The next section of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system features two international signees who flipped spots from 2021, as well as two players acquired in recent offseasons.
2023: Full List and Index | 25-28 | 29-32 | 33-36 | 37-40
2022: 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 | Top 5 Older | Pref Lists: Matt | Tom
28. Adrian Hernandez, RHP, age 23 (DOB: 1/22/2000), grade: 35+, 2022: 27th
Hernandez was signed by the Blue Jays out of Mexico in late-November 2017, well after most of the high bonus players sign in July. He put together a nice debut in the DSL in 2018, though at 18 was a little older than most of the top prospects, then was unremarkable when brought to the complex stateside in 2019. With the 2020 season wiped out, three years into his career he appeared an unremarkable afterthought.
But Hernandez was one of the biggest surprises of 2021, transiting three levels to finish at New Hampshire, posting an overall 2.74 ERA in 62.1 innings with an absurd 108 strikeouts against 34 free passes. A non-roster invitee to spring training in 2022, he moved up to Buffalo in mid-April and spent the season there (missing six weeks to injury in the middle). The results weren’t quite as eye-popping, with a 4.96 ERA and 44/16 K/BB in 32.2 innings, but it was hardly surprising the learning curve would finally catch up some.
Listed at a diminutive 5’8” and 190 pounds, Hernandez doesn’t throw particularly hard, topping out in the low-90s with his fastball even in short outings. His bread-and-butter, and what single-handedly puts him on this list, is a high spin changeup/screwball that often falls off the table as it reaches the plate, inducing flailing swings. He also mixes in a curveball, though more to keep batters honest than as a true weapon.
The major issue for Hernandez now, and what will dictate his ceiling, is consistency. At its best, the change-up is plus-plus pitch that batters that often allowed Hernandez to dominate. But when he doesn’t have that feel and it flattens out some, it’s hittable. While the curve can be a nice complement, he doesn’t have much to fall back on. As the inflated ERA and six long balls attest, he also has a tendency to leave balls over the plate. If he can consistently harness the change, he could be a solid or better bullpen mainstay. Otherwise, he tops out more marginally.
27. Kendry Rojas, LHP, age 20 (DOB: 11/26/2002), grade: 35+, 2022: 28th
Rojas was signed by the Jays in October of 2020 out of Cuba for $215,000, landing on the list last year as an intriguing if largely unknown and unproven upside arm after impressing on the complex with both stuff and performance. In 23.1 innings, he struck out 39 batters (45%) with just 5 free passes.
In 2022, he moved up to Dunedin, though spent the middle of the season on the injured list and only made a dozen starts. It was more on the solid side, posting a 4.08 ERA over 39.2 innings, with a 43/19 K/BB.
Listed at 6’2” and 190 pounds, Rojas pitches with a high arm slot that creates a lot of backspin on his fastball, giving it vertical ride to misses bats and play up from velocity often in the 89-91 MPH range (though he’ll pop the odd 93 that might be a different variant). Based on his athleticism and the room left on his frame for muscle, evaluators expect that he’ll eventually throw harder.
Additionally, there’s three offspeed pitches. The most used is a mid-80s change-up that flashed good, bat-missing fade but frequently lacked finish in my views. The most frequently used breaking ball is low/mid-80s slider. Interestingly, he mixes in both to batters from either, and I often had trouble telling one from the other. Finally, there’s a breaking ball that more of a curve that comes in around 79-80 with two plane break. I actually liked this one better.
There’s obviously a long way to go, with Rojas has arsenal and physical upside to start, with significant risk being in the low levels. If that doesn’t work and he moved to the bullpen, it’s not currently an obvious short relief profile since no single pitch or two stand out.
26. Adam Macko, LHP, age 22 (DOB: 12/30/2000), grade: 35+, 2022: Mariner system
Macko was selected by the Mariners in the 7th round of the 2019 draft out of Vauxhall Academy in Alberta (by way of his native Slovakia and Ireland), signing for $250,000. The Blue Jays acquired him his past fall in the Teoscar Hernandez/Erik Swanson trade.
Thus far, Macko has moved up a level a year, up to high-A in 2022, with quite consistent results at each stop. He’s piled up the strikeouts (148 in 95 innings), with tenuous control (61 free passes), to solid overall results (3.98 ERA). In both fo the last two seasons, he dealt with injuries that have limited him 8 and 9 starts, and consequently he hasn’t exceeded 40 innings in a season. Whether he can stay healthy to build innings will bear watching.
Listed at 6’0” and 170 pounds, Macko now works with four pitches. His fastball is of the straight, riding variety, in the 91-95 velocity range, but that jumps on hitters and gets ample swing and misses. His next most used pitch is a curveball that varies from more of a high-60s rainbow to more two plane movement in the mid-70s range. In the couple starts I watched, I thought he had a tendency to fall in love with it (doubling, tripling and even quadrupling up). It’s solid, but doesn’t really project as a true putaway.
The breaking ball I liked better was a harder and more horizontal slider, which is apparently more of a recent addition, and which I see as having more bat-missing/putaway potential at high levels. There’s also a change-up which at least flashes promise, in the one start I actually thought it was his best pitch for a couple innings, in the other he didn’t use as much and it’s wasn’t as sharp, so it’s probable a case where the feel isn’t there consistently.
All told then, the basic tools are there for a solid starter, with a useable four pitch mix. Beyond staying healthy and showing he can do it over a larger workload, Macko needs to iron out the control. He constantly fell behind in the count, lots of 2-0 and 3-0, and while was able to often fight back and get low-level hitters, it’s a recipe for disaster against better hitters beyond driving up pitch counts. That’s numerous yellow flags that point more in the reliever direction, and 2023 is a potential big year as becomes Rule 5 eligible.
25. Adrian Pinto, 2B, age 20 (DOB: 9/22/2002), grade: 35+, 2022: 22nd
An under-the-radar signing in July 2019 out of Venezuela for $120,000 by the Rockies, the Jays acquired Pinto a year ago in the Randal Grichuk/Raimel Tapia deal. He was just one year into his career, and the DSL at that, but it was a LOUD professional debut to the tune of a .360/.486/.543 line and 41 stolen bases in 49 attempts. Notably, he walked 17% of time while striking out just 9%. It was reminiscent of the video game numbers Alejandro Kirk put up in 2018 for Bluefield (speed rather power of course).
In that light, 2021 is something of a setback. Pinto bypassed the complex and joined high-A Dunedin a couple weeks into the season, slashing .242/.375/.363 with 18 steals in 194 PA. he missed the last half of the season after an injury in early July. On it’s face, it’s a pretty pedestrian line, though by wRC+ 19% league average on the strength of the OBP. On the positive side, the plate discipline held up strongly with 12% walks against 17% strikeouts, and it was a pretty big jump. The contact was ground ball/low-launch angle oriented.
At 5’6” and 156 pounds, Pinto likely isn’t going to end up with more than gap power. But the speed should play, the plate discipline is encouraging, though it it really comes down to how the hit tool translates at higher levels. The next step on the ladder will likely be high-A Vancouver in 2023.
The highest rated prospect in 2024 will be