Moving into the middle of the journey up the Toronto Blue Jays farm system, this section of the Top 40 is four position players but makes for an eclectic mix with very divergent skill sets (and with a strong amount of CanCon).
2023: Full List and Index | 21-24 | 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
24. Dasan Brown, CF, age 21 (DOB: 9/25/2001), grade: 35+, 2022: 35th
The native of Oakville, Ontario was selected by the Jays in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft, bought out of his Texas A&M commitment for an above slot $800,000 bonus. One of the youngest players in his draft class, “toolsy” and “raw” were the word most often associated with Brown. Most teams preferred to let Brown go to school, but the Jays bet on their ability to develop his talent and rolled the dice at a spot where if he were even moderately successful in college he would not later be available.
Brown has true 80 grade speed to only wreak havoc on the bases, and that could make him a plus or better centrefield defender. At the plate, he had bat speed and control that could allow him to profile as a solid hitter, but his swing mechanics, timing and approach lagged behind. Listed at a wiry 6’0” and 185 pounds, power was not a big part of the profile, but so far in the minors he’s shown some ability to turn on pitches and thump them. It’s not purely a punch-and-judy profile.
Three-and-a-half years later, there’s now a decent statistical track record to examine. Brown had a solid debut on the complex in 2019 after signing. While is 27% strikeout rate was elevated, it was to be expected and not unplayable, plus he drew some walks with a little power. But after the 2020 layoff, Brown moved up to low-A and looked over-matched, slashing .212/.310/.323 with a 33% K-rate though he did steal 22 bases in 28 tries.
By contrast, 2022 was a step forward. He improved to .279/.369/.450 in 162 PA repeating Dunedin for a 135 wRC+. Although BABIP inflated (.385), more fundamentally the strikeout rate came back in to 28% with some pop. Even better, it carried over to a second half promotion to high-A Vancouver, .298/.392/.411. Again, BABIP inflated, but the K/BB stuck and he was facing a lot of experienced college pitchers.
On one hand, Brown is yet to truly break out, and really convert the tools into on-field skills. The strikeout rate is a yellow flag and the hit tool remains a huge risk. But neither had be fallen flat on his face, and in my experience that happens to a lot of players in his profile. Just clearing that is a pretty big positive, and adding in the flashes of ability in 2022 while being so young, he might be on the verge of a breakout. Even if that doesn’t come together, the defensive/running tools provide a low-role path to the majors.
23. Manuel Beltre, SS, age 18/19 (DOB: 6/9/2004), grade: 35+, 2022: 14th
Beltre was the centrepiece of the 2021 international class, signing for $2.35-million. Unusually for a prospect from the Dominican Republic, he regularly participated in prospect showcase events in the US prior to signing, giving him more of a track record (in addition to being somewhat prolific on Instagram).
Listed at 5’9” and 155 pounds, Beltre possesses a solid array of physical tools, with everything but power having the potential to be average or a little better. In the batter’s box he uses a long stride to get his weight behind his swing, rotating his hips well to generate force. Reports indicate exit velocities over 100 MPH as a 17 year old. The potential separator though is the mental side, with scouting reports raving about his work ethic, baseball IQ, and leadership to maximize those physical tools.
So far however, that is yet to translate into significant on-field performance in his two seasons. In 2021, Beltre put up a .225/.391/.346 line in 238 PA at the DSL complexes. Some encouraging signs were below the hood, as it was suppressed by a .258 BABIP, he walked more than he struck out (18% to 14%), and managed 17 extra base hits. But 2022 brought a similarly mediocre .234/.351/.310 line in 206 PA on the Florida complexes with the power drying up.
Notably, Beltre’s batted ball profile has skewed to air rather than the ground, so it may be the case that physical maturation will unlock some of the upside discussed above. After all, he’s be a teenager the entirely of 2023. But the value in this ranking is entirely speculative, coming from the thin right tail, and will evaporate over the next couple years if potential doesn’t turn to prpduction.
22. Damiano Palmegiani, 1B/3B, age 23 (DOB: 1/24/2000), grade: 35+, 2022: Tom’s pref list
Born in Venezuela, Palmegiani is the rare double Jays draftee. After his family moved to Surrey, B.C. at a children, he played high school ball at the powerhouse Vauxhall Academy in Alberta and was selected in the 35th round of the 2018 draft. Opting to attend Cal State Northridge. he struggled as a freshman (.157/.254/.217) and transferred to junior college.
Palmegiani put it together at College of Southern Nevada, slashing .389/.521/.867, and the Jays took him in the 14th round of the 2021 draft. he continued knocking the cover off the ball at the complex after the draft, knocking two home runs in 48 PA and slashing .333/.458/.538.
The real challenge would be more age-and-experience-appropriate competition in 2022, but Palmegiani was more than equal to the task. Split across first low-A Dunedin and then high-A Vancouver, he hit .239/.342/.473 across 500 PA, with 24 home runs among 50 extra base hits. At both stops he showed a good eye, drawing walks at a 10% clip. While there’s some swing and miss, he limited the strikeouts to 21-22%. He had a very pronounced fly ball profile (~50%), showing the ability to match approach to his strength.
Listed at 6’1” and 195 pounds, Palmegiani is solid, with a muscular lower half and broad shoulders. The 2022 production hued very closely to the reports (power, eye, swing-and-miss/hit tool risk). Defensively, Palmegiani played mostly third in college but with major question marks. He split 2022 between first and third, and while he didn’t strike me as unplayable in the games I saw at third, the future is likely in an outfield corner at best.
That will put more pressure on the bat to sustain the production, and the higher levels will be more of a proving ground, likely in 2023 at New Hampshire. One really bullish note is that the ZiPS projection system is really high on Palmegiani, projecting him as a .229/.305/.418 (107 wRC+) major league hitter in 2023, good for at least a fringe average WAR even with limited defensive value. I’d take the under, but that could be an eventual better case scenario/career outcome.
21. Tanner Morris, IF, age 25 (DOB: 9/13/1997), grade: 35+, 2022: 29th
Morris was drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 draft, as a draft-eligible sophomore from the University of Virginia, signing for $397,500. The major selling point was a track record of hitting with strong plate discipline, both in his two seasons in the ACC as well as in the Cape Cod League in between.
That carried over to his first couple pro seasons in Vancouver (short season in 2019, high-A in 2021). Combined, he walked about 15% of the time while striking out 19% with modest gap power and decent average. Moved up to AA New Hampshire for 2022, Morris took the profile to another level, walking as often as he struck out (16%) en route to a .312/.430/.468 line in 186 PA before moving up to Buffalo.
That made for one of the more striking dichotomies of a split season one will see, as Morris’ batted ball production completely disappeared. His BABIP backed up from .361 to .233, without a single extra base hit in the 126 PA before an injury in early July cost him most of the rest of the season. The season is best viewed as average of those two extremes, and a .258/.399/.358 line moving to the high minors would have been a higher end outcome 12 months ago. A similar line (.279/.466/.372) followed in the Arizona Fall League.
Defensively, while playing mostly on the infield thus far, he’s been seen as a utility type at best. While Morris may not have a true home on the infield, my impression has been more that he’s in the solid-if-unspectacular-bucket rather than horribly exposed. He played some left field for the first time in the AFL, but with limited power, the bat really doesn’t profile out there.
Now on the cusp of the big leagues and at age-25, the cement seems pretty set on Morris’s profile. With the lack of power and positional questions, it’s hard to project him as an average or better, but there’s a decent amount of probability given the skills demonstrated. That said, prospects with a really good idea at the plate have a way of being late bloomers that hit their way past expectations (a poor man’s Michael Young is the upside comp that keeps coming to mind).
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