Toronto Blue Jays 2020 Top 50 Prospects

Jordan Groshans. Gulf Coast League Tigers West v. Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. Tigertown. Lakeland, FL. June 19, 2018. Photo credit Tom Hagerty/MiLB.com on Flickr (lakelandlocal)

The first step of the Blue Jays rebuild saw the MLB debuts of some cornerstone pieces to build around all over the diamond. In 2019 we saw graduate from the 2019 top 50 list #1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #2 Bo Bichette, #3 Danny Jansen, #8 Cavan Biggio, #10 Sean Reid-Foley, #20 Billy McKinney, #22 Rowdy Tellez, #23 Thomas Pannone, #25 Reese McGuire, #35 Trent Thornton, #37 Elvis Luciano, #43 Jonathan Davis and also Jacob Waguespack, who I obviously erred in missing from last years list. The focus of the organization has now turned toward pitching. The free agent signings of veterans Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark along with a trade for Chase Anderson has stabilized the major league rotation. This will give the next wave of exciting young pitchers the proper time to develop. There will also be a healthy competition in AAA Buffalo rotation with many viable options battling to get the call up.

Before we get to the list, let’s take a look back at some others that have been removed from the 2019 list. No longer in the organization are #13 David Paulino (released), #21 Chad Spanberger (traded), #27 Max Pentecost (retired) and #44 Shawn Morimando (free agent). Others still around but just didn’t quite make the 2020 top 50 are #39 Julian Merryweather, #40 Sean Wymer, #47 Jackson McClelland, #48 Zach Jackson and #50 Zach Logue. Now let’s look at the 2020 list.



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. Nate Pearson, RHP (’19 rank #5)
Age: 23 (DOB: 08/20/96)
2019 Highest Level: AAA
Pearson is one of the best pitching prospects in the minor leagues. After pitching only a couple of innings in 2018 this stud prospect moved through three levels in 2019 dominating hitters with a 2.30 ERA and 119K in 101.2 innings. He is now knocking on the door and if he can dominate early at AAA we should see him in Toronto prior to the all-star break. He could be the ace of the staff for a long time.


Tier 2

2. Jordan Groshans, SS (’19 Rank #6)
Age: 20 (DOB: 11/10/99)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
Drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft, Groshans opened the season strong slashing .337/.427/.482 in 23 games before his season was ended with a foot injury in mid-May. He still needs to see the power to develop but he will be another strong piece of the future infield alongside Vlady and Bo. He should move up to High-A Dunedin in 2020.

3. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (’19 Rank #6 Mets)
Age: 19 (DOB: 09/27/00)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
SWR was acquired from the NY Mets in the Marcus Stroman trade. In 6 starts at High-A Dunedin after the trade he had a 2.54 ERA with 29K in 28.1 IP. He was also the youngest player in Florida State League. He has the potential to be a top of the rotation arm in the future.


Tier 3

4. Orelvis Martinez, SS (’19 Rank #18)
Age: 18 (DOB: 11/19/01)
2019 Highest Level: GCL
Martinez performed well in his debut season. Baseball America ranked him the #1 prospect in the Gulf Coast League. He had a slashline of .275/.352/.549 with 7 home runs. There were a lot of errors, 12 in 40 games but he’s still too young to worry about that at this point. Could be aggressively moved to Low-A Lansing in 2020.

5. Alek Manoah, RHP (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 22 (DOB: 01/09/98)
2019 Highest Level: Short-A
Manoah was the first round pick in the June draft. He dominated hitters In the limited innings he was given at Short-A Vancouver. He had 27K in 17 IP. It will be interesting to see how much he improves over a full season. He should start 2020 at Low-A Lansing. The 6’6” 260 lb right hander has the potential to be a solid #2 or 3 starter in the future but as primarily a two-pitch pitcher there is some risk that he ends up as a reliever.

6. Eric Pardinho, RHP (’19 Rank #9)
Age: 19 (DOB: 01/05/01)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
Pardinho got off to a late start after suffering an elbow injury in the spring; He looked good however in 7 starts with a 2.54 ERA before being shut down early as a precaution. He will start at Hi-A Dunedin. If he can remain healthy he could be a top of the rotation guy down the road.

7. Anthony Kay, LHP (’19 Rank #10 Mets)
Age: 24 (DOB: 03/25/95)
2019 Highest Level: MLB
Kay was acquired from the NY Mets along with SWR In the Marcus Stroman trade. He was much better after the trade at AAA Buffalo posting a 2.50 ERA in 7 starts. He got a September call-up where he had 8 strikeouts in his major league debut. He will battle for a Toronto starting spot in spring training but will likely end up at AAA Buffalo to start the season. Could become a solid 3rd or 4th starter in the future.

8. Adam Kloffenstein, RHP (’19 Rank #14)
Age: 19 (DOB: 08/25/00)
2019 Highest Level: Short-A
King Kloff as an 18 year old was ranked by BA #5 in Northwest League top 20. In 13 starts he had a 2.24 ERA with 64 K in 64 IP. He has a great future as a starter with a high 90’s fastball and a nasty curveball. Don’t be surprised to see him move quickly to Hi-A Dunedin.

9. Gabriel Moreno, C (’19 Rank #42)
Age: 19 (DOB: 02/14/00)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
The first of five catchers on the list. Moreno had a breakout season outperforming expectations with a .280/.337/.485 slashline and 12 HR, 52 RBI in 80 games at Low-A Lansing. He makes outstanding contact with an 11% strikeout rate. He will move to High-A Dunedin in 2020.

10. Alejandro Kirk, C (’19 Rank #33)
Age: 21 (11/06/98)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Kirk is one of best pure hitters in the minors. He had another strong offensive season slashing .290/.403/.465 with 56 walks to only 39 strikeouts across two levels in 2019. He has the potential to be a consistent .300 hitter in the majors however his 5’9”-220 lb size and a lack of agility make him a risk to remain at catcher. He should start 2020 at AA New Hampshire.

11. Miguel Hiraldo, 2B/SS (’19 Rank #11)
Age: 19 (DOB: 09/05/00)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
Hiraldo was aggressively placed in the Appy at Advanced-Rookie Bluefield after spending most of 2018 in the DSL. He was very good there with a slashline of .300/.348/.481 with 7 HR and 11 SB. He has an advanced approach and the potential to produce solid power numbers so he could move quickly through the system.

12. Kevin Smith, SS/3B (’19 Rank #4)
Age: 23 (DOB: 07/04/96)
2019 Highest Level: AA
After a very good 2018 season that saw Smith move quickly up through the lower levels he took a big step backwards when he arrived at AA. 2019 was a rough year with some major contact issues. He hit only .209/.263/.405 with 155K. The home run and stolen base totals were also down. Then in the AFL he looked terrible with 38 strikeouts in 67 plate appearances. Smith will be looking for a do-over in 2020 at AA New Hampshire and hopefully he will rebound. With the depth at the position in the system a move away from shortstop full-time is likely.

13. Griffin Conine, OF (’19 Rank #19)
Age: 22 (DOB: 07/11/97)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
After missing the first 50 games due to a suspension Conine still managed to lead the Midwest League with 22 HR in 80 games. He finished with a .286 average and a .946 OPS but he needs to cut down on the 36% strikeout rate. He should start 2020 at High-A Dunedin.


Tier 4

14. Kendall Williams, RHP (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 19 (DOB: 08/24/00)
2019 Highest Level: GCL
Williams was the second round selection in the 2019 draft. He had 19K in 16 IP with a 1.13 ERA in his pro debut in the GCL. He should move up to Short-A Vancouver in 2020.

15. Anthony Alford, OF (’19 Rank #7)
Age: 25 (DOB: 07/20/94)
2019 Highest Level: MLB
2019 was another season filled with injuries for Alford. He slashed .259/.343/.411 with 7 HR and 22 SB in 76 games at AAA Buffalo before getting a September call-up for the second year in a row. Out of options he should get an extended look in the Toronto outfield to open the 2020 season. It is time to take advantage of the opportunity and put that athleticism to work. Believe it or not with his MLB debut in 2017 he is actually now the longest tenured Blue Jay despite having only 55 career AB.

16. T.J. Zeuch, RHP (’19 Rank #17)
Age: 24 (DOB: 08/01/95)
2019 Highest Level: MLB
Zeuch had a strong finish to his AAA season including throwing a no-hitter and earning a September call-up. He made 3 MLB starts and pitch long relief following the opener in 2 others. With 20 K in 22.2 IP it was a good debut. He will be back at AAA Buffalo where he had a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts in 2019 waiting for the next call-up.

17. Dasan Brown, OF (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 18 (09/25/01)
2019 Highest Level: GCL
Brown was taken in the third round of the 2019 draft. Known for his speed the Toronto-born outfielder was one of the top overall athletes in the draft class. He could develop into a 5-tool player. He had 2 triples and 6 stolen bases in 14 games in his debut season.

18. Chavez Young, OF (’19 Rank #29)
Age: 22 (DOB: 07/08/97)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Young is a switch-hitting outfielder who continued to improve as the season went along. He finished the season .247/.315/.354 with 6 HR and 24 SB. The former 39th round selection from the 2016 draft will move up to AA New Hampshire in 2020.

19. Hector Perez, RHP (’19 Rank #12)
Age: 23 (DOB: 06/06/96)
2019 Highest Level: AA
Perez had a terrible start to his second year at AA New Hampshire with a 10.69 ERA over his first 5 starts. The second half was much better but with an abundance of starters now lining up for AAA Buffalo he could be squeezed out and turned into a reliever.

20. Patrick Murphy, RHP (‘19 Unranked)
Age: 24 (DOB: 06/10/95)
2019 Highest Level: AA
Murphy had another lost season in 2019. After many injury-filled seasons his progress was stalled this time by an umpires ruling that deemed his delivery to be illegal. He finished with a 4-7 record and a 4.71 ERA. Now with a new delivery the hard throwing righty should rebound and be a big part of the pitching depth working out of the AAA Buffalo rotation.

21. Leonardo Jimenez, SS (’19 Rank #31)
Age: 18 (DOB: 05/17/01)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
Jimenez slashed .298/.377/.377 with 64 hits in 56 games at Advanced-Rookie Bluefield earning him a late-season call-up to Low-A Lansing. The strong defense he is known for continued with only one error the entire season.

22. Joey Murray, RHP (’19 Unranked)
Age: 22 (DOB: 09/23/96)
2019 Highest Level: AA
Murray was 10-7 with a 2.75 ERA as he moved through three levels in 2019. He was dominating leading the entire organization in strikeouts with 169 in 137.1 innings. His fastball only sits 87-92 mph but he has an improving changeup and hides the ball well. He should return to AA New Hampshire in 2020.

23. Will Robertson, OF (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 22 (DOB: 12/26/97)
2019 Highest Level: Short-A
Robertson was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. He got off to slow start but was better in the second half of his debut season at Short-A Vancouver slashing .324/.419/.486 in the final 20 games. That should help propel him to a solid 2020 at Low-A Lansing.

24. Otto Lopez, SS/2B (’19 Unranked)
Age: 21 (DOB: 10/01/98)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
Lopez had a terrific season winning the Midwest league batting title hitting .324. He played mostly at short but should move back to 2B in 2020 at Dunedin with Groshans returning from injury. He has good speed with 20 SB but was caught stealing 15 times.

25. Ryan Noda, 1B (’19 Rank #24)
Age: 23 (DOB: 03/30/96)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Noda had a decent season but his power numbers were down slightly and the batting average continues to slide as he moves to higher levels. A high 29% strikeout rate continues to be a problem also. Hopefully these trends don’t continue with a move up to AA New Hampshire in 2020.

26. Forrest Wall, OF (’19 Rank #16)
Age: 24 (DOB: 11/20/95)
2019 Highest Level: AAA
Wall had another strong season at AA New Hampshire leading the team with 112 hits, 70 runs scored and 170 total bases. He got a late season call-up to AAA Buffalo where he had 2 HR and a .786 OPS in the final 14 games. The former 2014 first round pick of the Rockies has moved slowly through the minors but should finally make his MLB debut at some point in 2020. He could even be a sleeper to take over the centre field job at some point.

27. Yennsy Diaz, RHP (’19 Rank #38)
Age: 23 (DOB: 11/15/96)
2019 Highest Level: MLB
Diaz had a very good year as a starter at AA New Hampshire where was 11-9 with a 3.74 ERA. He made one surprise MLB appearance that didn’t go so well as he walked 4 batters while only getting 2 outs. He should be part of a crowded situation at AAA Buffalo in 2020 but may be better suited to move to the bullpen.

28. Samad Taylor, 2B (’19 Rank #26)
Age: 21 (DOB: 07/11/98)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Taylor had another season where the strikeouts increased and the batting average decreased. He did have a stronger second half but he may soon be in danger of being passed by other infielders in the organization. He will look to bounce back at AA New Hampshire in 2020.

29. Riley Adams, C (’19 Rank #30)
Age: 23 (DOB: 06/26/96)
2019 Highest Level: AA
Adams had a solid season moving quickly from High-A Dunedin to AA New Hampshire. He slashed .261/.366/.443 with 14 HR. He is a strong receiver with a lot of power potential. He should be the starting catcher at AAA Buffalo in 2020.

30. Tanner Morris, SS (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 21 (DOB: 09/13/98)
2019 Highest Level: Short-A
Morris was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. He had a slow start in his debut at Vancouver but improved in the second half of the season finishing with a slashline of .246/.384/.346. He should move up to Low-A Lansing in 2020.

31. Jordan Romano, RHP (’19 Rank #35 Texas)
Age: 26 (04/21/93)
2019 Highest Level: MLB
Romano was impressive when moved to the bullpen in 2019. He overpowered hitters with 53K in 38.2 IP at AAA Buffalo. When called up to Toronto that trend continued with 21 K in 17.1 IP. He should be in the majors to stay now and could become a closer in the future.

32. Tom Hatch, RHP (’19 Rank #42 Cubs)
Age: 25 (DOB: 09/29/94)
2019 Highest Level: AA
Hatch was acquired from the Cubs in a trade for David Phelps. He has now spent two full seasons at AA. The former third round pick from the 2016 draft was a declining prospect in the Cubs system but was pretty good at AA New Hampshire after the trade. In 6 starts he had 2.80 ERA with 34 strikeouts and only 2 walks in 35.1 IP. He should be part of the rotation at AAA Buffalo in 2020.

33. Logan Warmoth, 2B/SS (’19 Rank #15)
Age: 24 (DOB: 09/06/95)
2019 Highest Level: AA
The former first round pick from the 2017 draft is trending in the wrong direction. He struggled at AA New Hampshire after a strong start at High-A Dunedin. After being promoted in June he had a slashline of only .200/.290/.277. He will look to bounce back from that with a return to AA but with a system deep in infielders he will need to make a mark soon.


Tier 5

34. Santiago Espinal, 2B/SS (’19 Rank #28)
Age: 25 (DOB: 11/13/94)
2019 Highest Level: AAA
Espinal was acquired from the Red Sox for Steve Pearce in 2018. He had a good season particularly after a promotion to AAA Buffalo. He slashed .287/.347/.393 with 7 HR and 71 RBI combined at two levels. It is a crowded path to the majors with Richard Urena, Breyvic Valera and Brandon Drury ahead of him for the backup infielder spot but he may be in the running.

35. Josh Winckowski, RHP (’19 Unranked)
Age: 21 (DOB: 06/28/98)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Winckowski had another very good season split between Low-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin. He was 10-8 with a 2.69 ERA and 108K in 127.1 IP. Another 6’4” right-hander who throws in the mid-90s. He will be an exciting part of a good young starting rotation at High-A Dunedin in 2020.

36. Hagen Danner, C (’19 Rank #36)
Age: 21 (DOB: 09/03/98)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
After a strong 2018 season at Advanced-Rookie Bluefield his move up to Low-A Lansing produced a slashline of only .170/.254/.369. In a system loaded with catching prospects he played the majority of games at 1B and DH. He showed good power with 12 HR but along with that comes 31% strikeout rate. I would expect a repeat year in Low-A.

37. Ronny Brito, SS/3B (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 20 (DOB: 03/22/99)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Brito was acquired from the Dodgers in the Russell Martin trade in January just after my top 50 list had been posted. Coming off a 2018 all-star rookie league season he likely would have made the top 30. He spent most of 2019 at short-A Vancouver where he struggled slashing .216/.292/.321 with 4 HR. He started the season with a handful of games at High-A Dunedin and may start there again in 2020. Likely to move to 3B full-time.

38. Jon Harris, RHP (’19 Rank #32)
Age: 25 (DOB: 10/16/93)
2019 Highest Level: AA
I was hoping that the former first round pick from the 2015 draft would take a step forward in 2019 and possibly make his MLB debut but due to injuries he managed to make only 3 AA starts. He will be in the mix for starts at AAA Buffalo in 2020 but his time may be running out.

39. Kevin Vicuna, SS (’19 Rank #45)
Age: 21 (DOB: 01/14/98)
2019 Highest Level: AAA
Vicuna is an excellent defensive shortstop with below average offense steadily moving up the ladder. He hit .250/.314/.326 at High-A Dunedin. He did go 3 for 7 in 3 games at AAA Buffalo near the end of the season but should spend 2020 at AA New Hampshire.

40. Rikelvin De Castro, SS (Preseason N/A)
Age: 16 (DOB: 01/23/03)
2019 Highest Level: Has not played
De Castro was given a $1.2M signing bonus as a J2 international signing. He is described as a plus defender at shortstop with average speed and average arm strength. They may start him in the DSL before coming stateside.

41. Curtis Taylor, RHP (’19 Rank #42 Tampa Bay)
Age: 24 (DOB: 07/25/95)
2019 Highest Level: AA
Canadian-born reliever was acquired from Tampa Bay after the season as one of two players to be named later in the Eric Sogard trade. He had 7 saves in 9 opportunities at AA Montgomery before suffering a sprained UCL in May which ended his season. In four minor league seasons he has 204 strikeouts and 63 walks in 174.1 IP. If he’s healthy he may be a surprise contributor in the Blue Jays bullpen in 2020.

42. Demi Orimoloye, OF (’19 Rank #41)
Age: 23 (DOB: 01/06/97)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Orimoloye spent his second season at High-A in 2019. He slashed .240/.291/.386 with 125 strikeouts and only 25 walks. He has power (12 HR) and good speed (22 SB) but will need to be more consistent when he move to the upper minor leagues.

43. Maximo Castillo, RHP (’19 Unranked)
Age: 20 (DOB: 05/04/99)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Each season Castillo is among the league leaders in innings pitched while also being one of the youngest pitchers in the league. For a 20 year-old he has thrown a lot of innings but he has sound mechanics and should remain healthy. He was 11-5 with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.9 BB/9 rate. He will start 2020 at AA New Hampshire and could become a decent back-end starter in the future.

44. Justin Maese, RHP (’19 Rank #34)
Age: 23 (DOB: 10/24/96)
2019 Highest Level: GCL
With only 5 innings on a GCL rehab assignment Maese has now lost almost 2 full seasons to shoulder labrum surgery. I’m not ready to give up on the former third rounder yet. Before getting hurt he was ranked #10 on the Blue Jays MLB Pipeline list and was the only pitcher in baseball to throw 3 CG in 2017.

45. Juan De Paula, RHP (’19 Rank #23 San Francisco)
Age: 22 (DOB: 09/22/97)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
DePaula is now all that remains of the Kevin Pillar trade from early last season. He had a 9.17 ERA in 52 IP after the trade. Likely to return to Low-A Lansing in 2020.

46. Philip Clarke, C (’19 Rank N/A)
Age: 21 (DOB: 03/24/98)
2019 Highest Level: Short-A
Signability concerns allowed the Blue Jays to grab Clarke in the ninth round of the draft. They went over-slot to sign him. At Vandebilt he was known as The Hitman, he is a strong offensive left-hand hitting catcher who was .299/.344/.466 in his two years there. After a good debut at Short-A Vancouver, look for a move to Low-A Lansing in 2020.

47. Kyle Johnston, RHP (’19 Rank #17 Washington)
Age: 23 (DOB: 07/17/96)
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Johnston was acquired from Washington in a trade for Daniel Hudson. At High-A Potomac he was 9-9 with a 4.03 ERA but then was 1-3 with 10.07 ERA at High-A Dunedin. Hopefully he is more like the pre-trade pitcher going forward. He will move up to AA New Hampshire in 2020.

48. Alejandro Melean, RHP (’19 Unranked)
Age:19 (DOB: 10/11/00)
2019 Highest Level: Rookie
Melean was signed from the 2017 J2 class. Melean had 25K in 21 IP at Advanced- Rookie Bluefield in the Appy. He has a 95-96 mph fastball. Could move up to Low-A Lansing in 2020

49. Mc Gregory Contreras, OF (’19 Rank #46)
Age: 21 (DOB: 08/30/98)
2019 Highest Level: Low-A
I was hoping for a breakout but got regression instead. Contreras started the season with Low-A Lansing but was sent back to Short-A Vancouver in June. Slashed .211/.263/.321 with 4 HR.

50. Andrew Sopko, RHP (’19 N/A)
Age: 25 (DOB: 08/07/94)
2019 Highest Level: AAA
Sopko was acquired from the LA Dodgers for Russell Martin. He started well at AA New Hampshire with a 2.34 ERA in 6 starts but struggled with a 1-6 record and 7.19 ERA after his promotion to AAA Buffalo. He will likely a long man/emergency starter type at some point.


SUPER SLEEPER ALERT

Davis Schneider, 2B/3B
Age: 20 (DOB: 01/26/89)
2019 Highest Level: Short-A
Selected in the 28th round pick of the 2017 draft. After a couple of decent but unspectacular seasons he struggled in 2019 at short-A Vancouver and was demoted back to Advanced- Rookie Bluefield. It was there that he found his game. He slashed 313/380/550 with 6 HR, 13 2B and 24RBI in 32 games. Look for him to get a shot at Low-A Lansing in 2020

 




3 Comments

  1. I thought Yorman was maybe not going to take a step forward in 2019 after heading back to Vancouver for a third year in a row and coming off a down season but he had a nice bounceback season earning the promotion up to Lansing. Looks like he is primarily a first baseman now. Only 5 starts at catcher. He was actually #51 on my list. Others that just missed were in no particular order relievers Zach Jackson and Jackson McClelland, J2 signings SS Estivan Machado and 2B Penier Brito, outfielders Reggie Pruitt and Josh Palacios, 10th rounder SS Glenn Santiago and SP Nick Allgeyer.

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