Hi everyone. Continuing our prospect countdown here's the last installment of the first half of the prospect countdown. Most recently, Tom took on #31-35. Woodman was stellar as usual with #36-40. Yours truly tacked #41-45. And Tom got things started with #46-50.
30. Dickie Thon, Jr., SS: I had Thon ranked slightly lower than Tom and Woodman but am still a big fan. The son of major-league infielder Dickie Thon, our version was drafted in the 5th round in 2010 out of his Puerto Rican high school and was signed after a small amount of drama as to whether or not he would sign with the Jays or honor his commitment to his hometown Rice University. Thon is 20 now and didn't come to professional baseball with the pedigree one might expect from the son of a long-time major leaguer. That said, Thon's tools are regarded highly and some scouts project him as having starting shortstop potential. Thon's defense is reasonably well-regarded and he has a strong arm, though he is not a flashy shortstop. I'd expect a fair number of errors in the lower minors as he continues to work on his release points and footwork, but the talent appears to be there. At the plate, Thon shows a good line drive swing and decent power potential, but needs to work quite a bit on recognizing pitches. The young shortstop's green showed in rookie ball, where he hit just .223/.369/.322, but he showed a nice approach and respectable power for a 19-year old. You have to like a shortstop prospect with the glove to stick at the position and good potential as a hitter, but Thon also has quite a while to go.
29. Chad Jenkins, RHP: I ranked Jenkins a bit higher than this, but I can't at all disagree with where he ended up. Jenkins was drafted 20th overall in the first round of the 2009 draft out of Kennesaw State University, which isn't as great a baseball school as you would think given the name. Jenkins didn't pitch until 2010, which he split across Lansing and Dunedin and pitched well, if unspectacularly. 2011 saw Jenkins progress to New Hampshire, where he pitched most of the season and had another perfectly capable season. One could imagine Jenkins having a decent major-league career -- However, with the number of high-ceiling Jays prospects who have entered the system since 2009, Jenkins just isn't a guy to salivate over. He hasn't put up big strikeout numbers in the minors but he has limited the walks. What Jenkins has really excelled at, though, is keeping the ball down. The big righty has a heavy sinker and used it to great effect, both in inducing groundballs and keeping the ball in the park (essentially two sides of the same skill coin). If Jenkins can't succeed as a starter, you could see his heavy sinker (which sits in the low 90s) being a formidable weapon against righties as a right-handed reliever in the Casey Janssen mold. That said, Jenkins also throughs a mid-90s fastball and a quality slider. Continuing to develop his changeup as a weapon against lefties and to generate swinging strikes is a big key for Jenkins this season, and it'll be something for him to work on as he likely begins his season in New Hampshire but by no means needs to stay there. At 24, he could make the majors as soon as this season.
28. John Stilson, RHP: Stilson, a big Texan righty, was drafted out of high school by the MInnesota Twins in the 19th round, but chose to attend the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (better known as Texas A & M). The Twins loss was the Aggies' and the Jays' gain, as the Blue Jays snapped up Stilson in the 3rd round of last year's draft. Stilson's stuff is extremely highly regarded and he would've likely been a first-round pick, but injury concerns caused him to slip down to the third round. A & M has had issues with their use of young pitchers and it may be that Stilson was a casualty. Specifically, Stilson was diagnosed with a tear in his labrum, always a dangerous injury for a pitcher. Consultations with Dr. James Andrews suggested, however, that Stilson could avoid surgery with a successful rehab. Stilson was known for three pitches: a fastball that sits in the high 90s and routinely hit 99, a plus changeup that serves as a weapon against both righties and lefties, and a hard slider with tons of movement. The Jays should at least try Stilson out as a starter and see how that goes, but if he has trouble staying healthy the advice given to Dustin McGowan, who suffered a similar injury, might come into play with Stilson - that regular but one- or two-inning work out of the pen would be easier on his arm than throwing 100+ pitches every five days. We'll just have to see, but in the meantime it's hard not to get excited about Stilson. When your fallback option is a shutdown closer, that's not a bad thing.
27. David Cooper, 1B: Cooper, a first-round pick back in 2008, was drafted out of UC Berkeley. David had an up-and-down career in the minors but improved greatly in the second half of 2010 and seemed to break out in 2011 with a monster year taking advantage of hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (.364/.439/.535). Cooper was called up at the end of April and spent about two weeks with the team, not really enough time to judge much of anything. He returned to the minors where he continued to hit until he earned a September callup. Coop's (yes, I'm a Twin Peaks fan), September numbers were solid - .289/.325/.526, though he did benefit from a .357 BABIP (I guess he felt lucky, punk - wow, these are just writing themselves). Cooper doesn't seem like a future star, but he does have potential as a hitter as he enters his age 25 season. He is limited defensively so it'll be interesting to see how the lefty is used by the Jays in 2012.
26. Roberto Osuna, RHP: The 16-year old nephew of former major-league reliever Antonio Osuna was a bit of a coup for the Jays. Osuna actually managed the impressive feat of pitching successfully in the Mexican League at age 15. The Mexican league is generally regarded as being closer for pitchers to the high-minors than the low-minors, populated with former major-leaguers and hitter-friendly due to high elevation of most of the stadia. Osuna is only 16 but it's already clear that he is built much like his uncle - stocky and strong. Osuna can already hit 94 with his fastball and at 16 with inconsistent mechanics there's room to improve on that. It goes without saying that Osuna has a long way to go, but he already has an impressive resume and plenty of time to refine his mechanics. If he can continue to progress and mind his conditioning, the sky will be the limit for the young hurler.
Well, there you go. Two perfectly competent high-minors types close to the majors, and three young guys to get very excited over.
See you soon with our first foray into the top 25!