280/.335/.430 with 15 homeruns and solid defense.”

So now the question is: Will he remain behind the plate after two back-to-back shoulder procedures? Obviously, the bat doesn’t play nearly as well at, say, first or third base, or even a corner outfield position. Here’s hoping for a full recovery.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

4. Conner Greene, RHP                                                 
Born: 04/04/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Arquimedes Nieto, Eduardo Rodriguez,

Jacob Turner, Randall Delgado, Nick Additon

Height: 6-3 Weight: 165 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 30.7 1 1 5.28 4.05 5.87 4.40 14.5% 10.9% 0.29 65.2%
2014 19 R 27.7 1 2 4.23 3.93 6.83 3.90 17.7% 10.1% 0.33 61.2%
2014 19 R 31.7 2 2 1.99 3.10 8.53 1.71 24.2% 4.8% 0.57 71.9%
2015 20 A 67.3 7 3 3.88 3.22 8.69 2.54 22.7% 6.6% 0.53 71.1%
2015 20 A+ 40.0 2 3 2.25 2.34 7.88 1.80 21.6% 4.9% 0.23 77.5%
2015 20 AA 25.0 3 1 4.68 4.15 5.40 4.32 13.9% 11.1% 0.36 65.6%

Background: The former seventh round pick had one of the quieter breakout seasons in 2015 as he opened the year up with Lansing in the Midwest League and capped it off with five starts with New Hampshire in the Eastern League – at the age 20. Greene, a sturdy 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander out of Santa Monica High School, home to Tyler Skaggs and Tony Tarasco, more than doubled his career high in innings, throwing a combined 132.1 frames, fanning 115, walking just 39, and tallying a solid 3.54 FIP. For his three-year career, Greene is sporting a 186-to-72 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 222.1 innings. One interesting tidbit: Greene’s final start with Dunedin was an absolute gem: 7.0 IP, two hits, 10 punch outs, and zero walk issued.

Projection: Greene’s overall numbers are clouded by his five-game stint in Class AA last season. Ignoring those for a moment, his production between Class A and High Class A are as follows: 107.1 innings, 100 strikeouts, just 27 walks, and a 3.51 ERA. He’s one of the more interesting players in the entire minors, perhaps with the potential to peak as a solid #3 in the next two year or three years. CAL seems to like him by comparing him to Eduardo Rodriguez, Jacob Turner, and Randall Delgado.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

5. Rowdy Tellez, 1B                                                        
Born: 03/16/95 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Anthony Rizzo, Beau Mills,

Jose Jimenez, Chris Marrero, Kyle Blanks

Height: 6-4 Weight: 245 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 141 5 3 2 0.234 0.319 0.371 0.137 10.6% 18.4% 105
2014 19 R 218 11 1 4 0.293 0.358 0.424 0.131 8.7% 12.4% 125
2015 20 A 299 19 0 7 0.296 0.351 0.444 0.148 8.0% 18.7% 130
2015 20 A+ 148 5 0 7 0.275 0.338 0.473 0.198 9.5% 18.9% 143

Background: With a name straight out of the movie Road House, Toronto unearthed the budding slugger – aptly named Rowdy Tellez – in the 30th round three years ago, the 895th overall selection, and signed to a deal just south of a cool million dollars. And just 202 games later, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound hulking first baseman is proving to be quite the bargain – particularly after his massive breakout in 2015. In 103 games split between the Midwest and Florida State Leagues, Tellez slugged an impressive .289/.347/.454 with 24 doubles, 14 homeruns, and five stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 33%. He also earned a trip to the Arizona Fall League as well, hitting .293/.352/.488 with four doubles and four homeruns in 21 games.

Projection: As impressive as his season was in 2015, imagine what his overall numbers would have looked like had he not batted a lowly .228/.265/.337 against fellow left-handers. If he can prove that to be nothing more than a speed bump, Tellez has a chance to develop into a middle-of-the-order thumper: above-average power, solid eye at the plate, strong hit tool. Again, there’s some risk here, but he has a chance to be a perennial 20- to 25-HR threat down the line.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B/OF                              
Born: 03/16/99 Age: 17 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 Throws: R

Background: The Blue Jays handed out a hefty $3.9 million bonus to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the son of future Hall of Famer by the same name.

Projection: Here’s what Ismael Cruz, the Jays’ special assistant of Latin American operations said, according to an MLB.com report: “Those kind[s] of guys don’t come across very often. So it was either play all your marbles on one guy or it was go out and get a couple players that are fine, but for us, Vladimir is a difference-maker. He has the potential to be a very, very special kid.” Guerrero Jr. – perhaps, the new Kid – didn’t make an appearance in a game last season. But let’s see what the future holds for him.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

7. Richard Urena, SS                                                        
Born: 02/26/96 Age: 20 Bats: B Top CALs: Yamaico Navarro, Javier Guerra,

Arismendy Alcantara, Kenneth Peoples-Walls, Franklin Barreto

Height: 6-1 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 280 19 2 1 0.296 0.381 0.403 0.107 10.7% 15.4% 137
2014 18 R 236 15 2 2 0.318 0.363 0.433 0.115 6.8% 21.6% 129
2015 19 A 408 13 4 15 0.266 0.289 0.438 0.172 3.2% 20.6% 107
2015 19 A+ 128 3 1 1 0.250 0.268 0.315 0.065 2.3% 20.3% 76

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic on July 3rd, 2012, the switch-hitting Urena continued to cement himself as one of the more promising shortstops in the low levels of the minors last season. Urena torched the Dominican Summer League competition and earned a brief promotion up to the Gulf Coast during his debut a year after signing his professional pact. He followed that up by slugging .308/.354/.424 with 17 doubles, three triples, a pair of long balls, and six stolen bases between the Appalachian and Northwest Leagues in 2014. Last season, his first taste of full season action, Urena batted a respectable .266/.289/.438 in 91 games with Lansing, and he posted a .250/.268/.315 triple-slash mark in 30 games with Dunedin. Overall, he finished the year with an aggregate .262/.284/.407 line with 16 doubles, and career bests in triples (five) and homeruns (16).

Projection: Two interesting things to note here:

  1. Urena’s power took a tremendous step forward last season, going from below-average to slugging the sixth most homeruns among all minor league shortstops.
  2. Urena’s patience took an equally large step backward last season, going from average to non-existent.

As I noted in last year’s book, Urena’s power was definitely trending upward so it’s likely here to stay. And on the flip-side, he posted two seasons of average-ish walk rates so it’s very likely we see a big swing back towards respectability in 2016.

One final note: Urena’s production has been swallowed whole by his inability to handle southpaws as he slugged just .205/.227/.279 against them last season. It might be worth scrapping the whole switch-hitting thing in a season or two.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

8. Jon Harris, RHP                                                      
Born: 10/16/93 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Benjamin Wells, Kelvin Lopez,

William Waltrip, Cory Hamilton, Harold Guerrero

Height: 6-3 Weight: 160 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A- 36.0 0 5 6.75 4.02 8.00 5.25 18.2% 11.9% 0.25 56.9%

Background: After taking – and failing to sign – the big right-hander in the 33rd round out of high school in 2012, Toronto finally got their man in the latter part of the first round last season. Harris spent his collegiate career as a three-year starter for Missouri State, but blossomed during his final season: 103.0 IP, 116 K, and 36 BB.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to draft last season:

“Big and projectable, Harris finally took a large developmental leap forward after two good, not great seasons. His control is merely average, but his ability to miss bats should help him grow into another steady mid-rotation arm. At the very least, he’s a potential dominant backend reliever. There is some risk given his relatively short track record of better-than-average production, especially considering his ho-hum work in the Cape [in 2014].”

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

9. Clinton Hollon, RHP                                                
Born: 12/24/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Rookie Davis, Francisco Rios,

Ian Mckinney, Jose Rodriguez, Isaac Gil

Height: 6-1 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 5.3 0 1 10.13 5.68 8.44 5.06 19.2% 11.5% 1.69 26.3%
2013 18 R 12.0 1 0 0.00 2.54 7.50 2.25 25.0% 7.5% 0.00 100.0%
2015 20 A- 45.3 2 2 3.18 3.32 7.94 2.98 21.5% 8.1% 0.20 69.0%
2015 20 A 13.3 1 1 4.05 4.67 3.38 4.73 8.6% 12.1% 0.00 65.0%

Background: Toronto grabbed the wiry right-hander in the 2nd round out of Woodford County HS three years ago. And after a promising debut between the both rookie leagues, Hollon missed the entire 2014 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Finally healthy, he posted a 45-to-22 K/BB ratio between short-season and Low Class A.

Projection: Sure, it’s still a small sample size – he’s thrown just 76.0 total innings in his brief career – but it is still been fairly impressive, particularly his post-op results. Typically, hurlers – especially young hurlers – will battle control issues on the road back from Tommy John, but Hollon basically picked up right where he left off during his debut. He’s probably in line for about 100 or so innings in the Midwest League in 2016.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

10. Ryan Borucki, LHP                                                    
Born: 03/31/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 175 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 20 R 33.3 2 1 2.70 3.18 8.10 1.62 22.9% 4.6% 0.54 72.9%
2014 20 A- 23.7 1 1 1.90 3.02 8.37 1.14 25.0% 3.4% 0.38 57.7%
2015 21 R 1.0 0 0 0.00 1.31 9.00 0.00 25.0% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2015 21 A- 4.7 0 1 3.86 2.96 11.57 5.79 26.1% 13.0% 0.00 77.8%

Background: Just another one of the system’s promising lefties that have had their brief careers ravaged by injury. Borucki, a 15th round pick four years ago, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2013. Two years later tennis elbow and shoulder woes would limit him to just 5.2 innings.

Projection: You know, the Mets’ budding ace Steven Matz missed a tremendous amount of time during his first couple years after getting drafted – so at least Borucki has some company. And like Matz, when he’s healthy the 6-foot-4 Borucki has been dominant, averaging nine strikeouts and just 1.6 walk per nine innings. Hopefully, he can stay on the mound for more than a couple dozen innings in 2016. If he does, he might be one of the most talked about prospects after 2016.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: High to Extremely High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



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.