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Beyond the Top 40: 2017 Top 5 Older Prospects

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With the Top 40 Prospect list now complete, it's time to look a little the top 40. As Tom mentioned at the outset, eligibility for the BBB list is based not just on retaining rookie eligibility, but also on an age screen. 2017 must be no more than a player's age-25 season, that is, player must be 25 or under on June 30, 2017 (meaning born after June 30, 1991).

That's not to say that players who were eliminated by the age cutoff don't have any value. Indeed, Joe Biagini was in that position last year, and emerged as a valuable reliever (despite not placing on this list in 2016). Rather, it reflects the fact with younger players, the overriding element is projecting future abilities, whereas by the time a player is 25 or 26 that's not so much the case. Hence, a separate of prospects who missed the age cutoff but who could factor in as major league contributors.

1. Danny Barnes, RHP, age 27 (DOB: 10/21/1989)

2017 was finally the breakthrough year for Barnes, after injuries sidetracked his path to the big leagues a few years ago. Despite initially repeating New Hampshire to start, Barnes carved up AA hitters and then AAA hitters for a couple months each to earn the call to the big leagues in August. There he posted a solid 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings, with 14 strikeouts against 5 walks.

Barnes features a low-90s fastball with a change-up that can be a legitimate secondary weapon to get swings and misses and keep batters off his fastball, as well as a serviceable slider. While his initial MLB stint was encouraging, he give up a fair bit of hard contact, so he does have some work to do to refine his mix and make adjustments. All told, I like his chance to be a solid middle reliever with potential for more depending how good his command ends up.

2. Carlos Ramirez, RHP, age 25 (DOB: 4/24/1991)

Ramirez was signed in 2009 as an infielder, topping out at Lansing in 2013-14 as he simply didn't hit. Instead, he moved to the mound to see if his strong arm could be parlayed into something, and now is showing real potential. Given that he hasn't been a full-time pitcher for three years, there's more room to project further improvement than most players his age.

Ramirez has two significant pitches, a fastball that he can get into the mid-90s, but last year was more frequently 92-93 MPH, as well as a slider which flashes potential as a swing and miss secondary. His command/control is a work in progress, as he'll sometimes just lose the zone, and he missed a couple months in 2016. Nonetheless, the results were pretty good, with a 2.20 ERA in 41 innings, with a strikeout an inning and a reduced walk rate. He should move up to New Hampshire's pen in 2017, and this will be a pivotal year for Ramirez.

3. Matt Dermody and Chad Girodo, LHPs, both age 26

I'm cheating a little here by packaging these two as one entry, but they both debuted in 2016 and profile as lefty at the backend of a bullpen. Outrighted yesterday, the sidearming Girodo has been hell on lefties all the way up the ladder, and profiles as a pure LOOGY. Despite a bumpy MLB debut, he was actually good against the 20 lefties he faced, holding them to a .211/.250/.263 line. Just ignore the three HR and .773 SLG to righties. I still think he could be a useful MLB reliever.

Dermody first drew notice with a stellar 2013 in Vancouver in his draft year, with 50 strikeouts against 4 walks in 40.2 innings, perhaps a guy who could move quickly as a reliever. But he muddled through 2014-15 as a jack of all trades spot starter/long reliever, and after being re-assigned to Dunedin to start 2016 it didn't appear the Jays had big plan for him. But he blossomed in a one inning relief role, dominating high-A and AA with decent results in Buffalo that earned him a September call-up. Where exactly things go from here is less clear, and a crunch of relievers could mean he starts 2017 in New Hampshire's pen.

4. Blake McFarland, RHP, age 29 (DOB: 2/2/1988)

Last year's #1, McFarland ending up missing the entire year after shoulder surgery. That was a particularly tough break considering he had been added to the 40-man and was on the cusp of the big leagues. If he can get to where he was before, he remains an interesting bullpen possibility.

For more, see last year's entry.

5. Jason Leblebijian, IF, age 25 (DOB: 5/13/1991)

Leblebijian has had an interesting career arc since being a 25th round draft pick in 2012, as he spent time in low-A in each of his first four pro seasons, but was unable to escape the gravity of Lansing until the second half of 2015 whereupon he struggled in Dunedin. However, he put himself on the map in 2016, with a strong first half in Dunedin (.295/.362/.420) and equally strong second half in AA (.293/.359/.448).

The caveat is that this was accomplished very high BABIPs (~.390 for the whole season), with elevated strikeouts rates of around 26%. Still, the bar for utility infielders is not that high, and like #5 last year Jon Berti could figure in

Sleeper: RHP Chris Rowley. Having completed his military service, Rowley went directly to high-A despite only pitching in the GCL after signing in 2013. Impressively, he more than held his own with a 3.49 ERA working both in the rotation and out of the pen. Granted, he doesn't throw hard, the peripherals don't stand out, and the Jays didn't bother protecting him in the AAA Rule 5...but let's call it a gut feel and see how he does in AA.

Others of Note: RHP Wil Browning, RHP Chris Smith, RHP Taylor Cole, RHP John Stilson, IF Jon Berti, OF Roemon Fields

Players who will hit the age cutoff next year:

  • Top 40: RHP Glenn Sparkman, 1B Ryan McBroom, OF J.D. (Jonathan) Davis
  • Other: LHP Tim Mayza, LHP Alonzo Gonzalez, RHP Dusty Isaacs, IF Shane Opitz