We’ve hit the time of year where we unveil our top prospect list.
It is one of the things I enjoy the most, going through our farm system, trying to decide who should make the list and who shouldn’t. Back when I started on the site, we had an 11-man prospect list. The next year we bumped it up to 20 (as I remember, it was because I liked a player, but couldn’t make the case he deserved to be in the top 10, he never made it to the majors).
Alex Anthopoulos became GM and started building up the farm system, and we jumped to top 30 prospects, then top 40. Then Alex, in a series of trades, tried his best to empty the farm system, which made it hard to find 40 prospects.
The system is getting better, but the back end of our 40 man list isn’t exactly filled with can’t miss prospects (though I’d doubt that any team has 40 real prospects).
Rules we follow:
- To be considered for the list, players can’t be over 25 (any player born before 6/30/1992). We decided that after players older than 25 are no longer prospects, they are more or less finished products. That doesn’t mean players can’t make the majors after 25, but that they are past where we can project them to grow as a player. I always kind of cringe when I see a prospect’s list and there is a 27-year old on it. I think, if he was a prospect he’d be in the majors by now.
- And, we use the standard that most do, that players that no longer have rookie status are not eligible for the list. So no Dalton Pompey, though I still think of him as a prospect.
Anyway, we have the players we ranked 36-40 today. Guys at the bottom of the list are not really prospects, more like potential prospects. Players that, if they have a good 2017, could become a prospect.
40. Emerson Jimenez, age 23 (DOB: December 16, 1994), RHP. Last Year: Playing SS in the Rockies system.
We start (or I guess end) the list with a player that Matt had on his list, and I didn’t, but he convinced me that he should be on the list. Emerson was signed as an international free agent, out of the Dominican Republic, by the Rockies, as a shortstop. He played in the Rockies system for the better part of 6 seasons, playing short, but he never developed with the bat. In those 6 seasons he hit .238/.267/.305 in 419 games.
In 2017 he started off even slower, hitting .127/.213/.164 in 23 games. Not surprisingly, the Rockies decided to give up on him, giving him his release at the end of May.
He decided to give pitching a try and, about a month later, the Jays signed him and sent him to play in the Gulf Coast League. He pitched just 15 innings, giving up 6 hits, 5 walks with 23 strikeouts. We’d consider him a bit old for the level, but then he’d never pitched in professional ball before.
He throws a 99 mph fastball, which was all he needed in the GCL. He’ll need to work on another pitch, but the best case scenario would have him following in the footsteps of another infielder turned pitcher, Carlos Ramirez. Yeah, it is a lot to hope, but guys who can throw 99 mph aren’t exactly a dime a dozen.
I’d imagine the plan would be to start his season at Lansing and hope he can move up the ladder quickly. But, well, we’d have to see how he handles pitching to players who have left their teens behind before we can make any further plans.
The odds that everything works as well as it did for Ramirez are pretty long, but Carlos started out with a handful of innings in Bluefield in 2014. In 2015, he pitched in Lansing and Dunedin. 2016 Dunedin. And 2017 saw him start in New Hampshire and finish in Toronto. We’d be thrilled if Jimenez could do the same.
39. Justin Shafer, age 25 (DOB: September 18, 1992), RHP. Last Year: Not on list.
Another one who Matt had to talk me into putting on the list. I had him in the high 40s on mine, but I tend to discount minor league relievers. And Shafer is 25 now.
But, the Jays gave up on trying to get Justin to be a serviceable starter and, in 2017, put him in the pen full time. It agreed with him. He spent most of the year in New Hampshire, with 5 appearances in Dunedin and 2 in Buffalo. In total, he had a 2.90 ERA in 44 games, 71.1 innings. He allowed 55 hits, 29 walks with 65 strikeouts.
Justin was an 8th round draft pick in 2014, and he played mostly outfield in college. Since joining the Jays minor league system he’s had some middling seasons as a starter, walking too many and striking out too few. In 2015 he had a 4.15 ERA in 95.1 innings, with 32 walks and 53 strikeouts in Lansing and Dunedin. In 2016 he had a 5.23 ERA in 115.1 innings, with 42 walks and 62 strikeouts in Dunedin.
He doesn’t throw hard but he throws sinkers and sliders, gets a lot of ground balls, so he might look better in the Majors, where his infield defense will do a better job for him.
Justin has been invited to the Major League Spring Training, so we’ll get a look at him. He should end up in Buffalo, but if he does well, and if there are a couple of injuries, we might see him in Toronto.
38. Rodrigo Orozco, age 22 (DOB: April 2, 1995), Outfielder. Last year: Matt’s just missed out list.
Rodrigo is one that Matt and I had at about the same spot on the list, I had him a couple of spots higher than Matt. He was on Matt’s just missed out list last year (I wonder if he remembers, I had to go look back to see who I had on my just missed out list).
Rodrigo’s a switch-hitter, and played all three outfield spots last year. He was an international free agent signing back in 2012 out of Panama.
After a good 2015 (he won the Webster Award for MVP of our Bluefield team), he had a rather poor 2016, but he bounced back some in 2017. He played in Lansing, hitting .282/.367/.373 with 1 homer, 8 steals, 39 walks and 52 strikeouts.
He hasn’t shown any power and hasn’t stolen a lot of bases (he had 20 back in 2014). He walks some and doesn’t strikeout much, but without power or terrific speed, he’s going to have to put up very good batting averages to keep moving up the ladder.
37. Bradley Jones, age 22, (DOB June 12, 1995), Infielder. Last year: Not on list.
Bradley was our 18th round pick in the 2016 draft. Matt had him in his top 40, I had him further back, but he’s likely found a good compromise.
A right-handed hitter, Jones had a pretty good 2016 season, hitting .291/.336/.578 in 61 games at Bluefield. In 2017, he started at Lansing, hit great, .326/.394/.560 with 9 home runs, 21 walks and 47 strikeouts in 49 games.
In early June he moved up to Dunedin and had a tough time there, hitting just .156/.206/.219, in 17 games, before going on the DL and missing the rest of the season. He posted this to twitter:
Presuming he’s all healed up, he’ll likely start at Dunedin again.
The Jays had him playing second, third and first base. He’d be best off at third base but he’s been on the same teams as Vladimir Guerrero Jr, so that position has been taken. Versatility would be a good thing for him, because, even if Josh Donaldson doesn’t stay around, I think third will be covered for several years.
36. Jose Espada, 20, (DOB: Feb 22, 1997), RHP. Last year: 32.
So this one, I had him on the list and Matt didn’t have him in the top 40.
He was a 5th round draft pick in 2015, out of Puerto Rico.
2017 was his third as a professional. Pitching in Vancouver, he had a crappy ERA of 5.14, but he didn’t give out a lot of walks, 15, and had a lot of strikeouts, 51, in 49 innings. It’s hard to figure why his ERA was so bad. He allowed 46 hits and just 5 home runs.
There has been a nice jump in his strikeout rate. In 2016 he struck out 5.4/9 innings, 2017 he jumped to 9.4. Between that, and walking only 2.8/9, you’d think he’d be more successful at keeping runs off the board.
He’s not a big guy, “just” 6 feet and 170 pounds. There’s room to add muscle. He throws low-mid 90’s. I saw comments that he could hit 94 mph this year and has a good breaking ball and a change.
I kind of think that he should get another year to show he can be starter and, if he doesn’t do well, try him in the pen.
Which of these 5 is highest on next year’s top prospect list?
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