With the minor league season complete and players headed to Instructional League for added seasoning, there is time to look back upon the Jays prospects' season and see who we think saw the biggest gains, who was the best surprise prospect and the biggest disappointment. After last season, there was much excitement about the depth of the Blue Jays' farm system and particularly the high-ceilinged talent in the lower levels. The Jays' system consistently appeared in the Top 5 in different writers'/scouts' organizational rankings and that meant that we were expecting exciting developments on the farm in 2012.
- Roberto Osuna (Age: 17) pre-2012: (BBB #26, Sickels # 24); post-2012: (Mayo #9)
Osuna appeared mostly in the 20s of Jays prospects' lists prior to the 2012 season (26th on the BBB list). He did not appear in Jonathan Mayo's post-2011 Top 10 on MLB.com but has risen to 9th in the most recent update of his Top 20 list.
The 6'2" 230 lbs. Osuna dominated the competition in short-season ball in both Bluefield and Vancouver with an ERA of 2.27, an FIP of 2.79 and a SIERA of 3.05 in 43.2 IP. His strong strikeout numbers are based on his mid-90s heater but his secondaries have also showed promise. Given Osuna's successful 2012, his great mound presence, and his ability to strike out college-level competitors bode well for his ability to move quickly through the system.
He should appear in many writers' top 10 Jays' prospects this offseason and will presumably start next season in Lansing following the development path of the Lansing 3 (though at a year younger). Osuna stock has risen dramatically this year, his first as a pro, and there is the legitimate chance that he can repeat the Lansing 3s' performance at Low-A.
- Sean Nolin (Age: 22) pre-2012: (BBB #23, Sickels N/A, MLB.com N/A); post-2012 (MLB.com N/A)
Though Nolin had an impressive year in 2011 for the Lansing Lugnuts, scouts weren't too high on him because of a lack of overwhelming stuff and his age relative to the level. However, Nolin continued to succeed in High-A Dunedin for the majority of the year and got his first glimpse of AA for New Hampshire. Though he has trouble keeping the ball on the ground, he has been able to be successful thus far by striking out more than a quarter of the batters he's faced in the minors while walking less than 7%. Though his stuff may never translate to the big leagues, Sean Nolin's continued success has forced himself into prospect consideration on results alone.
While both Osuna and Nolin have likely jumped up the prospect lists this year, I think that Osuna has improved his prospect stock more and is therefore my pick for 'biggest gainer' in 2012.
Honourable Mentions: Aaron Sanchez, Christian Lopes, Anthony DeSclafani
- Taylor Cole (Age: 23) Unranked
Cole took 2 years off from baseball following high school as he joined a mission in Toronto of all places before attending BYU. The Jays' took him in the 29th round of the 2011 draft and started the late-bloomer out in SS-A Vancouver. Though his results in 2011 were less than ideal, he regained his form in 2012 and absolutely dominated the college-level competitors in the NWL. He struck out almost a quarter of the batters he faced and walked about 7% of them. Also encouraging is his ability to keep the ball on the ground as he boasted a 50.6% GB% in 2012.
Cole's performance this year has turned more than a few heads despite a hiccup in his last playoff outing and should find his way onto several Jays' prospects lists in the offseason. Cole himself is likely headed to Lansing for 2013 which will again boast one of the stronger rotations in the minors with Cole, Osuna, Avendano (if protected), Daniel Norris (if he can put it together) and at some point possibly guys like Jeremy Gabryszwski and Alberto Tirado.
- Alberto Tirado (Age 17) Unranked
|2012||17.5||GCL Blue Jays||GCL||ROK||TOR||10||138||35||2.83||2.34||3.42||49.5%||16.1%||0.304||23.9%||8.7%||15.9%||0||3.09||8.49|
Another candidate for surprise prospect of the year is Alberto Tirado who got this treatment from Baseball America prior to the 2012 season:
Righthander Alberto Tirado (video), who trained with Franklin Ferreira and played in the DPL, signed with the Blue Jays in July  for $300,000. Tirado, a 17-year-old from Nagua, is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, with a thin, athletic frame and long arms. He doesn't have imposing size but his body does have projection that's started to fill out, as he touched 91 mph before signing and has been clocked higher since then. Tirado throws a curveball, slider and changeup, and some scouts think the curveball is his best pitch.
The results in 2012 were impressive for Tirado considering it was his North American debut and was only 17. While his strikeout numbers dropped after moving up from the GCL to Appy League, his results on the season as a whole are nonetheless impressive. However, he will have to watch his walks as he moves up.
Though Tirado gives fans a reason to smile, my choice for the biggest surprise of 2012 is Taylor Cole who after a disappointing debut in 2011 came really out of nowhere to turn heads in 2012,
Alberto Tirado, Christian Lopes, Aaron Sanchez, Moises Sierra
- Deck McGuire (Age: 23) pre-2012: MLB.com #3, BBB #8; post-2012 MLB.com # 13
While the Jays brass had hoped that 1st-Rounders Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire would move quickly through the system and possibly contribute in 2012, only Jenkins has made it to the big leagues and so far it has been just as a reliever (There is a possibility of him being stretched out for a late September start). Deck has taken a step back in 2012 playing in AA with reduced K%, increased walk % and a drop in an already suspect GB %. He's been hurt by the long ball this year and can hopefully bounce back next year. His ERA, FIP, and SIERA all spiked in 2012 and cannot be explained by his reasonable .310 BABIP.
Hopefully he can bounce back next year in AA and perhaps make his way to Buffalo at some point next year. The key for him will be refining his 4-pitch mix if he wants to make it to Toronto. McGuire will get the opportunity to face strong competition in the Arizona Fall League and have a chance at ending his season on an up note.
Note: It's way too early to be truly disappointed in any of the above names as they are still young and have great untapped potential and that's why I nominated Deck McGuire who is older and had expectations to move quickly as my biggest disappointment for 2012.