Will the Blue Jays Have a Roster Crunch Ahead of the Rule 5 Draft?

Ski resorts are opening out West, fans are worried about the Leafs, and our provincial government just got back to work.  All are signs that fall is in its final days, and winter is on the way here in the Great North, and with it that annual rite of baseball passage knows as the Rule 5 draft.

Eleven months ago, things looked a little bleak for fans of the Blue Jays farm system.  Southpaw reliever Travis Bergen, who locked down games for championship teams on his way up the minor league ladder, and promising GTA native Jordan Romano were snapped up in the Rule 5, while all the Blue Jays got in return was Elvis Luciano, who hadn’t even pitched in full season ball yet.

What a difference almost a year makes.

After coming back from the Rangers (who acquired him on Rule 5 day from the White Sox) at the end of spring training, Romano showed some promise after being converted to a full time bullpen job, Bergen was returned to Toronto by the Giants late in the season, and while Elvis was hit about as hard as you would expect a guy who won’t turn 20 until next February would be, the Blue Jays now have some time to return him to the minors and develop him as a starter.

Overall, not a bad haul.

And there will be no fewer hard decisions to make this year.

 

First, a look at those players who will not be placed on the 40-man roster:

Position Players

Name Position 2019 Highest Level Signed
Yorman Rodriguez 1B A- 2014
Nash Knight 3B/1B AAA 2015
Ronny Brito 3B/SS A- 2015
Forrest Wall OF AAA 2014
Joshua Palacios OF AA 2016
Reggie Pruitt OF A+ 2015
Demi Orimoloye OF A+ 2015
Kevin Vicuña OF AAA 2014

Rodriguez had a nice 2019, leading the Northwest League in hitting before being moved up to Lansing, where he continued to hit.  Wall showed some signs of reaching the potential the Rockies saw in him when they took him as a Comp Pick in 2014, but even in the Blue Jays relatively thin OF picture, he’s down on the depth charts.  Pruitt also showed some promise in a season split at two levels, but he’s taken a long time to develop.

Starting Pitchers

Jon Harris RHP/SP AA 2015
Andrew Sopko RHP/SP AAA 2015

Harris, a former 1st rounder, missed much of the season with shoulder issues after giving up some contact at AA in 2015.  Sopko, who came over from the Dodgers with Brito in the Russell Martin deal, was hit hard at AAA this season.

Relief Pitchers

Name Position 2019 Highest Level Signed
Danny Young LHP/RP AAA 2015
Jake Fishman LHP/RP AA 2016
Kyle Weatherly RHP/RP AA 2016
Mike Ellenbest RHP/RP A+ 2016

Ellenbest made a successful comeback from Tommy John, and was converted to a bullpen role this year.  He fared well in the Arizona Fall League.  Young would profile as a LOOGY candidate, but not with the rule changes coming to MLB in 2020,

Players who are on the bubble.

Position Players

Name Position 2019 Highest Level Signed
Santiago Espinal SS/2B/CF AAA 2016

There are a lot of things Espinal can do well.  The Blue Jays have done a good job of developing him into a multi-position player since they acquired him last year, and Espinal himself has learned to be more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone.  He’s not a guy who profiles as an MLB regular, but he does a lot of little things very well, and could fill a valuable role as a reserve player.

Starting Pitchers

Name Position 2019 Highest Level Signed
Thomas Hatch RHP/SP AA 2016

Hatch was ranked the 17th best (MLB Pipeline) Cubs prospect before coming over to the Blue Jays in the David Phelps deal, and now is ranked the Blue Jays’ 30th prospect.  He pitched well in half a dozen starts for New Hampshire (where he really dropped his walk rate), and has to merit some consideration.  Hatch added a cutter just before he was traded, which seems to have helped once he joined the Blue Jays.  His long-term projection is that of a middle reliever.

Relief Pitchers

Name Position 2019 Highest Level Signed
Jackson McClelland RHP/RP AAA 2015
Dany Jimenez RHP/RP AA 2015
Kirby Snead LHP/RP AAA 2016
Corey Copping RHP/RP AAA 2015
Bryan Baker RHP/RP AAA 2016
Curtis Taylor RHP/RP AA 2016
Travis Bergen LHP/RP MLB 2016

This is where things get interesting.

Individually, you could make a case for each one of these guys:

-McClelland routinely hits (or tops) 100, and has improved his command.  Don’t be fooled by his Buffalo numbers; one rough outing blew up his ERA.  He got hitters out in Arizona last fall, and at two levels this year.  After being left unprotected last year, he may not pass through the Rule 5 this year.

-Jimenez throws hard, but doesn’t light up the gun like McClelland, sitting 94-95.  With his fastball/slider combo and over-the-top delivery, Jimenez missed a lot of bats this year, fanning 93 in 59 innings at two levels.

-southpaw Snead has one of the best sliders in the system.  With Tim Mayza out for 2020, he and Bergen move up on the depth charts.

-After helping New Hampshire to an Eastern League title last year subsequent to coming to the Blue Jays from the Dodgers, Copping gave up some contact at two levels this year.

-Baker came over from the Rockies last year, and struck out 71 over 54 frames split between AA and AAA this year.

-Former UBC ace Taylor came over in the Eric Sogard deal.  He has a live arm, but elbow issues sidelined him for the season.  One would think his UCL sprain (he’s received PRP treatment) will scare teams off.

– a name we missed from the relievers list is RHP Zach Jackson (thanks to an alert reader who pointed that out).  Jackson pitched well in June and July, and seemed to have conquered his command issues, but gave up some contact in August, which may have taken his name out of the running.  Jackson has a funky delivery which can be hard for RHH to pick up.  When he was drafted, some evaluators suggested he might be on the short track to Toronto, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

Obviously, the Blue Jays can’t protect all of the names in the last list, and they will have to roll the dice.  If they lose anyone in the Rule 5, it will likely come from that group.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Will the Blue Jays Have a Roster Crunch Ahead of the Rule 5 Draft?

  1. Other than Hatch, I don’t see anyone worth protecting. These relievers are dime a dozen and the position players are not even worth mentioning.

    Chances of anyone even claiming these guys is pretty low and an even lower chance they stay on the roster for 90 days. I’d risk it with these fringe guys otherwise if they are on the 40 man and happened to get DFA’d, good chance they’ll get claimed if they have options left.

    Like

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