The third installment of BBB's Top 40 features five newcomers to the rankings, despite only one being a newcomer to the system.
30. Travis Bergen, LHP, age 22 (DOB: 10/8/93), last year: college junior
Bergen was the Jays' 7th round pick in 2015 out of Kennesaw State University (the same school as Chad Jenkins and Max Pentecost) where he was an anchor in their weekend rotation in his sophomore and junior years. He signed for a modestly underslot $170,000 and reported to Vancouver, making a dominant professional debut on June 23. Coming in for the 6th, he struck out 8 of the 10 batters he faced, inducing 11 whiffs on just 49 pitches.
Unfortunately, his 2015 didn't last much longer, as after two more shutout innings with another three strikeouts in his second appearance, he left the game midcount to the third batter of his third inning with an elbow injury. Though not a major injury, he was shutdown for the rest of the year.
Bergen's fastball sits in the higher 80s to low low 90s, which is what the stadium guns had him in his brief professional run, though he can touch a little higher. He lacks a true secondary weapon, with an arsenal that includes a slider, cutter and change-up. As a starter, he relied on his ability to pound the zone, but at profiles as more of a reliever at higher levels. For more background on Bergen, see the profile I wrote on draft day. John Manuel of Baseball America made this comparison:
Bergen is a low-slot lefty, sort of like Girodo though if I recall correctly he’s not quite as low slot. He’s firmer than Girodo and has a better breaking ball. He has a chance to move quickly if he takes to a relief role well.
In 2016, Bergen should be assigned to Lansing and will hopefully stay healthy. It will be interesting to see if the Jays try him as a starter, or if they move him immediately into a short relief where his velocity could tick up and he could pare back his arsenal to focus on finding a plus secondary offering.
29. Shane Dawson, LHP, age 22 (DOB: 9/9/93), last year: unranked
Dawson was chosen in the 17th round of the 2012 draft, and tore up rookie and short season ball from Florida to Vancouver, piling up 96 strikeouts against just 20 walks in 76 innings while allowing just 67 hits and a 2.85 ERA. However, he was shutdown in mid-August 2013 after experiencing significant elbow pain.
As John Lott reported this summer, at instructional ball that fall, a physical revealed that his infraspinatus muscle was atrophied, which caused added stress on his other rotator cuff muscles and resulted in the elbow pain. It took the better part of the year to establish a routine work around this issues, which limited him to 56 innings upon being promoted to Lansing in 2014. With his fastball velocity down and using a lot of slow breaking balls, his struggled to hit spots, which showed up in his peripherals: 24 walks against 46 strikeouts.
2015 was a completely different story, as Dawson pitched the entire year and dominated the Midwest League with a 3.01 ERA in 101.2 innings, striking out 98 while walking just 24. That earned him an August promotion to Dunedin, where he struck out 22 against 8 walks while posting a 3.12 ERA in 26 more innings. He finished the year back in Lansing making two playoff starts, striking out 14 against two walks though he allowed 15 hits and nine earned runs in 11 innings. As it that wasn't enough, he also played on Gold Medallist Team Canada in the Pan Am games in July, pitching 6.1 innings.
The 6'1" Dawson relies on command, with a fastball that sits on the high 80s and touching the low 90s. His best secondary is his change-up, and he also has a slow curveball that is usually in the low 70s but that he will speed up or slow down. That's a three-pitch starter's repertoire, but with no plus pitches, command will have to carry him to success at higher levels. In 2016, Dawson likely starts back in Dunedin but and continued health and performance could bring a midseason promotion to New Hampshire.
28. Roemon Fields, OF, age 25 (DOB: 11/28/90), last year: unranked
Last year, I included Fields on my "just missed" list, partly because of an interesting tool (his speed), and partly as a way to highlight a very interesting story which took Fields from a tiny NAIA school in Kansas City, to working for the US Postal Service, and then to 48 stolen bases in short season pro ball. I noted that Fields needed to move quickly, and in 2015 he did just that, skipping Lansing entirely to Dunedin before a midseason promotion to AA and even a few games in Buffalo.
In 2015, Fields hit a combined .262/.316/.321 in 489 plate appearances, with 46 stolen bases in 60 attempts (77% success). It's not a great line, but just holding his own in AA/AAA makes it a big success given his inexperience. His 90 strikeouts (16-17%) is a touch high and a bit of a yellow flag considering his lack of power, though it was actually a little lower in AA/AAA than in Dunedin, so it's possible Fields is making (has made) positive adjustments.
Barring significant improvement (which is normally unlikely for a 25 year old, but Fields' baseball career has been entirely unconventional), Fields projects as a guy who can add value off the bench, either as a pinch running weapon or defensive depth. With a good 2016, he could be a September call-up when rosters expand, especially if the Jays are in the hunt and need specialist players late in games.
27. Francisco Rios, RHP, age 20 (DOB: 5/6/95), last year: unranked
Rios was signed in July 2012 as a 17 year old international free agent from Mexico. Over the last three years, he's worked his way from the Dominican Summer League in 2013, stateside for 2014 all the way up to Bluefield, before spending 2015 in Vancouver's starting rotation where he was one of the few bright spots in pretty dismal 2015.
In 2015, Rios posted a medicore 4.27 ERA, but his peripherals were better as he posted a 3.28 FIP on the back of 59 strikeouts and 25 strikeouts while allowing just one home runs. He worked with a fastball in the low 90s, touching 93-94 with a slurvy breaking ball as his primary secondary pitch.
In 2016, he should move up to Lansing and work in the starting rotation, and we'll get a better idea of what he can do in full season ball. Rios is very much a lottery ticket, but if you're looking for a guy to come out of nowhere, he's a candidate. His ranking this highly is frankly primarily a reflection of the vastly reduced depth in the system.
26. Deiferson Barreto, 2B, age 20 (DOB: 5/19/95), last year: unranked
Barreto was signed in September 2011 as a 16 year old international free agent from Venezuela (despite sharing a last name, country and both being born in cities close to each other, there's apparently no relation to Franklin). He spent his first two professional seasons in the Dominican, before coming stateside for 2014 and being promoted to Bluefield for 2015.
Barreto has played all around the infield, but mostly at second and third in 2015. Offensively, he's posted a very consistently batting average at all stops, and posted a .302/.347/.402 in Bluefield. He's a contact hitter, neither walking nor striking out much with little power. It's not the most exciting profile, but it can work for a versatile infielder, and he's only going to be 20 for 2016, so there's room for growth.
Again, this ranking says a lot about a thinned out farm system. Barreto was an under the radar signing and was not considered significant signing, but he's performed well on an age relative to league basis. He could be assigned to either Vancouver or Lansing in 2016, though the former would be an indication that the Jays don't see much there whereas an assignment to full season ball would be a good sign.