Toronto Blue Jays 2021 Top 50 Prospects

Graphic design by John Stewart, @jonance on Twitter

The COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for Toronto in 2020. The US/Canada border was closed to all non-essential travel making the big club homeless. The team was forced to play its home games at Sahlen Field, home of their AAA Buffalo affiliate. The young Blue Jays roster however accepted that challenge well and took a huge step forward in their development with the first trip to the postseason in four years. We saw seven players make their major league debuts in 2020 and a couple others graduate from rookie status as the farm system continued to fuel the re-build. Even with all the young talent we have seen promoted in the past couple seasons, the system remains strong and arguably still ranks top 5 in the league.

Five of these Jays prospects rank in our Top 100 (from our Overall Top 197 posted this past October), and Baseball America actually has six in their new Top 100. Austin Martin, Nate Pearson, Jordan Groshans, Simeon Woods Richardson and Orelvis Martinez slot into both Top 100s, while BA also includes Alek Manoah and Alejandro Kirk. Manoah came in at 155 on our Prospects1500 list.


Before we get to this year’s list we take a look back at those that have been removed from the 2020 list. Graduated to the big club were #7 Anthony Kay, #31 Jordan Romano, #32 Thomas Hatch and #34 Santiago Espinal. No longer in the organization are #13 Griffin Conine (traded to Miami for Jonathan Villar), #14 Kendall Williams (traded to LA Dodgers for Ross Stripling), #15 Anthony Alford (claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh) and #50 Andrew Sopko (released). Still in the organization but failed to make this year’s list are #36 Hagen Danner, #37 Ronny Brito, #38 Jon Harris, #39 Kevin Vicuna, #42 Demi Orimoloye, #45 Juan De Paula, #48 Alejandro Melean, #49 Mc Gregory Contreras.

Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster

Tier 1

1. Austin Martin, SS/OF (’20 rank N/A)
Age: 21
Highest Level: College
Martin was selected fifth overall in the 2020 draft. Many industry pre-draft mocks had him going 1st or 2nd overall and when he unexpectedly fell to the Blue Jays at pick 5 they had the steal of the draft. A mature hitter with excellent pitch recognition he was considered the best pure hitter in the draft. He was drafted as a shortstop but he played mostly 3B and CF at Vanderbilt where he had a career slashline of .368/.474/.532.

2. Nate Pearson, RHP (’20 rank #1)
Age: 24
Highest Level: MLB
Pearson is an elite pitching prospect who will be a future top of the rotation starter. He debuted in Toronto last season making 4 starts before spending a month on the disabled list. The results were mixed as he finished with a 6.00 ERA with 16K in 18IP. There were however flashes of brilliance with his fastball at times reaching 100-102 along with an above-average slider and curve. In his one post-season appearance he was great striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced. With a career high of only 101.2 IP in the minors his innings will be monitored closely this year with finishing healthy being the priority.

Tier 2

3. Jordan Groshans, 3B/SS (’20 rank #2)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A
Drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft, Groshans projects as a .300/30 HR hitter with all-star potential. He got into only 23 games at Low-A Lansing in 2019 before spending most of the season on the disabled list with a foot injury. Working this past summer at the alternate site should have him prepared to make the jump to AA in 2021.

4. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (’20 rank #3)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A+
We have only seen Woods Richardson make 6 starts at High-A Dunedin since being acquired in 2019 from NY Mets. Reports out of the alternate site said he looked very impressive. He has multiple pitches and an advanced feel for pitching. He should start 2021 at AA and may be big-league ready very soon.

5. Orelvis Martinez, SS (’20 rank #4)
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Martinez was given the 2nd highest bonus of $3.5M as one of the top bats in the 2018 J2 class. As one of only a few 17 year-olds in the GCL he was impressive in 2019 slashing .275/.352/.549. He should make his full season debut in A ball in 2021. Still very young but has all-star potential.

6. Alek Manoah, RHP (’20 rank #5)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A-
Manoah was selected 11th overall in the 2019 draft. He dominated in his pro debut in 2019. He is a two-pitch pitcher that many fear may be destined to move to the bullpen. 2020 may have been good for him as it gave him plenty of time at the alternate site  to work on developing a change-up to go along with his upper-90’s fastball and nasty slider. He has the potential to be a future ace who should jump to High-A in 2021.

7. Alejandro Kirk, C (’20 rank #10)
Age: 22
Highest Level: MLB
Kirk had an impressive MLB debut when he was called up from the alternate site in 2020.  Small sample size but he had a slash-line of .375/.400/.583 in 9 games after having never previously played above single-A. As a bat-first catcher more time at AAA to concentrate on his defense would probably be wise but the he could make the team out of spring training and alternate between backing up C Danny Jansen and the DH spot.

Tier 3

8. Miguel Hiraldo, 2B/SS (’20 rank #11)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A
After two solid seasons in the DSL and the rookie levels Hiraldo is poised for a breakout season. He has a high-upside bat with the potential to hit for power. He was not brought to the alternate site roster. He spent the summer training in the D.R. before joining the instructional camp at Dunedin in the fall. Look for him to start at any one of the infield positions in A ball in 2021.

9. Adam Kloffenstein, RHP (’20 rank #8)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A-
Kloffenstein was selected in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. After a strong debut in 2019 at Vancouver he was left off the alternate site roster. He chose to spend the summer playing Independent ball in Texas. As a 19 year old in a league full of experienced MLB and AAA players he was 8 yrs younger than the league average age. He faired well pitching in 27 games striking out 60 in 64.1 IP with a 4.91 ERA. Great experience for him that will surely be beneficial long-term.

10. Gabriel Moreno, C (’20 rank #9)
Age: 20
Highest Level: A
Signed for just $25,000 in 2016 Moreno is looking like a bargain. Coming off a breakout season in 2019 at Low-A Lansing reports from Rochester were that he was the best hitter at the alternate site this past summer. He has the defensive skills to be a good all-round catcher in the majors. Playing in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season he had a slashline of .373/.471/.508 in 18 games.

11. C.J. Van Eyk, RHP (’20 rank N/A)
Age: 22
Highest Level: College
Van Eyk was selected in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft. He had a 1.31 ERA in 20.2 IP with 25 K in the shortened 2020 season pitching for Florida State. He has a 95 mph fastball that goes along with his best pitch a 12-6 curve. If he doesn’t develop a third pitch there is some reliever risk for the future.

12. Eric Pardinho, RHP (’20 rank #6)
Age: 20
Highest Level : A
Pardinho will miss the start of the 2021 season after having Tommy John surgery last February but hopefully he will get back to that guy who shot onto the scene as a 17 year-old in advanced Rookie ball in 2018.

Tier 4

13. Otto Lopez, SS/2B (’20 rank #24)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A
Lopez was a bit of a surprise addition to the 40 man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft in November but he does have significant upside. The last time we saw him he was the Midwest batting champion in 2019. Defensive versatility is a plus, he has played all over the infield and all three outfield positions during his three minor league seasons. He could have a future as a very good utility player in the majors. Playing in the Dominican Winter League this off-season he had a slashline of .254/.333/.332 in 18 games.

14. Dasan Brown, OF (’20 rank #17)
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Brown was selected in the third round of the 2019 draft. With no minor league games in 2020 Brown spent the summer working out at home in Toronto with fellow Canadian Daniel Calabrese, an LA Angels prospect. Brown is a project who is a long way off but he might be the best center-fielder in the system.

15. Estiven Machado, 2B (’20 unranked)
Age: 18
Highest Level: IFA signee/Venezuela
Machado was a J2 international signing in 2019. He is more hit than power with above average range at shortstop. We have yet to see him in game action but he was part of the instructional camp at Dunedin in the fall.

16. Kevin Smith, SS/3B (’20 Rank #12)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
There are major questions about his ability to make contact with 155K at AA in 2019. He was part of the alternate site roster so maybe they spent a considerable amount of time working on that. Many sources expected him to be added to the 40 man this year however he was left off and exposed to the Rule 5 draft indicating they probably didn’t see enough to not risk losing him.

17. Leonardo Jimenez, SS (’20 rank #21)
Age: 19
Highest Level: A
Jimenez had solid seasons in Rookie ball in 2018 & 2019. He was in the instructional camp at Dunedin in the fall and has the potential for a breakout season in single-A in 2021.

18. Manuel Beltre, SS (’20 rank N/A)
Age: 16
Highest Level: IFA signee/Dominican Republic
Beltre was recently signed for $2.35M in the 2020 IFA signing period. The right-handed bat is considered to be one of the top hitters in the class. He is a really advanced hitter with a nice compact swing that makes good hard line drive contact. He has plus speed and arm strength.

19. Rikelvin De Castro, SS (’20 rank #42)
Age: 17
Highest Level: IFA signee/Dominican Republic
De Castro was the Blue Jays top signing at $1.2M in the J2 class in 2019. He plays outstanding defense at shortstop and could become an above-average hitter but probably with not much power.

20. Patrick Murphy, RHP (’20 rank #20)
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
Murphy pitched well in 4 appearances with Toronto in 2020. He had a 1.50 ERA in 6 IP. He has been a starter throughout his minor league career but with a good fastball and curve it makes him a good candidate to be a late-inning reliever. He will start 2021 in the Buffalo rotation but should have a role in Toronto soon enough.

21. T.J. Zeuch, RHP (’20 rank #16)
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
Zeuch is a former 1st round pick from the 2016 draft. He has pitched 34 MLB innings over the past two seasons. He had a 1.59 ERA in 3 appearances, 11.1 IP in 2020. With options remaining he is destined for the AAA Buffalo rotation in 2021.

22. Joey Murray, RHP (’20 rank #22)
Age: 23
Highest Level: AA
Drafted in the 8th round of the 2018 draft Murray moved quickly through three levels in 2019 leading the entire organization with 169 strikeouts. Reports from the alternate site suggest that he has added a couple mph to his deceptive high 80’s fastball. He should be with AAA Buffalo in 2021.

23. Josh Winckowski, RHP (’20 rank #35)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A+
Winckowski had a great season in 2019 with a 2.69 ERA in 23 starts between Low-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin which should have propelled him through AA in 2020. He was however left off the alternate site roster so he may need to return to High-A to start 2021 to get caught up again.

24. Riley Adams, C (’20 rank #31)
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
Adams spent the summer at the alternate site and reports are that he is showing tremendous improvement behind the plate. He has always had a strong bat with 14 HR at AA in 2019. The catching positon in the organization is becoming a logjam near the top end and a trade looks like the only fix. If he is still around he will likely share the catching duties at AAA Buffalo in 2021.

25. Forrest Wall, OF (’20 rank #26)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AAA
Wall spent the summer at the alternate training site but never received a call up. When we last saw him he slashed .268/.351/.422 with 11 HR in 2019 mostly with AA New Hampshire. Unless they make a big splash in free agency the only competition for Wall to becoming the 4th outfielder in Toronto is Derek Fisher and Jonathan Davis. It would not be unreasonable to see him in Toronto at some point in 2021.

26. Will Robertson, OF (’20 rank #23)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A-
Robertson was selected in the 4th round of the 2019 draft. He was left off the alternate site roster in 2020 but reports were that he was hitting well at the instructional camp in the fall. Already a 23 year-old he will be looking to move quickly this year when he starts in single-A.

27. Anthony Castro, RHP (’20 rank Tigers #13)
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
Castro was claimed off waivers from the Tigers organization in December. He has a plus fastball and plus slider but command issues have always been the problem throughout his minor league career. He made his MLB debut in 2020 with one appearance out of the bullpen. A starter in the lower minors early in his career he started only 21 of the 30 AA games in 2018/2019. It is unsure what role he will have with the Jays.

28. Yennsy Diaz, RHP (’20 rank #27)
Age: 24
Highest Level: MLB
Diaz suffered a lat injury during spring training prior to the shutdown and remained on the 60-day DL throughout the entire 2020 season. Diaz has been a starter throughout his minor league career but GM Ross Atkins indicated after the season that he will remain a reliever going forward in 2021. His above-average fastball and change-up could play well as a back-end bullpen guy in the majors.

29. Hector Perez, RHP (’20 rank #19)
Age: 24
Highest Level: MLB
Perez made his major league debut in 2020. It wasn’t a great showing giving up 3 hits and 3 walks in 1.2 IP but he will be in the mix for a bullpen spot again in 2021. Perez has worked mainly as a starter in the minors but GM Ross Adkins indicated that he too will be looked at only as a reliever going forward. He spent time in the Dominican Winter League this off-season but pitched only 2 innings.

30. Nick Frasso, RHP (’20 rank N/A)
Age: 22
Highest Level: College
Frasso was selected in the 4th round of the 2020 draft. He made 2 starts in 2020 with Loyola Marymount. In 2019 he was a dominant closer with 10 saves and a 11.6 K/9 rate. The 6’5” right-hander has a 97 mph fastball and a complimentary curve.

31. Chavez Young, OF (’20 rank #18)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A+
Young is switch-hitting outfielder with speed. He had 68 SB over his last two full seasons. After enjoying a breakout season in 2018 he hit only .247 in High-A in 2019. He was sent this winter to play in the Australian league but due to COVID-19 that season was delayed starting and he has only one at bat where he did get a hit. He will likely start at AA New Hampshire in 2021.

32. Ryan Noda, 1B (’20 rank #25)
Age: 24
Highest Level: A+
Noda was a promising power hitter in the low minors early in his career but his numbers continued to decline in 2019. Left off the alternate site roster he may be reaching his peak in this organization. There is still hope though that he will figure it out this season with AA New Hampshire.

33. Logan Warmoth, 2B/SS (’20 Rank #33)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
Warmoth was the 1st round pick of the 2017 draft. He has failed to live up to expectations so far. He was left unprotected and went undrafted in the Rule 5 draft in December. Running out of time he should return to AA New Hampshire but he will need to improve on his 2019 slashline of .200/.290/.277 if he wants to stick around much longer.

34. Tanner Morris, SS (’20 rank #29)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A-
With no minor league baseball in 2020 Morris spent his time playing in an Independent league in his home state of Virginia. The league had a handful of players with pro experience and he ended up being named to the 2020 All-RCBL team. The 5th round pick of the 2019 draft will make his A-ball debut in 2021.

35. Sem Robberse, RHP (’20 unranked)
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Robberse is an interesting prospect, he was signed as an international FA out of the Netherlands in 2019 where he had been playing in the Dutch major league at only 17 years old. He had a strong debut in the GCL. In 5 games he had a 0.87 ERA, striking out 9 and not walking any of the 41 batters he faced.

36. Trent Palmer, RHP (’20 rank N/A)
Age: 21
Highest Level: College
Palmer was selected in the 3rd round of the 2020 draft. In 4 college starts with Jacksonville in 2020 he had a 1.30 ERA with 41K in 27.2 IP. Palmer has a 96-97 mph fastball with a solid change up and curve.

37. Jackson Rees, RHP (’20 unranked)
Age: 26
Highest Level: A+
Rees was a relative unknown when signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018. That didn’t stop him from winning the minor league reliever of the year award in his first full season. In 2019 he had 88K in 61.2 IP, 9 SV and a 0.73 ERA split between A and High-A. He has a low 90’s sinker and wipeout slider that was easy to throw off the young hitters. It will interesting  to see how that plays in the upper minors against more mature hitters.

38. Curtis Taylor, RHP (’20 rank #38)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
Taylor was acquired from Tampa Bay way back in 2019 in a deal for Eric Sogard . He still has yet to pitch in the Blue Jays organization. He throws hard and has an above average slider. The 6’6” reliever could be ready for a late inning role in Toronto this season. He had 7 saves in AA with the Rays organization prior to the trade.

39. Josh Palacios, OF (’20 unranked)
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
Palacios was added to the 40 man roster in November. Reports are that he made great strides at the alternate training site. Improvements were made on hitting to the opposite field, on defensive routes and in his base stealing ability. He spent a lot of time working with former all-star OF Devon White. As a left-handed bat the opportunity could be there for him to take a step forward in the right-hand heavy Toronto lineup.

Tier 5

40. Samad Taylor, 2B (’20 rank #28)
Age. 22
Highest Level: A+
Taylor was acquired from Cleveland in 2017. A middle infielder in a system deep with shortstops he needs to make his mark soon. He did not have a particularly good season in 2019 hitting only .217 and striking out far too much. He was sent to Australia this winter along with Chavez Young to get some much needed AB’s after no season in 2020. Small sample size but currently in 10 he is slashing .243/.300/.297 down under.

41. Justin Maese, RHP (‘20 rank #44)
Age: 24
Highest Level: A
Maese has pitched only 3 innings since 2017 due to injuries. The former 3rd round selection from the 2015 draft was part of the fall development camp at Dunedin and appeared healthy and ready to return to the form that once had him ranked in the top 10 on Blue Jays top prospect lists.

42. Maximo Castillo, RHP (’20 rank #43)
Age: 21
Highest Level: A+
The last time we saw Castillo he was outstanding at High-A Dunedin going 11-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 2019.  Since signing as an IFA in 2015 at every level he has pitched he has been one of the youngest in the league, logs among the leaders in innings pitched but never seems to get much industry buzz, In December playing winter ball in Venezuela he had a 1.69 ERA over 10.2 IP in 6 games.

43. Javier D’Orazio, C (’20 unranked)
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Another promising catcher. He was signed in the 2018 IFA signing period. He had an excellent debut in the DSL in 2019 but struggled a bit when moved up to the GCL at the end of year.

44. Cristian Feliz, OF (’20 unranked)
Age: 18
Highest Level: IFA signee/Dominican Republic
Feliz was signed for $325,000 during the 2019 J2 IFA signing period. He is a left-handed hitting outfielder. At 6’5” he has been described as having monster power potential.

45. Kyle Johnston, RHP (’20 rank #47)
Age: 24
Highest Level: A+
Johnston came to the organization from Washington in a 2019 trade deadline deal for Daniel Hudson. He was originally the Nats 6th round pick in the 2017 draft. He has a 4.97 ERA in 172 IP over his last two seasons at the High-A level. He should be part of the AA rotation in 2021.

46. Philip Clarke, C (’20 rank #46)
Age: 22
Highest Level: A-
Clarke was paid an over-slot $500,000 as a 9th round pick in the 2019 draft. He had slipped in the draft as many teams thought him to be a tough sign. His debut season a short-A Vancouver was nothing special slashing .257/.359/.333 with 2 HR but as a .300 hitter in college we could see a breakout from him in his first full season at Low-A.

47. Victor Mesia, C (’20 unranked)
Age: 17
Highest Level: IFA signee/Venezuela
Mesia was signed for $300,000 in the 2019 J2 signing period. The catching pipeline continues. Reports on him say he is a plus hitter with raw power potential. Potentially the best catcher in the 2019 class but still a long way off.

48. Luis Quinones, RHP (’20 unranked)
Age: 23
Highest Level: A-
Quinones was selected in the 34th round of the 2019 draft. He had a good debut season with a 2.95 ERA and 57K in 36.2 IP split between A- Vancouver and advanced rookie Bluefield. He received a PED suspension after the 2019 season which should carry into 2021 with the lost season last year. In December he was in the Puerto Rican winter league where he pitched 6 hitless innings with 12K

49. Peniel Brito, 3B/OF (’20 unranked)
Age: 18
Highest Level: IFA signee/Dominican Republic
Signed for $600,000 in the 2019 IFA J2 signing period. Reports say he has huge power potential and good plate discipline.

50. Martin Gimenez, SS (’20 rank N/A)
Age: 16
Highest level: IFA signee/Venezuela
Recently signed in 2020 IFA signing period. A 6’3″ shortstop with some power projection. He may not remain a shortstop long-term.

51. Zach Britton, OF (’20 rank N/A)
Age. 22
Highest level: College
Britton was the 5th round selection in the 2020 draft. Strong work ethic. Originally a catcher who moved to the outfield fulltime in 2020. He was slashing .322/.446/.542 when the college season was suspended.

 




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