Moving towards the heart of the Toronto Blue Jays system, this section (and the next spot beyond) feature a group of position players with similar overall value, but very divergent risk and upside profiles. We’ve gone back on forth on ordering them, and it really comes down more to the eye of the beholder. The point to underline here is that while 12th is 20% higher than 15th on the list, it doesn’t represent a significant difference in value.
16. Hayden Juenger, RHP, age 22/23 for 2023 (DOB: 8/9/2000), grade: 40, 2022: 17th
Juenger was selected in the 6th round of the 2021 drafted out of Missouri State, after a three year career at Missouri State. Mostly a reliever in college, he didn’t post remarkable numbers (3.86 ERA as a junior in just 26 innings) but has flown through the system in the 18 months since.
Challenged with an assignment directly to high-A Vancouver, Juenger had a couple shaky outings before utterly dominating. He finished with a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings with 34 strikeouts (46%) against 4 free passes. That earned a further challenge in 2022, both moving up to Double-A and into the rotation and working 3-4 inning outings.
Those results were more mixed. Sometimes dominant, Juenger mantained strong peripherals with 67 strikeouts against 23 free passes in 56 innings while only allowing 40 hits. But 12 of those went over the fence, resulting in a 4.02 ERA. He moved up again to Buffalo for the last third of the season, working out the bullpen but still in multi-inning stints. The results were similar, with better results (3.31 ERA) but peripherals regressing (33/16 in 32.2 IP) and continued long ball issues.
Listed at 6’0” and 190 pounds, Juenger has a three pitch mix from a lower arm slot giving right handed batters an unusual look and more carry on his mid-90s fastball. His most used secondary was a short, mid-80s slider that is useful, but is short of a plus swing-and-miss putaway weapon. It’s actually his change-up with some run and dive that looks better, and that he used more in 2022 to good effect.
In addition to sharpening the secondaries, refining location and command is the major hurdle as upper level hitters were able to turn around his velocity when not well located. With three pitches that should play to some degree at the major league level, it’s possible Juenger could serve in a multi-inning bullpen role. The Jays haven’t really done this, and I suspect he ultimately ends up a standard one inning short reliever, with command dictating how successful.
15. Enmanuel Bonilla, OF, age 17 (DOB: 1/22/2006), grade: 40, 2022: unsigned
The centrepiece of this year’s international class, Bonilla was signed for $4.1-million out of the Dominican Republic a couple months ago. He holds the distinction of not only being the youngest and newest on the list, but also the only Bonilla the Jays have ever signed.
There’s only so much that can be said about a 17-year-old who has not played or been in pro games, so obviously this grade is based on purely on pedigree and potential. Already 6’1” and 180 pounds, Bonilla’s carrying tools are batspeed and power. He’s already profiling towards the right end of the defensive spectrum as a corner outfielder, but if the offensive potential comes through that will be an afterthought.
The bulk of the expected value comes from the tail where Bonilla ends up an impact bat/player. Given that he’ll be limited to complexes for at least the next year, there’s more downside risk than upside for next year, but getting to and performing in full season ball as a teenager would send him shooting up (like Orelvis Martinez). The (rough) expected WAR value is actually slightly higher than other names ahead of him, but discounted to reflect elongated timeline and extreme risk.
14. Josh Kasevich, SS, age 22 in 2023 (DOB: 1/17/2001), grade: 40, 2022: college junior
Kasevich was selected 60th overall in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft from Oregon State, signing a little over 20% underslot for essentially $1-million. His 2021-22 seasons as a starter were quite similar: hitting over .300 in both, walking more than he struck out (9% to 7.5%), with modest pop (11 home runs and 34 extra base hits in 461 at-bats for a .128 ISO). In between was similar performance with wood bats in the Northwoods League.
That profile mostly carried over in his pro debut at low-A Dunedin, with Kasevich slashing .262/.344/.336 in 122 PA while walking more than he struck out. The plate discipline translated very nicely (11/9 K/BB), but on the other hand there was little impact on batted balls. And at the end of the day, it really comes down to where the hit tool and quality of contact.
Defensively, Kasevich draws solid marks without standout tools; he might be able to stick at shortstop but should stick on the infield. At shortstop, even without much power, getting to an average hit tool with good plate discipline would make him a fringe regular. At third base, the lack of power makes for an unconventional profile, but could still work. FanGraphs recently put a potential 70 grade on his hit tool, and even getting to 60 would play anywhere (something like a .360/.340/.390 line).
We’re skeptical of that, seeing Kasevich as more of a low variance complementary player in a bench/utility role, though leaving the door open with a tail skewing into regular territory. 2023 should be quite instructive: another season like the 2022 pro debut, and that will largely disappear; getting closer to the college will suggest real regular potential. College players are often considered low risk, and Kasevich seems like the archetype of this, but historically about one third of college infielders drafted in a similar spot don’t make the majors with another third end up as replacement (30) or very marginal (30+) performers.
13. Spencer Horwitz, 1B, age 25 (DOB: 11/14/1997), grade: 40, 2022: 18th
Selected in the 24th round of the 2019 draft and signed for $100,000 out of small-school Radford, Horwitz has proved to be quite the find. A consistent producer over three college seasons characterized by excellent plate discipline (13% walks against 12% strikeouts) but mediocre for corner bat type, he moved rapidly through the system. Added to the 40-man, he’s now on the cusp of the majors.
That solid average, middling power, OBP-driven profile carried over to pro ball, where a late round draft pick has to prove it at each level. The surprise was how well small conference production translated to the pro ranks: short season in 2019 (.307/.368/.440); then high-A Vancouver in 2021 (.291/.401/.445 with a late season power surge); and then New Hampshire in the first half of 2022 (.297/.413/.517).
Most encouraging for a very defensively limited player limited to positions with high offensive bars was further power development. Notably, New Hampshire’s park has a short porch in right for lefties to exploit, but that power surge was mostly on the road (.286/.548 BA/SLG vs. .311/.481). Unfortunately, it entirely regressed upon a second promotion to Buffalo where his production was far more mediocre.
It’s not the first time his production has tailed off when adjusting to a new level, so that’s not definitive either, and it’s an encouraging sign that the Jays chose to add him to the 40-man. But even if the production bounces back in 2023 and translates to the highest level, the lack of power makes it hard to project Horwitz as an average regular at first base or perhaps left field. If the hit tool plays, the upside is something like Yonder Alonso or perhaps Lyle Overbay.
More realistic would be be a more lesser role as a complementary player, perhaps with a peak season or two at higher production. If one is looking for impact potential, other players in this range are probably preferred, but conversely the proximity to the majors means he whatever his production he does provide should be in the near term.
The Jays will get the most value from
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