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Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects Countdown, 11-1

We've finally made it to the top of the 40 prospect list. It took awhile, mostly because every time I sat down to get the last ten written the Jays made some news and took my attention away from this. Or maybe I'm lazy. One or the other. Popular opinion seems to be that I'm lazy. 

If you missed the other parts, 20 to 11 is here30 to 21 here and 40 to 31 here

Alex Anthopoulos tried to mess us up by picking up Brett Lowrie who clearly had to be put into the list, so instead of this being the top ten, this became the top 11 and I thought we were going to have a Top 41 prospect list. Then the Mets picked Brad Emaus in the Rule 5 draft, so we are back to 40. 

No team has 40 real prospects, but when we started putting this together we found that there were at least 40 interesting players in our system. The fun part is that there are still a few guys that we can put into a 'just missed out list'. Hugo and I will both get to post about guys one of us wanted on the list but the other was too dumb to see how great that player is (I still think Nestor Molina deserves a spot on the list) as well as talk about a few guys that we felt were interesting but just missed. 

Most of the top 10 we were pretty much in agreement on. 

11. Henderson Alvarez (Number 5 on last year's list): A year ago, Alex Anthopoulos was calling him the our best pitching prospect and then he went out and added a bunch of guys that jumped the queue on him. He started off his first look at Dunedin great but slowed as the season wore on. He missed a bit of time with a tired arm and finished the season with a couple of appearances out of the pen. He ended up 8-7, 4.33 in 112.1 innings. After only giving up one homer last year in Lansing, he gave up 10 in 2010. His walk rate went up a little too, from an great 1.4 walks per 9 to a still very good 2.2. He doesn't strike out a lot of people, and it is a bit worrying that his rate dropped a bit from 6.7 to 6.2 per 9. I'd pretty much write off the slightly poorer numbers to the arm soreness and getting up to High-A at age 20. I'd think he'd start next year in Dunedin again, but at some point he ought to move up to New Hampshire.

10. Jake Marisnick (8th on last year's list): Our 3rd round pick in 2009, he is another really good prospect that dropped a couple or spots on the list through no fault of his own. Jake started his first pro season in the GCL and clubbed, hitting .287/.373/.459 with 3 homers and 14 steals in 35 games. He didn't do as well after skipping Auburn and moving up to Lansing, going .220/.298/.339 with 1 homer and 9 steals in 34 games. Jake turns 20 in March. At 6'4" and 200 lbs he's got lots of size and will add power as he moves up the ladder. Jake knows how to take a walk already. He'll be following Anthony Gose up the system but they are both far enough away that many things could happen.  

9. Carlos Perez (7th last year): A international free agent from JP's days out of Venezuela. A great prospect, 3 years in the system and he just turned 20 in October. He played in Auburn this year, hitting .298/.396/.438, with 2 homers, 8 triples, 41 RBI and 7 steals in 66 games. He also threw out 36% of base stealers who tried to run against him. There really isn't anything not to like, he's athletic, not athletic for a catcher but athletic, plays good defence. He'll get his first shot at full season ball next year, likely starting at Lansing but I wouldn't bet against him moving up from there.

8. Travis d'Arnaud (6th last year): I'll admit I had him further down the list. I still kind of think Perez should be above him but he is a good prospect and is closer to the majors than Carlos. He didn't have a bad year, hitting .259/.315/.411 in a pitcher's league at Dunedin and he threw out 30% of the runners trying to steal against him. There are no doubts about his glove. He was hitting great before an injury in May, came back then missed some more time on the DL. He turns 22 in February. Should start next season at Double-A.

7. Deck McGuire (2010 draft pick): Our number 1 pick this year, who we waited until the last moment to sign. A big guy, 6'6', 220, drafted out of Georgia Tech. Throws 4 pitches already, a fastball that can get to 94, an offspeed pitch, a curveball and a change. Struck out more than a batter an inning in Georgia. Likely will see his first pro action at Lansing then move up quickly. Hugo had him up higher, I had him lower.

6. Anthony Gose (new to the system): Gose was picked up for Brett Wallace in a deal that surprised us all. Gose was a 2nd round pick in the 2008 draft by the Phillies. He just turned 20 last August. He is the sort of player that the term high ceiling was made for, he has speed, a great arm, a good eye at the plate and, as he moves into his 20's, some power will likely show up. As a teenager, playing in high-A, he hit .263/.325/.385 with Clearwater in the Phillies system, then when he joined us he hit .255/.360/.426 for Dunedin. The numbers might not look that great but then you have to remember that he was playing mostly against guys that are older than him. Between the teams  he stole 45 bases, but was caught 32 times, so he has to learn to pick his spots better, but he has time to learn. On defence, he has speed for great range and, as a former pitcher who could hit mid-90's on the fastball, he has a great arm. He had 16 assists from CF. I'd think he'll start next year at Dunedin again, but if he does well, a move to New Hampshire would follow soon. I think he's got a couple years to learn the ropes before we see him in Toronto.

5. Adeiny Hechavarria (new to the system): Our big international free agent signing, we gave him a $10, 4 $10 million, 4 year deal. The Jays started him at Dunedin and he didn't hit at all, .193/.217/.292, but we moved him up to New Hampshire anyway and he hit better there, .273/.305/.360. With all the hype, it is easy to forget that he is just 21 and has to deal with a different culture and language. Folks that have seen him play are impressed:

"I saw him twice and he reminded me of a young Tony Fernandez," said a former GM, "both his actions in the field and with the bat."

Another scout said :

"He's stronger than Fernandez," said a veteran scout. "He's a live wire, with a good looking, live body. Everything he does has some zest and pop to it. He fields the ball well, he's not going to be a home run hitter, but the ball comes off his bat well. He's wiry. Wiry strong."

4. J.P. Arencibia (number 16 last year): Maybe we had him a little low last year. In our defence, when we did the list we didn't know about the kidney problems and the astigmatism, which caused a poor 2009. 2010 was much much better. He hit .301/.359/.626 with 32 home runs in 104 games at Vegas. He got the PCL MVP award. Everyone here will remember his first game major league game, first pitch he sees he hits out, second time up a double, then a single and another home run. Unfortunately he was used pretty sparingly for the rest of his stay in Toronto. Like John Buck and Rod Barajas before him, J.P. won't take many walks.  A lot was made of his ability to call a game, but Pat Hentgen said that he talked to the pitchers in Vegas and they all said they liked throwing to him. In his handful of major league games he threw out 2 of 5 that tried to steal against him, in Vegas he threw out 23% of base stealers. I doubt he'll get us a bunch of Gold Gloves but he should be decent behind the plate. I really am hoping he gets a real chance this year.

3. Zach Stewart (number 3 last year): Spent the whole season in New Hampshire and had a really good year in his first season as a full time starting pitcher. Finished 8-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 26 starts and 136.1 innings. He walked 54 and struck out 106. He also had a great start in the playoffs, bettering Andy Pettitte, going 8 scoreless innings.  He gets lots of ground balls with a sinking fastball and slider. He's a bit behind Kyle Drabek, but only because he was a closer in college and they have been building up his innings slowly.  They should be able to get him up to about 170 innings next season then he should be ready to challenge for a spot in the rotation in 2012.

2. Brett Lawrie (fairly new to the system): Anyone that you would be willing to trade Shaun Marcum for has to be a pretty good player. As much as the trade wasn't universally loved here, there is no doubt that Lawrie is a great prospect. John Sickles at Minor League Ball has Brett ranked #14 among top hitting prospects in baseball and had him as the Brewers best prospect. Brett hit .285/.346/.451 at Double-A Huntsville last year, with 8 homers, 16 triples and 30 stolen bases, pretty good for a 20 year old. Everyone says he has great bat speed. There are questions about his defence, but it looks like he should be athletic enough to play at least a reasonable second base but if he has to move, his bat should be good enough for any spot on the diamond. There are some worries about attitude, that's always my last worry, generally if a guy plays well enough, all those worries disappear. See Jose Bautista. Not that it should matter all that much, but it doesn't hurt that he is Canadian. If he we were sure about his defensive position I'd think we'd see him sometime this season, as it is I hope they will use the year to figure out where they want him to play and then give him a shot to make the team in 2012.

1. Kyle Drabek (number 1 last year): One of the dumber things I've read in the last while was from Scott Carson:

As for Drabek, I've only seen him pitch three times in the majors, but I won't say that I was blown away at any time. Average height (6-foot-1), he certainly won't intimidate opponents from six feet, six inches away. And I saw nothing that screamed out "ace" (though it was a small sample I admit.)

Thanks Scott. Judging a player on his 17 innings in the majors is always the best way to go. I'm not sure what he was expecting, but I saw enough that I know I'd like to see him pitch more.  Anyway back in New Hampshire, Kyle had a great year: 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 27 starts, 132 strikeouts and 68 walks in 162 innings. Add in a no-hitter and it was very successful year for the former first round draft choice. Between AA and the majors he pitched 179 innings so there shouldn't be any worries about him being able to pitch a full season next year.  He turned 23 Wednesday and it looks like Alex Anthopoulos gave him a birthday present of opening a spot in the starting rotation for him. As it stands right now he should get every chance to make the rotation out of spring training. 

That's it for our list. Hugo will be back to let you know which guys he misguidedly thought should have made the list that I was able to help him see the light on. Then I will let you know which players should have been on the list but  I couldn't get it through Hugo's thick head. And maybe we'll add some of our favorites that didn't make the list.