With the Top 40 list of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system complete, we continue to go beyond with a few lists of players who didn’t quite crack the list for 2023, but were in the mix and worth discussing. At the backend, it really comes down to nuances than objective significant differences in value, and some names inevitably end up on the wrong side of a very fine line or lost in the shuffle.
This list is headlined by a couple who were the last cuts from the same grade tier as the backend of the list, followed by a handful from the next tier but who would have been in a top 50 and that we rated similarly. We’ll finish with “pref” lists, players each of us liked for the main itself or think are worth highlighting.
T.J. Brock, RHP, age 23 (DOB: 8/10/1998), grade: 35, 2022: Ohio State senior
Brock was drafted in the 6th round last year as a senior from Ohio State, signing well for $67,500 (well uderslot). He didn’t pitch a lot for them, striking out a fair number of batters when he did but also struggling with control. That may have allowed the Jays to unearth significant value.
Brock is a pure short relief profile, but has two pitches that are major league calibre in terms of pure stuff. He goes after hitters with mid-90s pure gas, a straight four seamer. He also gets good tight break on his slider, which should get plenty of swings-and-misses. But as with a lot of these type profiles, the X-factor will be harnessing in, both command but often basic control.
His short time in Vancouver was emblematic, with a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings, 20 strikeouts against 6 walks. When he’s on, he blows hitters away. But too often he can’t find the plate, or leaves balls over the plate and gets hit.
Matt Svanson, RHP, age 24 (DOB: 1/31/1999), grade: 35, 2022: just missed
Selected in the 13th round of the 2021 Draft as a senior from Lehigh University signed for $50,000, Svanson repeats on this list. He’s had a couple years of solid performance, posting a 2.30 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 15.2 innings in his 2021 debut. He split 2022 across Dunedin and Vancouver as a solid multi-inning swingman, with a 4.15 ERA and 83/23 K/BB in 82.1 innings.
That deployment was somewhat surprising given Svanson most obviously profiled as a short reliever with a mid-90s sinking fastball and slider. Listed at 6’5” and 235 pounds, it’s the classic power profile and he piles up the ground balls (about 60% for his career). He could fit as a serviceable middle reliever, and was in the mix for thr back of the list on that basis.
Alejandro Melean, RHP, age 22 (DOB: 10/11/2000), grade: 30+
We are probably guilty of somewhat overlooking Melean, signed out of Venezuela as one of four players in the 2017 international class to receive a bonus over $750,000. Befitting that status, he came directly stateside, but only threw 53.2 innings his first two seasons while an ERA around 5.00 and control problems didn’t distinguish himself.
Reaching full season finally in 2021, it was a similar story as Melean worked short starts, posting a 5.29 ERA in 63 innings with 35 free passes. Though the strikeout rate did jump up to 75 (26%), and did a little better after a late season promotion to Vancouver. Returning there in 2023, he was excellent in posting a 1.69 ERA in 32 innings, striking out 35 and notably just 7 walks, but regressed with New Hampshire (5.10 ERA, 24/17 K/BB in 30 innings).
There’s some interesting building blocks, as Melean reaches 93-94 with a straight fastball. The change-up is his best pitch, which looked really good with diving action in a 2021 look. He rounds it out with a slider that flashes decent, but often doesn’t finish.
In 2022 I mostly saw him with New Hampshire, and beyond the line he didn’t look as good. There was a lot of pitching backward, using a ton of offspeed pitches with the odd fastball mixed in. But the quality of said offspeed was the bigger issue. While they had plenty of movement, it wasn’t crisp and the slider and change-up ran together and were hard to tell apart (where previously they were much crisper and identifiable).
As noted above, this was his poorest stretch over the last couple years, and perhaps is resulting in an overly bearish evaluation. On the mound, Melean looks very compact, undersized by MLB standards at a listed 6’0”. Given that, the lack of innings foundation, one secondary that rates a true weapon (or at least has been in the past), short relief would seem to be the obvious path (and perhaps with a bump in velo).
Alex De Jesus, IF, age 21 (DOB: 3/2/2002), grade: 35, 2022: Dodgers’ system
This may be another case where circumstances may have prevented De Jesus from getting his full due. He came over at the trade deadline with Mitch White from the Dodgers, who signed him out of the Dominican in 2018 for $500,000. Having caught a fair number of Vancouver’s late season games, he didn’t stick out at all and as such landed below the grading tier for the list.
Granted, the .211/.298/.333 line with a 35% strikeout rate was well below his production at low-A and high-A in the year and a half before, so it’s not likely a representative baseline of his ability. With the Dodgers, he had a pretty consistent offensive profile, showing decent pop while drawing walks at a good clip but striking out upwards of 30% of the time.
He was young for the levels, but also didn’t improve when repeating low-A in 2022 (though held the production when moved up before the trade). Beyond not having got a good look at him, the concern is that the offensive profile is more or less set even given that’s he just turned 21. In that case, he looks something like a “tweener”, where there’s not enough power to offset the swing-and-miss flaws.
But he grows into more power or otherwise makes progress and shows a lot better in his first full year with the Jays, he’s the likeliest candidate to jump to 40 type grade next year and a jump into the top half of the list.
Davis Schneider, utility, age 24 (DOB: 1/26/1999), grade: 30+
Drafted in the 28th round of the 2017 Draft, Schneider has slowly ascended the system. He briefly seemed like a deep sleeper breakout with an explosive start in Bluefield, but tailed off after a couple weeks. He’s had to fight for playing time, posting solid batting lines but that have steadily improved each year and the last couple years some power has come in.
There’s not any standout tools, which keeps him off the main list, but he’s now in the upper minors and the production has held up so he’s of note. He works the count at the plate to draw walks at a very healthy clip, though also striking out at a fair clip as well. He’s moved around a bunch of positions, partly of necessity to get into lineups, but if the production holds he could be an offensively oriented utility type. it’s likely a role player ceiling, but there’s a good chance he sees some major league time in the next couple years.
The most glaring omission was
This poll is closed
Alex De Jesus