We have reached the end. This last instalment of the 2018 Top 40 series was supposed to go up yesterday, but instead the Jays got to the diamond before we got to the end.
2017: Top 40 Index
As Tom mentioned at the outset, eligibility for the BBB list is based not just on retaining rookie eligibility, but also on an age cutoff/screen. 2018 must be no more than a player’s age-25 season, that is, player must be 25 or under on June 30, 2018 (meaning born after June 30, 1992).
That’s not to say that players who were eliminated by the age cutoff don’t have any value. For example, Danny Barnes was at or near the top of this list the last two years and has emerged as a solid reliever. Rather, it reflects the fact with younger prospects, the overriding element is projecting future abilities, whereas by the time a player is 25 or 26 that’s not so much the case.
Hence, a separate list of prospects who missed the age cutoff but who could factor in as major league contributors. The pool of players this year isn’t as deep as in recent years, since 5-7 years ago the Jays heavily drafted high school players, but there’s still some interesting talent.
1. Carlos Ramirez, RHP, age 26 (DOB: 4/24/1991)
As with last year’s #1 on this list, Danny Barnes, in some sense this is cheating a bit since we’ve been able to see what he can at the big league level, albeit with a number of caveats. He obviously had a great 2017, not allowing an earned run until September 20th. He combines a low-90s fastball and slider, and given the results it would appear a bunch of deception.
I was actually a little underwhelmed when Ramirez was called up. His fastball was about what I was expecting, but his slider was not the wipeout secondary pitch I was anticipating. Without firming that up, I can’t really see him as more than a middle reliever, but that would still be a great outcome for someone’s whose career appeared over four years ago.
2. Tim Mayza, LHP, age 26 (DOB: 1/15/1992)
Similar to Ramirez above, we have some MLB data on Mayza and an argument could certainly be made to have him #1. As a lefty with a mid-90s fastball, he definitely has higher upside than Ramirez. That’s reflected in his 34% strikeout rate over 17 MLB innings, good for a 2.98 FIP and 2.15 xFIP. If he can come anywhere close to replicating that, he’ll have a long big league career.
The rub is the 6.88 ERA. Yes, it was only 17 innings, but when he got hit, he got hit hard. And command has been a recurring issue in the minors, so I can’t easily dismiss it as a small sample size. There’s plenty of potential, but his performance has been really choppy from level to level. That said, we don’t want to overread it either. I’m skeptical Mayza will be a high leverage guy, but I can definitely see him as a useful lefty.
3. Jonathan Davis, OF, age 25 (DOB: 5/12/1992)
Anthony Alford’s brother-in-law has put himself on the map in his own right, with a strong 2016 in high-A and a decent 2017 in AA followed by a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League that turned some heads. Jonathan Mayo labelling him a breakout AFL prospect, and he’ll be in big league Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
I could see him making the big leagues, and maybe even lasting for a few years as an extra guy with the ability to contribute in multiple ways. I don’t see much beyond a fringe role, despite the hype since the end of last year. But if nothing else, he’s now the #1 ranked Davis in the system (I guess we’re not getting Trout for our #2 Davis).
4. Roemon Fields, CF, age 27 (DOB: 11/28/1990)
Fields posted a strong line in 2017, hitting .291/.355/.352 in 388 PA in Buffalo. It was a pretty empty average, though he walks at a decent clip and doesn’t strike out too often. It was fuelled by .357 BABIP, but for a very speedy player who puts the ball on the gorund alot while squaring up balls at a reasonable clip, it’s not neessarily unsustainable.
I’m quite confident that barring the totally unexpected, Fields will make to MLB at some point, at least for a cup of coffee. If he’s not totally overmatched at the plate, he cold carve out a career as a bench player, with speed on the basepaths to pinch run and the ability to play at any spot in the outfield.
5. Dusty Isaacs, RHP, age 26 (DOB: 8/7/1991)
I struggled with whom to put at #5, depending on the direction one wants to go there’s different options. Chad Girodo might be the most likely to provide big league innings. Chris Rowley had a rough debut, but carved up the high minors and maybe the stuff would tick up in the bullpen. Ultimately though I went with Isaacs, if only to highlight a name that might not be as familiar.
It’s not big raw stuff, as his fastball tops out in the low-90s, and his slider isn’t a knockout secondary, but he has struck out well over a batter per inning every season. 2017 was the most notable, as he struck out 76 in 61.2 innings (29%), and it’s certainly not nothing to do that over a full season against reasonably experienced hitters (in a smaller league where you see the same teams over and over). The 18th rounder in 2018 has maintained his performance up the ladder, and that’s worth noting.
Others of Note: Girodo (LOOGY potential, seemingly passed over), Drew Muren (guys who throw 100 MPH will always be interesting), Rowley, Jason Leblebijian, Deck McGuire, Gift Npoege (40-man for now, just an org guy in my books)
Players who will hit the age cutoff next year:
- Top 40: RHP Taylor Guerrieri, RHP Jordan Romano, C Max Pentecost, OF Dwight Smith Jr, RHP Justin Shafer
- Other: OF Connor Panas, RHP Tom Robson, RHP Andrew Case, C Michael De La Cruz, RHP Josh DeGraaf, LHP Jose Fernandez, IF Emilio Guerrero, OF Andrew Guillotte, 2B Gunnar Heidt, LHP Taylor Saucedo, RHP William Ouellette, IF Mattingly Romanin