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Beyond the Top 40: 2016 Bluebird Banter Top 5 Older Prospects

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Having completed the journey through the top 40 prospects, we look at players who retain rookie eligibility but were excluded by the age cutoff.

2016: 1-56-10 11-1516-2021-2526-3031-3536-40Older

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

Most prospect lists use rookie eligibility (less than 130 AB, 50 IP or 45 days service time excluding September) as the basis for inclusion/exclusion. This works as an objective standard, but especially beyond the Top 20 creates a conundrum between young players with upside but very low chances of making the majors and older players with less projection but who are very close or have already made the majors. In a sense, that latter group aren't really even prospects, and so an age cutoff is used for inclusion on the BBB list.

As Tom mentioned at the outset, to be included players had to be 25 or under on June 30th, meaning born after 6/30/1990 (making 2015 no more than their age 25 season). That cut off a number of interesting players who could be contributors in 2015 or beyond. So here is a Top 5 list of rookie eligible players cutoff from the prospect list due to age:

1. Blake McFarland, RHP, age 28 (DOB: 2/2/1988)

McFarland was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011, and was added to the 40-man roster in November. He split 2015 across AA and AAA, striking out 72 while only walking 10 in 57.2 innings with a 2.03 ERA. His fastball is in the low 90s, and his bread and butter is a splitter that he picked up in 2013 from Rick Langford which gives him the classic reliever profile. Oh, and he's an artist of some renown too.

With the logjam of out-of-options relievers on the 40-man, McFarland likely needs a very strong spring break camp with the Jays, but if they need reinforcements at some point in-season he could get the call. Yahoo's Jeff Passan wrote a great profile in December that details his winding road to the precipice of MLB that I highly recommend, and McFarland's art website is here.

2. Danny Barnes, RHP, age 26 (DOB: 10/21/1989)

Barnes, a 35th round pick in 2010 out of Princeton, seems to be finally back on track after dealing with injury problems in 2013-14, posting 2.97 ERA in 60.2 innings in AA, striking out 74 against 19 walks. Throughout his minor league career, eye popping strikeout totals have been his calling card: 53 K in 37.2 in his draft year, 99 in 66 innings for Lansing in 2011, 65 in 53 innings in 2012 mostly for Dunedin. Then injury problems derailed his progress.

His stuff isn't dominating, with a fastball in the low-90s and lacking a knockout secondary pitch, but he keeps striking out ~30% of batters as he climbs the ladder and if he keeps that he almost has to get a shot. This is a stats over stuff pick, but the statistical profile is incredible and he's been a personal favourite of mine. I expect him to start 2016 in Buffalo.

3. A.J. Jimenez, C, age 25 (DOB: 5/1/1990)

Call this the emeritus award: no Blue Jays prospect list is complete without him. Or at least it seems that way for Jimenez, a 2008 draftee who has seemingly been around forever in Internet terms.

2015 was another lost year for Jimenez, as he started the year on the disabled list and got off to a slow start when activated (.077/.122/.077 in 41 April PA). He found his rhythm with a .261/.333/.391 line in 69 PA afterwards, but went back on the DL in early June and missed the rest of the season. In total, he's been limited to under 200 games the last four seasons since undergoing Tommy John surgery in mid-2012. His combined AA and AAA batting line is .256/.300/.363 with a 6% walk rate and 15% strikeout rate, though his defensive game is well regarded.

More urgently, though Jimenez has never made the active roster, 2015 was his last option year and consequently in 2016 he has to make the 25-man roster to avoid being exposed to waivers - and that is very, very unlikely (there's also the 60 day DL, though missing more time is not a good outcome). On the other hand, it's hard to see another team claiming him given that he profiles as a back-up, though maybe if the idea was to quickly get him through waivers themselves.

More likely, he'll clear waivers near the beginning of the season, hopefully have a healthy and productive 2016, at which point if he's a viable backup candidate for 2017 he can be re-added later. But there's no guarantee he's still a Blue Jay 50 days from now.

4. Taylor Cole, RHP, age 26 (DOB: 8/20/1989)

Cole is another guy with an interesting background, drafted in the 29th round in the 2011 draft out of Brigham Young. A highly touted prospect in high school, he spent two years away from baseball while on a Mormon mission. He ranked 22nd on the Top 40 last year after a huge 2014 in high-A, but could not replicate the magic at AA in 2015.

The good news is, 2016 is an even year, which have been kind to him whereas odd years have not: he struggled in 2011 (5.88 ERA, 17/25 BB/K in 33 innings for Vancouver), had a dynamite 2012 (0.81 ERA, 17/57 in 66.1 innings for Vancouver), was mediocre in 2013 (3.94 ERA, 61/103 in 137 innings mostly for Lansing), had a massive 2014 (3.07 ERA, 46/181 in 144.1 innings mostly in Dunedin) before a mediocre 2015 (4.06 ERA, 55/128 in 164 innings for NH). So if the pattern holds, he's in line for a good 2016, which he really needs to get a major league shot.

5. Jon Berti, IF/UT, age 26 (DOB: 1/22/1990)

Berti was drafted in the 18th round of the 2011 draft as a junior out of Bowling Green State. Starting in short season Vancouver, he's climbed the ladder level by level, finally reaching AAA Buffalo in 2015. He's never made a BBB prospect list, since he profiles as a utility man, the 25th man on a major league roster.

His batting line is nothing special, as he hasn't posted an OPS of .700 or above since 2012 in Lansing. The only thing on his stat line that jumps out is his basestealing, as he's stolen 176 bases in 537 minor league games with a 75.5% success rate. But he's played all around the infield and outfield, and there's value in versatility. Basically, he's a grinder who can do a little bit of everything, similar to Jonathan Diaz.

But at some point, I think he'll a shot in the big leagues, and so he's worth highlighting here. I can distinctly recall listening to a game when he was with Lansing in 2012, and Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler discussing a conversation he had with a scout who told him that Berti would be a big leaguer. And sure enough, four years later, he stands on doorstep of MLB.

Other 40-man players

There are four other players on the 40-man who retain rookie eligibility but get cutoff for age. Given that the Jays (and other teams) liked them enough to acquire them and use a 40-man spot over the winter, there's a good argument all should be on the above list instead of others. Instead, I focussed on homegrown players above and will touch on them briefly

  • RHP Joe Biagini - Tom wrote about him recently, and I agree that it's going to be difficult to find a roster spot.
  • OF Darrell CecilianiTom wrote about him too, solid depth option
  • RHP Arnold Leon - fastball in the low/mid 90s, and uses four other secondaries. He posted some excellent relief numbers in 2012 which makes him intriguing to me, but he's out of options and needs to make the roster. I think there's a chance that happens.
  • RHP Ben Rowen - one of AA's last waiver claims, he's a control artist who could help Buffalo

Other Notables: RHP Wil Browning (impressive K rates), C Derrick Chung (#5 last year, missed three months in 2016), RHP Scott Copeland (couple spot starts in 2015), LHP Johnny_A (friend-of-the-site who was capriciously left off last year...and we need a lefty)

Prospects who will hit the age cutoff by next year

  • Top 40: IF Andy Burns, LHP Chad Girodo, OF Roemon Fields
  • Other: RHP John Stilson