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We’re now barreling towards mid-March and it’s pretty much baseball as usual right now. To help us punctuate the daily spring training games, we now have Eric Longenhagens’ Top-38 Toronto Blue Jays Prospects over at Fangraphs and it’s a joy to take a look into this report on the Jays’ young players.
Obviously, the most interesting thing about this list is the number of players he’s ranking. At 38, it’s a weird number but I think Longenhagen bases it on how many players get ranked with a 35+ or higher Future Value. You can check out this article for an idea of how Fangraphs and Longenhagen use this Future Value number which governs how the players are ranked.
Already at the top of the list, we see some divergence with some of the other publications’ lists. After Nate Pearson, who ranks with a 60 Future Value, which roughly translates to what they think will be a #3 starter. That said, he gets an 80 grade on his fastball (the highest possible grade) with a 60 on his slider, a 50/55 (50 now, 55 in the future) on his curve, a 55/60 on his changeup and 45/50 on his command. The Future Value figure also takes into account risk, and that’s probably why it’s a 60 grade rather than a 65, corresponding to a #2/#3 starter, right now.
At #2, we have Simeon Woods Richardson who achieves his highest ranking for any of the major lists out there with a 50 FV. Longenhagen writes that the limiting factor for Woods Richardson is that his “vertically oriented release point makes it hard for him to work his fastball east and west” while praising his changeup. It’s likely that Woods Richardson’s age and development contribute to his being higher on the list than Jordan Groshans.
Groshans was ranked #3 and Longenhagen notes that his 50 FV (akin to an average ML regular player) is related to many people in the industry waiting to see if the power and offensive figures he put up in Lansing were due to the ballpark being very hitter-friendly or if that’s more like his true potential.
The third 50-FV player was Orelvis Martinez who is the youngest of the trio at just 18 years of age. Martinez’s contact skills are still in question by Longenhagen who notes that “his footwork is all over the place and he takes a lot of ugly hacks.” Longenhagen likes his raw power and his ability to stick on the infield though.
The next group of players have a 45+ Future Value. Fangraphs correlates the 45 FV to a Platoon/Utility player as a hitter, a #5 starter or as a low setup man out of the bullpen. Alek Manoah is the first of the Jays’ 45+ values, meaning that they see the ceiling higher up but that there might be some risk mitigating a more confident prognosis. Manoah has a plus fastball and slider combination but is still developing his change and Longenhagen thinks his stockier body type is more akin to a reliever but we’ll have to see. I think Manoah profiles a little more highly than this.
Longenhagen also gives Alejandro Kirk a 45+ FV, noting that he has elite skills in making contact and taking walks (in relation to striking out) but really fears that his body type will have him start to decline earlier than someone who is not as fit.
Obviously there are positive things and negative things about each player. He values Hatch a little more highly than other publications and notes his “premium fastball spin” although he thinks that Hatch could get better performance out of the fastball with “a slight axis change.” He likes Hatch’s durability and his command and control which he proved to be better than average last year. The risk Longenhagen assigns is more of “hitting his decline phase during his arb(itration) years,” meaning that Hatch is a little on the old side and if he declines at the age of 28 or 29, the club will probably being paying more and more for less and less production.
Longenhagen’s ranking of Rikelvin de Castro (#11) is higher than most with most prospect writers (like Ben Badler of Baseball America) seeing Estiven Machado (ranked #21) as a better overall prospect. While de Castro’s defense is supposed to be better than Machado, most think that Machado’s bat is further along with more power potential than de Castro.
There’s a big list of 40-FV players who include Adam Kloffenstein, Kendall Williams, Dasan Brown, Griffin Conine, T.J. Zeuch, Alberto Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Leonardo Jimenez, Eric Pardinho, Machado, Julian Merryweather, Reese McGuire, Otto Lopez, Joey Murray, Yennsy Diaz, Riley Adams, Will Robertson and Jackson Rees.
Whew. That’s a big list and there’s probably not much to differentiate them in quantitative terms. That said, the fact that McGuire has already shown that he can hit in small sample sizes at the major league level would place him higher for me and even if he’s a serviceable backup catcher in the majors for years to come, that probably gets him farther along than most of these players will.
The two pitchers at the top are both big, physically mature youngsters who are currently throwing in the low 90s with starters’ repertoires. They’re both potential #4 starters (or better) but the fact that they’re both so far away drops their FV. Brown and Conine have big league tools but their risk factors are big. Brown is very raw and needs to polish his hitting while Conine needs to put the ball in play much more and cut down on his strikeouts. Alberto Rodriguez is a guy who we haven’t heard much about yet but he’s got some pop and Longenhagen notes that he generated “average big league exit velos as a teenager in the GCL last year.”
Joey Murray ranks #25 and I think he might rank higher on my list. The fact that Murray has been able to maintain high strikeout rates at higher and higher levels in the minors leads me to believe that there’s something to his “invisiball.” Longenhagen notes that his changeup has 45 potential (slightly below major league average) and he doesn’t think he’ll be a starter long term but could be a solid reliever.
Will Robertson makes one of his only appearances on a top prospect list here at #28 and Longenhagen notes that “he as corner-worthy power, but Robertson’s swing and general stiffness detract from the confidence that he’ll tap into it in pro ball.”
At #29, and the last 40-FV player, is Jackson Rees. The undrafted righty was MiLB.com’s Reliever of the Year last year and he sits 91-94 with his fastball, topping out at 95. He has a plus-plus curveball to go with his average fastball that he thinks will work in a continued role as a reliever.
Finally, at 35+ FV are Curtis Taylor, Javier D’Orazio, Patrick Murphy, Roither Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Chavez Young, Tanner Morris, Naswell Paulino and Hector Perez. Of these guys, the most interesting one is 18-year-old catcher Javier D’Orazio, mostly because we haven’t heard much about him. Longenhagen likes his bat-to-ball skills and likes his ability to add some raw power as he fills out. I think Patrick Murphy is highly undervalued here as well. Roither Hernandez is an interesting guy who I’ve seen throw 100 mph although command is an issue. Longenhagen also likes Chavez Young’s “rosterable bench outfielder traits,” including his speed, instincts in center field and good arm. Tanner Morris makes a list but he gets some critique for his lack of a position. Longenhagen writes that “he played shortstop all through college but fits in left field athletically.”
Finally, Longenhagen provides three lists of “Other Prospects of Note.” The first is “Young Pitching” with Emanuel Vizcaino, Alejandro Melean, Sem Robberse, Jiorgeny Csimir, Winder Garcia, Michael Dominguez, Yunior Hinojosa, Luis Quinones and Jol Concepcion. Basically, there’s something to like about all of these pitchers.
The second is “Bench/Role Players” with Ryan Noda, Josh Palacios, Santiago Espinal, Forrest Wall and Kevin Vicuna. Again, something to like from all five and but their ceilings are all a little lower than the guys on the main list. I don’t necessarily agree with a couple of these guys though, but check out what Longenhagen says in the article.
The final group is “Stiff-bodied, Older Relief Types” with Maximo Castillo, Jackson McClelland, Ty Tice and Brad Wilson. I’m not sure what he really means here by “stiff-bodied,” but all of these guys have performed at higher levels (except for Maximo Castillo who’s still very young) and I think that all have a chance to pitch in the majors.
What do you think about Longenhagen’s list? Let us know in the comments!
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