Over the past several weeks, we’ve produced individual profiles of the Blue Jays Top 10 prospects. When considering the guys who fall into the next 10, things don’t become quite as cut and dried as they do with the top group. Only a handful of “top” prospects have much of an impact at the MLB level. The farther you go down the list, the less likely you’re going to find a high-Win player.
That is not to say there is not some talent in this group. After a couple of lean years following the Great Alex Anthopoulos Prospect Clearance Sale in 2015, the system has rebounded nicely, and choosing this tier was probably the most difficult task I’ve had since starting this project. There is some good value in there – maybe not 1st Division, but several names should go on to play a few hundred MLB games in Toronto or elsewhere.
#11 Danny Jansen
Finally healthy for a full season for the first time since turning pro in 2013, Jansen had a breakout year at three levels, and was rewarded with a spot on the 40-man last month. Jansen tried out some sport glasses last fall in the Arizona Fall League in order to help him track pitches from behind the plate better. An added bonus was that they helped him pick up spin more effectively at the plate.
Jansen has long been lauded as a leader, and a good handler of Pitchers. His footwork and arm are at least average, and he blocks pitches in the dirt well, although there has been some concern reported with his lateral movement. Jansen sets a nice low target, and is a solid pitch framer. Barring any off season moves, he should be competing for the job of backing up Russell Martin this spring.
#12 Teoscar Hernandez
Hernandez had the most impressive September debut of any Blue Jays player in quite some time. He did not exactly set the International League on fire after coming over in the Francisco Liriano deal, but he showed some pop with the Blue Jays, with 14 extra base hits in a little over 100 ABs.
After a hot start in September, Hernandez did cool off. His K rate in the minors has often topped 20%, and his swing-and-miss ways returned as the month wore on. Hernandez does work the count and draw his share of walks, but his long swing results in not enough contact for a guy whose best tool is probably his speed. Hernandez has a shot at a big league job next spring, but he doesn’t appear to be a long-term piece of the puzzle.
#13 Max Pentecost
Oh, what might have been. Pentecost won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top college receiver in 2014, after having been named Cape Cod League MVP the summer before. Had all gone well, he probably would have made his MLB debut this year.
Shoulder issues have derailed a promising career. Pentecost is a premium athlete who should hit at the major league level – if he can stay healthy enough to get there. Sent to Arizona for some added reps this fall, Pentecost was shut down with a week to go in the schedule with shoulder soreness. After deciding not to protect him on the 40, the Blue Jays are crossing their fingers that he’ll pass through the Rule 5 draft. If he goes through without being claimed, the Blue Jays really have to consider turning him into a hybrid player – one who can Catch on occasion, but whose bat can be kept in the lineup by regular turns at 1B and DH. There is no question about his defensive skills, but there is considerable doubt that he’ll be an every day Catcher.
#14 Lourdes Gurriel Jr
The Cuban defector had not played in almost two years after signing with the Blue Jays last off season, and the rust showed this year. Injuries didn’t help, and he may have been pressing this spring, but he acquitted himself well in the Arizona Fall League.
Gurriel can play SS and 2B as well as LF, but seems best suited to the middle infield. He has good footwork, range, and a plus arm. He adds to the depth that the club is building at that position. He will not be an impact player, but he will likely be among the first from this list to make his MLB debut. He should be a serviceable player in a multiple of roles.
#15 Reese McGuire
Catching was once one of the weakest links in the Blue Jays system; with Jansen, McGuire, and 2017 draftees Riley Adams and Hagen Danner, it now is truly a strength.
McGuire missed a good chunk of the season with a knee injury. When he returned, the noted glove-first Catcher had a decent (.328/.414/.607) August, calming some concerns about his bat (he had never posted a SLG % above .400 prior to this season). He appeared to have more loft in his swing after his lay off, and it will be interesting to see if that carries over to spring training, where McGuire probably will be battling Jansen for that back up job.
#16 Rowdy Tellez
No Blue Jays prospect had more of a drop-off in performance this year than the mountainous slugger. Tellez has had his cold streaks before, but nothing sustained like this year. And even though he has worked exceedingly hard on the other aspects of his game, when Tellez hits .222/.295/.333 as he did this year, he’s not of much value to a team.
Some suggest that Tellez’ swing mechanics were exploited by AAA Pitchers. Others point to the off-field problems he had this year. Whatever it was, Tellez, who is usually patient and grinds out ABs, just did not have a good approach this year, and did not have a lot of quality plate appearances. Considered to be in contention for a spot on the MLB roster last spring, Tellez was rewarded despite his sideways season when the team placed him on the 40 last month.
#17 Edward Olivares
And just as no prospect’s stock dropped as much as Tellez’, no other’s grew like Olivares’.
Watching Olivares and his slender build take BP prior to Lansing’s home opener last April, I was confounded as I saw him bang pitch after pitch off of the top of the batting cage, obviously trying to put loft on the ball. I wondered to myself, “why doesn’t this guy just go for line drives with his speed?” In the game that followed Olivares lofted a long Home Run over the Left Centre Field wall, no mean trick in the cool swirling winds of Cooley Law Stadium in April.
Olivares proved that was no fluke, No Blue Jays farm hand – not Vladdy Jr, not Bo – hit more Homers than the athletic Outfielder. Olivares doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but he puts the ball in play. There was not a lot in his past stats (outside of his rookie season in the DSL) to suggest a breakout year in full season ball, but that’s precisely what Olivares had. He can play all three OF positions, and while his speed translates more to tracking down balls and running the bases as opposed to stealing a lot of them at this point, he teases with a tantalizing power-speed combo. The Blue Jays thought enough of his athleticism that they opted to let 2016 2nd rounder J.B Woodman go in a deal with the Cardinals last week.
#18 Thomas Pannone
Talk to any fan of Cleveland’s minor league system, and this is the guy they didn’t want to lose. Pannone does not blow hitters away, but pounds the strike zone with a three-pitch mix. His 92-94 fastball plays up because of some deception in his delivery that gives hitters a millisecond less than usual to track it. Despite not having a plus pitch in his repertoire, the dude gets hitters out, and has solid back of the rotation or swingman potential.
#19 Yennsy Diaz
The 20-year-old RHP burst onto the scene in June with Lansing, fanning 26 in 16 innings over his first 4 starts. The dominant weapon in his arsenal is a 97 mph fastball, which has potential to tick up a notch or two. His secondaries are still a work in progress, and his command can desert him for a sequence of pitches, but that fastball is a thing to behold. Yennsy (pronounced with a J) tailed off in his first go at full season ball, but he made the mechanical changes that were necessary to get there in the first place.
#20 Leonardo Jimenez
I never mind going out on a limb; Vladdy Jr was my 10th-ranked guy two years ago without having even played a pro game yet (same with Eric Pardinho this year). Projection is the name of the game in this business, and there’s plenty of it with the Panamanian who the Jays signed this past July 2nd. Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish raved about Jimenez recently, praising his skills on and off the field. When you see an IFA SS signed, you wonder how long it will be until he’s off the position. Tinnish says he’s a no-doubter at that position defensively, and sees huge upside in him. Jimenez is bi-lingual, which should help him tremendously when he plays stateside (whether tha is this coming season or the following one).