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Bluebird Banter Top 30 Prospects, #1-10

We have made it to the top of our Top 30 Prospects list. You can see the 11-20 group here, the 21-30 players here and the 'just missed outs' here.  Although the Jays' system isn't the class of the league, it is much improved, and don't forget that we have graduated a lot of prospects in the past few years.  There is a lot of talent in this group of players, I think there has been great improvement since last year's list. Obviously not all 30 will make the Jays -- no team has 30 prospects that will make their team, but we have high hopes for them. Since we have at least 8, and likely 9, high draft choices this coming amateur draft and with a renewed commitment to finding international free agents, next year's list should be even better.

We alternated the write-ups for the top 10, Hugo did the evens, Tom took the odds :

10: Brad Mills, LHP:  The Arizonan southpaw had an up-and-down 2009, but it wouldn't be wise to count him out yet.  Mills didn't pitch well in his major-league debut, but it appeared that he had some sort of lingering injury.  He did look solid in his 14 starts for AAA Las Vegas, particularly considering the difficulties the PCL poses for pitchers.  Mills ended with a 4.06 ERA and 7.7 and 3.7 K/9 and BB/9 ratios.  He particularly hit his stride after a tough April, before his injuries sidelined him in July for the season.  As a control pitcher, I can't imagine his injuries will pose much of a long-term problem, so he should be good to go in 2010.  And we know that the Jays like him - they nearly handed him a starting job in 2009 and took a long look at him in the spring.  Mills will be 25 this year and while I can't see him making the team out of the spring, I think he could get an early look when someone succumbs to injury or is ineffective.  But with the Jays' rotation picture getting significantly more crowded going forward, this is likely the year for Mills to make his move. 

9. Tyler Pastornicky, SS: I'll admit, I probably like him better than he deserves, but then I'm not the only one. He just turned 20 in December. He stole 57 bases and hit 9 triples between Lansing and Dunedin last year so he's got speed. He knows how to take a walk (8.6% walk rate). Doesn't strikeout a lot. Tyler doesn't have any power but is still very young, so a little power could appear yet, but he's not going to be a middle of the order type. He has the arm for short, but his range is average, we'll see how he progresses, he might end up at second. His 269/.331/.342 batting line might not look that good but he does enough things well that he should be able to improve on that as he moves up. A 5th round draft pick from 2008 out of high school, he could be a top of the order type hitter in the majors. But we do have a few good SS prospects at the moment. He is a level behind Jackson and just ahead of Gustavo Pierre and Ryan Goins, the next few years will be interesting to see which ones turn out and which don't. 

8:  Jake Marisnick, CF:  Marsinick, a toolsy centerfielder drafted in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft by the Jays (104th overall) is perhaps being hyped just a little bit by Jays fans who saw far too few of their 2009 draftees actually signed by the team.  The Jays have drafted a few toolsy centerfield prospects with top picks in the past few years (Eric Eiland, Kenny Wilson, and Marcus Brisker come to mind), with limited success thusfar (though the book is not closed there either).  That said, there's a lot to like about Marisnick, most notably, his athelticism.  The question is, will he hit?  --- and with no pro data, it's impossible to say.  Look for him to spend extended spring training with the team and then be assigned to the Gulf Coast League when it starts up in June.  Marisnick signed for over slot to walk away from college, and seemed very excited about being drafted by the Jays, posting frequently via twitter, so don't read into his failure to sign until the last possible moment. 

7. Carlos Perez, C: Turned just 19 in October, he was signed as in 2008 from Venezuela. He has had two years of rookie ball, hitting .300/.422/.401 in 101 games. There is no end of potential here. He already knows how to take a walk, power should come and Baseball Prospectus called him the best defensive catcher in the Gulf Coast league. Carlos also has a good arm, he threw out 49% of base stealers last year.  He is a possible All-Star but there is a long way to go and we all know not all prospects turn out to be what we hope. Add in that there are a couple of other catchers on our list so we don't know who will be catcher long term.  I hope he'll be move up to Lansing so he can play a full season next year and we can get a better handle on what we have here. 

6:  Travis d'Arnaud, C:  Travis is a favourite of mine and one we took a look at here.  The least-heralded of the three players acquired in the Roy Halladay bonanza, d'Arnaud was drafted by the Phillies in the 1st round in 2007 (37th overall).  d'Arnaud was already known at the time as a stellar defensive catcher with offensive potential, and while his defense remains his calling card, he has done a great job with the bat as well.  d'Arnaud made it up to the Sally League (A) in his first full professional season, and posted solid numbers both there and in short-season ball.  He has displayed nice power for a young catcher as well as solid contact skills and enough patience to get by.  Last season, his slash numbers dipped a bit (.255/.319/.419) but he continued to show good power, ability to make contact, and decent plate discipline, so it was likely just a low BABIP (.279 in 2009) fluctuation more than anything.  52 extra-base hits (including 13 home runs) from your 20-year old A ball catcher is pretty exciting, particularly when he's so well-regarded defensively.  d'Arnaud will likely be in Dunedin to start this year.  

5. Henderson Alvarez, RHP: Turns just 20 in April. Alex Anthopoulos called him our best prospect at the end of the season, then he went and traded for a few guys that moved Henderson back a few spots. Signed out of Venezuela in 2007, Alvarez was jumped up to Lansing after a couple of seasons in rookie league and did very well. 23 starts, 124.1 innings, 92 strikeouts and just 19 walks and 1 homer allowed.  Not a big guy, 6'1" and 175 pounds, he'll have to full out some. A ground ball pitcher, he can hit mid 90's on the fastball, throws a breaking ball and change. He has a few steps to go before hitting Toronto but he has all the stuff that should get him there. Henderson has taken a huge step up, a year ago he wasn't even on our list. 

4:  Chad Jenkins, RHP:  Jenkins, a Kennesaw State alum (it sounds like a better baseball school than it is) is the latest in the Jays' trend to draft workmanlike, ground-ball pitchers who have a high probability of being major league contributors but a relatively low probability of being a major-league ace.  Jenkins, who didn't get into any games in 2009 in the Jays' organization but figures to move quickly in 2010, features a sinking fastball in the low/mid 90s, a quality slider and solid changeup -- the type of pitcher who doesn't necessarily dominate but gives you lots of quality innings.  Jenkins is reputed to be a smart pitcher with excellent control and a good feel for pitching.  Comparisons to Joe Blanton are skin-deep (well, lipids are stored subcutaneously, but you know what I mean) - as a big-time groundballer, Jenkins is fundamentally a very different kind of pitcher.  The question around Jenkins this year is whether he'll start at Lansing or Dunedin.  The Jays like to let prospects play their way up, so I might guess Lansing, but it's just that -- a guess.  I wouldn't be surprised at all if he started at Dunedin and succeeded there. 

3. Zach Stewart, RHP: Really the top three could be in any order. Stewart gets 3rd because this past season was his first as a starting pitcher and there is still the chance he will end up a reliever in the majors. His innings pitched will have to be ramped up slowly. Zach was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft by the Reds out of Texas Tech (in Hugo's favorite town of Lubbock, he forgets that without Lubbock we wouldn't have had Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely and a number of others who have made their mark on music). In 2009 just his second year in the minors he made it all the way to Triple-A. Zach threw 105 innings over 3 minor league levels last year. He struck out 93 while walking just 32 and allowing 3 home runs adding up to a 1.89 ERA. Throws mid 90's and has a good slider and a change. Pounds the strike zone with all three pitches and gets ground ball. He likely needs a year in Triple-A to stretch out the arm. 

2:  Brett Wallace, 1BBrett Wallace, the major piece in the Cardinals acquisition of Matt Holliday, became involved in the Roy Halladay deal when Alex Anthopolous flipped outfielder Michael Taylor, who he had just acquired for Halladay, to Oakland for Wallace.  The former Sun Devil was the Cards first-rounder (13th overall) in 2008 and was drafted as a third-baseman, though the Jays already have announced plans to move him to first base.  We took an in-depth look at Wallace here and, in a nutshell, he's an excellent hitting prospect of the kind that the Jays haven't had since, well, Travis Snider.  Wallace was 22 last year and while he didn't dominate AAA, he put up decent numbers there.  He suffered something of a power outage, which I wouldn't expect to continue, and a sharp decline in his walk rate that is very expected and understandable for a hitter facing AAA pitching for the first time, particularly considering it was only Wallace's first full professional season.  I'm not sure Wallace's bat is quite ready for the majors, but it's certainly close.  Learning to play first base in the minors will give him a chance to put a little refinement on his hitting, which isn't a bad thing.  I'd expect to see him in a Jays uniform before the end of 2010 and when he's developed he looks like a potent middle of the order bat.

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP: The most important of the Halladay trade just turned 22 in December. A first round pick by the Phillies in the 2006 draft and he's moved up nicely through the minors, even with a break for Tommy John surgery. Pitched in A and AA last year, going 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 158 innings, 150 K and 50 walks. Throws a fastball that can get to mid 90's, an even better curveball and working on a change. He should spend the season in the minors to build up the arm so he can pitch his way to the end of a major league season, but there will be a lot of pressure on the Jays to bring him up so we can see what we got for Doc. His dad was a Cy Young award winning pitcher so he has a good role model for the major leagues. Hugo took a longer look at Kyle here

Well, that's that.  We'd love to know in the comments what you think about any and all of these fledgling Jays, not to mention any comments on our rankings.