The Toronto Blue Jays organization has added four prospects to the 40-man roster in an effort to protect them from the Rule 5 draft looming in early December. The deadline to set 40-man rosters, as well as minor league reserve lists, was today, Nov. 18. The players chosen were the four that I had personally identified as the most likely to be protected. Players must be protected from the draft as:
1) Players 18 or younger at the date of signing their first pro contract who now have five or more years of pro experience.
2) Players 19 or older at the date of signing their first pro contract who have four or more years of pro experience.
Below is a brief profile of the players added the roster, including my personal organizational ranking for each.
Nestor Molina | RHP: The organization's decision to convert the light-hitting outfielder to a pitcher is looking better and better. Molina has a low-90s fastball and a wipeout splitter. Once he polishes his breaking ball, he could really take off. The right-hander has natural command/control, which is impressive considering he was originally a position player. I have him ranked as the eighth best prospect in the system.
Evan Crawford | LHP: Crawford is the lowest ranked prospect of the four added and I have him in the 70-75 range. Despite that fact, I am a pretty big fan of Crawford who has value as a left-handed reliever whose average-velocity fastball plays up due to its plus sink. He also possesses a good changeup. The organization got an extra look at Crawford recently as he competed in the Arizona Fall League and posted solid numbers.
Travis d'Arnaud | C: The undisputed top prospect in the system, d'Arnaud was acquired in the Roy Halladay trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. The catcher was selected in the supplemental first round of the 2007 draft, one spot ahead of Toronto's Brett Cecil. Rumor has it Toronto planned to select d'Arnaud but were beaten to the punch by Philly. D'Arnaud has a strong all-around game and projects to be both an above-average hitter and defender. He should be MLB ready by mid-to-late 2012 and has the potential to develop into an all-star catcher if he can stay healthy.
Michael McDade | 1B: I have McDade ranked as the 20thbest prospect in the system. He earns high marks for his defense at first base despite his larger frame and the fact that he was drafted as a catcher. McDade has yet to hit for the kind of power expected from big league first basemen but he's improved each season and has youth on his side. The Jays drafted a number of highly-regarded prep prospects in '07 including Kevin Ahrens, Justin Jackson, Eric Eiland, and John Tolisano but it appears that McDade - a 6th round pick - will be the best high school pick from that draft.
Some names still eligible for the draft include LHP John Anderson, RHP Marcus Walden, C Leo Hernandez, IF Danny Arcila - all prospects in the low minors with glimmers of promise. Anderson is the most promising as a left-hander with the ability to hit the mid-90s but he's currently sitting on the sidelines after his second Tommy John surgery in the past few seasons.