Hi everyone - on our way to releasing our new top prospects list, a few days ago I looked at how our #30-21 ranked prospects had fared this season, and then yesterday Tom checked in with #20-11. Now let's look at who were, prior to the start of the season, the top 10 Jays prospects (at least, as ranked by us):
10. Brad Mills: Mills spent most of the season in AAA Las Vegas, where he made 20 starts and posted a 4.97 ERA. Looking a bit beyond those PCL-skewed numbers, though, Mills managed 100 Ks in 112 innings, with 43 walks. Mills' flyball tendencies don't play well in the PCL at all, although I wouldn't necessarily expect the AL East to be more forgiving in that regard. Mills, more of a command-and-control type pitcher, is probably headed for the back end of someone's rotation, but with the Jays crowded pitching picture, it might not be in Toronto. Brad did make 3 starts and 4 relief appearances for Toronto, He pitched okay overall (4.51 FIP) but his control hasn't translated at the big league level and to me it seems like he tries to be too fine with major league hitters and ends up walking too many (19 in 30 innings over the past two season). I'd like to see him be more aggressive.
9. Tyler Pastornicky: Pastornicky is finishing up his season in the Arizona Fall League and is off to a nice start there (through just two games). Pastornicky became expendable when Adeiny Hechavarria was brought into the Jays organization and was traded away in the deal that brought Yunel Escobar to Toronto. Anytime a 5th round pick becomes a key piece of a deal for a 27-year old shortstop who is above average on both sides of the ball, that's a good bit of drafting and developing, so kudos to both Ricciardi and Anthopolous there.
8. Jacob Marisnick: Marisnick, a 3rd-round pick in 2009's amateur draft, didn't get to play at all in 2009, so 2010 was the young centre fielder's first taste of pro ball. Jake began in rookie ball and tore it up pretty well, hitting .287/.373/.459 with 15 extra-base hits in 135 at-bats, a nice walk rate, and just 18 strikeouts, together very good signs for a young hitter, particularly one as raw as Marisnick was believed to be. Jake also stole 14 bases there and was caught just once. Marisnick was promoted straight to Lansing where he held his own, hitting .220/.298/.339 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run in 136 at bats. He struck out a lot more and walked a lot less, but that's very normal for such a young hitter playing against much older pitchers. Marisnick is not yet 20 and his future is bright - unlike a lot of toolsy centre field prospects, he has the build and the swing to hit for some power. Another nice piece of drafting.
7. Carlos Perez: The young Venezuelan catching prospect spent the season in short season A ball in the NY-Penn league and had a great season, hitting .298/.396/.438 with 21 extra base hits in 278 plate appearances, including 8 triples. Perez was very consistent all season, posting extremely similar slash lines for each of the three months in which he played. With his defense developing and his hitting definitely on track, Perez is about to leave his teenage years with a very exciting future ahead of him.
6. Travis d'Arnaud: the catching prospect picked up in the Roy Halladay trade, we ranked d'Arnaud just a touch above Perez as a nod to his superior defense behind the plate and him being slightly closer to the majors. I'm not sure the two haven't flip flopped. That said, d'Arnaud didn't have a bad season at all - he hit .259/.315/.411 in a very tough hitters league. Injuries were the real problem for d'Arnaud this season - he started the season red hot (.909 OPS in April) before getting hurt in May. He returned in June but couldn't pick up where he left off and then got hurt again and didn't play after July. The righty struggled against right handed pitching this season so that's something to work on next year, which he will likely begin at high-A. The former first-rounder will be 22 next season so ideally he'd work up to AA, but he's right on track as long as he can stay healthy.
5. Henderson Alvarez: Alvarez, who was referred to as the Jays best prospect prior to the Rolen and Halladay trades, had a solid season for Dunedin in advanced A ball, particularly considering he was just 20. Alvarez made 21 starts and finished with a 4.33 ERA, solid ground ball numbers, and a 78/27 K/BB ratio. He was a bit unlucky on batted balls (.347 BABIP against) and perhaps with the long ball as well. It wasn't an unqualified success story for Alvarez - the FSL is a pitcher's league and the low strikeout numbers are alarming (6.25 K/9) so I wouldn't be surprised to see him begin 2011 in Dunedin with hopes to bring him to AA by mid-season or so, particuarly given that he'll be just 21. He's pitching in his native Venezuela in winter ball at the moment.
4. Chad Jenkins: Jenkins, the Jays' 1st round pick in 2009, started the season at Lansing, a fairly tough assignment for a young pitcher's first taste of pro ball. Jenkins didn't flinch, posting a 3.63 ERA over 13 starts there, with a 64/13 K/BB ratio and very impressive ground ball numbers. At the all-star break, Chad was promoted to Dunedin where he continued to pitch well, though his strikeout numbers took a little bit of a dive and his ERA crept up above 4. All in all, a successful if unspectacular first season of pro ball, but Jenkins will be 23 in a few months so he'll need some double A success next season if he wants to stay on track.
3. Zach Stewart: the centrepiece of the Scott Rolen trade, Stewart spent the entire season at AA New Hampshire and it was the former college closer's first real taste of being exclusively a starter. The Jays have been very successful with converted college closers before (Brett Cecil, Shaun Marcum), so it's a trick they're trying again. Stewart had an excellent season for New Hampshire, going 8-3 with a 3.63 ERA and 106 Ks to 54 walks over 136 innings. His playoff start was a thing of beauty in which he successfully dueled Andy Pettitte and the Trenton Thunder to the tune of 8 scoreless innings- now that's how you close out a season. Stewart started the season a little rough, but really picked up steam as things went on - he had a 2.36 ERA after the all star break, with 36 Ks and 14 walks over 42 innings, with his ground ball stuff really working well as the season went on. Because he's still building up arm strength, one of Stewart's goals for next season will be trying to work later into games, hopefully to the tune of 175 or so innings.
2. Brett Wallace: You all know this story - the Jays flipped Brett Wallace for centre field prospect Anthony Gose, who is a lot further from the majors but also plays a defensive premium position and has plenty of tools. Wallace hit .301/.359/.509 for AAA Las Vegas, with 18 home runs and 24 doubles (1 triple) in 423 plate appearances - very solid numbers, but the walk rate is a low, particularly given the frequency with which Wallace struck out (over 20% of the time - not bad strikeout numbers but ones with which you'd expect a substantially better walk rate. Wallace had a tough introduction to the majors with Houston but he's likely still got a nice career in front of him so it remains to be seen how the trade will work out for the Jays - you have to like how AA was thinking, though.
1. Kyle Drabek: Stewart and Drabek made quite a tandem at AA New Hampshire, leading the team to the playoffs. Drabek threw a no-hitter en route to a very nice season, a 2.94 ERA over 27 starts, with 132 Ks and and 68 walks over 162 innings. Drabek had the lower ERA, but Stewart's peripheral numbers were just as good - though of course Drabek did it over more innings, so it'll be interesting to see how the two fare next season. Drabek had a cup of coffee with Toronto, making three starts and not looking out of place in the majors, though not dominating either.
When you run it down, a very successful year overall for our top 10 prospects. A few made it to the majors, others progressed very nicely, and two were flipped in deals for players that look like significant pieces of the team's future. A few of these players could feature as soon as next season, while the others look like the core of a good looking future team. Add in that the system was strengthened significantly this season through trades, international signings, and the draft, and things are looking up.
Title from the new Belle and Sebastian.