Now that the disappointing month of April is behind us and the Toronto Blue Jays look to turn things around to start the month of May, there are a few prospects who were not included in my pre-season Toronto Blue Jays Top 50 list but have put up some interesting numbers to start the season. I have chosen one hitter and one pitcher from each of the four affiliates. These players are not necessarily the next in line to be considered for the 51-60 range of the list but if they continue to shine they could be building a case to be included in the next installment of my Top 50 though.
AAA Buffalo Bisons
Jason LebLebijian, 3B
Age: 25 (05/13/91)
Leblebijian was drafted in the 25th round of the 2012 draft. He has always been known for playing great defense at all four infield positions but this season his bat is on fire as well. In his first season at AAA Buffalo he has started off strong with a slash line of .333/.440/.587 while leading the Bisons in most of the offensive categories including HR (4) RBI (15) and Runs (14). If he continues to hit like this he will be someone to watch more seriously going forward. Versatile utility guys who can hit always seems to find a spot in the majors somewhere.
Murphy Smith, RP
Age: 29 (08/25/87)
Smith has travelled a long road since being drafted by the A’s in the 13th round of the 2009 draft. In the Oakland organization he spent six seasons as a starter with mixed results. His career appeared to have stalled after spending all of 2012-2014 at AA Midland before being released at the end of the spring training in 2015. After signing with the Jays he had a 2.92 ERA in 16 starts at High-A Dunedin in 2015, although at 27 he was old for that level. He flourished after a move to the bullpen in 2016 where he had 5 saves and a 1.50 ERA and 8.5 K/9 at AA New Hampshire. This season after a rough first appearance where he gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk at New Hampshire he has now made 5 appearances without giving up a run, four of those games since being promoted to AAA. At 29 he is no longer considered a prospect but with the Toronto-Buffalo bullpen shuffle already seeing Danny Barnes, Leonel Campos and Matt Dermody being used this season maybe he will soon get an opportunity to make his MLB debut.
AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats
J.C. Cardenas, SS
Age: 22 (06/27/94)
Cardenas was an off the board pick in the 6th round of the 2015 draft out of a Division II school in Miami, FL. He is a Cuban born switch hitting shortstop whose family settled in Miami when he was 14 years old. The slick fielding defensive shortstop did not have much success at the plate in his first two seasons hitting .176 and .206 at Bluefield and Lansing, It was expected that he would repeat this season at Lansing but after beginning the year at High A Dunedin and getting hits in 10 of 14 games he was promoted to AA where he has carried on going 2-5 with a walk in his first 2 games there. Small sample size but maybe a light has come on for him.
Jose Fernandez, RP
Age: 24 (02/13/93)
Fernandez could be potential breakout candidate this season. The left-handed pitcher signed as a free agent from the D.R. in 2012 and spent 1 season in the DSL before coming stateside. He has worked his entire minor league career as a reliever and converted 16/20 save opportunities in his first few years in the low minors. This season he has started with 15 K in 10 IP and 2 saves at AA New Hampshire.
High A Dunedin Blue Jays
Andrew Guillotte, RF
Age: 24 (03/30/93)
Guillotte was a late round selection in the 2015 draft class chosen in the 32nd round. Last year In his first full season at Lansing he hit leadoff and played all 3 outfield positions earning a trip to the mid-season all-star game. He hit .253 with 20 SB getting rewarded with a late season promotion to High-A Dunedin. This season he is off to a great start at Dunedin with a slash line of .326/.396/.427 and 7 SB. At 24 he is a bit old for the level but if he can continue to hit when he gets to the higher levels he could develop into a nice depth outfielder.
Andrew Case, RP
Age: 24 (01/06/93)
Case is a Canadian who was discovered and signed after throwing a no-hitter in the Robbie Alomar Tournament 12 showcase event for Canadian-born players that is held every year at Rogers Centre. After first serving a 50 game drug suspension to begin the 2016 season he proved to be a reliable closer converting 11/12 save opportunities as he finished out the season at Lansing. This season at High-A Dunedin he is 2-for-2 in save opportunities with a 10:1 K/BB ratio in 10.1 IP over 8 games so far.
Low A Lansing Lugnuts
Bradley Jones, 2B
Age: 21 (06/12/95)
Jones was just outside my pre-season top 50 and is making a very solid case to be much higher in the next installment. Playing in a Lansing lineup that includes top prospects Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, the 18th round pick from the 2016 draft is off to a torrid start and is more than holding his own with a slash line of .372/.415/.674 and 6 HR, 23 RBI through the first month of the season. He was drafted as 3B and played mostly 1B in 2016 however this season he has started more games at 2B than at the CI positions. It is still very early to suggest that he may develop into a super-utility Ben Zobrist type player but he is certainly hitting his way onto the radar though.
Andy Ravel, SP
Age: 22 (10/12/94)
Ravel was drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft. He was 3-1 with a 5.12 ERA in 11 appearances at SS A Vancouver in 2016. This season in a small sample size so far at Low A Lansing he is a tale of two pitchers. He has had 2 good starts of 5 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER and 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER sandwiched around 2 rough starts of 6 runs allowed in 0.1 IP and 8 runs allowed in 3 IP.
Article featured image of J.C. Cardenas – courtesy his own Twitter page (@jc_cardenas2) & Pro Sports Media, Inc.