With regular season play in minor league baseball having wrapped up over a week ago, it’s time to take a look at the top performers in the Blue Jays system.
C- Gaby Moreno
Honourable mentions to Alejandro Kirk and Riley Adams.
The 19 year old Moreno was a central midfielder in soccer, and he takes the same athleticism and take-charge skills to his duties behind the plate. Promoted to full season ball in May, he split some time behind the plate with Kirk before his promotion to Dunedin, and then handled the bulk of the playing time for Lansing for the rest of the season.
Moreno didn’t disappoint.
He faded a bit in August (.224 average), but Moreno put together a solid body of work on both sides of the ball this season, playing excellent defence and slashing .285/.342/.493. He showed some pop (12 HRs), could steal the odd base (6 SB), and was a leader on the field. Pitch recognition and patience are two areas that some thought might be areas of concern as Moreno moved to full season ball, and while he puts a lot of balls in play, Moreno did show an ability to draw a walk, but at 6.5% that will need to improve as he moves up. Moreno is cat-like behind the plate, does a good job of controlling the running game, and works well with his pitching staff.
When we asked Gil Kim just prior to spring training for players to watch in the Blue Jays system, Moreno’s was one of the names he mentioned.
1B- Yorman Rodriguez
With an emphasis on drafting/signing up-the-middle guys and letting them play there, this is not a position of the strength in the organization.
Despite that, Rodriguez’ season stands out. He was leading the Northwest League in hitting at the time of his August promotion to Lansing, and his bat helped spark the Lugs’ offence and propelled them into a playoff race.
At 22, the 2014 IFA has been in the organization for five years, and has been brought along slowly. Originally signed as a Catcher, he’s made the move to 1st full time
2B- Santiago Espinal
The versatile Espinal was New Hampshire’s most valuable player before his promotion to Buffalo.
At AAA, he got off to a slow start and seemed to be overmatched by the higher level pitching, but Espinal finished on a very strong note, hitting .405 over his last ten, showing good strike zone judgement and an ability to square up balls.
Espinal may or may not profile as an everyday player in the bigs, but he does a lot of things well. His walk off steal of home for the Fisher Cats was a highlight of the summer.
Honourable mention: Miguel Hiraldo, who split time between 2B and SS for Bluefield, slashing .300/.348/.481 for short season Bluefield.
SS – Otto Lopez
Yes, we selected Lopez’ Lansing teammate Griffin Conine the system MVP a few days ago, but you certainly could make an argument for the multi-talented Lopez, who won a Midwest League batting title, hitting .400 over his last ten and helping to keep Lansing in a playoff battle until the final few days of the season.
The plan for Lopez originally was for him to move around the middle of the diamond throughout the season, but he would up taking the majority of reps at SS when Jordan Groshans was unable to return from a foot injury.
There may not be a lot of pop in Lopez’ bat, but like Espinal, he does many things very well.
3B – Orelvis Martinez
The Blue Jays gave Martinez the second highest signing bonus they’ve ever given to an IFA, and he didn’t disappoint.
Skipped over the DSL for stateside play with the GCL Blue Jays, Martinez did get the majority of his playing time at SS, but given that he spent some time at 3rd and he profiles there in the long term, he gets the nod at the hot corner, with an honourable mention for the work veteran Andy Burns did for Buffalo.
Martinez got off to a hot start for the GCL Jays, hit below the Mendoza Line for July, then finished very strong, posting a 1.063 OPS for August, and belting 5 HRs in his last ten games.
Martinez is coming soon to a top prospect list near you, and he and Hiraldo should be in Lansing’s Opening Day infield next year.
OF – Socrates Brito
Yes, that Socrates Brito.
Sure, maybe at this point in his career he’s established his bona fides as a AAAA player, but he was Buffalo’s MVP, and helped turn the Bisons’ season around.
Perhaps his selection reflects the relative lack of depth of outfielders in the system, but Brito put together a decent AAA season.
OF – Griffin Conine
Conine’s .946 OPS would have led the Midwest League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, and the Blue Jays have to be happy that his 22 HRs led the league.
Unfortunately, his SwStr rate of over 20% would have led the league as well, and the Blue Jays and Conine will be working to cut down on a 36% K rate. Yes, with big time power comes whiffs, but the goal for Conine next year will be to make some more consistent contact.
OF – Forrest Wall
Wall rode a hot six week stretch in late May through to June to put himself back on the prospect radar after coming over from Colorado at the trade deadline last year. Included in that stretch was an Eastern League Player of the Week award.
Wall tailed off over the summer, but his body of work was enough to merit a late season promotion to Buffalo. He still is a long shot to ever become an MLB regular, but he had a prolonged stretch of good, solid contact this season that the organization hopes will lead to bigger things next year.
SP – Nate Pearson
Honourable Mention (short season version) – Adam Kloffenstein
What more can you say about Pearson’s season? The innings limits were taken off at mid-season, and after a promotion to Buffalo in August he didn’t miss a beat.
Kloff was Vancouver’s MVP, and will no doubt garner some post season prospect honours of his own.
RP – Jackson Rees
Honourable Mention (short season) – Luis Quinones
What a difference a year makes. After 2018, Rees, an undrafted free agent from Hawaii, was looking very much like a roster filler.
Fast forward a season, and improved mechanics and a refined secondary have made Rees one of the top relief prospects in the organization. Yes, you can’t put a lot of stock in a bullpen guy who hasn’t pitched above A ball, but Rees and his wipeout slider had a great season, fanning 81 in 62 innings.
Quinones, a 34th round pick last June, missed even more bats (20.5 to 19.8%) than Rees did. He fanned 57 in 36 innings for Vancouver, combining some deception in his delivery with a fastball that has good cutting action.