Thanks in no small part to an extremely aggressive approach to the draft the last two years as well as a willingness to spend internationally, the Blue Jays have developed an incredibly strong minor league system that packs both start power and plenty of depth. The Jays are positioned to see a solid stream of young talent join the big league club over the next several years and that could be capped off by the arrival of a powerful group of young arms in about 3-4 years.
1. Travis D’Arnaud (C)
D’Arnaud is the best catching prospect in the game and he has the chance to be an above-average defender with a good average and plenty of power. He needs to polish some of his receiving and throwing skills but that should come easily. He makes easy contact and has the strength for 20+ home runs annually if he can tighten his approach and command the strike zone better. D’Arnaud is bordering on big league readiness and he should make his debut in 2012.
2. Jake Marisnick (OF)
Marisnick is a tool shed that could be a star player in Toronto down the line. He is an impressive athlete that is a good runner with outstanding hand-eye coordination, good strength and a big time arm. He has the potential to hit .300 with 18-22 home runs a year while playing strong defense in center field. He will move to the High-A Florida State League in 2012 and another strong year could put him in line for a big league look in 2014.
3. Anthony Gose (OF)
If Marisnick is a tool shed then I’m not sure what exactly I would call Gose, a player who has tools to spare. He is a 70-grade runner with the potential for 55 or 60 power as well. His defense is truly outstanding and it is accented by an 80-arm that can mow down runners from anywhere. The only issue with Gose is the massive question surrounding his hit tool. Scouts wonder if he can hit better than .250 at the big league level, which may limit how much power he actually has in games and how much he can run.
4. Noah Syndergaard (RHP)
Syndergaard is a long, lean pitcher with a 6-5, 200 pound frame that screams further projection. His fastball has already ticked into the mid-90s consistently and he showed as much as 98 mph heat throughout the year. He has some feel for a curveball and change-up with the breaking ball showing more promise at this time. Syndergaard will lose the strike zone at times and he needs to repeat his delivery with more consistency, something that should come with added innings.
5. Justin Nicolino (LHP)
Nicolino doesn’t have the raw stuff or projection that many of the Jays’ top pitching prospects possess, but he does have tons of pitchability and feel for his craft. His fastball works at 90-91 mph and can touch a tick higher during his starts and it plays up because he can command it very well. His curveball is an average pitch but a distant second to his best complimentary pitch, a true plus change-up with excellent deception. With his command and control Nicolino has a chance to move quickly through the system. Without a big time pitch that can carry him, he may max out as more of a number three starter.
6. Deck McGuire (RHP)
An extremely polished college arm, McGuire could get a September look as soon as this year. He is a strike throwing machine that will top out at 92-93 mph at his best. His slider and change-up are solid-average pitches but neither is a truly reliable swing-and-miss out pitch. There isn’t much projection left in McGuire’s game and he will likely max out as a number four or five starter that eats 180+ innings a year.
7. Aaron Sanchez (RHP)
At this time last year, scouts were pegging Sanchez to have the type of breakout seen in fellow high school arm Noah Syndergaard. Sanchez struggled to repeat his delivery last year and his stuff was extremely erratic as a result. When he’s on he can show a low-90s heater with good life and he does project for mid-90s velocity down the line. He has shown feel for a curveball and change-up but both are very inconsistent. Sanchez has a wide range of projections at this point, including that of a number two starter or hard throwing reliever.
8. Daniel Norris (LHP)
Norris’ raw stuff certainly projects extremely well and if it weren’t for concerns of some area scouts about his level of competiveness, he would rate much higher on this list. His fastball can work consistently at 92-94 mph from the left side with explosive life. He also throws a breaking ball with plus potential and has feel for a change-up that could evolve into an average pitch. If he can prove to pro scouts that he has the intestinal fortitude to handle adversity then he could develop into a potential number two starter given his raw stuff.
9. Drew Hutchison (RHP)
Hutchison is a potential mid-rotation starter with good command of a three-pitch mix. He has a solid-average fastball and slider that he locates very well to both sides of the plate. His change-up is his best pitch, earning consistent 60-grades from scouts in 2011. He doesn’t have a ton of projection and some scouts question how many bats he will miss against advanced hitters over a full season.
10. Jacob Anderson (OF)
The top pick the Blue Jays were able to sign in last year’s draft, Anderson is an outstanding raw athlete with excellent size and plenty of projection. He is a good runner underway and may be able to handle center field long term. His hitting ability is raw but he shows some feel for it and could be an average hitter down the line. He gets a little power happy at times and can start to develop an upper-cut swing. His power projection lands in the plus realm with the potential for 20+ home runs at his peak.
11. Adonys Cardona (RHP)
Still just 18-years old, Cardona is yet another high ceiling arm in this system. He can run his fastball up to 95 mph and will sit at about 90-92 throughout his starts. Despite his inexperience he locates the ball well to all four quadrants of the strike zone. Both his curveball and change-up show promise as potential above-average pitches at their best. Understandably so, the Blue Jays are taking it slow with Cardona and he could spend another year in a short-season league before finally making his full-season debut at age 19 in 2013.
12. Adeiny Hechavarria (SS)
Despite an up-and-down offensive performance so far in his career, Hechevarria still projects as a big league regular at shortstop. He is a 70-grade defender with smooth actions, outstanding hands and a very strong arm. He makes amazing plays to both sides and truly excels in the hole between short and third base. He has solid contact ability at the plate but doesn’t always make consistent hard contact when he swings. He is a bottom of the order hitter with the potential to steal 15+ bases and notch 20+ doubles with a low average and low OBP.
13. Christopher Hawkins (OF)
In line for his full-season debut in 2012, Hawkins offers an interesting power-speed combination that entices scouts and gives him the potential to develop into a solid regular in the big leagues. He has plus bat speed stemming from good hands and natural strength and his speed plays at an above-average to plus level. Hawkins is not an instinctual player and it shows in his hitting approach and defense, both of which will require significant work for him to take a step forward as a prospect.
14. Joe Musgrove (RHP)
The Blue Jays love of projectable high school arms continued in the supplemental round this year with the addition of Musgrove and Kevin Comer, who just missed the back of this list. Musgrove is very physical (6-5, 225) and he has the present velocity to back it up, sitting at 92-94 mph and touching as high as 97 during his senior year of high school. He throws a hard, tight curveball that can be a devastating when he stays on top of it and he throws a change-up that he lacks feel for.
15. AJ Jimenez (C)
In recent years the Blue Jays system has been loaded with catching prospects and Jimenez may be next in line as a potential top prospect behind the plate. He has good present catch-and-throw skills highlighted be an arm that borders on elite. Hitting comes naturally to Jimenez and he uses the middle of the field well, spraying line drives with regularity. He lacks the pure ceiling of someone like D’Arnaud at the top of this list, but he could be a solid everyday catcher at the culmination of his development.