Last week, we took a look at the organizational depth on the pitching side, so today we'll move onto the position side. I've broken players into four groups: catchers, corner infielders (1B, 3B), middle infielders (2B, SS, utility IF), and outfielders. The dividing lines aren't always clean, and I'll note where a player may have other fits.
For each positional grouping, the players are on a chart according to their potential major league upside and experience level (an approximate proxy for risk). This is more art than science, especially at the lower levels, but it looks something like this:
In comparison to last year's exercise, I've included a few more of the lower ceiling prospects for completeness. They are either close enough to the big leagues they could get a shot at some point, or have something interesting going for them.
Keep in mind that "reasonable upside" is not the same as likely or base case projection, and that most players at the lower levels won't come anywhere close to that. It's basically saying, if the player's development goes well, this is what he could become. And conversely, it's not an absolute ceiling either and there is potential for upside surprise. For example, in 2013-14 Kevin Pillar's ceiling would have probably been below average/second division regular.
For the purposes if this exercise, I'm including not only players with rookie eligibility, but also players 25 or under already contributing or established at the major league level to give a better sense of the total organizational depth. As a general rule of thumb, I've kept players included last year for comparative purposes even if they wouldn't otherwise be in the top tier of prospects.
It's a good thing the Jays are set with Russell Martin at catcher for the foreseeable future...err, well, he's under contract until 2019 anyway. This is no longer the organizational strength it was in the recent past. Max Pentecost was supposed to be the Catcher of the Future, but of course has missed most of the last two years since being selected 11th overall in 2014, seemingly struck by the franchise's curse on CotFs. He's back, and hitting well, but it remains to be seen if catcher remains in his future. If not, catcher becomes a glaring organizational weakness.
Danny Jansen is only other who projects to have a ceiling as an average regular. He gets credit for his defensive chops and work ethic, and has moved quickly through the system, but has missed significant time with injuries and has yet to actually hit much despite good plate discipline metrics and power potential.
This is the most glaring organizational weakness. The Jays have allocated few draft resources here since 2010, and it really shows. Instead, most of the additions have been internationally, which has a much longer lead time and has bore fruit that doesn't show up here (for example, Franklin Barreto).
The only premium prospect here is Richard Urena, who at only 20 is holding his own in high-A. He's considered a strong defender at shortstop and has shown surprising power, which gives him a considerable ceiling despite limited on base skills.
After that is a mixed bag. There's a lot of young international signees who received considerable bonuses but either have not made an impact (Yeltsin Gudino) or who are only starting to make it stateside (Kevin Vicuna, etc). There's some utility types. There's a few college draft picks who got solid bonuses the last couple years who are interesting, but yet to show significant performance. But overall, it could definitely use some bolstering, especially since the Jays are restricted with what they do internationally this year.
This grouping looks fairly bleak at first glance, but not only are the Jays very well off here at the major league level, but it's also a grouping where players move to from other groups, often at the upper levels or once in majors or as they age. Shortstops or even catchers who aren't great defensively move to 3B, and players who can hit but not field at end up first base. So not only would one expect fewer top prospects here, and more significantly, a lot fewer of the "lottery ticket" high ceiling teenaged bonus babies.
Indeed, the only truly elite level prospect here is potentially Vladimir Guerrero, whom the Blue Jays are going to try at 3rd base. The scouting consensus was he'd end up in the outfield (and maybe not even that eventually), and I'm skeptical so I've listed him there too.
The other notable is Rowdy Tellez, fans of whom will probably disagree with the "average regular" ceiling. But 1B/DHs really have to hit to be average regulars, so that would still be a very good outcome. There's some potential depth options like Jesus Montero, and Andy Burns should be a solid utility player and I still think maybe a little more. Mitch Nay has yet to really hit and though many see potential in his bat, with each passing year the likelihood decreases.
This is without a doubt the strength of the system on the positional side, especially considering the major league level depth. I'm speaking mostly of Kevin Pillar, who should be an anchor for the next 5 years. Dalton Pompey is on the cusp, has shown glimpses of his tantalizing potential, but needs to stay healthy and consistent. At 23, he's at the age when you expect him to emerge as a regular. Anthony Alford is the other premium prospect here. After an explosive 2015, he's dealt with injuries and hasn't produced, and hopefully can earn his way to AA by the end of the year.
Beyond that premium core, there's plenty of other potential. D.J. Davis has not followed up on his 2015 rebound, but the tools are there to be very valuable if things ever click. Dwight Smith Jr's stock is down over the past year, but he's shown signs of hitting. Further away, there's potentially Young Vlad, as well as 2015 draftee Reggie Pruitt who got a $500,000 bonus to sign. Like Davis, he's a toolshed whose bat needs a lot of work, a classic lottery pick. In the same bucket are some lower profile international signees like Rodrigo Orozco and Norberto Obeso.
In terms of depth and role players, there's options such as Darrell Ceciliani and Roemon Fields, as well as a potential reclamation project in Domonic Brown. Finally, Jonathan (JD) Davis is an under the radar guy who is interesting. So all in all, the Jays are very well off in the outfield, though that would almost certainly not stop them from adding outfielders in the draft if that's where they saw value.
Having outlined the organization depth going into the draft, next time we'll move into how the Jays have drafted and tendencies in the recent past.