Jay Blue: FanGraphs releases top-34 Blue Jays prospects list
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
As you've read, the top prospects lists are getting more and more plentiful as we barrel (through the snow and freezing rain) towards the opening of spring training. On Friday, FanGraphs released their Top-34 list of Blue Jays prospects, written by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel.
So what do Longenhagen and McDaniel have to say about the Blue Jays' farm system?
Well, first things, they only give the Blue Jays five players with better than a "45" future value (FV). The 45 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) corresponds to a "low end regular or platoon player" on the hitting side and a #4/5 starter with a FIP of about 4.20 on the pitching side (and the Fangraphs article gives a span of WAR that would correspond to this type of player) while a 50 would be an average everyday player or a #4 starter with a FIP of about 4.00 who can eat a lot of innings. Going downwards, a 40 FV would be a bench player or a #4/#5 starter with a FIP about 5.00. A 55 hitter would be an above average regular while a 55 pitcher would be a #3/#4 starter with an average FIP of about 3.70 while throwing 160+ innings.
This tells us that Fangraphs is looking at what the overall role of a player is projected to be rather than comparing tools or results, although tools and results are a big part of how Longenhagen and McDaniel figure out how to project what their future role is going to be.
Longenhagen also wrote an article back in 2016 about how he wasn't crazy about FV because of the way it "hamstrings the evaluator's conviction about low-level prospects" seeing how FV weights things like proximity to the majors and risk more heavily. He notes that the single number of FV is less able to communicate information about a player than Baseball America who give a number plus a description of the level of risk and Baseball Prospectus gives a number for the ceiling rather than including that ceiling, minus risk, with a whole other whack of factors into the one number represented by Future Value.
With that out of the way? What does Fangraphs do differently from some of the other prospect rankings? Well, the top four players are the ones we expect to see with a 70 FV placed on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a 60 on Bo Bichette while Danny Jansen and Nate Pearson both get 50s. Jordan Groshans is very highly regarded here, coming in at #5 with a 45+ FV.
Some great comments about the players include "This is the best hitter in the minors and the stick will play anywhere," about Guerrero, "He has scintillating bat speed, and Bichette's hand-eye coordination and bat control are an effective foil for the garage band noisiness of his swing," about Bichette, "he's going to make a lot of contact and reach base, which, at catcher, could make him an All-Star," about Jansen, "if he [ends up in the bullpen] and he breathes one-inning fire like he did during Fall Stars, he basically has Aroldis Chapman's stuff," about Pearson and "the things to watch here are the plate discipline and contact skills, because the position and power aren't really up for debate now," about Groshans.
Aside from the top five, Sean Reid-Foley jumps up to #6, likely due to his proxmity to the major leagues while Kevin Smith is at #7. There's a surprise with Adam Kloffenstein, who threw all of two innings in the GCL last year at #8 while Eric Pardinho and Trent Thornton round out the top 10. It's clear that they are privileging some pitching prospects over some hitters who have some question marks like Billy McKinney (#11) and Cavan Biggio (#12). Leonardo Jimenez is at #15 and Rowdy Tellez makes an appearance at #17.
There are several "Who?" players likely to crop up including catcher Gabriel Moreno at #18, Alejandro Kirk (also a catcher) at #27, Emanuel Vizcaino at #30 while Otto Lopez (#32), Cal Stevenson (#33) and Alejandro Melean (#34) round out the list.
This is one of the more interesting lists I've come across as it gives some air time to some players whom you might not have heard of (and you'll be able to read more about in The 2019 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, coming soon!). It also gives a fresh look at some of the players featured highly in last year's drafts although, having been researching and writing about the 2018 draft class for the Handbook lately, I think there may be some sleepers there who, if Fangraphs was ranking 60 players we might see them there.
I like the variety to the Top Prospect list that Fangraphs is providing but if you want to go deeper, you'll have to wait for The 2019 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook!
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