By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Baseball America released the Blue Jays' Top 10 Prospects list recently (I won't say which day because, with the time zone differential of 10 1/2 hours right now, the concept of "days" is a little fuzzy) and Ben Badler also did his very informative Blue Jays prospects chat. Here are some of my thoughts about the list, the comments and the chat.
First let's look at the list. Baseball America has made at least that much (and the general comments) free for the public but Badler's breakdowns about each player are behind a paywall.
1. Vladimir Guerrero
2. Bo Bichette
3. Anthony Alford
4. Nate Pearson
5. Lourdes Gurriel
6. Eric Pardinho
7. Danny Jansen
8. Logan Warmoth
9. Richard Urena
10. Ryan Borucki
While we haven't been doing top prospect lists here at Blue Jays from Away for a number of years, there are several reasons that the Baseball America list is going generate some heated discussion.
The placement of Guerrero and Bichette as No. 1 and 2 are pretty much accepted and I think that we'll see those two in that order on a number of lists as they come out over the winter. I think Anthony Alford has done enough in the time that he's spent healthy to warrant a No. 3 rating. His upside as a solid, everyday outfielder (and possibly a centre fielder) combined with his proximity to the majors leagues gives him a high position.
At the No. 4 and 5 positions, we're going to start to see some divergence. Nate Pearson is giving a lot of people a lot of excitement as a potential mid-rotation starter and impressed in his dominance of the Northwest League last year despite the Jays heavily limiting his innings. At No. 5 I think Lourdes Gurriel may be ranked a little high. I saw the upside and the downside from Gurriel and I think he needs to find a way to hit better pitching quickly or he'll be exposed a few weeks into his big league career. Badler even admits in his chat that the lack of OBP from Gurriel could be a troubling indicator.
At No. 6, many people are excited about Eric Pardinho, but it's tough to rank a 16-year-old this high. Despite that, he's pitching in the low-to-mid-90s with some very advanced offspeed pitches for someone his age.
Danny Jansen, being ranked the No. 7 prospect of the Blue Jays is probably a bit of a stretch for most people. That said, Jansen has had some tremendous success after finally being healthy and getting some glasses. Additionally, his success at the higher levels of the minors (double-A and triple-A) could very well mean that his excellent season is not a fluke. My gut feeling on the subject is that Jansen got such a high ranking because finding catchers who can hit is getting harder and harder and Badler sees him as an MLB regular who hits with more power when he gets to the majors (noting the livelier MLB ball as a factor in his chat).
In the back end of the Top 10, there are a number of players who could be somewhat interchangeable. Richard Urena (No. 9) is probably in the Top 10 solely for the potential with the bat he has and the talent he's shown on defence. Logan Warmoth (No. 8) is a guy who isn't outstanding at any one thing but puts things together very well with a high baseball IQ and at No. .10, Ryan Borucki is close to the majors with a potentially solid back-end of the rotation arm.
I don't want to give away any of paywalled comments that Badler makes but I do want to note a few comments from his chat.
Badler is very high on Bo Bichette, writing that "Bichette for me is one of the top five prospects in baseball." We may not see Bichette feature as high on some other lists but he's proven that he has a superior ability to get the bat on the baseball while also having a very good idea of the strike zone. Badler compares him to Josh Donaldson and since the Blue Jays look like they won't interfere with his unique swing unless he really hits a rough patch, Bichette could have a smoother transition into the major leagues that Donaldson did.
Some of the omissions from the list are players who featured very highly in years past. Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley and T.J. Zeuch just missed but Zeuch was close (and likely will be No. 11 or 12 when BA's Top 30 is published in their prospect handbook) and Greene and Reid-Foley have fallen after struggling in double-A. I have concerns about both pitchers but I think that both will be able to find a way to the major leagues in the next year or two.
Another player whom Badler likes is Ryan Noda who destroyed the Appalachian League in his draft year. Could he be like Ryan McBroom, a player who continued to hit well as he rose through the minors or L.B. Dantzler, who struggled by the time he got to A-ball? Without having seen Noda, I can say that I really liked how he took walks, particularly towards the end of the season (when I don't think pitchers were giving him much to hit). That said, I'll probably have more to write about him after I've been to spring training.
The final note I'll touch on is that Badler repeatedly mention Edward Olivares (who I had tabbed as the offensive player to watch on the Lansing Lugnuts last year). He loves his tools and thinks that if his approach develops, he could be really good.
Overall, I think Ben Badler's list at Baseball America is a fair one and, without having lost anyone in the Rule 5 draft, there are a lot of good young players to look forward to in 2018.
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