The Top 40 countdown of the Toronto Blue Jays system kicks off with a couple of quick moving collegiate lefties and a couple of prospects who stayed on the field after a couple lost seasons.
2023: Full List and Index | 37-40
40. Mason Fluharty, LHP, age 21 (DOB: 8/13/2001), grade: 35, 2022: Liberty junior
Fluharty was selected in the 5th round of this summer’s draft as a junior out of Liberty, signing for a below slot $222,500 ($250K with the roster bonus allowed in the uniform minor league contract). After barely getting his feet wet in 2020 and an unremarkable 2021, he emerged to post a 2.84 ERA with 83 strikeouts against just 10 walks in 50.2 innings out of the flames bullpen to put himself himself on the draft radar.
Listed at 6’2” and 215 pounds, the lefty has an extreme cross-fire delivery from a low arm slot that hides the ball and makes it tough to pick up, especially for lefties. A reliever profile all the way, Fluharty doesn’t have huge raw stuff with a bat-breaking low-90s cutter and sweeping breaking ball. Profile wise, there’s a lot of similarities to Brandon Eisert, just tracking about 18 months later.
Expected to move quickly, Fluharty was assigned aggressively directly to high-A Vancouver, and was equal to the challenge. In 11 games and 16.1 innings, he posted a 3.91 ERA and 23 strikeouts. He probably returns there to start 2023, though New Hampshire isn’t out of the question and he should spend most of the summer there in any event. The major league profile is likewise similar to Eisert below, albeit with somewhat lower probability with lesser proximity to the majors.
39. Jimmy Robbins, LHP, age 25 (DOB: 12/22/1997), grade: 35, 2022: unranked
Robbins was drafted in the 20th round of the 2019 draft out of Division-II Rollins College in Florida, signed for the then-standard $125,000 that didn’t count against the draft pool. Alas, though it’s fun to say, Jimmy Robbins from Rollins does not equal Jimmy Rollins. Nonetheless, after having his 2020 and 2021 seasons wiped out (the latter to Tommy John), Robbins put together an impressive 2022 to move across three levels and finish with a flourish in New Hampshire.
Before that, his 2019 debut in rookie ball (24 strikeouts in 19 innings) was cause to take note and file the name away. That came to fruition in 2020 as Robbins started strong in Florida in shorter stints, stretched out a little more in Vancouver. The best was saved for last with some really nice five inning starts in New Hampshire for a 1.52 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. Overall, it was good for a 2.59 ERA and 98 strikeouts against 41 free passes in 76.2 innings.
Listed at 6’3” and 190 pounds, the lanky lefty has a deep arsenal with a low-90s fastball, high-80s cutter, change-up and a sweeping, low-80s breaking ball (more slider movement, curve velocity). None individually stand out as a plus pitch, but they’re all decent and the whole is greater than the sum of the part as Robbins mixes them in effectively to keep batters off balance and generate swings and misses.
Projection wise, it makes for a bit of a conundrum. The breadth of pitches points towards starting, with just 76 innings in 2022 and a spotty health record (in addition to 2021, he also missed 2018), there’s a significant bridge to even 120-150 innings. On the flip side, the lack of knockout stuff doesn’t fit the relief profile of the modern game. Despite that, there’s definite potential that bears watching, so he fits nicely at the backend for now. The biggest thing will be staying healthy in 2023 and beyond.
38. Brandon Eisert, LHP, age 25 (DOB: 1/19/1998), grade: 35, 2022: 34th
Eisert was selected in 18th round of the 2019 draft out of Oregon State, signing for $125,000 after posting sub-3.00 ERAs in each college season. All told, he posted a 2.28 ERA with 176 strikeouts in 165 innings, first out of the bullpen before moving to a swingman role in his junior season.
His pro debut had to wait until 2021, a couple innings in Dunedin before moving to high-A Vancouver where he was effective in multi-inning stints though somewhat hittable. Moving up to New Hampshire for the last month, Eisert finished strong, posting a 2.63 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 13.2 innings as more of a short reliever. That earned him the bump to AAA Buffalo for 2022, posting an almost identical season statistically with a 3.41 ERA and 77/15 K/BB in 60.2 innings.
Eisert pitches with a crossfire drop-and-drive delivery, making his pitches hard to pick up especially for left-handed batters. That allows his low-90s fastball to play up from its fringe velocity. His main secondary is a sweeping slider from which he’ll add and subtract a bit, and he’s shown a decent change-up but his arsenal has been increasingly pared back.
Eisert is now on the cusp of the majors, a non-roster invitee to Spring Training with the Jays looking for left handed help in the bullpen. The final developmental step is ironing out his command, as the one blemish has been a tendency to leave balls over the plate and he thus be too hittable (8 HR in Buffalo, more than a hit an inning in Vancouver).
At this point only injury or major regression would keep him from pitching in the big leagues, while the command refinement will dictate whether it’s a cup of coffee or marginal/specialist role, or if he carves out a regular bullpen role as a solid (role 35) or above average (role 40) reliever.
37. Estiven Machado, SS, age 20 (DOB: 10/4/2002), grade: 35, 2022: 15th
Machado signed out of Venezuela for $775,000 in July 2019, receiving the second largest bonus of the Blue Jays’ international class. Between the pandemic and a hamstring injury in his first at-bat in 2021, circumstances conspired to prevent him from showing what he could go in game action for the first couple years of his professional career.
Mostly healthy in 2022, he got into 90 games in a crowded Dunedin infield, posting a .263/.342/.345 line for an almost perfectly average 101 wRC+. On the plus side, he showed patience and some on-base skills at the plate, but also an elevated 25% strikeout rate and little power. The batted ball profile reinforced that, as Machado hit a lot of ground balls and didn’t elevate the ball much. He did hit much better from the left side than the right side.
This largely tracked the scouting reports of a prospect with a short, direct swing geared for contact over power, with fast hands for quality contact and wiry strength and a good approach. Machado’s grade last year straddling 35+ and 40 reflected the inherently very high bust rates of teenage prospects with little professional track record, and the upside tail of the potential for a regular or better infielder generating most of the expected value.
Though the fall in the rankings appears precipitous, Machado’s profile was not blown up entirely in 2022. It was just underwhelming in a way that causes one to shift the odds slightly, and hence the one notch reduction to 35. The upside is still there, odds are just longer. 2023 will be pivotal season in that it represents the equivalent of his college junior season and if it’s going ton happen potential manifests into performance.
A year from now, Estiven Machado will:
This poll is closed
Re-ascend into the top half of the 2023 Top 40
Flash just enough potential to tread water in the bottom half
Slide right out out the rankings entirely
Not be in the organization