It's that time of year again. We're all waiting for the baseball season to get going, or even spring training to start. If we don't do anything, Tom will start posting his grocery lists soon, so we thought we'd put up a top 50 prospects list. While the top prospect lists used to grow by 10 each year, recent trades have diminished the amount of talent in the farm system, so we've scaled back the top prospects list from a top 50 to a top 40 this year. Tom and I will alternate, listing 5 prospects each time.
40. Kicking off the list at number 40 is Chris Hawkins, a 3rd round pick from the 2010 draft. After hitting .318/.375/.492 in the Appalachian League in 2011, we rated him the Jays' 21st best prospect, and he seemed like a good bet to climb the list the next year. Instead, Hawkins was a major disappointment, as he came up way short in the power department in the Midwest League: .271/.333/.334 was his final line. Hawkins showed an improving walk-rate during the season, and he improved his strikeout numbers compared to the previous year. However, the total lack of power, just two homers on the year, means the left fielder is quite unlikely to even make the majors right now. Reports were coming in that Hawkins had an awkward-looking swing, so it's quite possible he will need to completely change it to hit for power. Not all is lost, but don't count on Hawkins becoming the Blue Jays' 'left fielder of the future' anytime soon.
39. At 39 we find Dawel Lugo, a 2011 international signing out of the Dominican Republic. He was 44th on the list last year, so he didn't climb much, despite the trades. He gave us little reason to move him up, with a .224/.275/.329 performance in the Gulf Coast League. He was still very young at 17, so it's too early to write him off, just as it's too early to peg him as a future major league infielder. Like with Hawkins, the most encouraging aspect of Lugo's performance is his ability to make contact. The quality of the contact will have to improve, as will his plate discipline. Lugo should start 2013 in extended spring training before batting in the GCL for the second year in a row, barring some unforeseen breakout that could move him up to Bluefield.
38. Griffin Murphy was #36 last year, so he moved down. Murphy's results were admirable, with a very high strikeout-rate and a 1.70 ERA, but as a 21-year old reliever in the Appalachian League you'd expect nothing less. The fact that the Blue Jays didn't even promote Murphy to Vancouver until the very end of the season tells me they don't see much more than a possible left-handed reliever, if Murphy ever makes it to Toronto, which is doubtful. It's worth mentioning that Tom was higher on Murphy than I was.
37. Jesus Tinoco is a young (yet to turn 18) right-handed pitcher signed in November 2011 from Venezuela. He did reasonably well in the Dominican Summer League (4.14 ERA, 2.93 FIP) before finishing in North America with 2 games in the GCL, where he struck out 8 batters over 6 innings. It's not much to go on, but it's at least a bit promising. When Baseball America's Ben Badler responded to a tweet asking "anyone on the DSL Jays worth watching?" by saying "Jesus Tinoco. Potential power-armed RHP." Tinoco should start in extended spring training and then pitch in the Gulf Coast League.
36. Jacob Anderson finds himself way down the list at 36, after a 12th place ranking last year. Hitting .194/.270/.304 with a terrible strikeout rate and just slightly less terrible walk rate will do that to your ranking. Have we given up on Anderson too early here? Well, we're not exactly giving up on him, but right now it seems extremely likely that Anderson will never make the majors, much less shine as the power-hitting left fielder we hoped he would be. He's still got that power potential of course, but to utilize it he'll need to start making contact and showing a much better eye for offspeed stuff. Until then, we're not having sweet dreams about Anderson crushing homers in the big leagues.
Tom should follow up with numbers 35 through 31 on our list pretty soon. In the meantime, feel free to discuss our ranking of the players!