With the Top 40 Toronto Blue Jays prospect list complete, the exercise now wraps up with a few lists of players who didn’t quite crack the list for 2022, but are names to keep an eye for the future. At the backend, it really comes down to nuances, and there’s not a big absolute difference between #35 and #45, so it’s worth highlighting some of those who got squeezed out.
In some cases one of us was higher on a player and would have had him on the list or in the mix, and in other cases we had a similar grade or outlook but there just wasn’t room. This “just missed” list addressed the latter scenario, with some of the players here placing in earlier drafts before being squeezed out in the final shuffle.
Luis Quinones, RHP, age 24/25 (DOB: 7/2/1997), grade: 30+/35, 2020: notable newcomers
Quinones was selected very late in the 2019 draft, the 34th round out of storied San Jacinto junior college in Texas, signing for $50,000. He immediately put himself on the radar with 57 strikeouts in 36.2 innings in 2019 while allowing just 17 hits and a 2.95 ERA, mostly in Vancouver. There were some control issues, as he issued 21 free passes. Then he got hit with a PED suspension in the offseason, but with the 2020 cancelation was fortunate not to lose development reps relative to his peers.
Quinones started 2021 with high-A Vancouver, and it was statistically much the same, as he often dominated (64 strikeouts) but frequently ran deep counts that resulted in short outings and often lost the zone for stretched (a walk an inning). A mid-season promotion to New Hampshire brought more the same, though the results backed up to a 5.20 as he gave up better contact to better hitters.
Quinones is a shorter pitcher at 6’0” with a thick lower half and short arm action. As a starter, his fastball velocity generally sits in the low-90s, sometimes dipping to the high-80s but sometimes touching into the mid-90s. But in the same vein as Joey Murray, it really plays up due to his its vertical “rise”. His primary offspeed pitch has a lot of vertical movement, I believe a splitter, and he mixes in a mid-to-high 70s curveball as well but is more to mix things up. The vertical orientation results in a lot of contact in the air, thus fasr a lot of weak popouts that explain the contact suppression.
While Quinones has been a starter, the profile screams reliever between the strikeout dominance and control problems. The hope would be in shorter bursts the velocity could tick up since he was registered in the mid-90s before, and then pair it with the sharper offspeed pitch for a two pitch vertical attack.
Luis Garcia, IF, age 18 (DOB: 9/1/2003), grade: 30+
Garcia was received the third largest bonus in the 2021 international class, signing out of Venezuela for $520,000 this past January. He had a successful debut in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .307/.375/.380 while playing around the infield but mostly splitting time between 2B and 3B (more the latter).
Garcia showed a solid, contact oriented approach, limiting strikeouts to 13% while walking 9% with modest doubles power. he also showed some speed with 12 steals. DSL stats don’t mean a whole lot, but more than holding his own his a good sign. Listed at 5’9” and 160 pounds, Garcia is unlikely to hit for much power, so he’ll have to continue to hit as he moves up. We’ll see how he handles the GCL in 2022.
Cooper Benson, LHP, age 21 (DOB: 8/3/2000), grade: 30+
Benson was selected in the 17th round of the 2021 draft from Arizona State as a draft-eligible sophomore, singing for $125,000. A highly regarded high school recruit from California, Benson’s college career took multiple twists and turns. He stepped right into the weekend rotation as a freshman, posting a 4.05 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 20 innings before the season came to an end. His 2021 came to a premature end after two outings and 7 shutout innings as he required Tommy John surgery.
With a low-90s fastball from the left side and feel for a breaking ball and good change-up, there’s some real potential upside here, especially if the Jays pitching group can help clean up his mechanics. This was actually one of my favourite late round picks by the Jays, great value on a guy with decent stuff and who’s shown he can get outs at the college level. Hopefully we’ll get to see him later in 2022, and if the performance is there should move onto the list next year, potentially a significant move.
Matt Svanson, RHP, age 24 (DOB: 1/31/1999), grade: 30+
Svanson was also drafted last year in the 13th round as a senior from Lehigh University, signing for $50,000. His college stats were largely unremarkable, and actually made a couple strong starts after that on the Cape, which may be what bumped up his draft stock. He then debuted in Dunedin’s bullpen, posting a strong 2.30 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.
Listed at 6’5” and 235 pounds, Svanson fits the classic power profile with a repertoire that backs it up. His fastball sat in the mid-90s with touching, touching up to 98, with a low-80s slider as the main secondary. He also had a very strong ground ball profile at over 60%. Ultimately, the ceiling is a middle inning reliever which limits how placement on a list, but he’s shown the stuff at least plays in the pro ranks and could move pretty quickly.
Amell Brazoban, OF, age 20 (DOB: 10/9/2001), grade: 30+
Brazoban was a lower profile signing out of the Dominican Republic in the large 2018-19 international class. He didn’t do much in the DSL his first pro summer (.181/.236/.264 with a 26% strikeout rate), but after the 2020 layoff came back last year with a much better complex league showing stateside.
Though he still struck out 23% of the time and his .317/.407/.545 was inflated by a .417 BABIP, he showed significant power with 16 extra base hits in 101 at-bats. With a 6’2” frame and still just 20, there should be more of that to come. Now facing the challenge of full season competition, Brazoban is off to a slow start in 2022 and there are certainly some cautionary flags in the profile, but a name to keep an eye on.
Victor Mesia, C, age 19 (DOB: 1/18/2003), grade: 30+
Mesia is yet another lower level player just percolating from the complexes, signed in 2019 from Venezuela for a $300,000 bonus. His debut would wait until 2021, but he skipped the Dominican complex to come straight stateside. It was just a limited run of 21 games, but Mesia hit a credible .288/.371/.475 to get a late season promotion to the full season level to backfill the opening when J.J. D’Oravio was traded to Kansas City for Joakim Soria’s lack of contribution to the stretch run.
Again, he’s a long way off and the development of young catchers is particularly fraught with risk, but if he can stick behind the plate and hit even a little in full season ball, he’s be on the prospect map sooner than later in an organization that is now actually bereft at the position in the lower levels.
Zac Cook, OF, age 24 (DOB: 4/29/1998), grade: 30+
Cook was signed as an undrafted free agent after his senior senior at UT-Arlington was cut short by the pandemic. With the draft shortened to five rounds, the free agent class had unprecedented depth but with undrafted players capped at signing for $20,000, the biggest differentiating factor was opportunity. Having a deep farm system at that point, the Jays only signed three, but may have found something in Cook.
Cook was a solid if unspectacular performer though his junior year, posting a near .300 average but with little power and never exceeding the .800 OPS mark. That changed in the short 2020 sample, tapping into real power with a .321/.500/.623 and surpassing his career home run total (four to three). That carried over to pro ball in 2021, as he hit for 12 home runs among 39 extra base hits in just 336 at-bats for a .234 ISO.
Cooked played across all three outfield positions, as well as some 2B, giving him a utility profile with speed to steal a few bases. There’s some red flags, most notably swing and miss that resulted in a strikeout rate a hair shy of 30% in 2021, but if he keeps it up at the higher levels, he could be on something like a Vinny Capra-like trajectory to the backend of a prospect list, and eventually have a shot at a modest role in the majors.
Finally, two more names briefly who weren’t seriously in the mix for the top 40 as the above were, but are worth mentioning:
Steward Berroa, OF, age 22/23 (DOB: 6/25/1999), grade: 30+
Berroa is one of the longest tenured players in the system now, having signed back in 2016 from the Dominican Republic. He moved up the lower levels of the system, finally reaching full season ball in 2021 and posting a decent .245/.361/..399 line at Dunedin. The standout tool though is speed, as Berroa stole 58 bases in 67 attempts though some of that was attributable to rules experimentation that created favourable circumstances for stealing.
Taking of a wide open outfield depth chart in the upper minors, Berroa is up in AA to start 2022 and the speed could one day be a ticket for a modest big league role.
Edisson Gonzalez, RHP, age 24 (DOB: 4/29/1998), grade: 30+, 2020: 39th
Gonzalez was one of two PTBNLs acquired from Tampa Bay from Tampa Bay for Eric Sogard in 2019. With strong short season performance and backed up with a promising arsenal (low-90s fastball, touching 94-95 but dipping lower, sharp low-80s breaking ball and a change-up) he slotted in at the back end of the 2020 list.
Unfortunately, he’s yet to throw an in-game pitch in the Blue Jays system, missing all of last year and on the 60-day IL to start 2020, and as such he’s one of the few remaining eligible pitchers to fall off/down the 2020 list. But if he makes it back healthy at some point and the stuff is back, he could once again factor in.