With the Jays' season over, it's time we turn our attention to the 2017 season. The Jays roster could look a lot different heading into 2017 than it did this season. With the potential departure of Encarnacion, Bautista, Saunders, and more, the Jays might have to turn to their minor league system to fill the voids. Here's a breakdown of who could be playing in Toronto in 2017.
Should make Opening Day Roster:
Dalton Pompey (24)- Pompey was the Jays' top prospect heading into last season. He was eventually given the opening day start, but just couldn't find his groove in the majors. Pompey was sent down where he went on to have a solid year in the minors. Pompey was beaten out for the left field job this season by Michael Saunders. He spent the year in Buffalo where he continued to play well. Pompey is a switch hitting outfielder with a lot of speed. The Jays still have hopes that he can become their lead-off hitter someday. With both Saunders and Bautista heading to free agency, Pompey should be in a position to make the Jays' roster once again.
Could Compete in Spring Training:
Chad Girodo (26)- Girodo started 2016 at number 16 on the Jays top prospect list. This season saw him bounce back and fourth between Buffalo and the majors. While his numbers weren't great, he should still find his way into the Jays' bullpen. Girodo has been particularly effective against left-handed batters. With the Cecil heading into free agency, Girodo could find himself a job as a LOOGY next season with the Jays.
Andy Burns (26)- Andy Burns was once near the top of the Jays' prospect list, now he's a backup player at best. Burns had a solid 2015 where he slashed .291/.350/.373. But, 2016 was a different story. Burns struggled in Buffalo slashing only .230/.285/.352. The franchise has moved him all over, but his best position is going to be third base or second. A strong showing could get him a spot on the Jays' bench in 2017.
Harold Ramirez (22): Ramirez was one of the players who came over in the Drew Hutchison deal. Ramirez can play all over the outfield, but his true value is at the plate. Scouts love his ability to hit hard line-drives to all fields. While he's only hit 13 homeruns in 5 minor league season, many scouts expect more power to develop. He's a good athlete and his career slash line of .306/.364/.411 shows how good he is at the plate. If neither Bautista or Saunders returns to the Jays in 2017, Ramirez could enter spring training with the possibility to win some playing time.
Rowdy Tellez (22)- Tellez ended 2016 as 9th on the Jays' prospect list, but I for one think he should have been higher. Tellez put up another good season at the plate as he hit 23 homeruns while driving in 81. His slash line of .297/.387/.530 shows that he has the ability to hit for power, and get on base. His approach at the plate is advanced for a 22 year old. If the Jays don't bring in a 1B/DH in free agency, then Tellez could steal that spot to start 2017.
AJ Jimenez (26)- Jimenez was once one of the Jays' top prospects, but injuries and poor play have eliminated that future. But, the possibility of Jimenez as a backup is very intriguing. Jimenez continues to play strong defense when he's on the field. He's thrown out about 40% of would be basestealers throughout his career. His offense is nothing to brag about, but his career slash line .268/.311/.380 suggests he could be a quality backup catcher. He was added to the 40-man, so that suggests the team is considering him for the job.
Could Contribute at some point:
Reese McGuire (22)- McGuire came over with Ramirez at the deadline. McGuire will be Martin's replacement and the Jays' future catcher. He plays outstanding defense and has been praised for his ability to call games, work with pitchers, and be a leader. His offense isn't great but he has a good approach at the plate that should lead to a successful career. McGuire will probably start the season in Buffalo, as the Jays will want to get him regular playing time. But he could end up in a Jays' uniform at some point next season.
Roemon Fields (26)- Fields' best tool will always be his speed. In three seasons he's stolen 138 bases. He pairs this with his ability to play solid defense. Fields will be limited by his bat though. Fields slashed only .227/.295/.296 in 2016. He did see a small increase in his ability to generate walks, but will probably never be a starter in the majors. But, his speed will always make him an exciting player. With a strong year, Fields could be looking at a late season call-up to provide a pinch running option.
Dwight Smith Jr (24)- Smith, much like Fields, might never be a regular in the Jays outfield. But, his bat is solid and he provides a good balance of power and speed. He's got a good approach at the plate which should help him be a responsible hitter as he progresses. Smith could be the Jays' next Ezequiel Carrera.
Conner Greene (21)- Greene started 2016 as the Jays' number two prospect. After a strong start to the season in Dunedin, Greene moved to New Hampshire where he struggled. Greene struggled with walks this season and that hurt him when he moved up. Greene will probably head to New Hampshire to start the season, with the ability to move up quickly. If Greene plays well, he could be a consideration if the Jays need a spot start in 2017.
Sean Reid-Foley (21)- Foley is the Jays' top pitching prospect. He's a big kid who throws hard. Foley set a career high in innings pitched in 2016 with 115.1. The team was attempting to limit his innings before he eventually ended the season injured. SRF should start 2017 in New Hampshire, but if his innings climb, the organization could add him to the big league roster as a reliever (the Aaron Sanchez plan).
Anthony Alford and Richard Urena represent the Jays' top two prospects. Jays' fans should expect either to make a major impact on the Jays' season in 2017. But, both will start the year in New Hampshire and with strong seasons, both should be looking at a September call-up.