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The 2015 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 31-35

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BBB continues its annual countdown

Picking up from where Tom left off yesterday, today I've got numbers 31 to 35 and jays182 Scott C will follow with the next five. For convenience, below I've included links for this year and last year for comparison where applicable, with the caveat that different years have difference rankers, so it's not directly comparable.

2015: 31-3536-40

2014: 1-56-1011-1516-2021-2526-3031-3536-40

35. Evan Smith, LHP, age 19 (DOB: 8/17/1995), last year: unranked

Smith signed quickly for $350,000 after being selected in the 4th round of 2013 draft from an Alabama HS. He was assigned to rookie ball in the GCL, and threw 12 innings over 8 games with some control problems (9 walks). He was very young for his draft class, just turning 18 ten days before the season ended. In 2014, he was initially assigned to the GCL, dominated in 3 June outings (3 BB, 13 K in 12 IP) and found himself quickly promoted to Bluefield where he turned a solid season. In 40 innings, he allowed 12 walks against 34 strikeouts, allowed 42 hits and 3 home runs, with a ground ball rate around 50%.

At 6'5" / 190, Smith is pretty much the definition of "projection". Jim Callis of MLB.com had this to say about his stuff at the time of the draft:

Perfect Game corroborates that, recording him at 88-93 in the spring of 2013, up from the mid/highs-80s previously. It wouldn't be surprising he added a little more he as he fills out. Beyond that, he throws a curve, slider and change-up.

An assignment to Lansing in April 2015 would not be totally unexpected, but my guess is he's destined for Vancouver with maybe a late season promotion to Lansing, with a 2016 full season assignment. He's definitely one to keep an eye on and a candidate to make a huge jump in next year's ratings.

34. Adonys Cardona, RHP, age 21 (DOB: 1/16/1994), last year: 25

It might seem hard to believe, but this summer will mark five years since the Jays signed Cardona for $2,800,000 has a 16 year old international free agent from Venezuela in 2010. And though the investment has not yet paid off (hence the ranking), it's also worth remembering he's the same age as draft eligible college juniors.

2014 was essentially a lost season for Cardona, as he broke his pitching elbow in a late April game. His performance in the first month was mediocre; he compiled 8 walks and 11 strikeouts with a 8.44 ERA in 10.2 innings. Acclimating to cold northern spring weather wouldn't have helped. In previous years, he had a similar profile: lots of strikeouts, too many walks, poor ERAs, and a lot of time missed to injury.

Explosive arm speed is what landed the 6'2" Cardona his big bonus, as he can run his fastball to the high-90s and with a hard 12-6 curveball.  MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo) had this to say after 2013:

Cardona's fastball should be a plus pitch as he continues to mature and he's shown a better feel for a changeup than most his age, projecting to have an above-average offspeed pitch. His breaking ball isn't close to the other two pitches and he's struggled with command, leading some to believe he'll eventually have to move into a bullpen role.

In the end this ranking comes down to preferences on floor, ceiling and probability. When healthy he's struggled to harness that raw stuff, and the cumulative time lost to injuries represents a huge cost in the likelihood of developing and refining that potential. A good outcome in 2015 would be coming back with his stuff intact and just staying healthy.

33. D.J. Davis, OF, age 20 (DOB: 7/25/1994), last year: 8

Davis likely requires little introduction as the Jays' 1st rounder (17th overall) in 2012, signing for $1,750,000 out of HS in Mississippi. He's got both baseball bloodlines and Blue ties via his father Wayne. He's the type of raw athlete with elite tools the Jays' have tended to covet, with elite speed (80 on the 20-80). MLB.com said this after the 2013 season:

It might be difficult to find a better athlete in the 2012 Draft class and there certainly isn't anyone faster. While he's sure to be a major basestealing threat, he's much more than a one-tool guy. Davis has the chance to hit, with good bat speed and even a bit of power to grow into. There's some refining to his approach that will need to happen

"[S]ome refining" might be the understatement of this series. In 2014, he debuted in low-A, and it...didn't go very well, to put it mildly. He struck out 167 times (31%), hit .213/.268/.318, just 28 extra base hits in 494 AB, stole 19 bases but was caught 20 times, and struggled to even lay bunts down at times. Friend of BBB and voice of the Lugnuts Jesse Goldberg-Strassler had some good thoughts with the benefit of having watched him everyday.

On the positive side, Davis was very young relative to the league in 2014 and retains elite tools. On the negative side, there's as a big a gap as ever between tools and useful baseball skills. Davis' strikeout rate has been high at every level, and there aren't many players - regardless of age - who strike out 30%+ in low-A and produce much in the majors. Perhaps most frustratingly is the longer trend: in mid-July 2013 he was on a roll (.308/.393/.564 for Bluefield) and seemed to have put everything together. Then he went on a strikeout binge and it's been almost straight down from there since.

Putting him outside the top 30 is very harsh, and quite possibly an overreaction to 2014 especially given the youth and tools. But there's a lot of red flags, and a strong 2015 rebound is critical.

32. Chad Girodo, LHP, age 24 (DOB: 2/6/1991), last year: unranked

Girodo is a 6'1" sidearmer, signed for $5,000 as a senior sign out of Mississippi State in the 9th round of the 2013 draft. A four-year teammate of Kendall Graveman, Girodo emerged in 2013 as a weapon out of the bullpen, recording 82 strikeouts in 59.2 innings after an undistinguished first three years. Initially an over-the-top pitcher, Girodo was encouraged to drop down by his college pitching coach and picked up a wipeout slider. After signing he was assigned to Lansing, where he continued to succeed out of the bullpen (24 K, 5 BB in 23.2 innings).

In 2014, Girodo was promoted to Dunedin, and was used both as a one inning reliever and for longer appearances. His fastball was generally in the high-80s, touching into the low-90s, paired with the sweeping breaking ball. It shouldn't be surprising then that he while he was decent against righties (33 K, 11 BB, .253 BA in 45), he dominated lefties (48 K, 9 BB in 31.2 IP). It's a classic LOOGY profile, or at least reliever with splits. When he pitched longer outings, he tended to get more exposed, especially against RHB.

It's not the sexiest prospect profile, but considering the results and stuff ever since he dropped his arm slot down, I think he's a very good bet to make it to the majors and contribute for a number of years. The ceiling would something like Aaron Loup, who dominates lefties but can handle righties. Barring that, he should be a reliable LOOGY. This ranking is all about floor and probability, with a soupçon of upside. Look for Girodo to start in New Hampshire, with a 2015 appearance in Toronto a distinct possibility if the Jays are in the thick of it in September to reinforce the pen with a specialist.

31. Ryan McBroom, 1B/DH, age 22 (DOB: 4/9/1992), last year: N/A

McBroom was drafted this past year in the 15th round as a senior out of the University of West Virginia where he anchored the middle of the line-up. Over the past two years, he hit 20 home runs in 113 games, which might not sound very impressive but in the last couple years of the BBCOR era represents legitimate power. Assigned to Vancouver, he mashed 11 home runs, tying for the league lead en route to a .297/.339/.502 triple slash line. However, his plate discipline was poor, 13 BB against 52 K.

McBroom's raw power is potentially a legitimate carrying tool, though it remains to be seen if he'll make hit enough to tap into it, especially against better pitching at higher levels. That's basically why he fell to the 15th round. I'd expect to see McBroom assigned to Lansing, but to be a real prospects he need to make short work of low-A and perform at high-A. Even then, the real test will be more at the AA level - until then, skepticism is justified about the production numbers of an older, experienced player limited to far right side of the defensive spectrum.