By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Even with the dominance at the top of the prospect talk of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays system is developing several prospects who are jumping up the ladder and who are gaining the attention of those who are prospect-minded. In this post, we'll discuss a number of players who are climbing the lists and have emerged on the Blue Jays' full-season teams.
There are a couple of categories of players who are discussion worthy: Big Leaps, Late Bloomers and Getting Close. Big Leaps are guys who may not have been talked about much in the past but are, as of this season, getting attention as big-league potential prospects. Late Bloomers are guys who have been in the system for at least a couple of years and haven't shown their ability to hit their potential whether it's because of injuries or up-and-down performance. Getting Close are players who probably aren't really being mentioned a lot but are probably close to breaking out with solid performances this year.
2018 debut players are not eligible for this list.
The Blue Jays are fortunate to have a couple of infielders who are making big leaps in their game in 2018. At the top of my list of leapers is Kevin Smith. The shortstop (who is getting a workout on the versatility side of his game) has, after a solid debut in Bluefield last year, is seeing tangible benefits from adjustments he reportedly made to his swing before the season started. He's hitting a combined .323/.380/.578 with 17 home runs between Lansing and Dunedin. Playing shortstop, second base and third base with the ability to play all three at the upper levels, Smith is probably the guy that the fewest people knew about last year who they are talking about this year.
Cavan Biggio has gone from a gap-hitting, decent-bat and decent-glove middling minor league talent to a potential big leaguer who might be able to more than live up to his family name. Cavan has boosted his potential after a so-so season in Dunedin last year, hitting 20 home runs (leading the Eastern League) and has a .261/.399/.539 slash line. The .399 OBP is probably not too much of a surprise and his newfound power (hitting nine more home runs this year in more than 170 fewer at bats than last year) while getting pitched around more is impressive.
Yennsy Diaz has been solid in Dunedin with a 4.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 54 innings, striking out 48 and walking 15 but he was practically unhittable in Lansing, giving up just 22 hits in 47 2/3 innings there. And the best part is that he's just 21, getting experience in Dunedin.
Chavez Young just turned 21 so technically he's in his Age-20 season and the Bahamian has been outstanding for Lansing on both sides of the ball. Through 85 games, he's got a .290/.349./451 slash line with 22 stolen bases and is a dynamic defender in the outfield.
Jon Harris, 24, is a former first-rounder who is turning things around after a rough introduction to double-A baseball last year. This year, his 4.92 ERA betrays a struggle to find consistency more than anything but he's walked just 19 batters and struck out 70 in 89 2/3 innings with New Hampshire. If he can keep the ball out of the middle of the plate, he can be a solid major leaguer.
Sean Reid-Foley has entrenched himself in the Buffalo rotation since his promotion a couple of months ago. While his 3.92 ERA is almost two runs higher than his ERA with New Hampshire, Reid-Foley has seriously cranked out his ability to strike out batters, exceeding his 2017 total despite about 30 fewer innings pitched. Although he's just 22, I'm slapping the "late bloomer" tag on Reid-Foley because he's had his struggles since being drafted out of high school.
Travis Bergen is a late bloomer because he's thrown a total of 28 2/3 innings between being drafted out of college in 2015 and the 2018 season. This year, however, he's thrown 42 innings between class-A Advanced Dunedin and double-A New Hampshire and has a sparkling 1.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, striking out 56 batters and walking 12. He's given up just one home run all year and, while his strikeout rate has dipped since his promotion to New Hampshire, Bergen, 24, is still striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings, maintaining his solid walk rate.
The Blue Jays' outfield depth worked against Jonathan Davis, 26, in his initial assignment in 2018. Having spent a full year in Dunedin in 2016 and a full year in New Hampshire in 2017, Davis was sent back to New Hampshire for the first 78 games of the season where he was a key part of a devastating offense built around Vladdy Jr. All Davis did was hit .302/.388/.443 with 22 doubles, three triples and five home runs in 358 plate appearances and he's hit .353/.405/.441 in eight games since his promotion to Buffalo.
Another 26-year-old, Conor Fisk, may not be pitching in obscurity much longer. Formerly an unassuming starter for Dunedin, Fisk broke camp in New Hampshire, the highest level he's pitched at. He was outstanding working out of the bullpen in New Hampshire, tossing 15 innings without giving up a run, and he's got a 2.78 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 12 walks in 35 2/3 innings since joining the Buffalo Bisons, bringing a 95-mph sinker to the table.
Ryan Noda, 22, could be seen as having a breakout year but I think there's more in the tank. He's been streaky, for example, hitting 10 of his season's 11 home runs in a 17-game span between May 30 and June 23. His overall season numbers with the Lansing Lugnuts have him hitting .267/.430/.477 but he goes on binges and if he can even things out a bit, he could break out as a top prospect.
Patrick Murphy, 23, reminds me a lot of Ryan Borucki but from the right side and with some more velocity. Murphy's career got off to a slow start when he threw in three games in his first three years in the organization after being drafted in the third round in 2013. Murphy has come back with a vengeance, tossing a fastball that hits 97 mph while also mixing in a solid array of offspeed pitches. Murphy made his double-A debut this year and has a 2.77 ERA in Dunedin through 18 starts but I think he's been getting better and better. He'll almost certainly finish the year in double-A.
Brock Lundquist, 22, may not be a guy you've heard much about yet, but he was a sixth rounder in 2017. He took some time to get comfortable in 2018 after undergoing offseason hand surgery but he still leads the Lansing Lugnuts wtih 13 home runs, even after spending the past couple of weeks in Dunedin. He hasn't shown as much power in Dunedin yet, but if he can continue his strong season, he could be the talk of the town and a favourite to patrol the outfield in New Hampshire next year.
Joshua Palacios had a very strong start to his season but he slumped for a while before finding a groove lately. The lefthanded hitter builds his reputation mostly on speed and gap power and is hitting .275/.346/.378 with 17 doubles, two triples and five home runs this year but has stolen 13 bases in 19 tries. Palacios needs to take a few more walks but is a solid hitter and could be a top-of-the-lineup threat if he continues to progress.
Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) started the season with eight straight wins for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and picked up a win in his spot start with the Buffalo Bisons, giving him nine in a row. He hasn't won a game since but after a rough spell, has seen some consistency return in his past two starts, giving up one and two runs in starts that went over six innings each. The 25-year-old Canadian needs to continue to find his consistency and he could be back in his hometown before you know it.
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The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available!