Time to start on our Top 40 Prospects list. As always, the ones at the bottom of the list are not exactly great prospects but more like 'potential prospects'.
We made a couple of late changes: after putting together the list we decided that guys over the age of 25 really weren't prospects anymore. We made the cutoff players that will be under 26 on June 30th of this year. You have to figure that by 26-27, either guys are MLB players or they aren't really prospects. Not saying they might not get some playing time, but they really aren't guys that you project to improve.
MjwW will be up next with the numbers 31-35 on out list.
40. Chase Mallard: Chase is a 6'2" right-hander, our 14th round pick from 2014, out of the University of Birmingham, where he had been mostly a reliever until senior year. He was "Conference-USA Pitcher of the Year" as a senior. He had a very good time of it in his first pro season, getting into 15 games, 10 starts, mostly for Vancouver after 3 games in Bluefield. He had a 2.73 ERA. In 62.2 innings he allowed 54 hits, 11 walks with 55 strikeouts. He is 23, so he is going to have to keep having good seasons to move up the system. He is more a potential prospect than an actual one at the moment, but if he has another year like last year's he'll be a prospect.
At draft time, Baseball America said:
Mallard is a true ace, a strike-throwing machine with an 88-92 fastball, a swing-and-miss slider and a good changeup. The senior was dependable out of the bullpen over the past three years, but he has really thrived this spring as a starter.
39. Tom Robson: Tom was number 19 on our list last year, but he drops down after having Tommy John surgery in July of this year. Apparently, recovery is going well, he's been soft tossing the last couple of months but won't be pitching in a game until June at best. He missed some time in 2012 with elbow issues and with the Tommy John this year, it's worrying, but then it seems like most players come back from Tommy John with no troubles.
Before the surgery, he was drawing a fair bit of attention. Keith Law had him at number 11 on his list of Blue Jays prospects before the season the 2014. On our list, he was 31st in 2012, then #33 in 2013 before jumping to #19 last year.
In 2013, he was throwing mid-90's, had a ‘plus' change and was working on a curve. He wasn't getting a lot of strikeouts (6.0 per 9 innings in 2013) but he was getting tons of ground balls, 3.48 ground balls per fly ball. He had a 1.12 ERA in 2013, in 64 innings, split between Bluefield and Vancouver. ERA's in the low 1's get your attention. This year, before the surgery, he made 8 starts, getting a 6.25 ERA, with 37 hits, 18 walks and 22 strikeouts in 32 innings, but it is tough to pitch with your elbow coming apart.
Tom is just 21, so the missed year isn't such a big deal, as long as he comes back healthy. He's a big right-hander, 6'4" and 210 and, of course, Canadian. He was our 4th round pick in the 2011 draft.
38. Grayson Huffman: Huffman was our 6th round pick in the 2014 draft, out of Grayson County College (how often do they name the school after a guy on their baseball team?). He's a 6'2" lefty pitcher, 19 years old. He had a nice start to his professional career, getting into 11 games, 10 starts, 3 for Bluefield and 8 for the Gulf Coast league Jays. He had a 0.95 ERA in 38 total innings, allowing 18 hits, 20 walks (too many walks, but then he has time to improve) with 34 strikeouts. He's a 6'2" lefty, throws low 90's, he has a curveball and changeup.
37. Matt Dean: Matt dropped several spots from his #26 showing on our list from last year. He's had an up and down life on our prospects lists, starting at 17th on our 2012 list, dropping to 34 in 2013, 26 in 2014 and now 37. Our 13th round pick in the 2011 draft is now 22. He had a nice season at Lansing, hitting 281/.332/.429, with 9 home runs, 27 walks and 117 strikeouts, in 113 games, but not as nice as the line he had in 2013, in Bluefield, where he hit .338/.390/.519. Last year the concern was the strikeouts, and, well, it is still the concern. His strikeout rate is virtually unchanged from last year, 24.1% after 24.5% in 2013. He played mostly first base, 64 games, with 16 at third base.
Dean had a terrific month of May, hitting .395/.439/.605, but the rest of the season wasn't as good. He had a better first half of the season, hitting .319/.365/.456, than second half, .256/.309/.410. Perhaps he tired in his first look at full season ball, though he slowed at the end of 2013 as well. Since he is a first baseman he'll only go as far as his bat will carry him and without much power, the best you can hope for is an Overbay type and I don't think his glove is that good. He's a big guy, 6'3" and 215, so there was hope that he'd develop some right-handed power, but he hasn't shown it yet...
36. Nick Wells: Nick was our 3rd round pick in the 2014 draft, drafted out of high school from Haymarket, Virginia. He is a big left-hander, 6'5" and throws low 90's while just 18. MLB.com had this scouting report at draft time:
Lefties with projectable frames and present stuff are always sought after in the Draft, which is why Wells is very appealing to many teams. Wells' fastball will sit in the low 90s, touching 93 mph, and he uses his tall frame to create good downhill plane. His curveball has very good shape with hard, late movement and has the chance to be a swing and miss pitch for him in the future. He hasn't thrown his changeup much at this point, but scouts who have seen it say it has the potential to be a solid pitch with good fade and deception. Wells may be somewhat raw at this point, but his interesting mix of pitches and big frame give him a high ceiling.
He didn't have the best of times in his first look at professional ball. He had a 5.71 ERA in 11 games, 4 starts for the Gulf Coast League Jays. In 34.2 innings, he allowed 44 hits, 11 walks with 18 strikeouts, but then he was just 18 (turns 19 on the 21st of this month), playing against older, more experienced guys.