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The 2018 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 26-30

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Top 40 Prospects

Our third post as we work our way up to the top of our prospect list. If you’ve missed, the 36-40 group is here and 31-35 is here.

Just a comment that doesn’t fit anywhere, but when the year DOB of our prospect begins to start with the number 2, I’m going to feel really really old.

30. Jackson McClelland, RHP, 23 (DOB: July 19, 1994), last year: not on the list.

It’s Jackson’s first time on our list. Matt had him a bit higher than I did, but I think we’ve averaged him out to about the right spot.

He was our 15th round pick in the 2015 draft (after being picked in the 35th round in the 2012 draft by the Pirates). He’s a big guy, 6’5”, 220 lb.

Jackson’s first couple of seasons of pro-ball weren’t anything to get excited about. He had a 3.26 ERA in 30 innings at Vancouver in 2016, with 10 walks and 25 strikeouts.

Last year he took a big step forward, starting in Lansing, putting up a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings, allowing 13 hits, 10 walks with 17 strikeouts. Moving up to Dunedin in early June, he had a 1.07 ERA, in 33.2 innings, allowing 27 hits, 8 walks, with 25 strikeouts. He didn’t give up a home run all year. He also had 15 saves, if that matters to you.

Things didn’t go as well in the Arizona Fall League. He had a 7.20 ERA in 20 innings, with 26 hits, 4 walks and 16 strikeouts. I’m giving him a mulligan for that.

He has a mid-90s fastball, a curve and a changeup. Sometimes it takes tall pitchers a big longer to figure out their delivery. It’s looking like Jackson took a big step towards figuring things out last year. It would be nice to see what he can do in Double A this year.

29. Dwight Smith Jr, OF, age 25 (DOB: October 26, 1992), OF, Last Year: 25.

Dwight (what a great name, that’s the name of my oldest son) has been dropping down the list. Two years ago he was 11th, last year 25th and now 29th. This will be his last year, since he’s 25 now.

He spent most of 2017 with the Bisons, hitting .273/.350/.392 with 8 home runs and 8 steals in 108 games.

Dwight had three ‘cups of coffee’ with the Jays. First in mid-May, when Kevin Pillar was suspended two games for shouting a homophobic slur towards pitcher Jason Motte. He came up again, near the end of the month, when Anthony Alford broke the bone in his hand. That time, he was only up for a day, getting a pinch hit double and then being sent back down after the game.

Then he came up in mid-June, after Ezequiel Carrera broke a bone in his foot. This time he received about 2 weeks of MLB pay.

In all, Dwight had 29 PA, hit .370/.414/.444 with a stolen base. I would have liked to see him get more playing time.

Smith was a supplemental first round pick back in 2011. He’s the son of former MLB outfielder Dwight Smith, who had a pretty decent 8 year MLB career. Junior would be lucky to have that career. He has similar strengths and weaknesses. Lefty batter, little power (Junior has less power than his dad), less than terrific defense (I think Junior is better than Senior was), decent speed (not enough to be a big base stealer, but doesn’t clog the bases), with good on base skills. His dad didn’t make it to the majors until he was 25.

I wouldn’t mind Smith getting the fourth outfielder job, but we seem to be stacked in the outfield.

28. Chavez Young, OF, age 20 (DOB: August 8, 1997), last year: not on list.

Chavez was a 39th round pick in the 2016 draft. He was born in Freeport Bahamas.

He had a nice 2016 season, hitting .274/.346/.438, with 6 steals, in 21 games in the Gulf Coast League, but that wasn’t enough to get him on our list.

In 2017, Chavez started the season in Vancouver, played a few games there, before being sent to Bluefield for the start of their season. He went back to Vancouver for the Canadians’ playoffs. Between the two he hit .283/.332/.440 with 4 homers, 8 triples.

He’s got work to do. He’s going to have to figure out the strike zone, 13 walks and 63 strikeouts isn’t what we’d like to see. But he’s young and athletic, has good speed, hits the ball hard, plays a good center and has a good arm from the outfield. He’s one who’s likely to either move up the list, or off the list, depending on how 2018 goes.

27. Max Pentecost, C, age 24 (DOB: March 10, 1993), Last Year: 14th.

Max continues to drop down our list. He was 5th in 2015, 8th in 2016, 14th last year and now 27th. I had him higher up than Matt, but I think we’ve hit the right spot compromising.

We all know the problem: He hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Since being picked up in the first round of the 2014 draft, he’s played a grand total of 171 minor league games, only 30 of them at catcher. He did get 22 games in the AFL, 18 at catcher, before shutting down. He says his early departure from fall league action had nothing to do with another injury, more that he was tiring after playing more than he had in the last few years.

He didn’t catch in a game in 2016, but, we are told, he practiced at the position.

In 2017, Max hit .276/.332/.431 with 9 home runs, 23 walks and 62 strikeouts in 71 games at Dunedin. As a catcher, he threw out 7 of 15 base stealers, which is very good. In the AFL he hit just .195/.267/.293 with 2 home runs in 22 games.

IF he could stay healthy and catch, he’s too far down on our list. But, if he can’t catch, if they decide to move him to first or DH or third, he’s really not a prospect. He’s got a good bat, for a catcher. If he’s in a corner spot, he’d have to show more with the bat.

I’d love him to have a healthy season.

26. Hagen Danner, C, 19 (DOB: September 30, 1998), last year: Wandering the halls of his high school.

The Jays picked Danner in the second round of the 2017 draft. There was some surprise that he was taken as a catcher. Many expected he would be picked as a pitcher. In the post on the Jays drafting him, Matt wrote:

On the mound, he had feel for three pitches, the best being a low-90s fastball with movement, but also what can be a hammer curveball. That arm of course translates very well behind the plate, as does his overall athleticism.

You can understand how a 90+ fastball would be a handy thing behind the plate.

The Jays say the decision to catch was mutual:

“From talking to him, I think it’s a mutual decision,” Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Steve Sanders said. “Hagen likes catching. We’re certainly going to talk to him more about it, but we see him as a strong catcher both defensively and offensively. We had scouted him both ways, but we’re excited to send him out as a catcher and see what he can bring to the organization.”

Before the draft, at Minor League Ball, John Sickels said:

As a position player, Danner’s arm works well behind the plate where he also shows impressive mobility and athleticism. He also has the leadership skills necessary for backstops. His best hitting tool is power.

Hagen didn’t have a very good time in his first look at pro ball. He hit just .160/.207/.248 with 2 homers, 5 walks and 36 strikeouts in 34 games in the GCL. Add in that he only threw out 21% of base stealers. I’m willing to chalk the bad season up to learning the ropes. But, if he had hit half ways decent, he’d be in the top 20 of our list.

It will be interesting. If he has another bad year, how long will it be before we start wondering about him making the switch to pitcher. For now...everyone liked him as a catcher a few months ago, 34 poor games shouldn’t change that. Now if he doesn’t hit next year.....