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Fangraphs released their 2021 Toronto Blue Jays top prospect list by Eric Longenhagen and, as usual, it’s a very refreshing take on the prospect hype train.
Fangraphs takes a slightly different approach than Baseball America or MLB, firstly by grouping players into their “Future Value” categories (see here for a breakdown of their “Future Value” figure) and then by ranking as many players as are projected to have future value about a 35+ ranking, which roughly translates as somewhere between an emergency call up and a bench player/swing starter/middle reliever.
For the Blue Jays, this year, it translates to 39 prospects in that category.
While I won’t go through every player and every ranking (you can easily click the link above and see for yourself), I will comment on some interesting players and observations.
With Nate Pearson and Austin Martin coming in at number #1 and #2 (respectively), these are the only two guys getting 55 grades or higher, with Pearson coming in at a 60, which translates (according to Fangraphs’ system) as a #3 starter while Martin’s 55 rating translates to an above-average regular player. I’m in on both of these assessments with the potential for injury for Pearson as one major concern. Martin gets some criticism for his “middling raw juice” as well as his lack of a track record of great defense anywhere.
Gabriel Moreno, coming in at #7 (behind Simeon Woods Richardson, Alejandro Kirk, Jordan Groshans and Orelvis Martinez) is an interesting guy who has impressed the Blue Jays’ brass with his performance at the alternate site as well as in the Venezuelan Winter League and is definitely the “hype” prospect of the offseason. Longenhagen also likes Alek Manoah (#8) and the work he’s done on his changeup as he develops.A few other new draftees make the list with CJ Van Eyk at #10, Trent Palmer at #24 and Nick Frasso at #32. Coming in at #27 is a guy we haven’t really seen much of, Cuban righty Yosver Zulueta, who, after signing, underwent Tommy John surgery but came back with 94-96 mph velocity and “good arm action.”
When it comes to middle infielders, the Jays have Groshans (#5), Orelvis Martinez (#6), Miguel Hiraldo (#9), Rikelvin De Castro (#11), Kevin Smith (#14), Estiven Machado (#15), Leonardo Jimenez (#18), Manuel Beltre (#19) and Otto Lopez (#23). I’m a big fan of Groshans and Martinez although I think Hiraldo, having seem him in Bluefield in 2019, will have to move off shortstop for defensive purposes. He was paired with Jimenez there and, while Hiraldo has a better stick, Jimenez wins out with the glove. Two newer signings, De Castro and Machado will probably come up together (like Hiraldo and Jimenez). While some have had Machado ranked higher, De Castro got the bigger bonus and is higher on this list. Beltre was just signed on January 15 and already makes the top 20 and, although Longenhagen’s assessment is that he’s “not all that toolsy but does have sneaky power for his size and he’s perhaps the most driven, baseball-loving youngster in the class.”
When it comes to starting pitchers, beyond Woods Richardson, Manoah and Van Eyk, the Jays have Adam Kloffenstein (#13), Eric Pardinho (#16), Joey Murray (#17), Sem Robberse (#28), Patrick Murphy (#29), T.J. Zeuch (#30), Nick Frasso (#32) and Yennsy Diaz (#33).
This group has a lot of question marks, with health, overall ceiling and role questions. Kloffenstein is probably most encouraging young arm of the bunch (hence he’s highest on the list) while Longenhagen questions Pardinho’s ability to return from injury, Murray’s ability to survive without pinpoint control, Robberse’s ability to develop another plus pitch outside of his curveball, Murphy’s ability to throw his breaking ball effectively, Zeuch’s ability to work as a starter, Frasso’s secondary stuff and Diaz’s command/control/consistency.
Overall, Longenhagen is down on the Blue Jays’ system, but remains positive seeing that the team has graduated several young players who are capable of making an impact. While they’ve been in the big leagues for a couple of years, Guerrero, Bichette, Gurriel and Biggio have already entrenched themselves in the Toronto lineup while Anthony Kay and Thomas Hatch have graduated from the list and have the capability to pitch in MLB.
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