Continuing with the Bluebird Banter list of the Top 40 Blue Jays prospects we have 25-21. Below are links for the rest of the countdown.
25. Dwight Smith Jr., age 24 (DOB: October 26, 1992), OF, Last Year: 11
In 2016 we ranked Dwight Smith Jr 11th on our Top 40 Prospects. He had come off a slightly disappointing season where he'd hit .265/.335/.376, which was respectable, but his power numbers had fallen off (just 35 extra base hits). He was also seen as defensively limited, best suited for a corner OF position, but there were concerns his lack of power would further diminish his potential.
Fast-Forward to this Top-40 list and he has dropped 14 spots to 25 on our list, though it wasn't for lack of power this time. Smith added eight HR's to his season total hitting 15 in 2016, while adding a total of nine extra base hits to give him 44 for the season (-2 doubles, +3 triples, +8 HR).
The issue for Smith is, once again, that his season could best be described as disappointing.
While his power numbers improved, the rest of his hitting profile remained stagnant or regressed. His slash line stayed remarkably similar (.265/.332/.443) and saw his strikeout rate skyrocket from 12.5% in 2015 to 17.3% in 2016. He hits fine, he walks some, but he has yet to take any tangible step forward as a hitter.
Furthermore, he remains limited defensively with only okay speed for an outfielder, though he did steal 12 bases in 2016 (up from 4 the year prior, but still down from his 2014 totals of 15 in A+ ball).
At 24 years old he is closing in on being too old to being a true prospect so his lack of progression at the Double-A level is concerning for his future. Having never played above Double-A at 24 usually doesn't bode well for a prospects future.
24. Yennsy Diaz, age 20 (DOB: November 15, 1996), RHP, Last Year: Not Ranked
Signed out of the Dominican Republic during the 2014 signing period. Two seasons into his Pro career he remains a very raw prospect with tantalizing upside. His 18-year old season was spent in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League where, combined, he pitched 15 Games (56.1 innings), struck out over a batter per inning (58 total), and had a 2.88 ERA.
2016, however, was not so kind to the young righty. He spent the year in the Appalachian League and finished with a 5.79 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) while his K/9 went from 9.3 to 7.7 in 2016. His BB/9 also rose to 4.3 from the 3.7 he posted the year prior.
Diaz has an electrifying fastball which sits around 91-94mph while topping out around 97, and it's that fastball which has him so high on this list. His secondary pitches, a changeup and curveball, are far from developed and it will be the development of those pitches that determines whether he takes a step forward this year or not.
23. Jonathan Davis, age 24 (DOB: May 12, 1992), OF, Last Year: N/R
The 2013 15th Round selection out of the University of Central Arkansas is a 5'8 outfielder who seems to project as a corner OF and has played most of his games in Left Field. He shows good baserunning instincts and some upside as a base stealer (33 stolen bases last season) while also displaying an ability to take walks (13.5% last season) which helped him to a .376 OBP.
That said, he, much like Dwight Smith, appears limited as a prospect and is close to being off the list entirely. At 24-years old (25 by the time the season starts) he has never played above A-ball. He lacks power in his bat, though he has trended up recently (14 HR in 2016. but just three the year before and one the year prior to that), and he strikes out at far too high a rate (21.5% last season, 19.1% in A ball the year before). And he doesn't hit particularly well, either. Boasting a .252 average last season, up from .230 the year before, but still very low.
He's #23 this season, but without a major step forward in his game this could be the last we see of Jonathan Davis in the Top-40.
22. Zach Jackson, age 22 (DOB: December 25, 1994), RHP, Last Year: N/R
Zach Jackson, drafted in the 3rd Round out of the University of Arkansas in the 2016 draft. He saw 18.2 innings of work last season in low-A and Rookie Ball. There isn't a whole lot to deduce from such few innings, especially in his first Pro year, joining the organization mid-year after the draft. What I can say is his 11.72 K/9 in those 18.2 innings looks impressive.
Read Matt W's write up of the righty during the draft;
"With their first pick on the second day of the draft, the Blue Jays selected Zach Jackson, a right handed pitcher from the University of Arkansas with the 102nd overall pick. He's likely to be a reliever, but is a potential high leverage stud due to his hammer curve, which Perfect Game rated the best college curveball in the draft (quite correctly in my view in my view, for what little it's worth)"
He does come with some issues, however. For one, he walked 6.79 batters per nine in his final year in University and the 5.8 BB/9 in his short season in A- and Rookie ball suggests that might not be a fluke. Part of this could be having to do with his mechanics. He has a long, wild, max-effort delivery which you can see in the video in the linked article.
His upside is enough that it's not unrealistic to suggest we could potentially see him at the big league level as early as this coming year. At 22 he's older and more physically mature than most 1st-2nd year pro's. Should he have a good season in the minors and the team run into some issues in the pen down the stretch, he could be the next big arm the Jays introduce to the bullpen as reinforcement. And I don't think it would be unrealistic to suggest he could be fighting for a full-time job as soon as next season (2018) in the Blue Jays bullpen.
But, he'll need to work on those command issues before any of that can happen.
21. Patrick Murphy, age 21 (DOB: June 10, 1995), RHP, Last Year: N/R
The question for Patrick Murphy entering his fourth Pro season after being drafted in the 3rd Round in 2013 is whether or not he can stay healthy. That will be his biggest test this season.
In 2013 when the Jays drafted him he had already had Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school. He then found he did not get full feeling back in his pitching hand following the surgery which led doctors to remove a nerve from his elbow. He's also had a rib removed.
In his three years in the organization he has pitched just 94.2 innings, most in varying levels of A-ball. This will be the first off-season he has been able to have a regular off-season involving upper body workouts and regular throwing. This will be a big year for the 6'4 Hamilton High School (Chandler, AZ) product. He profiles as a starter with a fastball that can touch 97mph (though he'll likely sit in the 94mph range) with reported sinking motion. His curveball has potential as does his changeup.
He'll need to make up for essentially three lost years of development with large strides and improvements in his game. Still, he has the tools, the size, and the potential to see himself much higher on this list next season. If he can have a full, injury free year, anyway.