Moving towards the top of the list, we have a very recent newcomer to the system, a pair of catchers, and a righty looking to rebound in 2018.
2017: Top 40 Index
16. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, age 25 (DOB: 12/1/1992), last year: in Tampa’s system
Guerrieri was claimed off waivers from Tampa back in November so this is his first appearance in the BBB rankings, and regardless of what the future portends, it will also be his last. The 24th overall pick in the 2011 draft signed for $1.6-million, and had a very successful start in professional ball in 2012-13 that had him on multiple top 100 lists before an injury that required Tommy John surgery.
That, and a suspension for a “drug of abuse“ essentially wiped out his 2014 season. A strong 2015 got him on the 40-man, and in 2016 he threw 146 innings in AA though the results were more average (3.76 ERA, 46/89 BB/K). Then another UCL injury derailed his career, this time a sprain during his second start of 2017 that didn’t require surgery, but cost him the rest of the season, though rehab and platelet rich injections apparently have him healthy now.
While he was a flamethrower out of high school with the ability to hit the mid-90s on his fastball, Guerrieri doesn’t have that raw stuff anymore, pitching in the low 90s with his curve as his primary offspeed pitch in a four pitch mix. That could have him profile as a quality backend starter (or perhaps mid-rotation if everything clicked), though the Blue Jays may consider using him out of the bullpen. There’s some similarities to Joe Biagini in that respect, but the most important thing in 2017 will be staying healthy.
15. Reese McGuire, C, age 23 on Opening Day (DOB: 3/2/1994), last year: 13
McGuire’s first full season with the Blue Jays was a tale of two months. In April, he put up the anemic batting line that has typified his career thus far (and basically didn’t hit at all outside of three games). Then he missed over two months, working his way back to New Hampshire in early August, and hit .324/.411/.594 in 64 PA to end the season. It’s just one month of course, but it’s a level of thunder in his bat he’s never really shown as a pro.
The calling card for McGuire is his substantial ability behind the plate, which got him drafted 14th overall in 2013. Even if his bat never develops further, that should allow him to carve out a MLB career, and potentially a long one as a prototypical defensively oriented backup.
Offensively, he’s shown a strong ability to control the strike zone, with high walk rates yet low strikeout rates in the low-to-mid teens. What has been lacking is the production on balls in play throughout his career, though some power finally showed up in August (and that’s harder to fake than if it had been driven by a high BABIP).
That said, McGuire is still very young, and it’s often said the considerable demands of learning the position cause catchers to develop more slowly offensively. At worst, he’s a high ceiling/low upside player; given the pedigree, it’s not out out of the question there’s more upside in the bat, and the bar for hitting as a regular catcher is not high to begin with. The other thing to keep an eye on his ability to stay on the field, as he’s missed time in both years and only totaled 137 games.
14. Riley Adams, C, age 21 (DOB: 6/26/1996), last year: junior at University of San Diego
Adams was drafted this past June by the Jays 99th overall in the 3rd round, generally seen as good value pick as a consensus top 100 talent. Assigned to Vancouver, he picked up right where he left off in college, posting a .305/.376/.438 line in 227 PA. It was bolstered by a .391 BABIP, but it was a good debut and he displayed gap/doubles power and some swing-and-miss, but kept the strikeout rate manageable.
In many ways, Adams is the opposite of McGuire one spot behind him, as his offensive abilities got him drafted where he did and whether he a stick behind the plate is a big question mark. At 6’5”, he’s large for the position, and has a lot of work to do as a receiver. Undoubtedly, the Jays will give him every opportunity to stay behind the plate, which in 2018 should be in Lansing. The good news is, even if he has to move off, he’s plenty athletic enough for an outfield corner, and the bat profiles there. Adams has an unconventional stance, with a deep crouch apparently modeled after fellow Torero Kris Bryant.
13. Justin Maese, RHP, age 21 (DOB: 10/24/1996), last year: 11
Last year I thought Maese got a bit of a raw deal in these rankings, falling a couple spots after a quite successful year. This year conversely, he may have caught a break only falling a couple spots after a largely lost year in which he missed almost all the season after Memorial Day. Prior to that when he did take the mound, he was quite inconsistent and didn’t take the next step forward.
When he was on, his sinker/slider could dominate, getting batters to roll over and plenty of swings-and-misses. But too often he left them around the plate and they got squared up for hard hit quality contact, which showed up in his 4.84 ERA. His change-up remains a work in progress as a third pitch, and lefties were much more successful against him. That said, he seemed to be really finding his stride in May before going on the disabled list.
2018 is going to be a very important year for Maese. His sinker is the kind of pitch that an take over a game, and he’s shown the ability to be an inning eating, midrotation/backend starter who’s a ground machine. But he needs to improve his command of the fastball and refine his slider. Absent improved consistency or a true three pith mix, he’s probably destined for the bullpen. But the raw ingredients are very intriguing.
Who will have the best pro career?
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