Vlad, Big Nate Atop AFL Top Prospects List

To the absolute surprise of no one, Vladimir Guerrero Jr was named the top prospect in the Arizona Fall League by former MLB scout Jason Pennini, who now writes for Prospects Live. After a long season, Guerrero was less than thrilled to head to the desert to play for another six weeks, and he didn’t see a whole lot of strikes as the league wound down, but he showed more than enough for Pennini to give him an 80 grade for his future MLB role. Let’s think about that for a second.  80 is the top of the scale.  The Blue Jays have never had an 80-grade prospect in any tool category; not Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado, or Tony Fernandez.  As Pennini himself says:

Eighty grades should not be thrown around lightly. I am not even sure that there should be an 80 given to a prospect every season. Only .3% or 3/1000 data points in a normal distribution fall beyond three standards deviations of the mean. An 80 on the scouting scale describes a position player who is a franchise cornerstone or potential hall of famer.

There is absolutely no doubt about Guerrero’s bat.  There might not be a player in all of baseball who manages it better or covers more of it.  His power comes from such a loose, fluid swing.  His defense is the tool which causes the most concern, but as newly appointed Blue Jays coach John Schneider, who managed Vlad the last two season said, Guerrero could be Adrian Beltre defensively, but his bat would still be ahead of his glove. Get ready for some fun, Blue Jays fans.  There’s no reason to believe that Guerrero won’t continue to mash in the bigs.   Nate Pearson’s 2018 season never really got started.  Sidelined to begin the season with an oblique issue, a line drive off his lower pitching arm in the second inning of his first start ended his year.  He got some innings in Instructs, and more in Arizona, and while there were definite signs of rust, Pearson showed enough to be named the 8th best Arizona prospect.  His fastball was hard to command some times, and caught too much of the plate at other times, but he made a definite impression:

  Physically, Pearson’s massive frame looks capable of bearing the brunt of a 200 inning season. While his track record in the minors is limited, I think he has among the best stuff of any pitching prospect and mostly needs time to prove himself.

For Blue Jays fans who have not been through a true rebuild (we’re not counting the J.P Ricciardi years) should be encouraged about these reports.  Until they’ve proven themselves at the MLB level, they’re just that, but there is plenty to be optimistic about.  Ryan Borucki, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, and Danny Jansen gave every indication that they will be big leaguers to stay,  with Guerrero, Pearson, and Bo Bichette (who was banged up and stayed home, but likely would’ve been a top AFL prospect had he journeyed southwest to play) soon to follow.  The challenge for Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins is to surround them with complementary players, and to keep developing (or using depth to acquire) pitching.  A 90-loss season may be upcoming, but this team could improve in a hurry if their top prospects continue on their development arcs.

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