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Monday Bantering: Four Jays on Keith Law’s Prospect List

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Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

We’ve made it to the end of January. Weather-wise, for us it was pretty good, and I always think February is getting to the end of winter. And, usually, it is the start of spring training. Usually......

Yesterday was a great day for sports. Excellent soccer game, with the good guys winning. Two very exciting football games. I don’t have a favourite team in the NFL, but I like watching. I think it is great after a summer of being so invested in Blue Jays games. I can watch the football and enjoy the good plays by either team.

But I did end up cheering for the Bengals, mostly cause they lost the coin toss. And I cheered for the Rams because the commentators seemed to be cheering for the 49ers. I was happy with both games.

There are tiny bits of Jays’ stuff:

Keith Law has his top 100 prospects list. There are four Jays on the list.

  • #6 Gabriel Moreno. He wasn’t on Keith’s list last year.

Moreno is an incredibly athletic catcher, moving extremely well behind the plate, and has an above-average arm. He’s an above-average defender, handling short hops well and showing great facility to move the glove around, but could easily slide to other positions if the need arose, especially third base. At the plate, Moreno has a short, quick stroke that leads to a lot of contact. He has excellent plate coverage as well, so he doesn’t run many deep counts, at least not yet, and might end up getting most of his on-base percentage from his high batting averages. A premium defender behind the plate who puts the ball in play a ton and has some pop is a potential impact player on both sides of the ball, and his unusual athleticism for the position makes him the type of player you should bet will improve when he needs to.

  • #44 Orelvis Martinez. He was 98th last year.

Including a late-season promotion to High-A Vancouver, he hit 28 homers in 98 games, with an acceptable 25 percent strikeout rate, all as a 19-year-old playing the left side of the infield. He’s a fringe runner with a plus arm, already getting too big for shortstop but very likely to end up a solid defender at third base. His value is in his bat, though, as he has excellent bat speed and is short to the ball with plus power already, projecting to 30-plus bombs in the majors. His ultimate value will come down to where he plays and whether he can keep his contact rate up as he faces better pitching, with the potential to be an impact cleanup hitter when he hits his peak years.

  • #89 Kevin Smith. He wasn’t on Keith’s list last year.

He started to rework things at the plate in the middle of that season, continuing it at the alt site in 2020, and it paid off in 2021, as Smith hit .285/.370/.561 in Triple A with a career-best walk rate and big cut in his strikeout rate. He’d made some adjustments in 2019 to try to get to more high fastballs, but it cost him coverage to the rest of the zone, while in 2021 he was back to his previous swing while also working to be more selective early in counts, looking for pitches where he can do damage. He’s also staying quieter at the plate, keeping his head steadier and loading his back hip earlier to get to more power without sacrificing contact. It’s worked, and as a middle infielder who’s an above-average defender at multiple spots and has power, he has a chance to have a long, productive career.

  • #99 Jordan Groshans. Also wasn’t on last year’s list.

He’s already shown some advanced skills at the plate, from his swing decisions to his ability to drive the ball the other way, with the potential for 20+ homers once he adds a little more strength. Groshans played more shortstop than third base this year, but he’s not a shortstop, and while he might end up a solid-average defender at third, he’s going to have to work on his flexibility and avoid getting too tightly wound as he continues to bulk up. He has a plus arm that will help him at third or, in the worst case scenario, if he has to move to right field. He’s a well-rounded player who does a little of everything but hits with the feel of a player who’s older and has more than the 619 pro plate appearances he has, so he should be a solid-average regular even if he never takes a big leap in power or has to move off the dirt.

It would be nice to see a Jays pitcher or two on the list, but such is life. Keith has Austin Martin at 24th, saying he’s lost a bit of the prospect ‘lustre’, but still could get on base 40% of the time and has good speed. Simeon Woods Richardson isn’t on the list.

Also at the Athletic, Kaitlyn McGrath talked to Jays’ director of player development Joe Sclafani. He gave a list of six prospects ‘to keep an eye on’.

  • Adrian Hernandez, RHP, 22. He says he has a great changeup and that he’s working out to gain muscle, to add speed (aren’t we all).
  • Spencer Horwitz, 1B, 24. They like his swing. Apparently, he is working hard. But at 24, he’s going to have to make huge leaps.
  • Sebastian Espino, Utility player, 21. “He’s a pretty big kid, he’s pretty athletic. He impacts the baseball, it’s loud when he gets a hold of it, good bat speed, really good arm.”
  • Hayden Juenger, RHP, 21. Good fastball, good command, jumped to Vancouver last year and did well.
  • Richy Tiedemann, LHP, 19. “Big-time fastball and offspeed but has a feel for how to pitch and how to use it.”
  • Irv Carter, RHP, 19. Really big guy, 6’4”.

And he gave a couple of injury updates. Joey Murray is healthy. And Eric Pardindo is building towards healthy should be able to pitch off the mound soon.

It is Jackie Robinson’s birthday today. He would have been 102. A couple of other Hall of Famers have birthdays today. Ernie Banks would have been 91 today, had he not passed away seven years ago. And Nolan Ryan turns 75 today. I’m sure he can still throw much harder than I can.

Doug Glanville writes about how he is glad that Barry Bonds isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Apparently, it is because he was far more successful at cheating than David Ortiz was. It is a weird distinction. If you are extremely good at cheating, you shouldn’t be in the Hall, but if you cheat just enough to get to the minimum numbers that will get you into the Hall, you should be.

I am trying to be a bit more zen, trying to worry only about things I can affect and let the things I can’t affect slide (not that I won’t rail against stupidity some (hey if you want to bring me over to your side of an argument, don’t use symbols of hate and don’t piss on the War Memorial. Just a thought).

But, if the players and owner screw up this coming baseball season I’m going to be one very upset person.