The 2014 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 16-20

Moving up the list.  If you've missed one 21-15 is here,  the 26-30 is here31-35 here and 36-40 here.


20. Kevin Pillar: Kevin had a great year, starting in New Hampshire, hitting .313/.361/.441 with 5 home runs, 15 steals (caught 8 times) in 71 games, moved up to Buffalo and continued to hit, .299/.341/.493 with 4 home runs, 8 steals (5 caught) in 52 games. He finished up the season with the Jays, hitting .206/.250/.333.

The knock on him is that he doesn't have enough power to play a corner outfield spot and not enough glove to play center field, but then Melky Cabrera doesn't have enough power to play a corner outfield spot and he's entering his 10th season in the majors. Baseball America has Pillar as the Jays system's best "hitter for average" and he gets all the 'has the right look in his eyes', 'works hard', 'plays the game right' comments. A 32nd round draft pick has to do everything right to make it to the majors.

We had him at #18 last year and he really didn't do anything anything to move himself down. He could easily be the team's fourth outfielder this year. Keith Law has him at #13 on his Jays prospect list.

19. Tom Robson: Tom (the second Canadian on the list) was a 4th round pick in 2011. His second year as a pro went very well. Splitting time between Bluefield and Vancouver, he had a 1.12 ERA in 13 games, 12 starts. In 64.1 innings, he allowed 43 hits, 1 home run, 16 walks and 47 strikeouts. More strikeouts would be good but the 7.7% walks rate is pretty good. MILB says he is getting 3.48 ground outs per fly out, with the Jays playing at Rogers Centre, you do have to like ground ball pitchers.

Just 20, he's a big guy, listed at 6'4", 200. He throws a low 90's fast ball, but as he fills out, maybe it will get to mid-90's. He also has a curve and a changeup. We had him at #33 last year, I'm thinking he'll make another step up the list next year, if he pitches anywhere near this well in full season ball.


18. Matt Smoral: Matt was a first round pick in 2012. His first look at pro ball didn't go well, a 7.01 ERA in 15 games, 5 starts, 25.2 innings, 22 hits, 26 walks, 27 strikeouts. .The 9.5 strikeouts per 9 looks good but the 9.1 walks per 9 is just awful.

Matt was #6 on our list last year, and it is always an argument about how far a bad season should drop a guy. He doesn't turn 20 until March and he still throws hard (mid-90's), still has a great slider.

He is very tall, 6'8", it often takes guys that big a while to get all the parts working together. See Randy Johnson as an example of a tall lefty who took till almost 30 before he could find the plate consistently, at age 28 he was walking 6.2 per 9.


17. Dwight Smith, Jr: Dwight had a good season at Lansing, hitting .284/.365/.388 with 7 home runs, 25 steals in 109 games. Not bad for his first time at full season ball. He played mostly LF, but had 27 games in CF. The Jays game him their Webster Award for being the 'top player' at Lansing. His defense is good enough for left, but not for CF.

He's often compared to his father, who was a pretty good platoon left-handed outfielder. I think Dwight will likely only be hitting against RHP, when/if he makes it to the majors. Power isn't his strong suit, I doubt he'll ever get more than 15-18 homers in a season.

He turned 21 in October, it would be nice him play in Dunedin this year. He moved up from #27 on last year's list.


16. L.B. Dantzler: Our 14th round draft choice in 2013, drafted after his senior year at University of South Carolina. He's a power hitter (though he isn't that big, 5'11" and 200 lb) and, well, I like power hitters, and I tend to think there aren't enough of them in the Jays system.

His first season of pro ball went great. He hit .302/.385/.504 with 9 home runs, 30 walks and 47 strikeouts in 59 games at Vancouver. He got the Jays' Webster Award as the top player in Vancouver. Now, as a college draftie, he was a little old for the level at 22 (he turns 23 in May). He played third in College but the Jays have him playing first base.

Chris Slade, at Minor League Ball wrote:

Even if he does have some contact issues as he moves up the ladder, I still think Dantzler can maintain an above average power output and reach base often via the walk. From what I've seen, I think he has everything else you look for in a hitter (a quick, compact stroke, above average barrel to the ball ability, major league pop, discerning batting eye, willingness to take walks). I believe his Senior season at S.C. was a legitimate breakthrough.


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