We decided to go through the top 20 in groups of four at a time. That will carry us through the next couple of weeks and then Matt and I will each post on a few of our favorite ‘just missed outs’ and Matt will highlight some of our over 25 minor leaguers.
2017: Top 40 Index
20. Patrick Murphy, RHP, 22 (DOB:June 10, 1995), Last year: 21st.
Patrick was our 3rd round draft choice, back in 2013. He was coming off of Tommy John surgery when we drafted him, which is not as big a deal as it once was, pitchers generally come back as good as new, after missing a year. For Patrick, that didn’t happen.
“I knew I wasn’t pitching in 2013 but after I rehabbed that year I was having numbness in my arm and in my hand when I’d throw, more than a year and a half after the TJ [surgery],” he says. “We couldn’t figure out what it was, so I didn’t pitch that year. Then in the middle of the summer we figured out that one of my ribs was pinching a nerve, so I had a rib removed.”
He ended up missing most of 2014 and all of 2015.
In 2016, Murphy pitched in 21 games, had a 3.97 ERA, between time in Lansing and Vancouver, with 37 walks and 68 strikeouts in 90.2 innings. Considering he had pitched all of 4 innings the previous 3 years, it wasn’t bad.
This past year, he started in Lansing, and hit the DL 2 weeks after the start of the season. He pitched through May, then back on the DL in early June. After a 3 game rehab stint in the GCL, he was back up to Lansing and then finished the season up in Dunedin.
In total he pitched in 20 games, 19 starts. He had a 3.04 ERA in 106.2 innings, with 37 walks and 77 strikeouts.
Murphy is a big guy, 6’4”, 220. And now that he’s put together two, relatively, injury free seasons we can start looking at him to move up the ladder. He can throw hard, I saw reports of him hitting 97 on the radar guns, but it seems he sits 94-95 normally. He has a very good curve (everyone says it is his best pitch) and he is working on a changeup like every young pitcher in the organization.
It would be nice to see him get up to Double A this year, and getting his innings built up. All going well he could end up being the type of guy who could eat a bunch a lot of innings for us in the middle of our rotation.
19. Zach Jackson, RHP, 23 (DOB: December 25, 1994), last year: 22nd.
I didn’t notice that Zach and Patrick were back-to-back on our lists last year too, until just now.
Zach, like Patrick, was a third pick, but in 2016, three years after Patrick. Thankfully Zach doesn’t have the same injury history.
In his second year in pro ball, he started the year in Lansing. In 15 games out of the bullpen, he had a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings. He allowed 13 hits, 2 homers, 8 walks with 25 strikeouts.
Moved up to Dunedin, he pitched in 27 games, 31 innings. He allowed 19 hits, 0 home runs, 18 walks and 43 strikeouts.
I tend to write off relievers in the lower minors, but when a guy strikes out 12 guys per 9 innings, that kind of stands out. His out pitch is a ‘hammer’ curve, which perfect score called the best college curve in the 2016 draft.
I kind of expected him to move further up the ladder last year, but it would be good to see him start next season in New Hampshire and hopefully move up to Buffalo, setting himself up to be a possible late season call up to Toronto.
18. Lourdes Gurriel, IF, age 24 (Oct 19, 1993), last year: 6th.
You know the story as well as I do. Lourdes was one of the top rated international free agents in 2016. Baseball America listed him as the 73 best prospect in baseball before the 2017 season. His brother earned a World Series ring with the Astros last year.
We had hope that Lourdes would become a ‘super utility’ player with the Jays in a hurry. And then, he played in our minor league system. I guess the way to put it is “his numbers were disappointing”.
Lourdes started the year in Dunedin, I think in a effort to start him in a warm weather environment. Coming from Cuba and starting somewhere that could be cold in the spring might be tough on the system. He hit .197/.217/.258 with 1 homer, 1 steal, 2 walks and 13 strikeouts in 18 games. That earned him a promotion to New Hampshire. He hit slightly better there: .241/.286/.371 with 4 homers, 3 steals, 12 walks and 43 strikeouts in 46 games. We expected much better.
He did have a better time in the Arizona Fall League. .291/.309/.494 with 3 homers, 1 walk and 11 strikeouts, but, considering his resume from Cuba and considering he was older than his competition, we expected more.
Which is why he’s tumbled so far down our list (in interest of full disclosure, Matt had him further down the list, but we settled for this spot). I still think he could make it as a utility player in the majors, but with Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte both being added to the Jays, the path to a major league job got a little more complicated than it was when Goins and Barney owned those roster spots.
He should be able to hit better than last year, but if he wants to be on this list again next year (or, more if he wants to have a place in the Jays future), he’s going to have to show us the player we thought he’d be back when we signed him.
17. Rowdy Tellez, 1B, age 22 (March 16, 1995), last year: 5th.
And two others, who were back-to-back last year, are back-to-back this year, but much further down the list.
Speaking of disappointing 2017 seasons, many of us figured Rowdy would be taking the first base job away from Justin Smoak before the season ended. When Rowdy started the Bisons’ season with a two-home run game on opening day, we figured he’d have Smoak’s job before the end of April.
Who would have thought that he’d only hit 4 more homers all season?
Rowdy would go on to hit .222/.295/.333, with 6 home runs, 47 walks and 94 strikeouts in 122 Triple A games.
So, we could look at 2017 as a bump in the road. I mean, Tellez hit .297/.387/.530 with 23 homers, 63 walks and 92 strikeouts in New Hampshire in 2016. All that power couldn’t have just disappeared, right?
This is a big year for Rowdy. He’s still just 22 (23 at the start of the season). There is no reason he can’t bounce back. But, if he doesn’t, he’ll tumble far more than 12 spots down the list.
It seems like Smoak and Rowdy were part of a bad movie where both in a Chinese restaurant, Smoak talking about how great it was when he was in the minors and he had no pressure, Rowdy talking about how great it would be in the majors. Then some older woman in the back room, with a knowing smile on her face, somehow arranges to switch them. This year we get to see if we are at the end of the movie, where things go back to the way they were.