Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here!
|1. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP|
|Born: 08/30/95||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Phil Bickford, Luke Jackson, Jake Thompson, Justus Sheffield, Randall Delgado|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Reid-Foley, the club’s 2014 second round pick out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida, was actually born in Guam. Fun Fact Part II: former Blue Jays third baseman John Hattig is the only MLB player to be born in Guam. Reid-Foley was an absolute monster on the mound last season as he split time between the Blue Jays’ Low Class A and High Class A affiliates for the second consecutive season. After battling some severe control issues the prior year – very reminiscent of a certain hard-throwing right-hander that led the American League in ERA in 2016 – it looked like Reid-Foley was going to go through another year with haphazard walk rates. He coughed up eight free passes across 10.2 innings between his first two starts and he accrued 19 free passes during in his first 30.0 innings.
And then something, simply, clicked for the fire-slinging, often erratic hurler: he stopped walked people.
Over his final 85.1 innings of work, 57.1 of those coming in the Florida State League, Reid-Foley punch out 97 and issued just 19 walks. In other words, he fanned 30.4% and walked just 6.0% of the hitters he faced during his stretch of dominance.
Projection: First, here’s what I wrote about the triple-named right-hander in last year’s book:
“Harkening back to memories of a young Aaron Sanchez, Reid-Foley can fan, and walk, hitters with exceedingly high frequency. Consider the following:
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.”
So let’s update comparison after another year in the books. Consider the following:
Sanchez’s age-20 season, as well as the following year, was mostly frustrating.
As for Reid-Foley, well, if his control over the final 85+ innings proves to be a repeatable skill than there’s not too many minor league arms – if any – that I would take over him.
Finally, here’s how production stacks up against all MiLB arms with at least 110 innings last season:
- His strikeout percentage, 28.8%, ranked as the 10th best and no other 20-year-old hurler posted a better mark last season.
- His strikeout-to-walk percentage, 20.4%, ranked as the 13th best and only two other 20-year-old arms – Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller and Milwaukee’s Jordan Yamamoto – posted better marks.
Ceiling: 5.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|2. Vladimir Guerrero, 3B|
|Born: 03/16/99||Age: 18||Bats: R||Top CALs: Victor Acosta, Jason Martin, Orian Nunez, Anderson Franco, Brian Mathews|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 200||Throws: R|
Background: The Blue Jays doled out a pretty hefty sum to sign Vlad’s kid two years ago, agreeing to pay the 16-year-old third baseman $3.9 million. Junior didn’t make his debut until last season, hitting an impressive .271/.359/.449 with 12 doubles, three triples, and eight homeruns while going 15-for-20 in the stolen base category. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 22% – the best showing among the 18-and-under group.
Projection: There are a couple key things to focus on, outside of his bloodlines of course:
- Guerrero Jr. got pushed straight into the Rookie Advanced leagues and didn’t miss a beat. In fact, if we ignore the first 10 games of his season – a.k.a. the learning curve portion – he slugged .294/.382/.477 with 12 doubles, three triples, and six homeruns in 52 games.
- There were only two other qualified 17-year-olds in the Appalachian League: Tampa’s Adrian Rondon and Houston’s Jonathan Arauz.
- Here’s a list of qualified players under the age of 18 to post a 120 wRC+ in the Appalachian League since 2006: Guerrero Jr. and Wilmer Flores. That’s it, just two dudes.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|3. Rowdy Tellez, 1B|
|Born: 03/16/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Kyle Blanks, Dominic Smith, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Marrero, Jose Osuna|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 220||Throws: L|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: The Blue Jays grabbed the hulking first baseman in the 30th round four years ago; two picks after the Red Sox grabbed Nick Longhi, another promising minor league first baseman. Fun Fact Part II: The club agreed to a deal with Tellez in the neighborhood of $900,000 – that’s roughly second round money for the 2013 draft. And let’s just say that after four years, Tellez should have held out for a lot more money. After hitting an impressive .289/.347/.454 with 24 doubles and 14 homeruns between Lansing and Dunedin in 2015, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound slugger absolutely torched the Class AA competition with almost unprecedented ease for a 21-year-old. He slugged .297/.387/.530 with 29 doubles, a pair of triples, and 23 homeruns with four stolen bases (just for good measure, of course). His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a whopping 52%.
For his career, Tellez is sporting a diabolical .289/.364/.470 triple-slash line, with 69 doubles, six triples, and 45 homeruns in just over 1,300 trips to the plate.
Projection: First, here’s what I wrote about the baby basher in last year’s book when I ranked him as a 121st overall prospect in the game:
“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.”
Keeping that in mind, here are a few points that need to be discussed/considered:
- He wasn’t completely helpless against fellow lefties last season. Actually, he was solid, hitting .264/.345/.456. He needs to continue to produce against southpaws though – without question.
- It cannot be overlooked that the 21-year-old spent just 35 games in High Class A before jumping straight into Class AA last season.
- Tellez got off to an incredibly poor – and not completely unexpected – start last season, hitting a paltry .143/.299/.275 in his first 27 games. He slugged .337/.413/.597 with 26 doubles, a pair of triples, and 20 homeruns in the remaining 97 games. And just for fun here are those numbers pro-rated for a typical 162-game season: 43 doubles, three triples, and 33 homeruns.
- Since 2006, here’s a list of players under the age of 22 that posted a 150 wRC+ in Class AA: Tellez, O’Neill, Joc Pederson, Oscar Taveras, Mike Trout, and Evan Longoria.
- And now the bad news: New Hampshire’s home ballpark is incredibly hitter-friendly. Once adjusting for the park, according to StatCorner.com, his triple-slash line drops from .297/.387/.530 to .282/.371/.485 – which is still quite impressive given his age and level of competition. And here are his home/road splits: .310/.404/.583 vs. .275/.358/.477. That’s a hefty difference, but the road production is still noteworthy considering his age/level of competition.
That’s a lot to consume, I know. Along with becoming a perennial 25-HR threat as I forecasted in last year’s book, Tellez’s peak should reside around a .280/.380/.500. But, again, he needs to continue to hit lefties well.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|4. T.J. Zeuch, RHP|
|Born: 08/01/95||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-7||Weight: 225||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: For the third consecutive year the Blue Jays grabbed a collegiate right-hander with their opening pick in the draft – Jeff Hoffman (2014), Jon Harris (2015), and, of course, Zeuch. Fun Fact Part II: The big right-hander became the University of Pittsburgh’s earliest June draft pick when the Blue Jays grabbed him with the 21st overall selection. Zeuch, who stands an imposing 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, was nothing short of stellar over his sophomore and junior campaigns with the Panthers, throwing a combined 158 innings with an ace-like 164-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After coming to terms with the club on a slightly below-slot deal of $2.175 million, the big hurler made stops at three different levels en route to tallying an impressive 38-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34.0 innings.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him prior to the draft last season:
“Easily one of my favorite collegiate arms in the entire class, Zeuch still has some projection left given (A) his size and (B) the fact that he’s a northeastern arm. Zeuch does the one thing that many large-framed, power-armed hurlers struggle with: limiting walks. He’s averaged just a smidge over 2.5 walks per nine innings in his career.
And how’s this for impressive company: Between 2011 and 2015, there have been 31 right-handed pitchers at the D1 level who has thrown at least 65 innings while averaging 9.5 K/9, and less than 2.5 BB/9. The majority of the list reads like a list of who’s who of top MiLB/MLB arms: Trevor Bauer, Mark Appel, Taylor Clarke, Kevin Gausman, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jon Gray, Pierce Johnson, Kyle McGowin, Aaron Nola, Jake Stinnett, Marcus Stroman, Nick Tropeano, Luke Weaver, and Kyle Zimmer.
Add Zeuch to that list. The big right-hander has legitimate front-of-the-rotation caliber potential. And he’s poised to be one of the biggest surprises in 2017”.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|5. Max Pentecost, C|
|Born: 03/10/93||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 191||Throws: R|
Background: It’s taken a lot longer than Pentecost – and the Blue Jays – would have liked but the former first round pick finally got an extended taste of minor league baseball after seeing just six games during his debut in 2014 and missing the entire following year. This year, though, the former 11th overall pick got into 74 total games. He batted a solid .302/.361/.486 with 17 doubles, three triples, and 10 homeruns.
Projection: First, 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.”
The bat’s still going to play. But I doubt he’s going to be able to withstand the constant rigors that come with catching over the course of a full season. Typically, Mark Shapiro-led organizations have taken the slow-and-steady approach when it comes to pushing prospects through the minors, so I would expect Pentecost to reappear back in High Class A. Personally, I would push him up to Class AA and see if the kid could (A) hack it and (B) make up for lost development time. He’s going to need to find another position. I think it might be worth trying him out at second, where his shoulder woes wouldn’t completely expose him. He certainly seems athletic enough – a la Craig Biggio
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018
|6. Anthony Alford, CF|
|Born: 07/20/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Cameron Maybin, Joe Benson, Slade Heathcott, Marc Wik, Michael Saunders|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 215||Throws: R|
Background: Basically the Conner Greene of hitters. Alford came out of nowhere – figuratively speaking, of course – to slug .298/.398/.421 with 25 doubles, seven triples, and four homeruns with 27 stolen bases between his time with Lansing and Dunedin. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 48%. He promptly followed that up by batting a completely underwhelming .236/.344/.378 with 17 doubles, a pair of triples, nine homeruns, and 18 stolen bases to go along with a 115 wRC+ last season in a repeat of High Class A.
Projection: Well, there’s really no other way to put it: I have egg on my face after ranking the toolsy, now enigmatic outfielder as the club’s top prospect and the 54th overall minor leaguer. So what caused the downturn in production? In short: it could have been the knee injury that hampered him the entire month of April. The team didn’t disclose the exact injury, but it wasn’t reported that they were hoping he would avoid surgery. For now I’m going to give Alford – and his prospect status – the benefit of the doubt. But he’s got to come out swinging in 2017. One final thought: according to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Alford looks like a potential above-average center fielder.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|7. Harold Ramirez, OF|
|Born: 09/06/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Dustin Fowler, Charlie Tilson, Bridger Hunt, Gerardo Parra, Raimel Tapia|
|Height: 5-10||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: The second prospect acquired from Pittsburgh – the other being backstop Reese McGuire – in the Drew Hutchinson deal. Ramirez has been a constant source of .300 batting averages with strong OBPs over the course of his five-year minor league career. And 2016 was no different. In 99 games in Class AA, all but one coming in the Pittsburgh organization, Ramirez batted a healthy .306/.354/.401 with 16 doubles, seven triples, and a pair of homeruns while swiping seven bags in 17 attempts. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 12% – a solid showing for a 21-year-old facing off against the minors’ toughest challenge. As for his time with his new organization, well, it was abbreviated. He played in one game before a knee injury prematurely ended his season.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in my book two years ago:
“Ramirez missed a good portion of the year thanks to a stress reaction in his shin. Ouch. Prior to that injury he missed some time with a hamstring issue. When he’s healthy he looks like a solid fourth outfielder-type – something that CAL would agree upon. He doesn’t walk often; the power’s been unnoticeable, but the hit tool and speed could garner some looks.”
And I followed that up with the following when I listed him as the fifth best prospect in the Pirates’ system last year:
“OK. Even after his breakout season a lot of the same information could still be said about the plump outfielder: the hit tool and speed are definite, repeatable skills; the power, even though it did take a step forward, is still a below-average skill, and CAL still remains a bit suspicious, linking him to Dustin Fowler, Mason Williams, Danry Vazquez, and Joe Dickerson – though the Manuel Margot comp is incredibly interesting, Curiously enough, Ramirez seems to be able to repeat ridiculously high BABIPs: his last three seasons were .385/.365/.332.”
A year later and the same thing could be said – batting averages and speed, speed and batting averages.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|8. Reese McGuire, C|
|Born: 03/02/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Rossmel Perez, Jose Felix, Ramon Cabrera, Chace Numata, Tomas Telis|
|Height: 5-11||Weight: 215||Throws: R|
Background: The Jays of Blue acquired the former first round pick – along with Francisco Liriano and Harold Ramirez – from the Pirates of Pittsburgh in exchange for enigmatic veteran right-hander Drew Hutchinson. McGuire, the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft, turned in his best showing since his debut in the Gulf Coast League – at least before heading north. Prior to the trade, the lefty-swinging backstop was batting .259/.337/.346 with 16 doubles, two triples, and a dinger while posting a 93 wRC+. After the trade he batted a lowly – even for him – .226/.328/.264, which depressed his overall production.
Projection: One thought about the actual trade in general: When Mark Shapiro & Co. were in Cleveland they would essentially “buy” prospects by throwing in additional cash or taking on unwanted contracts. It’s how the club acquired Carlos Santana in the Casey Blake trade with the Dodgers. Well, this deal with Pittsburgh has the same type of makings. Liriano is owed $13+ million for 2017, so they agreed to it in return for two solid, albeit flawed, prospects. McGuire continues to be pushed up the ladder despite, you know, never actually showing any promise with a bat in his hand.
He’s a career .267/.324/.329 hitter with just four homeruns to his resume. He’s very solid defensively and catchers tend to take longer to develop offensively – so, yeah, some hope. The defense alone will get him to The Show. With the state of big league catcher, he still profiles as a potential league average starter, though.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|9. Conner Greene, RHP|
|Born: 04/04/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Amalio Diaz, Kevin Mcavoy, Jarred Cosart, Rafael Dolis, Jake Stevens|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: From pop up to flailing, from surging to sinking, from emerging to submerging. Whatever you want to throw around, Greene’s production went from good to not-so-good over the past two seasons. Two years ago the then-20-year-old right-hander made stops at three different levels, throwing a 132.1 combined innings while average 7.8 strikeouts and just 2.7 walks per nine innings to go along with a 3.54 ERA. But this year, though, the Greene Express hit the skids. The former seventh round pick started the year back with Dunedin and eventually got bumped up to the Eastern League – despite some crazy disappointing numbers. He threw 77.2 innings in the Florida State League, averaging 5.91 K/9 and 4.40 BB/9. And those numbers more or less held firm during his time in Class AA too: 68.2 IP, 6.29 K/9 and 4.33 BB/9.
Projection: I have a theory as to what caused the major step backwards in production for the young righty. But I don’t want it to come across as haphazard, so I want to reiterate that it’s just an idea I’m floating out there. So here it goes: I think the excessive workload in 2015 carried over and eventually hampered him in 2016. Greene went from throwing just 59.1 innings in 2014, which happened over the course of two months, to hurling 132.1 innings a year later. That’s well beyond double the amount of innings, in my opinion. So if my theory proves to be true, I would suspect that his arm/body will be better conditioned in 2017. Meaning: he’s a candidate to bounce back – assuming he’s not hampered by any injuries.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|10. Jon Harris, RHP|
|Born: 10/16/93||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Kevin Comer, David Francis, Matthew Hobgood, Silfredo Garcia, Christopher Lee|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 175||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact: The top eight draft selections in Missouri State University’s history have all been pitchers – Ross Detwiler, Brett Sinkbeil, Jon Harris, John Rheinecker, Pierce Johnson, Shaun Marcum, Jarrod Mays, and Scott Carroll. Toronto grabbed the 6-foot-4, 175-pound right-hander in the first round two years ago, 29th overall, and signed him to a $1,944,800 deal – the recommended bonus pool allotment. Harris was a three-year member of the Bears’ rotation, showing a modest improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons before setting numerous personal bests during his junior campaign. In 15 starts with the school, Harris posted an 8-2 record with 116 strikeouts and 36 walks in 103 innings of work. The big righty spent his debut with Vancouver in the Northwest League two years ago, posting a troubling 32-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36.0 innings. Last season, though, Harris opened the year up with Lansing, making 16 starts before getting promoted up to High Class A for another final eight games. Overall, he finished the year with a 99-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 129.2 innings.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about Harris prior to the 2015 draft:
“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].”
A year later and the analysis still seems spot on. Harris easily passed the Low Class A last season, which isn’t surprising. He did, by the way, post back-to-back 11-strikeout, one walk performances with Lugnuts in late May. His first and last start with Dunedin skewed his short sample-sized production in quite a bit High Class A.
If everything breaks the right way he’s a good #3. But he’s more likely to slide into a #4/#5-type role.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com