A few eyebrows were raised last week when Toronto left Max Pentecost, one of their two 2014 first round picks, off of their 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 draft.
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported on Friday that the club ordered Pentecost shut down with a week left in the Arizona Fall League season. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins told Davidi:
“Ultimately we have to decide what we feel is the best chance for us to keep the most talent in our organization. We’ll have plenty of time for (Pentecost) to become that person for us.”
Pentecost’s injury history could reasonably be termed lengthy. In his draft year, assorted ailments limited him to 10 games behind the plate in short season ball. The most serious of those maladies was a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. A pair of surgeries cost him all of 2015, and when he returned to action with Low A Lansing in May of last year, he was limited to DH duties. Pentecost returned to Catching with High A Dunedin this year, but not on back-to-back days.
Sent to the Arizona Fall League for some added reps (and perhaps for the team to see how he fared against the advanced competition there prior to making their final 40 decisions), Pentecost was behind the plate 8 times from the AFL season opener on October 11th til the end of the month, the most sustained stretch of Catching since he turned pro.
The Blue Jays are gambling that given his injury history, teams will shy away from selecting him in the Rule 5 in light of this announcement. Pentecost’s future probably lies as something of a hybrid player, splitting time between C/1B/DH. A rebuilding team could easily use a healthy Pentecost in that kind of role on a reserve basis, which is why the Blue Jays made it known that he had been shut down. Our man Jason Woodell, who follows Florida State League prospects for prospects1500.com, saw a fit with the Braves prior to the shoulder news:
Braves should target Max Pentecost in rule 5 draft. Can catch once per week and spell Freddie at first when he needs a break. Health has set his development back. He is the type of guy that would benefit from challenge.
— Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame) November 22, 2017
It is interesting that during Pentecost’s previous absences, there was little communication about his status from the club. At the same time, his throws to 2nd during the AFL’s Future Stars game looked weak, and it’s not a huge surprise that he was shut down with shoulder pain. He would not be the first prospect to be exposed to the 40-man whose team is crossing their fingers his injury history will allow him to sneak through.
Pentecost is a premium athlete, but it’s becoming obvious that he’s no longer the Blue Jays’ Catcher of the Future. Playing him in a multiple of roles would keep his bat in the lineup, and help give the team some roster flexibility. There was talk at one time of the Blue Jays giving him some time as a corner Outfielder to help add to his versatility. A cynic would say that the team shut him down to help them avoid a 40-man squeeze. What’s more likely is that the Blue Jays were protecting their investment. Whether or not he recovers in time is unknown, of course, but the team is hopeful that he’ll be ready for spring training. As far as his destination for 2018 is concerned, if past history is any indication, he may stay close to the team’s rehab and medical people in Dunedin, and then move north to AA New Hampshire once the Northeastern weather warms up.