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The 2016 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 11-15

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The sixth installment of BBB's Top 40 brings us to those who just missed the Top 10: two southpaws who have yet to reach full season ball, two "junior" outfielders with baseball bloodlines and a third baseman (also with bloodlines) sandwiched in the middle.

2016: 11-1516-2021-2526-3031-3536-40

2015: 1-56-1011-1516-2021-2526-3031-3536-40Older | Just Missed: Part IPart IIPart III

15. Ryan Borucki, LHP, age 21 (DOB: 3/31/94), last year: 18

It says something about a system when a guy misses almost the entire year, and yet moves three spots up the rankings. 2015 was essentially a lost year for Borucki, with injury problems limiting him to two short starts in July for Vancouver. This on the back of missing all of 2013 as well after Tommy John surgery after an elbow injury caused him to drop to the 15th round in the 2012 draft where the Blue Jays signed him well overslot at $426,000.

Nonetheless, the 6'4" southpaw has one of the more interesting arms in the system if he can get past the injury problems. His fastball sits in the low-90s, with a quality change-up as his best secondary weapon and a developing curveball. Perhaps most impressive of all is advanced pitchability and ability to pound the zone, as he's only walked 12 in 68.2 professional innings, with 69 strikeouts and 50 hits allowed.

If healthy, Borucki should find himself in Lansing in 2016 and could move fairly quickly upwards through the system. Borucki is a good sleeper bet who could move into the top-5 or top-10 in a year, but another year of substantial missed time would strongly call into question whether he's be able to reach his potential on the mound.

14. Angel Perdomo, LHP, age 21 (DOB: 5/7/94), last year: 20

6'6" lefties whose fastballs are consistently in the low 90s and can touch higher with promising secondaries do not exactly grow on trees. In a nutshell, that's why Perdomo, a 2012 under the radar international signing, ranks as high as he does. But it's worth keeping in mind that at age 21 he's yet to pitch in full season ball, and has a long way to go refine his stuff and become more consistent.

Beyond his physical attributes, coming into 2015 the most interesting thing about Perdomo was his 100 strikeouts in 72.2 innings in the DSL and GCL. Leaving complex ball behind in 2015, Perdomo split the season between Bluefield and Vancouver, posting a 2.60 ERA with 67 strikeouts against 30 walks and just 52 hits allowed in 69.1 innings.

Those strong numbers masked a lot of up-and-downs. Some starts, Perdomo was almost untouchable, and others he could barely find the zone. In his best five starts, he struck out 40 in 23.1 innings, walking 8. In the other games, he pitched 46 innings with just 27 strikeouts and 22 walks. One of those great outings for Vancouver in Hillsboro was televised on, and Perdomo looked incredible, with tons of movement on his fastball and a solid breaking ball as he went four no-hit innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

Perdomo should be assigned to Lansing to start 2016. Perdomo will be Rule 5 eligible after 2016, so if he really puts things together the Jays will need to add him to the 40-man and will have to balance his development with moving him along towards the big leagues.

13. Mitch Nay, 3B, age 22 (DOB: 9/20/93), last year: 13

Despite a disappointing season in Dunedin, Nay holds onto the 13th spot on the list. In 2015, Nay hit .243/.303/.353 with 32 walks and 75 strikeouts in 437 plate appearances. In his third professional season, the 2012 first round supplemental pick has still not been able to translate his reportedly strong raw power to in-game power. He had 28 extra base hits and a .110 ISO after showing signs of a breakthrough in the second half of 2014 when he had 24 extra base hits in 224 second half at bats for Lansing.

Beyond that, there's a few other yellow flags. His strikeout rate has crept up at each level, from 14% in rookie ball to 15% in low-A to 17.5% in high-A. If his power develops, that's an acceptable level, but much higher and it really put pressure on his production. He also hasn't hit for average in 485 high-A plate appearances, with just a .283 BABIP. Finally, there's the issue of whether he will stick at 3rd. He's said to have improved significantly, but from listening to a lot of games over the past couple years it seems like a disproportionate number of balls hit in his direction have not been converted into outs.

At some point, the rubber has to meet the road and potential has to turn into results. With a lot of player development turnover, it's hard to say whether he'll return to Dunedin or be promoted despite lackluster results, but he should get to New Hampshire at some point.

12. D.J. Davis, OF, age 21 (DOB: 7/25/94), last year: 33

In writing about Davis ranking 33rd on last year's list, I concluded:

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.
Here we are 12 months later, and Davis has rocketed up 21 spots to 12th. He certainly did have a much better 2015, but it's also worth noting that of the 32 players ahead of him last year, 15 either graduated from prospect/rookie status, were traded, or aged out of eligibility (though he did leapfrog 10).

In 2015, Davis repeated low-A, and posted a strong .282/.340/.391 line, a rate of production 13% above the Midwest League average and significantly better than his 2014 Lansing line of .213/.268/.316. Most critically, in a similar number of plate appearances, he cut his strikeouts back from 167 to 119, striking out 21.5% of the time rather than 31%. That's still higher than one wants to see from the top prospect, but it's manageable whereas a 30% rate tends to be fatal. The magnitude of the improvement suggests real progress, with the caveat that he was repeating the level and improvement should be expected (and the rejoinder that at 20/21, he was still at a normal age for high school draftees in low-A).

The other major difference at the plate in 2015 was that Davis posted a .353 BABIP compared to .299 in 2014, which inflated his batting line. His power numbers barely changed, the difference was all singles. Speedy hitters like Davis should outperform here, being able to beat out ground balls, but this improvement is more ambiguous to interpret. It could reflect an improved ability to square balls up, or it could just be more balls fortuitously finding holes. Finally, his walk rate was in line was 2014 at a respectable 7%.

On the bases too there were signs of progress, as Davis stole 21 bases while only being caught 10 times, compared to a 19/39 success rate in 2015. Frankly, that's pretty mediocre given his speed, and it's curious that his attempts fell by 20% when he reached 1st over 20% more often. Hopefully, the Jays have him put in some serious work with baserunning coordinator Tim Raines.

After getting back on track in 2015, Davis should move up to Dunedin for 2016. A solid year would be consolidating the improvements in 2015 at a higher level, and if he taps into a little more in-game power, there's breakout potential in advance of being Rule 5 eligible after 2016.

11. Dwight Smith Jr, OF, age 23 (DOB: 10/26/92), last year: 7

2015 was seen as a disappointment for Smith, a 2011 first round supplemental draftee, as he failed to follow-up on a breakout 2014 at the AA level in New Hampshire. Moreover, he not added to the 40-man and protected from the Rule 5 draft, nor was he selected.

That said, it was by no means a lost year, as Smith hit a respectable .265/.335/.376, with 47 walks and 64 strikeouts in 512 plate appearances. That production was 8% above average, which is only disappointed compared to 34% better than the FSL average in 2014. The biggest negative was low power output, with only 35 extra base hits and a .111 ISO which was down from the 48 and .169 in 2015. Smith gets labelled a "tweener", a player who defensively is limited or best suited to an outfield corner, but who doesn't profile to have the power normally found at the position (or more broadly, the bat needed to be a regular).

While more power would be ideal - and at 23 there's still time to tap into in - the positives in his batting line should not be overlooked, in particular with his strong plate discipline metrics. Smith has consistently posted strong walk rates of 8-10%, with 2015 right in line at 9.2%. Even better, Smith did that while only striking out 12.5% of the time, in line with 13% in 2014. This suggests an ability to work the count, recognize pitches, and make contact. He's also shown a decent ability to hit, posting league average or better BABIPs in each of his full assignments, though the trend has been modestly downwards to .294 in 2015.

It's not clear whether Smith starts the year in Buffalo or back in New Hampshire, but either way he could be major league ready towards the end of the year. The risk for him is being somewhat lost in the shuffle, behind Pompey and with Alford behind him. A year ago, there was some talk of trying him at 2B, but nothing seems to have come of that. We'll see how far the bat can carry him in 2016.