Moving into the middle of the list, this is frankly where the weakness of the system is in clearest view. While the Toronto Blue Jays have retained their top prospects and stack up favourably with other systems at the very top, and likewise have plenty of intriguing younger players some of whom will emerge to refill the pipeline, there’s a big gap in the middle. In the roughly 10-30 range, the Jays are pretty easily a bottom ten and maybe bottom five system.
24. Luis Meza, catcher, age 17 (DOB: 9/23/2004), grade: 35+, 2020: unsigned
Meza was the headliner of the most recent international class, signing for $2.05-million out of Venezuela in January of this year which amounted to ~45% of the team’s total spending pool. The Jays have pursued different strategies when it comes to allocating bonuses, sometimes spreading it around (2017, 2019), but it’s worked out well the last two times they’ve concentrated their investment in one player, landing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in 2015 and Orelvis Martinez in 2018.
The scouting reports, such as they are, note Meza’s defensive skills behind the plate, but this will really bear watching over the next couple years. High school catching is perhaps the riskiest demographics; projecting even younger players would be even more so. The international market is a crapshot lottery to begin with, but Meza would appear particularly risky.
In the end, this placement is effectively betting on the competence of the international scouting team, and that them making this kind of commitments reflect a real (if still relatively small) chance at Meza becoming a future regular or impact player.
23. Eric Pardinho, RHP, age 21 (DOB: 1/25/2001), grade: 35+, 2020: 14th
Another international class headliner, despite just turning 21, it feels like Pardinho been around forever given he was already a phenom when the Jays signed him back in July 2017 for $1.4-million. At 15, he pitched for Brazil in a 2016 World Baseball Classic qualifier, running his fastball into the mid-90s with advanced feel for secondaries. The one knock was his smaller stature, at a slight 5’10 and listed at 155 pounds, but otherwise he was about as promising as a 16-year-old pitcher can be.
Well, there’s some truth to the aphorism that there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect (TINSTAAPP). Pardinho’s career started off very well, skipping the complex leagues and to debut with Bluefield in 2018 and posting a 2.88 ERA in 50 innings backed up with good peripherals (64/16 K/BB). The next step appeared to be full season in 2019, but that’s where things started to go off the rails.
Firstly, Pardinho didn’t make it to Lansing until July, but more disconcertingly watching his first couple outings my initial impression was that if you didn’t tell me he was a top prospect, I wouldn’t have known. Stuff-wise, that remained true through his early August shutdown, but show advanced pitchability with his breaking balls. The underwhelming raw stuff and velocity made more sense when it was revealed he had injured his elbow and was trying to rehab it.
In the end, Tommy John surgery was required in the spring of 2020, so the shutdown didn’t really cost him anything. The delay did mean he wouldn’t necessarily be ready to go at the beginning of 2021, but then he barely pitched. So now he basically hasn’t pitched in two years, and not been at full health/effectiveness in three. Is he healthy now? Is the stuff back to where it was pre-2019?
If these questions are answered affirmatively, there remains significant upside. It’s worth bearing in mind how precocious Pardinho remains. If he were a college pitcher, he would only be draft eligible this year, so despite having been around a long time, he’s far from a lost cause. There’s also the issue of his development timeline, since he is Rule 5 eligible going forward now.
22. Adrian Pinto, 2B, age 19 (DOB: 9/22/2002), grade: 35+, 2020: Rockies sytem
The newest addition to the system, Pinto was acquired just two weeks ago from the Rockies in the Randal Grichuk trade which forced a little reshuffling in this list. Signed in July 2019 out of Venezuela, the Rockies may have uncovered quite the diamond in the rough.
Pinto’s debut would have have to wait until 2021, and though DSL stats must be taken with more than a few grains (really mountains) of salt, the performance was LOUD with a .360/.486/.543 line and 41 stolen bases in 49 attempts. A .385 BABIP will always make things looks good, but he only struck out 9% of the time. There was also a 17% walk rate, though that’s likely as much about the competition as plate discipline.
At 5’6” and 156 pounds, Pinto likely isn’t going to end up with more than gap power (he looked like a underclass high schooler when he took a spring training at-bat last week). But the speed should play, and then it really comes down to how the hit tool translates at higher levels. It will be interesting (and somewhat telling) to see if the Jays assign him directly to full season in 2022, or if he goes to extended spring and another year of complex ball.
This placement feels (overly) aggressive given it’s based on one season where he was on the older side of the league, but there were strong statistical markers and mitigating circumstances. There’s probably more downside than upside risk in the near term, but more than anything it reflects a lack of more compelling options in the middle tier of the system.
21. Chavez Young, CF, age 24/25 (DOB: 8/8/1997), grade: 35+, 2020: 34th
Young was selected in the 38th round of the 2016 draft, signing near the deadline for $200,000. A native of the Bahamas, Young had played a few different places in the years leading up to the draft, causing him to fall between the cracks for many teams and it represented a nice risk/reward gamble on tools for the Jays.
After a decent GCL debut and solid 2017 in Bluefield, Young moved up to full season in 2018 and put together a very nice season for Lansing with a .285/.363/.445. The combination of tools and performance was enticing, and we (myself in particular) ran him up the prospect rankings to #15 entering that season. To me, he looked like a potential breakout candidate.
Instead, he regressed to a .247/.315/.354 line in the FSL, though that’s still close to league average for the pitcher friendly circuit. It wasn’t anything collapsing, just everything backing up, in particular his strikeout rate inched from 19% to 23% and power output really fell. Up to Double-A in 2021, Young’s production rebounded somewhat, posting a decent .265/.350/.409. Notably however, his strikeout rate bumped up again to 25%, and he benefited from a robust .342 BABIP.
Given the tools and ability to play any outfield position, there’s a good chance that Young makes the big leagues at some point, and has a chance at carving out a role. But barring unforeseen development, the odds are against him becoming an everyday or regular or better as seemed realistic a couple years ago.
The player to bet on this group is
This poll is closed
None (no major leaguers)