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2022 Bluebird Banter Top 40 Prospects: 25-28

A pair of under-the-radar IFA pitchers, a couple upside plays with question marks

Top 40 Prospects

This edition of the list contains two high upside pitchers with a long ways to go (for different reasons), an unconventional reliever who could pitch in as soon as this year, and a former top 10 prospect who’s hit a bit of a rough patch but still has potential.

2022: Full List and Index | 25-28 | 29-32 | 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

28. Kendry Rojas, LHP, age 19 (DOB: 11/26/2002), grade: 35/35+, 2020: unsigned

A native of Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Rojas signed with the Blue Jays in October of 2020 for a $215,000 bonus.

The 6’2”, 190lb Rojas pitches with a high arm slot that creates a lot of backspin on his fastball, giving it big vertical ride that misses bats and allows it to play better than its pure velocity (88-90, touching 93) would suggest. Based on his athleticism and the room left on his frame for muscle, evaluators expect that he’ll eventually throw harder. He also has the makings of a solid average breaking ball, although the public evaluators differ on whether it’s a slider or a curve. The development of a third pitch and the refinement of his command will determine whether he has a chance to start in the upper levels.

Rojas’ debuted at the complex in 2021. He appeared just once a week and totaled only 8 games, mostly in 3-4 inning stints, for a total of 23.2 innings pitched. That was enough time to make a serious statistical impression, though, as he struck out 39 of the 87 batters he faced (45%) while walking just 5.

Right now, Rojas is a bit of a mystery box. There’s no public video of him working that I can find. Mostly what we have to go on are some vague but encouraging scouting reports and a small but very loud statistical signal. He’ll most likely spend the summer in Dunedin again, this time on the low A team where we’ll get a lot more of a look at him. Continued strong performance and the demonstration of a third pitch could push him much higher on future iterations of this list.

27. Adrian Hernandez, RHP, age 22 (DOB: 1/22/2000), grade: 35/35+, 2020: unranked

Hernandez signed with the Blue Jays out of Escuinapa de Hidalgo, Mexico.

Standing only 5’10” and 168lbs, Hernandez doesn’t throw particularly hard (90-91, touching 95), especially for a reliever who typically works 1-3 innings. Neither does he have a particularly impressive breaking ball. What he does have, and why he’s on this list, is a high spin changeup that falls off the table as it reaches the plate, inducing some ugly, flailing swings. Hernandez leans on that change, throwing it nearly half the time with impressive results. Batters missed 53% of the time when they offered at the pitch in 2021, per Baseball America.

Hernandez had a strong pro debut back in 2018, striking out 64 against 21 walks in 55 innings in the Dominican Summer League. He wasn’t able to carry that momentum with him when he moved up to the Gulf Coast League the next year, though. Moved to the bullpen, he struck out just 15 of 100 batters faced in 21.1 innings, leading to an ugly 8.02 ERA. After the lost 2020 season, Hernandez began to re-find his form while pitching for Caneros de Los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific Winter League, with his strikeout rate jumping back up over 30% and his ERA falling all the way to 2.45 but a walk rate that remained far too high for sustained success at 19%. Only gaining momentum from there, he was assigned to Low A Dunedin to open the 2021 season. Working in a multi-inning relief role, he struck out 37 of the 82 batters he faced across 18 innings, although 15 walks in that span remained a yellow flag. Hernandez put that last issue to rest with his promotion to High A Vancouver in June. With the Canadians, he struck out 44 of 108 batters faced over 28.2 innings while walking only 8, with a sparkling 1.88 ERA. Those results earned him a second promotion in August, up to AA New Hampshire. Hernandez’ time as a Fisher Cat was more of the same, with 27 strikeouts against 6 walks and only 5 hits among 61 batters who faced him.

Although he was among the first round of cuts in big league camp this spring (after striking out 4 of 13 batters he saw in three major league spring games), there’s a chance Hernandez could find himself in Toronto at some point in 2022. Relievers can build a nice career of one great pitch, and Hernandez looks to have that. The lack of a second offering that’s major league average (or all that close) and command that has a tendency to wander caps his ceiling in middle relief, but he’s also likely to hit that ceiling as early as this year.

26. Nick Frasso, RHP, age 23 (DOB: 4/2/1999), grade: 35/35+, 2020: college

In college at Loyola Marymount, Frasso split his time between starting and relieving, including some time as the team’s closer in his sophomore season. That hear, he posted a 2.22 ERA with 73 strikeouts against 17 walks in 56.2 innings (5 starts, 14 relief appearances). He impressed in a brief stint with the US Collegiate National Team that summer, giving him some potential late first round draft buzz. His junior year got off to a rocky start, though, with Frasso giving up 6 runs in 8.2 innings across two starts before being shut down with forearm tightness and then the pandemic. The uncertainty caused by his injury caused him to slide to the Jays in the fourth round.

The injury woes returned during Frasso’s pro debut in 2021, which was cut short by an elbow injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in June, making it pretty likely he won’t see game action in 2022.

A lanky 6’5”, 190, Frasso is an excellent athlete who can do this:

@bluejays Nick Frasso has BOUNCE! Rate his dunk out of 10 #BlueJays #MLB #FYP ♬ original sound - Toronto Blue Jays

On the mound, he stays fairly tall in his delivery and releases the ball from a high three quarters arm slot that creates downward plane on his pitches. He was 92-93, touching 95 with high spin rates in college, but had seen a velocity jump and was sitting at 95 in his two appearances before getting hurt. He’s skinny but broad shouldered, and might continue to throw harder with another year on a pro quality strength training plan. He also has feel to spin a slider, which has potential but is inconsistent, and rounds out his arsenal with an average changeup. His athleticism allows him to locate all of his pitches reliably, and his command could eventually end up being plus.

Frasso is another intriguing question mark, and will unfortunately stay that way this year. He has all the raw building blocks of an excellent starting pitching prospect, but he probably has more developmental road ahead of him than is typical for a college draftee and will be 24 before he gets to start walking down that road in earnest. Barring major setbacks, he’ll be fully healthy for the 2023 season, so keep an eye out for a potential breakout next spring.

25. Miguel Hiraldo, IF, age 21 (DOB: 9/5/2000), grade: 35, 2020: 9th

Hiraldo, a native of Santiago in the Dominican Republic, was a part of a high profile trio in the Blue Jays’ 2017 International Free Agent class, along with Brazilian pitcher Eric Pardinho and Panamanian shortstop Leo Jimenez (both to come on this list).

Listed at 5’11” and 170lbs, Hiraldo’s frame looks solid and filled in. He has a high effort swing, starting with his hands loaded behind his back ear and slashing directly through the zone with good bat speed. He can catch up to good fastballs, but his aggression and questionable swing decisions sometimes have him way out front on off speed stuff. He has above average raw power but lack of quality contact has meant he doesn’t reliably get to it in games. In the field, he has decent hands and a solid arm but lacks the range for short and will have to work hard to get to average at 3rd or 2nd. He’s a below average runner.

Hiraldo had a very strong start to his pro career. He slashed .313/.381/.453 in the 2018 Dominican Summer League, earning a brief US cameo in the Gulf Coast League late that year. He followed that up with a .300/.348/.481 line in the rookie level Appalachian League (RIP) in 2019. After a 2020 season spent at the alternate site he was assigned to low A Dunedin for 2021. There, he hit a bit of a speed bump. He tried out a more patient approach against more advanced pitching, which doubled his walk rate compared to 2019 (to 11%), but also added 10 percentage points to his strikeout rate (24.5%). His overall .249/.338/.390 line was right on league average, which isn’t bad per se but isn’t what you’d want from a prospect whose value is mostly tied to his bat.

High A Vancouver is Hiraldo’s likely destination for 2022. There’s still the potential for a starting role if he can refine his approach and defense, so he deserves a spot on the list. There’s danger of him falling into a tweener profile, though, without the glove to play up the middle and add value on defense and without a plus offensive tool to justify playing him in a corner. If he can go back to hitting in 2022, he can move back up the list next year. Another middling performance, though, and he’ll be in danger of falling off.

Poll

The top ranked prospect in 2023 will be:

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Miguel Hiraldo
    (66 votes)
  • 20%
    Nick Frasso
    (47 votes)
  • 27%
    Adrian Hernandez
    (62 votes)
  • 22%
    Kendry Rojas
    (51 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now