Here we are on a brisk Thursday, delving deeper into our Top 10 Blue Jays prospects of 2017. If you've followed the unveiling of this list for a few years now, then you know that by this point Spring Training is just around the corner. Soon prospect discussion and stat-line scouting will give way to real baseball action and much more meaningful conversations about which players are in the 'best shape of their lives' down in Dunedin.
We're not quite there yet though, so today we'll look at #7-#9 on our Top 40 list. This trio consists of a top prospect that's been around for awhile, along with the two highest ranked 2016 draftees that will appear in our rankings. Without further ado, let's dive right in!
9. Bo Bichette, age 18 (DOB March 5, 1998), IF, Last Year: In High School
The Blue Jays selected young Bo in the 2nd round of the most recent draft last June, signing him above slot for $1.1 million. At some points leading up to the draft, Bichette was mock drafted to go in the first round but ended up sliding a bit to the Jays at pick #66 on the basis of some backroom deals being hammered out between him and the team.
As he approached the draft in his final year of high school, the scouting reports on Bo praised his bat speed and overall ability at the plate despite his imperfect swing. There was also questions about where he would end up playing defensively as it appeared to many evaluators that he wouldn't cut it at shortstop or third base, making second the likely destination.
The story hasn't changed all that much in the months since Bichette became property of the Blue Jays. The righty hitter went to the GCL after being drafted and got in 91 plate appearances before season's end, slashing .427/.451/.732 with four home runs. Those numbers are quite remarkable but obviously they must be taken with a grain of salt considering the competition level and small sample size.
Regardless, Bichette has made his name known in Blue Jays prospect circles and will look to build on the hype even more in 2017. As an 18-year-old, Bichette has miles to go before he even makes a full-season team, but a repeat performance this year will have him flying even further up this list next winter. It's tough to say where he will be assigned, but Bluefield wouldn't be a bad guess on where he ends up in 2017 for the majority of his ABs.
Take a look at Bo (and his unique swing) from his time in the GCL last summer:
8. TJ Zeuch, age 21 (DOB August 1, 1995), RHP, Last Year: At University of Pittsburgh
The Blue Jays first pick in the 2016 draft was Zeuch, who was a Junior at the University of Pittsburgh at the time. As was noted by a lot of Jays fans at the time of the draft, this pick was a classic selection for the team who have drafted a college pitcher in the first round more often than not in recent times. Some have worked out like Marcus Stroman, while some have backfired like Deck McGuire. Before Zeuch, Jon Harris and Jeff Hoffman were the two most recent college arms picked by the Blue Jays early on in the draft.
Zeuch is a fairly high-ceiling guy who stands 6'7" and throws hard, with a fastball clocked in the high-90's last year. He started almost all of the appearances in his college career and also had a nice time of it in the Cape Cod league in the summer prior to his draft year. The righty projects as a mid-rotation guy with a classic four pitch mix who could be a solid starter in the major leagues if he can consistently miss bats. His easy delivery and upbringing in cold Ohio means he should avoid a lot of the injury issues that come along with draftees who either were overworked in school or who have strained mechanics.
After he was drafted, the tall righty threw three innings in the GCL before being sent north to Vancouver. There he threw 23 innings over six starts putting up solid, if unspectacular numbers. Next he was sent to Lansing where he made two more starts putting up impressive peripherals despite a 9.00 ERA. In 8 IP in A-ball, he struck out 14 batters while only walking two which probably means more than the runs he did allow (even if it doesn't, I'm going to frame it that way).
He's always been a guy who is around the strike zone with his pitches and his BB% of around 5% in 2016 shows that to still be the case. Look for Zeuch to start out in Lansing and end up being promoted if he's able to continue his consistent performances in the rotation. There's no ace here, but a strike-thrower who can miss some bats wouldn't be a bad result out of the Jays 21st overall pick.
7. Conner Greene, age 21 (DOB April 4, 1995), RHP, Last Year: #2
What a difference a few months makes. A year ago now, Conner Greene friend of Charlie Sheen took advantage of a weak Blue Jays prospect crop to launch himself up to the #2 spot on our 2016 list thanks to two promotions in the 2015 season bringing himself from A-ball up to Double-A as a 20-year-old. Now he's dropped down the list a bit to #7 because of a slightly underwhelming year in Dunedin and New Hampshire this past season plus an influx of new sexy talent into the organization.
After making five Double-A starts in 2015, we assumed Greene would spend most of the following year at the same level trying to build off of his success. Instead the righty was back in Dunedin for the first three months of the season trying to find a way to miss more bats. In 15 FSL starts he tossed up a 2.90 ERA, but the peripherals give a bit more reason to be bearish. A 5.91 K/9 along with a 4.40 BB/9 are not the numbers you love to see of a pitcher in A-ball.
In July he made the step back up to Double-A and started 12 games turning in an ERA of 4.19 with a stronger, albeit still pedestrian, K/BB rate. He also made four starts in the Arizona Fall League where he allowed six earned runs in 10 innings to go along with 11 walks.
Although he doesn't appear to have knockout stuff, Greene is beginning to polish himself as a somewhat dependable arm with a good fastball and changeup mix. More likely than not though, his best chance of a major league career will be coming out of the bullpen unless he can really refine his secondary pitches. In fact, there's a lot of buzz surrounding his odds of being called up to the team as a reliever in this coming season if some injuries arise. For a 7th round pick out of high school, this wouldn't be a worst case scenario by any stretch.
More immediately in 2017, Greene will likely break camp and head back to Double-A for a short stay if all things go well. Next would be some time in Buffalo waiting for a potential call-up to the Majors in the latter part of the year. There's no reason for the Jays to give up on the righty as a starter yet, so look for him to stay in the rotation until the call is made that he would be a more valuable asset out of the pen.
In the video below you can see what Greene has to offer in terms of stuff, but also notice how few swings and misses he gets on pitches near the zone: