The Blue Jays have added RHP Jackson Rees to the complement of players the Blue Jays have sent to the Arizona Fall League, bringing up the total number of Toronto prospects to 7.
Unlike past years, Toronto is not sending a top prospect to the southwest, with SS Kevin Smith (ranked 13 by MLB Pipeline) the highest rated hopeful making the trip. The AFL was in danger of becoming irrelevant last year, so some much-needed changes were made, including moving the schedule up from its mid-October start of years past (play begins later today). An increasing number of clubs and prospects were concerned about having to ramp up training for the AFL after six weeks of relative baseball inactivity when minor league seasons ended – we can’t confirm, but a story making the rounds is that a certain high profile Blue Jays prospect turned down an Arizona invite last year, only to be told by his father that he was going.
Here’s a quick look at the players who will represent the Blue Jays.
SS Kevin Smith – was last year’s breakout prospect, but he struggled with the higher calibre pitching at AA this year. He was well below the Mendoza Line (.175/.242/.336) in the first half of the season, but made adjustments in the second half, cutting down on his swing and going with a more contact-oriented two-strike approach. Smith will be looking to regain some prospect status with a strong showing in Arizona.
SS/2B Logan Warmoth – the first of two draft picks (some guy named Pearson was the other), Warmoth has had his scuffles as a full season pro, but has risen as high as AA. He missed some time due to injury this season. The club is hoping the added reps will help Warmoth get back on the prospect radar.
3B Cullen Large – Large is a sleeper hitting prospect in the organization, but has had his development limited somewhat by injury over the past two season. He’s in Arizona to get more reps.
RHP Maverik Buffo – arm concerns caused Buffo to fall to the 34th round in 2017, so the Blue Jays kept him close to the team’s medical staff in Dunedin, where he dominated in the GCL. Buffo gave up some contact at two levels last year, but showed enough promise to move up to Dunedin by season’s end. Shoulder issues shut him down for the first three months of 2019, and he pitched almost exclusively out of Dunedin’s bullpen when he returned to action. Buffo is in Arizona to get some more innings.
RHP Mike Ellenbest – started 25 games for Lansing in 2017, but missed all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Moved to the bullpen when he came back to action last year, like Buffo he’s in Arizona to make up for some lost innings.
RHP Graham Spraker – was part of a surprising starting rotation at Dunedin this year, along with Turner Larkins and Nick Allgeyer. With Allgeyer having pitched more innings, and Larkins landing on the IL in late August, Spraker was chosen to travel to Arizona.
RHP Jackson Rees – the 2018 undrafted free agent signing underwent a huge off season transformation last off season, and was one of the most effective relievers in the low minors this season. At two levels, Rees missed a lot of bats (19.8 SwStr%) with his deceptive delivery, mid 90s fastball, and wipeout slider. Now the Jays would like to see how he fares against tougher competition.