With the news that top prospect Aaron Sanchez is on his way to Toronto today, it seems like a good time to take a look back at how promoting the top organizational prospect has worked out in recent history. To say that the past decade hasn't been kind to Blue Jays #1 prospects would be an understatement. Toronto hasn't had a top prospect come up and make a major contribution to the team for about five years and it took another three years for that player to break 1 WAR.
People may have a sour taste in their mouth about how the relationship ended with Alex Rios, but he's one of the best top prospects to come through the Blue Jays system and succeed at the major league level. He came up to the big league squad in May of 2004 and received Rookie of the Year votes after posting 2.0 fWAR in 111 games. He went on to stay with the Blue Jays for nearly five more years before having his contract dumped on the White Sox through an interesting waiver claim. He had his share of off-field problems and wasn't exactly loved in Toronto so his last few years don't seem to be remembered too fondly, but he had some massive seasons in '06, '07, and '08.
League took Rios' spot at the top of the Jays top prospect list after the outfielder exceeded his rookie status, but never really lived up to expectations. He came up to Toronto as a September call-up in 2004 as a reliever and was never switched back to his original role, lowering his value to the team right out of the shoot. He never really put it together with the Blue Jays and was traded to Seattle for Brandon Morrow, which would be quite the steal if Morrow could ever stay healthy. League's career took off after the trade and he's been a pretty solid reliever ever since for both the Mariners and then the Dodgers.
One of the few bright spots on this list is the righty McGowan who is miraculously still on the Blue Jays roster. After being thrown into the Blue Jays rotation in late July of 2005, the righty had a string of bad starts and was put into the bullpen where he was much more successful. He flip-flopped between the rotation and bullpen for a few years before all of the injuries came and McGowan disappeared for a few years before reappearing in 2013 as a (surprise!) dependable reliever. As everyone knows, McGowan was put in the rotation to start this season and it didn't go so well, so he's back to being (shocking!) an excellent releiver again. KEEP MCGOWAN IN THE BULLPEN.
Adam Lind was a September call-up in 2006 and tore it up in his 65 plate appearances to the tune of a .415 OBP. For the next few years he excelled as a left-fielder and even won a Silver Slugger in 2009 with 35 home runes. He's still a dependable DH against righties but unfortunately he could never learn to hit left-handed pitching, which has essentially ruined his chance at ever being more than a 2.0 WAR player (which by no means makes him a bust).
The Blue Jays called up Snider in late 2008 with a bucketload of expectations on his shoulders after mashing at every level of the minors. His cup of coffee in 2008 was impressive, but he never took much of a step forward and was just 'okay' in his four and a half year Blue Jays career. Of course, the Blue Jays and Cito Gaston did their part to mess up Snider and his stubborn personality caused his career to go into an ugly tailspin. In a trade deadline deal in 2012, the lefty from Washington was sent to the Pirates in exchange for Brad Lincoln with the Blue Jays just trying to salvage something for the damaged goods in Snider. His career hasn't gotten much better in Pittsburgh and he looks destined to end up as a fourth outfielder at best.
This is big time BUST territory, with the first Blue Jays top prospect on the list who never even came close to making a contribution for the big league squad. The right-handed pitcher came up to Toronto in the summer of 2011 after coming over from Cincinnati in the Edwin Encarnacion trade. A successful starter in the minor leagues, Stewart made three starts with the Blue Jays before quickly being shipped to the White Sox with Jason Fraser in the Colby Rasmus trade. Stewart had just as bad a time in Chicago before being traded to Boston where he was also demolished. After going back to the White Sox, he's now pitching okay in the Braves minor league system. Thank goodness the Blue Jays sold extremely high on him when they had the chance.
A first round pick in the 2008 draft, Drabek came over to the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay deal and was expected to be a stud in Toronto. After being a September call-up in 2010, the Texan struggled with throwing strikes, composure on the mound, and arm problems. He's still only 26-years-old, so this story definitely doesn't have an ending yet, but it hasn't been the smoothest start to Drabek's time with the Jays. He has a 4.15 ERA in 20 games with the Buffalo Bisons this year after having Tommy John surgery last season, so there's a chance we'll see him before the 2014 campaign is done.
The consensus "Catcher of the Future™" for Toronto never made it through the Rogers Centre doors before being dealt to the New York Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal. Along with pitcher Noah Syndergaard, d'Arnaud will always be linked to the offseason where Alex Anthopoulos went all-in on the big league squad to (so far) horrible results. Thankfully for Blue Jays fans, d'Arnaud has not been good at the major league level and is currently hitting .228 with the Mets in 59 games.
With the call-up of Sanchez today, there isn't a ton of minor league depth behind him in the Blue Jays system so Alex Anthopoulos will be hoping that this is finally a top prospect that comes through for the team. If not, the Blue Jays will be pretty thin at the higher levels of the minor leagues and will be in some serious trouble. I guess all we can do is sit back and enjoy the opportunity to finally see one of the famed "Lansing Three" step foot on a Rogers Centre mound.