In the last post, we looked at players in the Blue Jays minor league system who were likely to make their MLB debuts in 2020. Time to examine the next wave of players who should have an ETA sometime in 2021 or 2022.
Predicting players this far out becomes a bit dicey. You certainly want to see how the top performers at High A do after making the huge jump to AA, and you also want to give players who have struggled with the smaller (but still not insignificant) leap from Low to High A.
1. Jordan Groshans
This selection seems like a bit of a reach, and maybe it is, but when you think of players in the Third Wave of prospects, it’s hard not to put the 2018 1st rounder at the head of the class in terms of projection.
Everything about Groshans approach at the plate suggests a future MLBer: excellent pitch recognition, and a willingness to either work the count to wait for his pitch, or hammer an early count mistake.
Currently in Florida rehabbing a foot-soreness injury that has sent him to the IL twice last year, Groshans’ timetable has certainly been sent back; if not for the time he’s missed, he would likely be in the Florida State League, or on his was there shortly.
There is the question of where Groshans winds up on the defensive side in the long-term. His athleticism isn’t open to question – it’s a matter of how well he can learn and execute the proper fundamental skills at the position. His arm and hands are plus, but his footwork is still in the developing stage. But we also have to remember that a year ago he was playing high school ball.
Given the injury and his need for reps in the field, it’s hard to see Groshans in Toronto by 2021, but when healthy, he could move in a hurry.
2. Joey Murray
All Murray has done since his promotion to Dunedin earlier this month is record better than a K per inning, while holding hitters to a .225 average.
Murray has worked on tightening his curve, and like all young Pitchers, is still working on developing his change up, but he’s pleased with the progress. With his elite spin rates, Murray has a shot to be a mid-rotation starter.
3. Alejandro Kirk
Anyone who has played the game for a long time played with a guy like Kirky – on the pudgy side, decidedly unathletic-looking, like the great hockey writer Frank Orr once said of Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Bruce Gamble, “(he looks like) the tenth man on a church softball team.”
Except all Kirk does is hit. And despite some reports, I can attest that while he’s more offensively inclined, he’s no slouch behind the plate. Long term, perhaps he doesn’t profile behind there, which leaves the organization with a bit of a problem, because it’s hard to see him at another position. For now, they’re all in on developing him as a Catcher.
Working with Blue Jays Catching Instructor Ken Huckaby, Kirk has made huge strides in his game calling, handling of Pitchers, framing, and blocking. He’s very agile despite his size – and while we’re at it, let’s not forget that he came into training camp a reported 25 lbs lighter.
Kirk’s pop times are not elite, and the strength and accuracy of his throws are still developing, but this is a guy who had to share time at Bluefield last year with Hagen Danner, and now less than a year later Kirk has passed Danner on the depth chart.
Catchers have among the latest gestation time in minor league baseball, so it’s worth keeping in mind that the Tijuana native has just over 60 pro games behind the plate.
4. Josh Winckowski
The 2018 Northwest Pitcher of the Year doesn’t get a lot of love from those who compile top prospect lists, but the 2016 day two pick has been a study in player development.
Built like a starter at 6’4″/205, Winckowski pounds the bottom of the strike zone with a two seamer that gets a good downward plane. He complements that with a high spin rate curve and an improving change up.
The Blue Jays have brought Winckowski along slowly, and he’s worked hard off the field to improve his thoracic stability and to learn to control his emotions on the mound. A demonstrative type, he’s learned to harness his energy towards Pitching. Winckowski works quickly, and when he’s on, pitches with efficiency, and works deep into games. He pitches to contact – Winckowski had a GB rate approaching 70%, but some flyball contact of late has dropped that into the high 50s.
He’s proven about all that he can in the Midwest League, and should be in Dunedin shortly.
5. Griffin Conine
Conine became something of a forgotten man in the Blue Jays system.
His draft stock dipped last year, he had a so-so campaign at Vancouver (not unusual for college players), and a 50-game PED suspension made him something of a forgotten man in the Blue Jays system.
19 Total Bases in his first 3 games back with Lansing (last night’s was suspended in the first inning) have put Conine back on the radar.
Granted, you would expect a draft day one guy to be mashing at Low A, but the way he’s done it so far is impressive. Midwest League Pitchers have mostly been pitching him away, and Conine has been patient, and has shown an ability to go the other way. A brief viewing of him in spring training showed much the same trend.
6. Maximo Castillo
One of the youngest players in all of High A, Castillo has met the challenge of the promotion to Dunedin this year.
At 6’2:/250, Castillo has an innings-eater build. He pitches to contact, but lives down in the zone, and throws a bowling ball of a sinker.
In the team photo: