Blue Jays Fringe Five Prospects

Now that we’ve finished having a look at the Top 20 Blue Jays prospects, here are five more who are within shouting distance of that list.

1.  Josh Winckowski RHP

Wincky is the ultimate one-rung-at-a-time player in the Blue Jays organization.  He’s pitched for every stateside team in the system below AA.

The 2016 15th rounder has a starter’s build at 6’4″/202, and the 2018 Northwest League PiOY gets a good downward plane on his pitches.  Winckowski started at Lansing, and moved up to Dunedin at mid-season.  He has steadily upped his velo throughout his career, touching 97 in 2019.  Working mostly down in the zone, Winckowski recorded a 52% GB rate – it was higher before his promotion to Dunedin, where he gave up some contact, and was probably running out of gas in his first full season.

Winckowski’s best secondary is probably a change up, a pitch that he uses to good effect against LHH.  It has some very strong potential as a swing-and-miss pitch.  His slider made progress this season, and grades to at least average.

It’s strange that the doesn’t get a lot of top prospect love, but Winckowski has the makings of a solid back of the rotation guy.  Failing that, his fastball would no doubt play up in a relief role, making his change even more effective.

2.  Otto Lopez, SS/2B/CF

Lopez may not have one outstanding tool, but he checks a lot of boxes:

-good contact hitter (with a 2019 MWL batting title to his credit);

-can play all three up the middle positions, and play them well;

-good baserunner, can steal a base when needed;

-high baseball IQ

The knock against Lopez would be that since his swing is so contact-oriented, he produces a lot of ground balls (no full season Blue Jay prospect topped his 54% rate).  85 of his system-leading 115 hits were singles, and while he did swipe 20 bases, he was caught 15 times.  And for a guy who got on base a lot, his walk rate (6.9%) was on the low side.  Lopez does not strike out a lot, but could be more discerning at the plate.

Still, Lopez stepped in when Jordan Groshans was shut down in May, and became Lansing’s primary SS, and played excellent defence.  He does so many things well that his profile would be boosted considerably if he could develop more bat speed and more of a line drive swing.

3.  Luis Quiñones, RHP

One of my favourite parts of this whole blogging business is when I go to cities in the Blue Jays system.  When you’ve been doing this for a while, you make contacts at all levels of the organization, and it’s always nice to meet those people in person during the course of my travels.

A question I like to ask when I visit is simply, “Who (on the current roster) looks like a big leaguer?”  It’s a question that embraces talent, projection, and make up, and I always get honest, interesting answers.

On a visit to Vancouver this summer, I put that question to one of my sources there.  Two were obvious:  Pitchers Adam Kloffenstein and Alek Manoah.  Two were not as obvious – 9th round pick Phil Clarke, and Quiñones, a 34th round Juco (former Jay Woody Williams was his pitching coach at perennial powerhouse San Jacinto) pick last June.

Jackson Rees was the most dominant bullpen guy in the system over the course of 2019 (it was nice to get eyes on him and that wipeout slider at Lansing in April), but the most dominant arm in terms of peak value that I saw (on my laptop, sadly; our trip to Van did not line up with the C’s schedule) was Quiñones.  NWL hitters were completely and totally overmatched.

Quiñones hits 97 with his FB, and throws a bottom-dropping-out-of it splitter that is his out pitch.  Hitters gearing up for that heater have little chance to adjust to the late break of it, and many of his 47 Ks (in 30 IP) came on that pitch.

An off season positive PED test has set Quiñones back a bit.  He was recently promoted from Vancouver’s roster to Lansing’s, which means we will see him likely in late June.

You don’t often see a reliever ranked as a top prospect.  Quiñones could be an exception.

4.  Maximo Castillo, RHP

With a depth higher profile starting prospects in the system ahead of him, Castillo tends to get overlooked.  But what he accomplished as the youngest Pitcher in the Florida State League this season deserves some notice.

Castillo was 4th in the loop in ERA and FIP, and was 5th in K%.  The knock against him is that he’s more of a flyball hurler, which you can get away with in the FSL.

Castillo has a durable if not athletic build that projects to a good number of innings.  He features a 3/4 arm slot and clean mechanics.  His fastball (89-94) is graded as advanced given his age.  His slider (slurvy) and change (labelled as firm) are not highly graded pitches, however, which will likely mean that if Castillo succeeds as a big leaguer, it will be in a bullpen role.  Castillo is given plus marks for his mound presence.

5.  Anthony Kay, LHP

Kay made his MLB debut this fall after coming to the Blue Jays in the Marcus Stroman deal.  MLB Pipeline has him as the 4th ranked Toronto prospect.  While he’ll be in a battle for the 5th rotation spot in March, we don’t see him that high.  Still, there’s a lot to like – that three pitch mix, featuring an improved change up to go with his high spin rate fastball, and a good feel for all of his pitches.

Command has been the issue for Kay as a pro, and that may limit his career at the highest level.  His future may be as a multi-inning reliever.

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