This next group of Toronto Blue Jays prospect features an eclectic mix of pitching profiles in the middle tier of the system, all of whom have missed chunks of time.
2023: Full List and Index | 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
36. Cooper Benson, LHP, age 22 (DOB: 8/3/2000), grade: 35, 2022: just missed
Benson was selected in the 17th round of the 2021 draft from Arizona State, signing for $125,000. A highly regarded high school recruit from California, Benson’s college career barely got off the runway, with four starts before the 2020 shutdown and two more in 2021 before needing Tommy John surgery. He elected to turn pro as a draft-eligible sophomore, making for a really interesting Day 3 pick to keep an eye on.
Benson returned to the mound at midseason in 2022 to make ten appearances of generally 3-4 innings, the last seven were with Dunedin. Low level hitters proved no difficulty as he posted a 2.45 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 25.2 innings, including an August 14th combined no-hitter of the Tampa Yankees. He should move up to Vancouver in 2023, and finishing in New Hampshire would be a very good sign.
listed at 6’0”/213, Benson looks well built on the mound and lacks obvious projection. His fastball averaged around 90 MPH with Dunedin, and one could perhaps hope for ane xtra tick or two as he gets further from surgery. His best pitch is easily his change-up, on which he can really kill spin. It comes with different looks, from the mid-to-high 70s, with very low spin.
The third pitch is a sweeping breaking ball that is manipulated in the same band, ranging from more of a curve with vertical depth on the lower end to more slider on the higher end. Notably, it’s pretty low-spin too topping out around 2100 RPM, so while effective against lower level hitter it will bear watching as he moves up. As will the command, since he doesn’t have a ton of margin for error. It it comes together, the reasonable ceiling would be a backend starter, or perhaps more velocity could come in shorter bursts to pair with the change-up. xx
35. Nick Fraze, RHP, age 25 (DOB: 10/24/1997), grade: 35, 2022: my pref list
Fraze was selected in the 22nd round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Texas State, where he was a three year starter. He posted excellent results in Vancouver, first at the short season level in 2019 (2.12 ERA in 34 innings) and then high-A level to start 2021 (2.14 ERA in 42 IP with a bump in strikeout rate).
Promoted mid-season to the AA testing ground of New Hampshire, the headline results have been more middling, the ERA up to 4.58 in 79 innings total. The peripherals remained strong, with 68 strikeouts against 15 walks (though 25 free passes after he had an issue with HBP in 2022). There were also injury stints both years, and his last appearance was at the end of June, so that’s an issue as well.
Like Benson above, he doesn’t have huge raw stuff. His fastball usually sits the low-90s with a good slider. It’s not a wipeout pitch with huge break, but finishes sharp especially to the glove side. He’s got a useable change-up as well to keep opposite handed hitters off balance. What sets Fraze apart is pitchability, attacking hitters and managing contact. Even before the pitch clock, he was an extremely fast worker which further endeared him to me.
Ultimately, Fraze is a bit of a tough profile as something of a tweener. If it all came together, maybe it could work as a backend starter. The more realistic path, especially given the lack of innings the past couple years, might be put him in relief and see if the velocity ticks up (or more can be squeezed out developmentally).
34. Michael Dominguez, RHP, age 22 (DOB: 8/17/2000), grade: 35, 2022: my pref list
Selected out of high school in the 15th round of the 2019 draft from Florida, the Jays dipped a little into their pool to sign Dominguez for essentially $200,000. At 5’10 and 175 pounds with a low-90s fastball and curveball, he made for an interesting lottery ticket prospect/development project, especially after a nice pro debut in the GCL.
His progress interrupted by the shutdown and an elbow injury, Dominguez pitched in 20 low-A games from late-summer 2021. The 4.91 ERA was unremarkable, but he struck out 97 in 80.2 innings, albeit with 41 free passes. He had a nice run with Vancouver after another late season promotion (3.38 ERA, 47/17 K/BB in 34.2 innings). Thus far he’s had a distinct fly ball contact profile.
It’s currently low-90s velo for Dominguez, with the primary offspeed weapon a breaking ball with slider-type break that’s generally high-70s to low-80s (slower than a typical slider at ~12 MPH off his fastball). He mixed in the odd change-up, but it’s a show-me work-in-progress.
Listed at 5’10”, Dominguez a number of the trait above point towards an ultimate relief future, though he’ll undoubtedly continue moving up as a starter. Development of the change-up and command refinement will be required for that, but it’s not out of the question, and though it didn’t happen in 2022, he could really emerge in 2023 the way Josh Winchowski did in 2019.
33. Trent Palmer, RHP, age 24 in 2023 (DOB: 4/2/1999), grade: 35, 2022: 30th
Palmer was drafted in the third round of the abbreviated 2020 draft out of Jacksonville University, signed for $847,500. A cold weather arm from Minnesota, he was off to a big start with 41 strikeouts and a 1.30 ERA in his junior season before the shutdown that shot him up draft boards.
His 2021 professional debut in low-A Dunedin was uneven (83/42 K/BB in 63 innings), with major control issues to start, but finished strong with a 2.33 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 38.1 innings in his last seven starts (including two seven inning no-hitters). In 2022, he sailed through six starts at high-A Vancouver to make seven starts at new Hampshire before an elbow injury that required Tommy John and will wipe out a good portion of 2023.
On the positive side, Palmer has had no problem striking pro batters out, and has also managed contact very well in posting solid if not overwhelming results. On the negative side, he’s had control issues at all levels and it tends to be tenuous at best. Moreover, the velocity bump that gave him helium in his junior year hasn’t carried over, as his fastball has sat in the low-90s.
The calling card for Palmer is movement, starting with his sinker and extending to his variety of secondaries. The curve and slider aren’t truly distinct pitches, more along a continuum of velocity (mid-70s to low-80s) and vertical break, and a change-up/screwball thing that doesn’t present a conventional look to me. But none really stands out as a plus, putaway weapon at the highest level. The profile points in the reliever direction, perhaps with a velo spike given that’s it’s been there before.
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