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Looking back at the 2019 Top 40 graduates

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Who has moved up, and who has moved down in the last year

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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As noted at the outset, the Blue Jays had a very high level of graduations from last year’s Top 40 list, with 11 players surpassing rookie eligibility. Given that turnover, I thought it would be an interesting to look back at where each were ranked, how that looks in hindsight, how their stock has changed, and where they would have figured in this year if eligible.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (neutral)

2. Bo Bichette (significantly up)

If eligible, these two would still pretty clearly be the top two. While Vladito didn’t mash right away, it shouldn’t be be underestimated how positive it is that he held his own at 20, which is why projection systems are still rightly bullish. The only question might be if the two should be reversed. That’s not reading too much into Bichette hammering the ball for six weeks and Vlad’s relative struggles, but Bichette certainly closed the gap while there may be 20 runs a year difference in positional and defensive value. The longer term ZiPS projections are pretty similar, and it will be fun to watch.

3. Danny Jansen (neutral)

It was an interesting rookie year for Danny Jansen, who was simultaneously better than could have imagined defensively behind the plate, and disappointing at the plate. There’s good reason to think he’ll hit better (even if likewise there’s like to be defensive regression), and overall his production was solid and encouraging. He’d definitely slot in behind Nate Pearson now, but that’s probably about it and more a reflection of the latter’s rise.

7. Sean Reid-Foley (down)

Reid-Foley would be much lower after 2019, though to some extent it’s hard to disentangle his annual up-and-down ride on the roller coaster from underlying fundamental changes. His fastball velocity was down a tick, and consistency was a big issue, including just throwing enough strikes. If he’s more like the 2016/2018 even year SRF, it could be worth another run as a starter, but otherwise it’s probably time to convert him. He’d probably be somewhere in the late-teens, in the range of prospects with some significant flaws like Kevin Smith and Anthony Alford

10. Cavan Biggio (significantly up)

Entering 2019 there were a few key questions for Biggio: his ultimate position and defensive value, whether he’d maintain his power breakout, and how it would translate to higher levels. The first is still open, but the other two were answered positively as Biggio tore up Buffalo and had a very strong debut despite some struggles in the middle of the season. It was about as good as could be expected, with the increase in value coming by shifting the distribution of likely outcomes compared to a real increase in ceiling.

16. Thomas Pannone (down)

Pannone didn’t have a horrible year, and in fact many of his peripherals were in line even though his ERA below out from from a run below them (4.19) to a run above (6.16). On the plus side, his strikeout rate was a little higher though his control slipped. But the thing is, prospects in this range have to take steps forward, or they generally don’t have much major league value. Pannne may still have some major league role and value, but he’s been passed by others in terms of expected value since last year.

17. Rowdy Tellez (down)

It’s a similar story with Tellez, who mashed for a month in Buffalo but put up a 91 wRC+ in 409 plate appearances with the Jays, which isn’t close to the bar for a bat-only player. His power and walk rate were okay, the BABIP was probably a little low, but the strikeouts will have to come way down. The issue is each year it doesn’t happen, the odds of being a regular decrease and the expected value decreases. But he’d still slot in somewher ein say the mid-20s just on the possibility of something clicking.

23. Billy McKinney (neutral to down)

It’s a similar story with McKinney, who produced well in AAA again, but only put up a 79 wRC+ in 276 PA as decent power isn’t enough to offset a poor K/BB outcomes. There’s still some chance a player like this makes an adjustment and puts it together to be a regular, it’s just the odds diminish every year as does the expected value, just like air coming out of a deflating balloon.

26. Elvis Luciano (up)

Luciano is still basically a prospect and as such was indicatively slotted into the list, and discussed in depth there.

27. Trent Thornton (significantly up)

In hindsight, Thornton was too low based on being on the cusp of the big leagues, the chance of starting, and the floor of having the tools of being a reliever. He was inconsistent in 2019, and probably tops out as a backend type for that reason, but that’s often underappreciated if he can stay healthy and do that for a number of years. He’s certainly have to be in the top dozen now.

Unranked: Jacob Waguespack (significantly up)

Waguespack sort of fell through the cracks, if not on the back end of the list, he should have been on one of the just missed lists. He was one of the first names I had on my notables lists that never got published, as I noted:

Considering he was selected to the 40-man in November, that alone arguably should have had him somewhere in the earlier lists. I didn’t see it coming, and was quite surprised given some of the names he was picked ahead of, but it’s been quite the rise for a guy who went undrafted in 2015 out of Ole Miss.

Waguespack had actually caught my eye when still with a Phillies in AA facing New Hampshire, as a guy touching 95 with some good strikeout numbers but had gone undrafted. He had a really solid rookie season, though outperforming his peripherals (ironically, as at the upper level he’s always lagged them). He’ll should have some sort of decent big league career, though whether that’s as a backend starter, swingman, or reliever is something I’m not sure about.

Poll

If redoing the 2019 list, the #1 ranking should be

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
    (231 votes)
  • 36%
    Bo Bichette
    (140 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (9 votes)
380 votes total Vote Now