After a flurry of moves this afternoon that netted out to opening up two more spots on the 40-man in addition to the four they already had, the front office went about filling them back up Monday evening in advance of the 8PM (ET) deadline to protect prospects from next month's Rule 5 Draft.
In the end, there were no surprises as the Blue Jays added RHP Connor Greene, catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire, LHP Tom Pannone, and 1B Rowdy Tellez to the 40-man roster. Below is background on each of the players added, as well as a summary of those not added.
Greene, 22, was drafted in 7th round of the 2013 draft. He was the breakout player of the 2015 season, dominating low-A and high-A and making it up to New Hampshire for the last month. But he’s stagnated at the AA level in 2016-17, with his walk rate increasing and strikeout rate decreasing.
The raw stuff remains top notch, with a fastball that sits in the mid/upper 90s and will touch 100 and is a ground ball machine when he’s on. That’s complimented by a curveball and change-up that will both at least flash as plus pitches that could be putaway weapons.
Jansen, 22, was drafted in the 16th round of the 2013 draft. He put himself on the map with a strong 2014 in Bluefield, showing a good eye and drawing good review behind the plate. He missed significant time to injury in 2015-16 and was not productive at the plate when healthy, though maintaining strong plate discipline.
Last offseason he was diagnosed with astigmatism and got corrective lenses, and carried over a strong AFL stint last fall into a breakout 2017. Jumping from high-A Dunedin all the way to AAA Buffalo, he hit .323/.400/.484 to become one of the top catching prospects in baseball.
McGuire, 22, was drafted 14th overall in the 2013 draft by Pittsburgh, and acquired in the 2016 Liriano deal. He draws very strong reviews for his defensive prowess behind the plate, but his bat has lagged behind. As he’s moved from level to level, he’s posted below average batting lines at every level, with OPS’s in the .600 range.
That indicated a profile as a future backup, but after missing half the season in 2017 his bat showed significant life in August. That may well have been the difference between him being added to the 40-man and not. We’ll see if he can build on that in 2018: he was very well regarded as an amateur and catcher is a very tough position to learn defensively. It’s not uncommon for that to slow offensive development.
Pannone, 23, was originally drafted in the 9th round of the 2013 draft by Cleveland and acquired at the trade deadline in the Joe Smith trade. His career got off to a bit of a slow start, repeating rookie ball and then mediocre results at low-A in 2015 (though strong peripherals). He was much better repeating low-A in 2016, and dominated high-A and AA over the past two years.
Post-trade, he was more okay with New Hampshire. Pannone doesn’t have huge raw stuff, his fastball in the high 80s/low-90s with a curveball and change-up. If all goes well, he projects as a backend starter. But the new front office clearly likes him, and as a lefty with almost a full season in AA, he would be a candidate to get selected and potentially stick especially if this stuff ticked up as a reliever.
Tellez, 22, was drafted in the 30th round of the 2013 draft, signing for a $850,000 bonus more representative of a late second round pick. He hit his way up through the system, before stumbling last year in AAA. This would appear to be a vote of confidence in his ability to be an impact MLB hitter by the new front office, since thet were not responsible for drafting him.
The conspicuous name missing from the players added for some will be Max Pentecost. The 11th overall pick of the 2014 draft has had his career has unfortunately been derailed by multiple shoulder surgeries that largely kept him off the field for two years after signing. He’s performed decently over the last 18 months at the plate, albeit with some more time lost to injuries, but has spent minimal time behind the plate.
And that’s the crux of the matter. Coming out of the draft his bat was expected to be good, but it was not expected to be the kind of carrying tool necessary for a 1B/DH, or even really a corner outfielder. If Pentecost cannot stay behind the plate, it’s hard to project him as a future regular, and to justify a 40-man spot.
Could be get selected? It’s possible if a team believed be can stay behind the plate and healthy, but I’m skeptical he could actually stick considering his lack of upper level experience and the fact that he doesn’t even have 250 professional innings behind the plate. Moreover, it would be another year of limited playing time, which is probably the worst thing for his long term future.
Other notable names left unprotected include RHP Jordan Romano (10th round 2014), RHP Patrick Murphy (3rd round 2013), RHP Justin Shafer (8th round 2014) and to a lesser extent previously eligible LHP Angel Perdomo and RHP Francisco Rios.