This aspect of the list is always an interesting one as there's a multitude of guys from the Blue Jays system who could reasonably be featured in the "Just Missed" portion. Personally, I've always enjoyed looking at younger guys in the system who recently joined the Blue Jays organization and could break the Top 40 with a big upcoming season. This year, the pickings are a little more slim as anyone who so much as produced at a mediocre level broke the main list we revealed over the course of the last couple weeks.
That being said, below are three guys who have a very real chance at being names to watch in the future if they are able to make the most of their tools. Included are some more recent draftees and a relatively obscure international signee.
Evan Smith, LHP, age 20, DOB: August 17, 1995.
Smith was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, which is the draft where the Blue Jays went all-in on projectable arms in the first five rounds. The lefty stands 6'5" and is the classic prep pick who is a true boom or bust. He was ranked #35 in our list last year after a strong 2014 season in short-season ball, but really regressed in 2015. He spent all year in Vancouver making 13 appearances, pitching to a 4.71 ERA which is a bit disappointing for a guy who was considered a prime breakout candidate entering the season. Fellow BBB writer MjwW watched Smith in a televised start this year and came away a little unimpressed with what the southpaw had to offer.
His walks went up (to 8%) and his strikeouts went way down (to 12%), which leads to an all-around poor statline for the tall lefty. All hope is not lost though, as a high school southpaw pitcher is sort of like a cat. They get about nine lives before they're finally dead. Evan should making it to Lansing in 2016 and will get a chance to prove that 2015 was just some growing pains instead of the beginning of a downward trend. Keep an eye on him this year.
DJ McKnight, OF, age 22, DOB: January 29, 1994.
A 12th rounder in the most recent draft, McKnight comes to the Blue Jays via Tallahassee Community College. That also happens to be the alma mater of Michael Saunders, who hasn't been in the news much recently has he? McKnight went straight to Bluefield where he hit .253/.367/.354 in 189 PA's which isn't a bad start to a professional career. There isn't a whole lot known about the Florida native, but he looks to be a pretty good defender who has some pop as a lefty hitter. He probably makes it up to Vancouver this year where he will try to work his way on to some more people's radar. A sexy sleeper!
Here's an interview with DJ:
Freddy Rodriguez, OF, age 19, DOB: November 15, 1996.
Another raw outfielder, Rodriguez was signed at the same time as better-known countryman Yeltsin Gudino who cracked our main list this year.
#BlueJays sign a pair of Venezuelan prospects: SS Yeltsin Gudino for about $1.2 million and OF Freddy Rodriguez— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) July 2, 2013
The Venezuelan spent 2015 in Bluefield where he hit .232/.298/.323 in 50 games. Scouting reports have said that Rodriguez should have the speed to stay in centre, so that would certainly raise his stock a little bit despite playing mostly corner spots in the last two seasons. Rodriguez may repeat Bluefield as a 19-year-old this year where he'll try to establish himself as a guy with some power who can play a dependable CF. A lottery ticket for sure, but at least he's started off his Blue Jays career in okay fashion.