With as good as the Jays are this year, it can be easy to forget about the minor league teams. But, if you're anything like me then keeping an eye on the Jays' future players can be almost as fun as the big leagues. I love to watch guys come into the organization and develop through. I like to see their progress and see guys who will make up the future of the organization. I'm hoping to provide a guide for who to watch this season in the Jays minor league system. First on the list is the Buffalo Bisons.
This is the team of "what could have been." This team is full of guys who at various points were thought to be rising stars, but haven't quite panned out that way. While this level might not feature the flashy prospects that others might, this is the level where most of the Jays' depth lies and many of these guys will see time in Toronto at some point this season.
SP Drew Hutchison (25)- Hutch was in the battle for the fifth starter job early on in camp, but the dominance of Aaron Sanchez eventually forced Hutchison back to Buffalo. While this is definitely a step back for last year opening day starter, the Jays have faith that Hutchison will be a factor for them this year and will hopefully find his way back to the teams rotation in the future.
RP Chad Girodo (25)- Girodo comes in at #24 on the Bluebird Banter top prospect list. He's not the flashiest prospect out there, but left handed relievers are always valuable. Girodo pitched at 3 different levels last year and accumulated an ERA of 1.34 in just over 60 innings. Girodo doesn't throw with great velocity (87-89 with fastball), but his ability to get outs as a lefty could get him to Toronto as soon as this season.
C AJ Jimenez (25)- It was just announced that Jimenez has passed through waivers. Jimenez was once considered one of the Jays top prospects. According to MLB.com, Jimenez was ranked #13 in '12; #9 in '13; and #14 in '14. Injuries have been the biggest issue for Jimenez up until this point. If Jimenez can stay healthy then there's no reason to think that he couldn't become a quality backstop once again. He becomes especially noteworthy given the organization's poor depth at the catching position.
IF Andy Burns (25)- Burns comes in at #17 in BBB's top prospect rankings. Burns doesn't have the same upside as some other prospects, but he is an incredibly versatile player who can play anywhere in the infield. Burns had a strong spring, but there wasn't any room for him on the roster. Burns' ability to play multiple positions could get him to Toronto sometime this year.
OF Dalton Pompey (23)- Pompey has lost his rookie status so he's no longer eligible to make prospect lists. But, if he could he would still be the Jays #1. At 23 years old he's still very young. Pompey was in competition with Michael Saunders to be the left fielder early in spring training. Pompey will certainly find himself playing for the Jays at some time this year, and is still viewed as one of the Jays' core of young players to build around.
OF Domonic Brown (28), OF Junior Lake (25), & 1B Jesus Montero (26)- These guys are together because they all make the list for the exact same reason. They were at one point considered future stars of the MLB. Brown was the #14 overall prospect in 2010, Montero peaked at #6 overall in 2011, and Junior Lake made it to #9 on the Cubs prospect list in 2012. While they have all bee mighty underachievers up until this point, the Jays have been known to take talented players and turn them around (ie. Bautista and Encarnacion). Even Justin Smoak (who was in the top 15 prospects in 2010 with Montero and Brown) saw an improvement in his play with a change of scenery. While it's unlikely that any of them turns into the star we once thought they could be, it's still worth keeping an eye of these guys who were once considered the future of Major League Baseball.