It’s time to take a look at the Blue Jays’ organizational depth chart as it sets up heading into the offseason. We’ll go position by position and hope to chart out the Blue Jays’ minor leaguers to see who stands where. I’ve ordered the following list by projected 2020 starting level. The higher the player is on the list within each level means that I think that player will get more playing time.
First base is one of the toughest positions to project, particularly at the lower minor league levels. Teams generally don’t draft too many first basemen. First baseman usually end there because, as things go, there is no position that contributes less value when you examine the defensive spectrum that has catchers, shortstops and center fielders at the top and first basemen and left fielders at the bottom. So who plays first base in the low minors? Lately, the Blue Jays have been putting some of their catchers there when they’re not catching. Guys like Hagen Danner, Ryan Gold and others have gotten experience at the position. Because of this, our list of first basemen will likely be very thin and I’ll probably include players who play first base but it is not necessarily their primary position.
So, right now the Jays don’t have another first base option for their major league team but that’s likely to change. Many have suggested that the club will need to sign another established hitter (Edwin Encarnacion‘s name has come up in rumours) to provide some backup for Tellez. Brandon Drury can play first base, but I really hope he doesn’t have to.
All three of the players who played the most at first base in Buffalo last year could become free agents. It’s not clear how minor league contracts are structured but many have an team option for a second year. Only Burns was signed by the Blue Jays as Patterson and Kivlehan were acquired by trade. Both have been free agents before and could be in a position to declare free agency within the week.
So who moves up to Buffalo if Kivlehan and/or Patterson and/or Burns are gone? Well, it could be Christian Williams or Nash Knight, neither of whom had a terrible year in Double-A. Knight is a favourite of his teammates and has a ton of flexibility defensively. The Blue Jays did trade the 2019 regular first baseman at New Hampshire just yesterday as Chad Spanberger was sent to Milwaukee for Chase Anderson. But Kacy Clemens could get another crack at Double-A after a rough time there last year while Ryan Noda will likely be in New Hampshire but could also play the outfield.
Yeah, I don’t have much here in the Advanced-A ball level when it comes to first baseman. Kacy Clemens could start back down in Dunedin but I think Jake Brodt will get the bulk of the time at first after a full season in Lansing which a taste of Double-A last year.
After a stellar offensive year between Vancouver and Lansing last year, Yorman Rodriguez jumps to the top of the Lansing depth chart for first baseman although he may only spend a couple of months there. Hagen Danner could play significantly more at first base than he did in 2019 while Trevor Schwecke didn’t have a great pro debut in Vancouver last year but he could easily be a utility guy in Lansing, playing a number of other positions in addition to first base.
I also wouldn’t put it past the Blue Jays to promote someone like P.K. Morris, who now has three seasons in Rookie ball under his belt, up to Lansing but if Yorman Rodriguez is going to play there every day to start 2020, I’d keep Morris back in extended spring training until Rodriguez gets promote (at least, I assume he will). That said, Morris hasn’t played in Vancouver yet and could start there. Spencer Horwitz also spent time in the outfield for the Bluefield Blue Jays and I think he’ll start 2020 in Vancouver. Scotty Bradley could also start in Vancouver but may stay in Bluefield to start 2020.
I don’t really have any guys who I think are locks to start in Bluefield. That said, the Blue Jays will probably have a couple of 2020 draftees who can fill that spot or promote someone who I think may start in the GCL, particularly if he has a good extended spring training.
None of these guys really excelled at their level in 2019 with Nunez and Hurtado playing in the GCL and Callez and Astudillo playing in the DSL. As a result, they could all stay at their current level or, with a good showing in extended spring training, they can increase their standing in the organization.
Most guys aren’t drafted or signed to be first baseman, as I said above in the preamble to this post. Catcher Gary David didn’t really hit well in the DSL and he did play some first base. But there will be other guys who play the position as well.
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