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On the day that the Toronto Blue Jays had to add players to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, the Jays decided to fill all five empty spots and protected catchers Gabriel Moreno, Riley Adams, infielder Otto Lopez, outfielder Josh Palacios and pitcher Ty Tice.
Following a year in which there wasn’t a minor-league season, it will be even more difficult to evaluate what players might be taken in the Rule 5 draft and this year may set a record for fewest players taken. That said, the Blue Jays did get a good sense of what some of their minor league players can do, especially those who played at the Alternate Training Site this season in Rochester.
Moreno, for example, impressed hitting coordinator Hunter Mense, who told our friends at Future Blue Jays that he distinguished himself, especially against guys who throw hard, telling how he turned on a Nate Pearson 98-mph fastball and hit it with an exit velocity of 105 mph.
Moreno, who was signed out of Venezuela, is somewhat of an unlikely candidate to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, coming off a strong season in 2019 as a 19 year old in Class-A Lansing, but his athleticism, defensive ability and elite bat-to-ball abilities (which I saw first hand and heard other players rave about when I visited Lansing that season) could all make him a valuable commodity.
The other catcher added to the 40-man roster was Riley Adams, a 24-year-old backstop who was a third-round draft pick in 2017. He was also getting good reviews from Mense at the Alternate Training Site and he’s got a little bit of a longer pedigree, reaching Double-A New Hampshire in 2019 for 81 games, hitting a decent .258/.349/.439 over that span with 11 home runs. Future Blue Jays reported that some adjustments that Adams was making really settled in about three-quarters of the way through camp and he hit “something like 5 Homers in the last week and a half.”
Josh Palacios has been a toolsy outfielder for the Jays since he was drafted and played 2019 in New Hampshire (after getting into one game and the playoffs for the Fisher Cats in 2018). He had another solid season, hitting .266/.371/.416 with 15 stolen bases and seven home runs, but showed off his good eye at the plate. Mense described him as the “MVP of how it’s done,” setting a good example for the other players, developing a good two-strike approach and hunting good quality pitches and showing off a tremendous work ethic.
Otto Lopez, a 22-year-old Dominican with some roots in Montreal, was a bit of a surprise to me. Granted, he the versatile infielder was outstanding at the plate in Lansing in 2019 as a 20 year old, hitting .324/.371/.425 and winning the Midwest League batting title, he has also shown some issues defensively at shortstop.
Finally, we have Ty Tice. While he may be one of the smaller pitchers in the Blue Jays’ organization, listed at 5-foot-9, Tice, 24, is also known as one of the best athletes. Legendary for his ability to dunk a basketball, Tice also throws about 97 mph and was outstanding in 2019, reaching the Buffalo Bisons and making 26 appearances there with a 3.27 ERA and 1.54 WHIP, striking out 41 and walking 21 in 33 innings with the Bisons. He is definitely one of the pitchers on the Blue Jays’ radar and the fact that he was added to the Jays’ 40-man roster shows the faith that the club has in him.
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