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Aspiring Jays: Prospect Scarcity

This week in Aspiring Jays: trying our best to find hidden gems somewhere in the Blue Jays farm system, which has been hurt by trades and a disappointing 2011 draft.

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

In the past few years the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system was teeming with interesting prospects we could write about. Almost every day one or more great pitching prospects would take the mound, and several position player prospects were doing very well, too. But in 2013, the system does not look that great anymore. Several trades and a disappointing 2011 draft have diminished the amount of interesting prospects in the system, especially at the higher levels. It doesn't help that Sean Nolin, John Stilson and A.J. Jimenez have all been on the disabled list, while Marcus Stroman has been suspended. There's some good news though, as Jimenez made his first appearance of the season yesterday, starting at catcher for the Dunedin Blue Jays. He'll likely be back with New Hampshire soon, I should imagine.

A basic description of the current state of the minor league system would likely mention the top three prospects of Anthony Gose (technically no longer a prospect), Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna. Gose's results have been so-so, while Sanchez and Osuna have done very well so far. The hot start of Andy Burns would likely deserve a mention, as would Daniel Norris' struggles. But besides them, the system is looking quite thin and very few "second tier" prospects are surprising us in a positive way. I have to mention again that a lot of this team's prospect depth is in extended spring training and therefore unable to impress us so far. But let's go over the lesser prospects that are playing, team by team.

The team's highest affiliate usually has older players who serve as depth for the big league team, and who don't really count as prospects. Still, some of these older guys are having very good season. Chief among them is 28-year-old second baseman Jim Negrych, he of the .424/.486/.712 triple slash. One more month of such nonsense and the team might actually try him out in the big leagues, especially if Izturis and Bonifacio continue to be terrible. Almost 31-year-old first baseman Luis Jimenez is also having the season of his career so far, hitting .367/.432/.633. Amidst this kind of dominance (even Eugenio Velez is hitting .300/.391/.500), it's hard to get excited by Anthony Gose's .352 slugging percentage or Moises Sierra's 4/14 BB/K ratio. And when your whole team is hitting like it's the Pacific Coast League, you're certainly not happy hitting .286/.286/.333, as is the case with Ryan Goins (0 walks an 14 Ks). There are small positives to be found in Buffalo's bullpen, highlighted by Mickey Storey's 23 Ks in 16 1/3 innings.

New Hampshire
Kevin Pillar is still hitting well, he has seven walks to eleven strikeouts, and his line is now .325/.379/.474. That still doesn't make him anywhere near a top prospect, but he's starting to look like a possibly interesting outfield option if all else fails. Which, considering our luck, just might happen. The rest of the team hasn't been nearly as positive, and their 12-16 record kind of reflects this. Still better than a certain major league team you might've heard of, certainly. On the pitching side Deck McGuire has been decent, apart from one horrible start. Marcus Walden has gotten a lot of groundball outs and has pitched to a 2.97 ERA, but his low K-rate definitely gives me pause. Ryan Tepera also has a decent 3.42 ERA, but his peripherals don't excite in any way.

The High-A affiliate has gotten two of the best prospects this season in the form of Aaron Sanchez and Andy Burns. Sanchez has a 3.07 ERA with 28 Ks in 29 1/3 innings and, more importantly, just 9 walks. Burns is hitting .333/.424/.545 with 15 walks and 12 Ks, so he's still doing quite well indeed. Jonathan Berti apparently has a league leading hit streak going, but a .276/.327/.352 triple slash or a 8/23 BB/K rate aren't nearly enough to make us move him upwards on our prospect lists. Dunedin has gotten some very good pitching, but apart from Sanchez it has come from older guys, like Jesse Hernandez, who would have been pitching at higher levels if they were truly prospects.

Of course, Roberto Osuna, he of the 31 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings as an 18-year-old, is by far Lansing's best prospect. And of course Daniel Norris, he of the 8.14 ERA with 12 BBs and 15 Ks, has been by far the most disappointing, even if his last two starts were better. Christian Lopes looked to be off to a good start, but as of now he just has an empty batting average, with only three walks, one homer and sixteen strikeouts. Disappointing 2010 draft picks Christopher Hawkins and Kellen Sweeney have been, well, disappointing. Santiago Nessy is on the disabled list and Dalton Pompey has contact issues without power to compensate for it. Gustavo Pierre has been impressive, but not in a positive way: has has 0 walks to 28 Ks, even though he does have three homers to show for his brainless hacking. Javier Avendano and Taylor Cole have not nearly been as effective as they were last year in Vancouver. But, wanting to finish on a positive note, Dwight Smith Jr. has recently joined the team and hit a home run just yesterday. So, there's that.