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The 2017 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 36-40

It's time for our annual look at the Blue Jays top prospects.

Top 40 Prospects

We’ve hit the time of year where we unveil our top prospect list.

It is one of the things I enjoy the most, going through our farm system, trying to decide who should make the list and who shouldn’t. Back when I started on the site, we had an 11-man prospect list. The next year we bumped it up to 20 (as I remember, it was because I liked a player, but couldn’t make the case he deserved to be in the top 10, he never made it to the majors).

Alex Anthopoulos became GM and started building up the farm system, and we jumped to top 30 prospects, then top 40. Then Alex, in a series of trades, tried his best to empty the farm system. It’s been pretty tough finding 40 Blue Jays prospects the last two or three years.

Mark and Ross are doing their best to rebuild it, but it will take time to get it back up to where we can pick out 40 real prospects.

Rules we follow:

  • To be considered for the list, players can’t be over 25 (any player born before 6/30/1991). We decided that after players older than 25 are no longer prospects, they are more or less finished products. That doesn’t mean players can’t make the majors after 25, but that they are past where we project them to grow as a player. So no Chad Girodo on our list.
  • And, we us the standard that most do, that players that no longer have rookie status are not eligible for the list. So no Dalton Pompey, though I still think of him as a prospect.

And, since the Jays released Clinton Hollon, he was a late scratch. I’m curious the reasoning behind just letting him go. He does have a fair bit of ability, I know he really hasn’t shown it for us, but there is talent there. I guess they know him better than we do. Hollon was a Anthopoulos draft, and it is easier to release a player that you didn’t draft. I’m sure some team will give him another chance.

Anyway, we have the players we ranked 36-40 today. Guys at the bottom of the list are not really prospects, more like potential prospects. Players that, if they have a good 2017, could become a prospect.

40. Joel Espinal, age 20 (DOB: August 15, 1996), RHP, Last Year: Not on list.

Joel was a international free agent signing, out of the Dominican Republic, back in spring of 2015 (I still have a hard time believing that we sign 16 year old kids). Joel throws a low 90’s fastball, but he’s young enough to add to that.

After having a nice 2015 2.18 ERA in 53.2 innings, with 39 hits, 19 walks and 46 strikeouts, in the Dominican Summer League, Joel moved up to the Gulf Coast League to start 2016. He dominated, in 6 starts, putting up a 0.62 ERA, with 14 hits, 4 walks and 30 strikeouts in 29 innings. Pretty great for a 19-year old. Actually he started and finished the season in the GCL. In the GCL he had a 7.5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Getting moved up to Bluefield didn’t go so well, he had a 8.62 ERA in 31.1 innings. 44 hits, 7 home runs, 18 walks and 17 strikeouts, in 7 starts. After about a month he was moved back down. I’m willing to give Joel a mulligan for the month in the Appalachian League. We’ll see how things go next year.

39. D.J. Davis, age 22 (DOB: July 25, 1994), OF, Last Year: 12

Davis dropped 27 spots in a year. Why? Well, hitting .197/.295/.263 in 83 games at Dunedin will cause that sort of drop. He had just 1 home run. The good news is that he stole 22 bases, with just 6 times caught. He walked 36 times and struck out 99 times.

Things are not going any better for him in the Australian Baseball League. In 32 games, with the Canberra Cavalry, he’s hitting just .183/.263/.279, with 3 steals, caught 5 times.

That’s not great work from our 2012 first round pick.

In 2015, it looked like he was putting it all together. He hit .282/.340/.391 in Lansing. That year he struck out 21.5% of the time, which quite an improvement over what he had done to that point. 2016 he was back up to a 31.1% strikeout rate. If there is good news, it is that his walk rate jumped from just over 7%, to 11.3%.

He’s still young and he has a ton of speed (might be the fastest guy in our system), and enough strength that we keep imagining there should be some power. And he has a lot of range in the outfield, even if he’s still learning how to the take best route out there. He played all three outfield positions last year. On the negitive side, he doesn’t have a good arm from the outfield.

He’s likely going to get chances to figure it out, but it would be nice to see some progression. If not, I doubt he’ll make our list next year.

38. Lane Thomas, age 21 (DOB: August 23, 1995), CF, Last Year: 25

Speaking of guys who had bad seasons....Lane hit just .216/.330/.348 with 7 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 81 games at Lansing.

Lane was our 5th round pick in the 2014 draft. He got a $750,000 signing bonus. He was one of those ‘good athletes, maybe we can make him a baseball player’ type picks. He has lots of speed and is strong. They expect him to show more power as he matures.

He’s learning to take walks, walked 13.6% of the time last year. They say he has good range in the outfield and a better than average arm.

Like DJ, a poor season would drop Lane off our list, but a good season would move him way up. He seems like the prototypical fourth outfielder, and he’s played second and third base in the minors. If, you know, he could hit some, he could be a handy guy to have on the bench.

37. Wilfri Aleton, age 21 (DOB Novermber 18, 1995), LHP, Last Year: Not on list

Signed out of the Dominican Republic, all Wilfri Aleton (his middle name is Bautista) has done is pitch well, over the 4 seasons he’s been in the Blue Jays organization.

In 2016, pitching in the GCL, he had a 2.92 ERA in 10 games (8 starts). In 49.1 innings, he allowed 41 hits, 2 home runs, 11 walks with 45 strikeouts. A 4.1 to 1 strikeout to walk rate is pretty good.

He’s got a long ways to go, but lefties, who can pitch, are worth their weight in gold.

There is a little bit of film of him, back in 2012 (he’s pretty skinny in the video, but then he was only 16, he has had time to fill out):

36. Tim Lopes, age 22 (DOB: June 24, 1994), 2B, Last Year: Playing in Mariners system

Tim Lopes came to the Jays as the PTBNL in the trade of Pat Venditte to the Mariners.

Lopes played for the Jackson Generals in the Southern League, the Mariners’ Double A team, in 2016. He hit .284/.358/.355 in 131 games, with 1 home runs, 54 walks, 88 strikeouts and 26 stolen bases (6 times caught), playing mostly second base. In 6 minor league seasons, he has a .274/.338/.365 line with 96 steals in 517 games.

He seems to be a smart player, he seems to be getting the most out of his talent. I always cheer for those guys that work hard to get the most they can out of the talent given to them.

Tim is the younger brother of Christian Lopes, who will appear on this list somewhere higher. He’s pretty much what his numbers show, no power, good-not great speed, but a smart ballplayer. He has played SS and 2B in the minors, I think, as a Major Leaguer, his best bet would be a utility type infielder. But, most teams seem to like to have a guy with great glove in that spot, and it appears that he’s fairly average 2B.