By: Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Baseball America has released their Top 100 Prospects list and, unlike MLB.com, the Toronto Blue Jays have landed five players among the Top 100 prospects in the league. It’s a far cry from last year’s list when only one Blue Jays prospect was ranked by Baseball America and 2015 when the Blue Jays had four top-100 prospects (two of whom are out of the system now).
The #5 prospect who made the list was Rowdy Tellez at #95. Baseball America writes that “Tellez is the most advanced hitter among top Toronto farmhands and could hit his way to the majors in 2017.” Why is Tellez not higher on the list?
Part of that answer has to do with the relatively limited number of tools he brings. He has the potential to play average defense and, at first base, his arm isn’t really important. He’s not particularly fast (but I don’t think he’s as slow as BA grades him) and so the only real tools he brings is his ability to hit for average and power.
Next up the list is #75, Sean Reid-Foley. Reid-Foley gets high marks for his plus fastball and slider while his control and changeup are still a big fringey. BA calls him a “potential future No. 2 starter” which, I’m sure, is music to most fans’ ears for a player who was struggling to find his control in A-ball in 2015.
For me, the biggest wild card on this list is Lourdes Gurriel, Jr at #73. Gurriel is a Cuban defector who waited until after he was 23 to sign with the Blue Jays, enabling them to actually get his signature on a $22-million contract (had he signed before, the Blue Jays would be restricted to giving him a $300,000 signing bonus thanks to going over their bonus slot in 2015 to sign Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.).
Gurriel is younger than his brother Yulieski but his tools aren’t as loud. BA thinks that his “best path to helping Toronto in the short term” is in the outfield and expect him to play third base in New Hampshire initially. Without having seen what he can do in the minor leagues (with only scouting reports and Cuban National Series stats to go by), it’s hard to gauge how he ranks but Baseball America’s Ben Badler is the best in the business when it comes to international (and particularly, Latin American) reporting.
Anthony Alford, last year’s only Blue Jay to make the list, comes in at #59, getting at least ML average grades at every category except for his arm (which grades below-average). Alford’s hitting and speed tools are graded at 60 (above major league average) while his fielding is graded at 55 (slightly above average). The former football player is earning a reputation for having an excellent eye and idea of what he’s doing at the plate and will probably start in Double-A.
Finally, the top Blue Jay prospect, according to Baseball America, is Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. all the way up at #20. His ceiling is staggering but it’s especially impressive considering that Guerrero is only 18 and already considered to be a top-20 prospect. People speculate that if he hits well next year, he could be a Top-5 prospect heading into 2018.
Guerrero gets his top marks for his power which is already impressive, getting a 70 grade, and will only get better in games. His ability to put the barrel on the ball gets him a 60 grade while BA ranks his speed as average and his arm as slightly above average. They think his fielding is just below average but he’s still new to third base and could very well improve.
Last year, only Alford made the list while in 2015, the Jays had Daniel Norris as their top prospect at #18 with Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey not far behind at #27 and #30 respectively while Jeff Hoffman brought up the final spot at #69. In 2014, Sanchez was the Jays’ top prospect at #32 with Marcus Stroman at #55.