Made it to the top of our list. No one will be surprised by this group.
I wanted to say thanks to Matt, this is always a lot of work (and fun) each year. And it is a lot of writing. I know I was feeling burnt out in the middle of it all. Extra order of cheese doodles all around.
4. Nate Pearson, RHP, age 22 (DOB: 8/20/1996), last year: 4th
Nate didn’t get to put up any statistics to help us place him on the list this year. A fractured bone in his forearm, in his first start of the season, from a comeback line drive, ended his season.
He did get into the Arizona Fall League. He started out a little rusty, but finished well. In all a 6.20 ERA in 20.1 innings. He allowed 23 hits, 1 home run, 13 walks and 23 strikeouts. I’m not going to worry about the walks. It took him a couple of outings to find his delivery. Pitchers that big sometimes take a little while to get their delivery consistent.
He’s a big guy, 6’6” and 245 and he throws hard.
Not many guys can throw 104.
Nate also throws a hard slider, a changeup and the occasional curve. They all need work still, but then he’s only thrown 21.1 professional innings.
There is still a question on whether he’ll end up a starter or a reliever. Someone that throws that hard, it is easy to start thinking ‘we can get him up to the majors quickly if we use him out of the pen’ but the team will give him every chance to be a starter.
I hope he gets a full season in this year.
3. Danny Jansen, C, age 24 for 2019 season (DOB: 4/15/1995), last year: 5th
The only one of our top four who wasn’t in the top four last year. Jansen takes Anthony Alford’s spot from last year.
Jansen (just one s) hit .275/.390/.473 in Buffalo last year, with 12 home runs, 44 walks and 49 strikeouts in 88 games. After the call-up to Toronto, he hit .247/.347/.432 in 31 games. Unlike Kendrys, he hit much better when he got glasses.
Behind the plate, he looked ok to me. Most scouts seem to think he’ll be more or less average. With his bat, average will work. In Toronto teams ran on him quite a bit. He had 28 steals against with the Blue Jays, only throwing out 5 (15%). In Buffalo he threw out 23.1% of base stealers.
There is some concern about his ability to stay healthy. He’s had a string of injuries, in the minors, but then find a catcher who hasn’t have some injuries in the minors. It kind of comes with the position. The catcher position has changed over the past few years. Not many catch the 140+ games that catchers would back a few years ago. It seems like starting catchers tend to get into the 110-120 games and leave the rest to the backup. Jansen hasn’t caught 120 in any season so far, so he’ll have to prove is durability.
PECOTA sees him hitting .237/.333/.412 with 14 home runs in 409 PA. I’d like to take the over on the batting line.
2. Bo Bichette, SS, age 21 for 2019 season (DOB: 3/5/1998), last year: 2nd
Can you imagine how thrilled we would be to have Bo in our system if we didn’t have Vlad overshadowing him? We’d be complaining about the Jays not planning on him making the team this spring. We would be dreaming on his career. We would be asking ‘when was the last time we had a top ten MLB prospect. And a middle infield prospect at that. But, with Vlad, Bo is almost an afterthought.
Anyway, Bo was the youngest player to play the full season in the Eastern League. He hit .286/.343/.453 with 11 home runs, 48 walks and 101 strikeouts in 595 at bats.
He got better as the season went on, in the first half he hit .264/.322/.424, then .326/.383/.505 in the second half.
About his swing, Keith Law says:
Bichette continues to show outstanding hand-eye coordination at the plate, which allows him to overcome some defects in his swing, including a bat wrap and generally busy hands, so his contact rate remains high. He led the league in at-bats but was just 26th in strikeouts, for a seasonal rate (K/PA) of just 17 percent.
He also stole 32 bases. The Jays had players running all the time in the minors, feeling that it was good to get the players used to the idea that they were to always look for that extra base. They think that the players will learn when to run and when not to run best by having them run a lot and letting them learn from their mistakes. I doubt Bo will ever steal 30 bases in the majors but 10-20 seems reasonable.
We are told that he had been working hard on his defense. There was a question on whether he could stay at short or if he would be better off at second base (he played 9 games at second last year), but now most seem to think he could be an above average shortstop.
He’s doomed to live in the shadow of Vlad, at least for the next several years, but I think we will enjoy watching them play together.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B (?), age 20 for 2019 season (DOB: 3/16/1999), last year: 1st
You know, I can’t tell you anything new about Vlad, so why try. If you want to dream a bit, FanGraphs has ZiPS projections for his first 7 years. They have him hitting 216 home runs in his first 7 seasons. I’m slightly worried that he’ll be pitched around so much he doesn’t get that many, which is part of why the Jays should have made a play for Harper, in my little world.
The question is how long will he remain a third basemen. The short answer is: if he hits the way we think he will, he can play third for as long as he is a Blue Jay. The way he hits he can play short for that matter.
But, he is a big guy. I was surprised how big he looked in pictures this spring. If he gets much bigger it is tough to imagine him being close to average at the position. I saw a Baseball America chat (and I’m not sure who was taking the questions, sorry) where the moderator said he would be able to play third for 2 years and then have to move.
I figure he plays third plays third until Jordan Groshans is ready to make it to the majors. So 3-4 years? I don’t mind the idea of moving him to first base. I like the idea of the ‘team leader’ playing first. I would imagine that, in his 30s he’ll have to move to DH.
Beyond that, does he finish his career with more or less home runs than his dad? His dad had 449 home runs, so the smart money would still be on his dad. But, Jr. seems be able to stay healthy so we shall see.
My other question is “If you ran the Jays would you try to sign Vlad to a 10-12 year contract now?? Wouldn’t that be a great signal to the fans? This is our guy, he’s going to be our guy for as long as he plays. Put a limited no trade clause in. Maybe a clause that allows Vlad to renegotiate at a certain point if he is one of the top players in the league and his salary doesn’t match the other top players? Just something that makes it clear that he is tied to the team or and the team is tied to him.
PECOTA figures Vlad will hit .311/.372/.529 with 21 home runs in 453 PA. I’ll take that.
I really can’t wait to watch his career. It reminds me, a little, of seeing Roy Halladay at the beginning of his career and getting to watch him grow and become a star (but, please Vlad, let’s skip the ‘back to A-ball’ part of that program). If all goes to plan, we should be able to watch Vlad become a superstar too.
I was going to put up a poll asking which of the four will have the best MLB career and putting Vlad in for all the answers, but it is a cheap joke.