The final five players are the list are quite consistent across all the lists released around the internet this offseason with the three players that reached the Major Leagues in 2014 being joined by the two first round picks from the most recent draft. Among the top three players there was a lot of disagreement though, as the three of us all had a different player in the top spot. Without further ado!
5. Max Pentecost, C, age 21 (DOB: 3/10/1993), last year: Studying hard in college
In most years getting out of the first round with Max Pentecost as your pick would be considered a mighty fine outcome, but as we all know the Blue Jays fared even better than that. That's certainly not an indictment on the right-handed hitting catcher who was picked 11th overall back in June. It took 22 at-bats in the GCL before he was sent north to Vancouver to finish out the season appearing in 19 games for the Canadians. He hit .313/.322/.410 in the Northwest League with gap power although he never cleared the fence.
The Kennesaw State product is a solid athletic catcher and is considered by many to be a good bet to stick behind the plate going forward. With Pentecost turning 22-years-old in a few weeks it's likely that he will be aggressively moved through the minor leagues if he continues to tear the cover off the ball. There's a chance he blazes through both levels of A-ball and maybe even makes an end of season appearance in New Hampshire if the Blue Jays really want to accelerate him through the system.
There's a few injury issues with Pentecost as his season was ended abruptly in the summer due to a wrist injury which was then followed by labrum surgery in October.
4. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, age 22 (DOB: 1/8/1993), last year: Studying hard in college
The other 2014 first round pick comes in at #4 as Jeff Hoffman is already exciting Blue Jays fans far and wide without even throwing a pitch in pro ball. After undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the June draft, Hoffman slid from being considered as a potential top pick to the lower half of the top ten. Everyone else's loss was the Blue Jays gain as they gambled that Hoffman would come back just as dominant as he was pre-surgery which is why he is appearing so high on every prospect list.
Not much more can be said about the righty due to his lack of action over the past year, but he's back throwing off a mound and Alex Anthopoulos has said that Hoffman should be joining a minor league team in early May. The 6'4" pitcher has a high-90's fastball to go along with a lethal 12-6 curveball plus a changeup and slider that are both still a work in progress. Although Hoffman has seen his development time delayed by a year, he still has the tools to move fairly quickly through the lower minor leagues and could reach Dunedin by the end of the season if he pitches to his capabilities.
3. Dalton Pompey, CF, age 22 (DOB: 11/12/1992), last year: 21
One of the three players on the list to see Major League action last year, Pompey has the center field job due to lack of any other option and will hopefully prove he actually deserves it in Spring Training. MjwW's pick for the top prospect has quite a high floor and should become a defense-first speedy center fielder at worst, while his bat could develop even further which would turn him into a solid regular player.
The Canadian's minor league year in 2014 was split between Dunedin, New Hampshire, and Buffalo with the switch-hitter compiling a slash line of .317/.392/.469 with nine home run and 43 stolen bases off 50 attempts. The September call-up had 43 plate appearances in the Major Leagues along with a touch on the bum by Derek "GOAT #re2pect" Jeter which will be the highlight of his career regardless of what happens going forward. He struck out 12 times with the Blue Jays, but it's hard to make too many inferences from such a small sample.
He also hit a home run off Felix Hernandez:
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, age 22 (DOB: 1/6/1992), last year: 2
The California native just barely misses out on the top spot on the list again, but is still considered a future stud of the Blue Jays pitching staff. The player that I had at the top of my list, Sanchez came just short of exceeding his rookie status after making his debut on July 23rd of last season. Coming out of the bullpen for all 24 appearances, Sanchez was dominant with Toronto and he did it by basically only throwing his fastball. Out of 462 pitches thrown, only 55 were off-speed with the rest being his high-90's heater. It's well-known that the righty's curveball is equally as nasty and it will be interesting to see him unleash it in the coming season to become a more unpredictable pitcher.
With a 1.09 ERA out of the bullpen it seems to be up in the air whether Sanchez with start or be a high-leverage reliever this season but unless his arm flies off his body, his floor is about as high as it can be for a pitching prospect. Personally I would love to see him in the starting rotation so he gets more than 50 innings this season, but obviously he will end up wherever the front office thinks he'll provide the most value.
1. Daniel Norris, LHP, age 21 (DOB: 4/25/1993), last year: 3
Everyone's favourite lefty who lives in a van down by the river, Norris shot through the minors last season and ended up in Toronto as an improbable September call-up with a ceiling as high as the Rogers Centre roof. The Tennessee native is still just 21-years-old (although he puts every other 21-year-old's beard to shame) and likely won't even start the season with Toronto but look for Norris to be one of the first players called up when injuries begin to hit.
During his short stint in Toronto it's been revealed that the extremely likeable Norris was working through some injury issues which eventually resulted in offseason surgery, so the ugly pitching line is much ado about nothing. Tom's pick for the top of the list features the four main pitches (all considered plus) which he wasn't afraid to flash with the Blue Jays as seen below:
There you have it folks...the Top 40 Toronto Blue Jays prospects as ranked by Tom Dakers, MjwW, and myself. Although the system is not as deep as years gone by, the pitching upside is incredible and a future rotation with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, and Jeff Hoffman should get even the most bitter of Jays fans excited. In the coming days we'll have a few more posts detailing some players who just missed as well as a look back at the players on last year's list. Bring on the baseball!