This section of the list has a little bit of everything: a reliever zooming toward a bit part in the majors, one hitter just starting to create some hype for himself, another whose prospect sheen is starting to fade (but with time remaining to turn things around), and a third who might be rekindling the ashes of his potential in a new home after his old organization gave up on him. As always, links to the other sections are below.
2022: Full List and Index | 33-36 | 37-40
2020: Full List and Index | 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-12 | 13-16 | 17-20 | 21-24 | 25-28 | 29-32 | 33-36 | 37-40
Beyond the Top 40: Just Missed | Pref list | Top 5 Older | Newcomers | Other Notables
36. Yhoangel Aponte, CF, age 18 (DOB: 2/12/2004), grade: 30+/35, 2020: unsigned
Aponte signed with the Blue Jays out of Caracas, Venezuela for $360,000 as part of the 2020 International Free Agent class (which actually signed in January 2021 due to COVID). Although not a big ticket signing, reports from scouts in the Dominican Summer League and at fall instructs last year peg him as a player to watch.
Listed at 5’11” and 190 pounds, Aponte has broad shoulders and a filled in, adult looking frame for someone who just turned 18 in February. None of his tools stand out as plus, but all might end up average or better, and reports praised his instincts and feel for the game, especially on the defensive size. Although not a pure burner, scouts praised Aponte’s reads on fly balls, routes and ability to make diving catches. On offense, his exit velocities have apparently been promising but haven’t translated into power production in games yet, and although he has an approach at the plate he’ll need to work on making more contact.
In the DSL last summer, Aponte slashed .240/.393/.357, with a 15% walk rate and a 27% strikeout rate. He didn’t hit a home run, but managed 9 doubles and 3 triples across 38 games while stealing 5 bases in 9 tries. His overall batting line was 22% better than league average, thanks mostly to the walks.
Aponte is in Florida and will presumably open the season in the rookie level Florida Complex League. He’s a long ways away and will need to work on making more contact as he moves up to more advanced pitching, but if he does he could find himself much higher on next year’s list.
35. Dasan Brown, CF, age 21 (DOB: 9/25/2001), grade: 30+/35, 2020: 23rd
An Oakville, Ontario native, Brown was taken by the Jays in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft. A $800,000 bonus bought him out of a commitment to play at Texas A&M. He was one of the youngest players in that year’s draft, and will spend the whole 2022 season as a 20 year old.
Since his pre-draft write-ups, ‘raw’ has been the word most often associated with Brown. He has true 80 grade speed on the 20-80 scale, and instincts that could make him a plus or better defender in centre field some day. He has the bat speed and control that could allow him to eventually become a solid hitter, but his swing mechanics, timing, and approach aren’t there yet. A wiry 6’0” and 185lbs, power will probably never be a big part of Brown’s game. Some scouting reports from around the 2019 draft note that many teams preferred to let Brown go to school and see what three years of development could do for him before investing a high round bonus, but the Blue Jays evidently bought into the raw talent and decided that that development could best be managed by their staff.
Things got off to a promising start in 2019. It was a small sample (63PA), but Brown worked some walks, managed some extra base hits, and his 27% strikeout rate was high but acceptable for a player two and a half years younger than his average competition. His .222/.444/.356 line was 48% better than league average. After the 2020 minor league season was wiped out, the Jays got aggressive, assigning Brown to A ball as a 19 year old. Brown looked over-matched, slashing .212/.310/.323 with a strikeout rate that ballooned to 33%. He did steal 22 bases in 28 tries and continued to show potential in centre field, but overall it was a disheartening year.
Brown will probably spend 2022 taking a second shot at A ball. This will technically be his fourth season in the organization, but his age and lost development time make him rawer than that would suggest. The tools are still there, though, and his ability in the field and on the base paths means that the offensive bar for him to bring value in the major leagues will be quite low. It’s because of that that he’s listed here. By the time we write next year’s, he’ll probably either be a tier or two higher or no longer on it.
34. Brandon Eisert, LHP, age 24 (DOB: 1/18/1998), grade: 35, 2020: unranked
Seven Oregon State Beavers were drafted in 2019, including first overall pick Adley Rutschman. One of his battery-mates, Eisert, went in the 18th round to the Jays. In college, Eisert spent his first two seasons in the bullpen, posting a 2.43 ERA over a combined 103.2 innings and occasionally serving as the team’s closer. He moved into a swingman role for his junior year and thrived, posting a 2.18 ERA while striking out 74 against only 13 walks in 62 innings.
Eisert stands 6’2” and is listed at 209lbs. He pitches with a crossfire drop and drive delivery with a short arm path, striding towards the first base line then whipping the ball out from behind his shoulder at the last moment. This makes his pitches hard to pick up, especially for right handed batters, and allows his fringe average fastball (which tops out around 93) to play up. He complements the fastball with a solid change and slider and a curve he can throw for strikes. None of his pitches are plus, but the deception in his delivery combined with strong command have allowed the whole package to consistently get outs. Whether that will continue to be the case as he faces upper minors and major league calibre competition is an open question.
Eisert made his pro debut in 2021 in A ball, but after just two appearances during which he struck out 5 of the 13 batters he faced he was promoted to high A Vancouver. He spent most of his season there in a multi-inning relief role, pitching 46.2 innings in 20 games and striking out 60 against just 16 walks. That strong work earned him a promotion to AA New Hampshire in August. He mostly made shorter appearances with the Fisher Cats, totalling 13.2 innings in 10 games, but the results continued to be strong with 17 Ks to two walks and a sterling 1.47 FIP. This spring, Eisert made a cameo in the opener on March 18th, striking out three Tigers minor leaguers in order.
Eisert should begin the season back in AA, although given his results and the organization’s history of being aggressive with his assignments he could make his way to AAA Buffalo quickly. He doesn’t have a huge major league ceiling as a reliever without dominant stuff, but his results have only ever been excellent and how aggressively the team moved him last year suggests some confidence that there’s something here. His likely role is as a middle reliever, possibly a guy who can turn the lineup over once a couple times a week. He could make an appearance in the big club’s bullpen this year.
33. Sebastian Espino, UTIL, age 21/22 (DOB: 5/29/2000), grade: 35, 2020: Mets system
Espino signed with the Mets out of the Dominican Republic back in 2016, for a bonus of $300,000. He was picked up by the Blue Jays in the minor league portion of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.
A lanky 6’2” and 176lbs, Espino has solid raw power now that could become plus as his body continues to mature. He’s athletic but a below average runner with a below average arm, which means that although he spent about a third of his time at third base in 2021, his eventual home might be left field. He has a loose, whippy right handed swing that tended to result in a lot of ground balls in the past, although that improved somewhat in 2021. His pitch selection and contact rate are both pretty poor, which might limit his ability to take advantage of his power in games against high level pitching.
Espino got off to a good start in the Mets organization, racking up a league leading 27 extra base hits in the 2017 DSL. He was never able to build on that in American rookie league ball, though, with worsening strikeout problems and no ability to get to his power in 2018 and 2019. Toronto picked him up the winter following the cancelled 2020 minor league season. Something about him must have impressed Toronto’s development staff, because after a 4 game warmup in A ball, he was jumped up to high A Vancouver for most of the 2021 season. Espino rewarded that faith by breaking out, trimming his strikeout rate to 27% from just over 30% in his last year in the Mets system while raising his walk rate from under 6% to nearly 9%. He also finally got to some power in games, hitting eight home runs to go with 15 doubles and 5 triples in 259 plate appearances. All that improvement lead to a .295/.358./.511 slash line, good for 27% better than league average. His .386 BABIP was unsustainable, but an impressive 27% line drive rate suggests he was making a lot of solid contact.
It’s hard to tell what to expect from Espino in 2022. He’s still just 22, and if he can consolidate his gains from last season and make it to AA he’ll deserve a higher ranking on the next version of this list. On the other hand, his approach remains a problem, and he’s going to have to hit a lot to make room for himself on a big league roster due to his lack of a clear defensive home. There’s a lot that remains to be proven, but the early returns suggest the Jays might just have found a diamond in the rough.
The highest ranking on the 2023 list will be
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