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The 2017 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 26-30

It's time for our annual look at the Blue Jays top prospects. Today it's #30 through to #26.

Oh it's just the best time of year for prospect discussion, isn't it? Baseball fans have a serious case of the winter blues and the only thing to snap us out of this February funk is an obsession with poring over the top prospect lists being released across the web. Of course, none of them are as good as the one we're currently unveiling here at BBB so let's dive into the next group of Jays farmhands hoping to one day make it to the show.

With the #26-#30 guys, we're slowly starting to get into the more-than-lottery-ticket territory, with these players having an okay shot of at least getting a sniff of the majors in their baseball careers. Of course, very few will go on to have long storied careers, but for every twenty flameouts in this range there's one diamond in the rough just biding his time until he puts it all together and comes out of nowhere to become a star. Will it be one of these five prospects?

2016: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40

2017: 31-35 | 36-40

30. Christian Lopes, age 24 (DOB October 1, 1992), 2B, Last Year: Not on list

Former top Blue Jays prospect Christian Lopes comes into the list six spots ahead of his younger brother Tim, after having a bit of a career resurgence in 2016. A 7th round pick out of high school in 2011, Lopes had some helium on Jays prospect lists in the subsequent couple of seasons but he never really made it through the lower minors successfully. His career sort of stalled a bit in Dunedin around 2014/15 where he was unable to showcase a skill set that would get the Blue Jays brass very excited. Almost reluctantly, Lopes was promoted to New Hampshire early in the 2016 season to see if he could find some magic to get his career back on track and it seems to have done just the trick. Helped by a .348 BABIP, Lopes slashed .295/.357/.401 at the Double-A level and seems to have positioned himself nicely for a shot at being the next Andy Burns type of depth player for the Jays in 2017 and beyond.

Standing at 6'0", Lopes is by no means a slugger but he possesses a good glove and has all the makings of a utility infielder if he can be a replacement level hitter in the big leagues. Look for Lopes to make it to at least Buffalo in 2017, with a non-zero chance at a call-up sometime during the year if injuries warrant. With Burns making his way to Korea, the utility infield depth chart now has Lopes firmly in the area behind Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney so don't be surprised if we hear his name sometime soon. He's not a super sexy player, but Lopes is a dependable infielder who profiles as a very high floor guy going forward.

Below is a recent video of his time in New Hampshire, where he shows off his unique squatting batting stance:

29. Reggie Pruitt, age 19 (DOB May 7, 1997), CF, Last Year: #34

From an older prospect on the cusp of the majors to a young guy full of upside in Reggie Pruitt. The 24th rounder in 2015 was persuaded away from his hard commitment to Vanderbilt with a nice $500K bonus and showed enough in his debut season to make it to #34 on last year's list. At the time of writing the 2016 list 12 months ago, I said:
Watch for Pruitt to be a potential riser in next year's list if he so much as sniffs a .300 OBP.
Well guess what Pruitt went out and did in 2016? He slashed .237/.316/.266 in 46 games at Bluefield and moved up four spots on our annual list. The young man from Georgia still has no home run power, but his speed, raw tools, and fielding ability will keep him on these types of lists for as long as he's eligible, just like our old friend D.J. Davis. Pruitt stole 16 bases in 2016 and you can be sure his on-base percentage is bumped up heavily by his ability to outrun rookie-league throws on a nightly basis.

In 2017 Pruitt will start the long road through the lower minors with Vancouver and Lansing where hopefully he will continue to play great defence with a respectable OBP. Although his upside and tools will always carry him, it's his hit tool that will decide whether he ends up in the MLB or not. Look for Pruitt to move even further up the list next year if he repeats a similar slash line at a higher level this coming season.

We featured an interview
with the man himself just a little while back where he described how he sees himself as a ball player.

28. Danny Jansen, age 21 (DOB April 15, 1995), C, Last Year: #35

The man that appeared a spot lower than Pruitt on last year's Top 40 now finds himself a spot higher than the outfielder at #28. Jansen, a defence-first catcher, had a rough 2015 which caused him to slide down the prospect lists (he was #26 in our 2015 rankings) but he rebounded a bit in 2016 to shoot himself almost all the way back up. In 54 games at Dunedin he slashed .218/.313/.271 which still isn't very good for the level, but his solid defensive ability is continuing to carry him through the lower minors. What probably got him this high up on our rankings is a great 20 games for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League after the season where he had an OBP of .366. Clearly Jays fans are hoping this is what a healthy Jansen can bring to the table at the plate going forward.

Injuries are beginning to become a common trend for Jansen though, as he hasn't played a full season in quite some time. In 2016 he didn't fully get into the swing of things until mid-summer thanks to a broken bone in his hand so we're still working with a smaller sample size of his numbers than you would like.

Jansen was invited to the big league camp prior to last season and it would be surprising if that wasn't the case again in a few weeks time. It's likely he spends most of 2017 as the Dunedin starting catcher before nabbing a late-season promotion to New Hampshire to try and continue his progression through the minor leagues. Obviously the offensive expectations for the 2013 draft pick are quite low, but if he continues to hone his craft behind the plate, Jansen has a shot at eventually cracking the major leagues as a solid backup catcher.

Here's a video of him during his recent time in the AFL:

27. Ryan McBroom, age 24 (DOB April 9, 1992), 1B, Last Year: #21

The 2014 draft pick out of WVU took a very small step back in 2016 which pushed him down the list a bit, but the upside is still very much real. McBroom spent the majority of the season at Dunedin as a 24-year-old, before getting a call-up to Double-A New Hampshire. Over the two levels in 128 games, Ryan slashed .266/.318/.455 with 22 home runs which is power that he'll need to continue to show if he has any chance of breaking into the big leagues as a first baseman.

Like Jansen, McBroom played with Mesa in the AFL after the season but only got into seven games before going down with an injury. With Rowdy Tellez one level ahead of him in the Jays minor league system, McBroom will always be blocked from advancing too quickly but should spend a majority of the season at the Double-A level. He's getting a bit old in prospect terms, but if he's able to put together a solid 2017 season at the plate it will go a long way to showing he still has a chance to be a major league player.

The key to his success going forward will be keeping his strikeouts down against more advanced pitching as his K% has begun to creep up at each level of the minors that he reaches. For a guy that has all his value wrapped up in his hit tool, a mid-20's K-rate could be lethal to his chances of progressing any further in the high minors.

McBroom was nice enough to talk to BBB this offseason
, highlighting his love for the game and his hopes for the 2017 season and beyond.

26. Cavan Biggio, age 21 (DOB April 11, 1995), 2B, Last Year: At Notre Dame

That last name seems familiar eh? The son of Astros great Craig Biggio, Cavan was drafted in the fifth round of last summer's draft and signed at slot for $300K. The second baseman from Notre Dame is not as talented as his father but he does have some upside in his own right. Tremendous plate discipline is one of the things Biggio was praised for in college along with strong baseball IQ which isn't surprising considering his bloodlines.

After he was drafted, Cavan spent most of the season in Vancouver before cracking Lansing at the end of the year. Over the two levels he had an OBP of .371 buoyed by an 11.8% BB-rate along with 11 stolen bases. Although his profile doesn't jump off the page as a game changer, the second baseman is scrappy and does everything well which means he should move through the lower minors extremely quickly. Expect Biggio to be in Dunedin before long playing every day at second base.

Here's a video of Cavan Biggio from his NCAA days at Notre Dame which showcases his very unique batting stance: