As outlined at the beginning of the series, eligibility for the BBB Top 40 list is based not just on the traditional retention of rookie eligibility, but also on an age cutoff/screen. 2020 must be no more than a player’s age-25 season, that is, a player must be 25 or under on June 30, 2020 (meaning born after June 30, 1994).
That’s not to say that players who were eliminated by the age cutoff don’t have value. Rather, it reflects the fact that 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. Solid future major leaguers have appeared on past lists, including Tim Mayza, Ryan Tepera and Taylor Cole, as well as numerous others who have had made useful contributions.
Hence, a separate list of prospects who missed the age cutoff but who could factor in as major league contributors. If there is one area of the system that is down, it’s here as there’s by my count there’s only 16 such players in the organization to start with. Even with the top two returning from last year, the pool is thinner than in past years but there’s still some interesting talent worth highlighting (and hopefully this year the #2 doesn’t end up retiring a month later).
1. Jordan Romano, RHP, age 27 in 2020 (DOB: 4/21/1993), last year: 1* on this list
This time last year, Romano was in Arizona with the Texas Rangers, who despite taking a look at him as a reliever fortunately returned him just before the season. In my view, a very fortuitous break for the Blue Jays, since the profile was obvious and things clicked not soon after when he was converted to the pen in Buffalo and seized the closer’s role. The command needs to be sharpened, but he’s someone I’ve got an eye on as a 2020 breakout candidate with a mid/upper 90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider when it’s on. The second half was uneven with some injuries mixed in, but there’s openings in the pen and I’m hoping for big things.
2. Julian Merryweather, RHP, age 28 (DOB: 10/14/1991), last year: 1st on this list
Merryweather has now missed most of the last two years after a setback following a brief return from Tommy John in late-June. Though he was able to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and has already appeared in Spring Training with an electric inning. The pure stuff is even better than Romano, and theoretically there’s even some possibility he could still start, but the injury history and risk drops him below for now. I’d be inclined if he’s effective to put him the Toronto pen and see what he can do while he’s healthy.
3. Jon Harris, RHP, age 26, (DOB: 10/16/1993)
The 2015 first rounder missed almost all of 2019 to injuries, and before that had two years of mediocre results starting for New Hampshire. Between those factors, and his age, it’s time to just put him the bullpen and see if something clicks. His raw stuff itself is decent, and I’d be curious if in short max efforts bursts the velocity would ramp up some, and maybe paring back his arsenal to his best secondary or two would increase effectiveness. It’s that potential (and frankly, the lack of more compelling options), that puts him third on this list.
4. Jonathan Davis, OF, age 27/28 in 2019 (DOB: 5/12/1992), last year: 4th on this list
Davis has been up in the majors the last two Septembers, and though he hasn’t hit at all and frankly looked pretty overmatched, that’s plenty to warrant mention here. It’s hard for me to see him ending up as more than a fourth outfielder, but at Dunedin, NH and Buffalo he struggled in initial stints before adjusting and producing, so maybe he’ll surprise. That said, even being a fourth outfielder implies significant improvement, his 44 wRC+ in 122 plate appearances is an org guy or emergency up/down role.
5. James Dykstra, RHP, age 29 (DOB: 11/22/1990)
It speaks volumes that the fifth spot is occupied by a minor league free agent signed out of independent ball, who turns 30 this year to boot. But it seems like there’s some intriguing stuff:
James Dykstra - Free agent. Currently playing in Culiacon Mexico— James Dykstra (@James_Dykstra) November 18, 2019
Fastball 97-98 T100
**can provide full trackman data**@flatgroundapp @pitchingninja pic.twitter.com/Pr2HcctZVx
Others of note: RHP Conor Fisk (wish he would get a shot as just a short reliever rather than swingman), RHP Hobie Harris (minor league Rule 5 pick with decent stuff), LHP Luke Gillingham (will velo be better a full season back after long layoff?), IF Andy Burns, LHP Taylor Saucedo, RHP Connor Law, OF Roemon Fields, RHP Justin Dillon
Players who will hit the age cutoff next year:
- Top 40: LHP Anthony Kay, RHP Patrick Murphy, C Reese McGuire, RHP Thomas Hatch, OF Anthony Alford, IF Santiago Espinal, RHP Jackson McClelland
- Other: RHP Bryan Baker, 1B Kacy Clemens, RHP Corey Copping, RHP Mike Ellenbest, LHP Jake Fishman, LHP Grayson Huffman, RHP Zach Jackson, RHP Emerson Jimenez, RHP Andy McGuire, RHP Sean Rackoski, RHP Jackson Rees, LHP Marcus Reyes, RHP Matt Shannon, LHP Kirby Snead, RHP Andrew Sopko, RHP Graham Spraker, 1B Christian Williams