Some evaluators will give you their Top 30, or even Top 50 prospects for a team.
Truth be told, the differences in terms of overall tools and MLB potential gets less and less the farther you go down an organization’s list of prospects, which is why it’s very tough to get past the Top 20.
Generally speaking, players in the 11-20 range are fringe MLBers, at least at this point in their careers. Some have produced solid bodies of work, but are at a point where they’ve all but reached their projection, while others have plenty of projection remaining, but are still a long way away. There’s always someone from this group who can make a tremendous leap forward, but the odds tend to be more with the guys in the Top 10.
As evidence of the rise in quality of the Blue Jays system over the past several years, this may be the most impressive group of prospects in this range they’ve produced in some time. Thanks to some trade deadline deals, there are a couple of new faces, too.
11. Cavan Biggio UT
Biggio broke out in a big year at New Hampshire in 2018, and bears further close watching next year.
The 2016 5th rounder attempted to put more loft into his swing last season, and then lowered his hands this season. The results were impressive – he led the Eastern League in Home Runs. He also led the league in walks, and just missed a Three True Outcomes triple crown by finishing second in Ks.
Biggio is a patient hitter, as evidenced by the number of walks. What keeps him from the upper echelon of prospects is that at 23, he’s probably hit his ceiling, and he doesn’t have the lengthy track record that other top prospects have. His defensive skills are also a consideration, as he has been described as a fringy defensive player – the Blue Jays have had him playing some corner OF in Arizona in an attempt to build his versatility. Biggio’s swing can also be long, and Pitchers with sharper secondaries may take advantage of it at AAA or even MLB.
12. Patrick Murphy SP
The 2018 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year had a truly dominant year at High A, and will likely earn a spot on the 40-man roster next month. What seems to be keeping him off the prospect lists is a lengthy injury history, although he made 27 starts for Dunedin this year.
Murphy has upped his velo, hitting 100 mph with his fastball in August, the culmination of a steady increase all season. He pairs that FB with a hammer curve, but needs to develop a 3rd pitch.
Murphy gets lost a little bit in comparison to the other high-profile Starters in the system, but he should make for an interesting follow at AA next year.
13. David Paulino SP
A one-time top 100 prospect, Paulino has a starter’s mix of pitches, and has fanned better than a batter per inning in his MiLB career. Despite his injury history (13 starts over the past two seasons), Paulino still projects as a starter.
A stretch of good health at AAA would be the best case scenario for Paulino.
14. Hector Perez SP
Perez, like Paulino, came over in the Roberto Osuna deal from the Astros. He throws four pitches, all of them with some movement. Harnessing that movement has been a challenge for him, as his walk rate has consistently been in the double digits throughout his minor league career.
Perez’ future may lie in relief, where his mid to upper 90s fastball will play up, but the Blue Jays will likely give him an extended opportunity to pitch in a starting role.
15. Rowdy Tellez 1B
Tellez helped to put a season and a half of AAA disappointment behind him with a post All Star line of .306/.360/.497 that was hard to ignore, and resulted in a September promotion.
Tellez hit 9 Doubles in only 70 ABs during his September audition, but walked only twice. With Justin Smoak firmly ensconced at 1B for the time being, Tellez appears headed for another tour of the International League come next April, but he gives the Blue Jays some roster flexibility. With the team not likely to contend for a couple of seasons, Smoak could be dealt to upgrade other areas of the roster at some point, and Tellez could step into his role.
16. TJ Zeuch, SP
The 2016 1st rounder’s main weapon is a bowling ball sinker, which gets good downward plane due to his 6’7″ height. Zeuch can command all four of his pitches, but what seems to limit his projection to back-end starter is the fact that none of them grade as plus.
Zeuch rarely puts himself into difficult situations with walks, and he generates ground balls at about a 55-60% rate – he led the Eastern League with a 55.2%, and his 16.5 Line Drive rate was 3rd-lowest among qualifiers. Because he tends to pitch to contact, Zeuch will always need a solid defence behind him.
While he might not profile as an Ace, Zeuch has been an important part of some championship teams of late – New Hampshire this year, Dunedin last year, and an Arizona Fall League title (where he was the starting Pitcher of the final game) sandwiched in between.
17. Miguel Hiraldo SS
One of the top bats in the 2017 J2 class, Hiraldo slashed .313/.381/.453 in the Dominican Summer League – interestingly, the Blue Jays didn’t think he was ready for stateside play until August.
Baseball America‘s scouting report focuses on his bat:
Hiraldo has a knack for hitting and driving the ball with impact from a direct, compact swing. He doesn’t generate much separation with his hands to load his swing, but he has explosive hand speed that generates plus bat speed. He’s an aggressive hitter who mashes fastballs, with strong forearms and legs that he incorporates to generate average power. He’s a pull-heavy hitter who’s still improving his pitch recognition and selectivity.
Most reports suggest that while Hiraldo has the hands and arm for SS, his stocky build profiles better at 3B.
18. Travis Bergen RP
At the end of a conversation with Blue Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro last fall, he was asked what a General Manager’s most difficult job was. “Developing Starting Pitching,” was his response, but with all due respect, given budget considerations and the volatile nature of relievers, building a bullpen may be a GM’s most daunting task.
The Blue Jays farm system has already made a solid contribution to the big club’s bullpen with relievers such as Ryan Tepara, Danny Barnes, and Tim Mayza. Another wave is coming, led by southpaw Bergen. Despite missing the better part of three seasons since being drafted in 2015, Bergen has been lights out at every stop over the past two seasons, most recently with New Hampshire.
Bergen tops out at 94 with his fastball, sitting 91-92. He commands both sides of the plate with it, along with his slider. Even though he fanned 74 in 56 innings at two levels this year, his best tool is his ability to avoid barrels. He keeps hitters off-balance with his sequencing, and is very tough to square up.
19. Yennsy Diaz SP
Diaz burst onto the radar last year with a scintillating debut in full season ball at Lansing, where he fanned 82 in 77 innings, mainly off the strength of a 96-97 FB that Midwest League hitters could not catch up with.
Sent back to Lansing to begin 2018, he fanned 10 hitters on Opening Day in 5.2 innings. Diaz was promoted to Dunedin after 9 starts, and while he continued to miss bats (11.6% SwStr rate), he didn’t notch as many Ks. He was holding his velo later into games this year, but was pitching more to contact.
Diaz often gets ahead of hitters by establishing a fastball down in the zone, then elevates when he gets two strikes. His best secondary pitch at the moment is his curve, which has progressed from a show me pitch to a true barrel dodger. His change-up is a pitch that pairs well with his fastball, but can be a little firm. How fast and far Diaz progresses (New Hampshire is his likely destination next April) will depend on how those secondaries continue to develop.
20. Jackson McClelland RP
You don’t tend to see many relievers on top prospect lists due to their volatility. When you have one who consistently hits triple digits, it’s worth a second look. Such is the case with McClelland, a 2015 draftee who has consistently added velo as he’s moved through the system.
McClelland has a deceptive delivery, and combined with his length, it makes it tough for hitters to pick up the ball coming out of his hand. He pairs his fastball with a slider and an ever-improving change-up. McClelland is still working on it, but he’s shown improved command this fall in Arizona.