With the ascension of Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Reese McGuire to the parent club last year, to go along with the arrival of Danny Jansen and Rowdy Tellez in September of 2017, the question among Blue Jays fans might be asking is who’s next? Who might we see make their MLB debuts (and, presumably, make a contribution to the team) in 2020?
That list starts with Nate Pearson, the top Pitching prospect in all of minor league baseball, but it doesn’t necessarily end with it.
Big Nate had the wraps taken off following his promotion to Buffalo last August, and the logical step is to give him another 8-10 starts in AAA before he’s elevated to the bigs.
But Pearson might not be the only member of the minor league system to make a contribution next year.
Up-the-middle guy Santiago Espinal has done nothing but hit since joining the organization in the middle of the 2018 season, and was added to the 40 man in November as a result. Espinal would not be considered a top prospect, but he does a lot of little things that tend to add up well, and might be in the mix for a back up job at some point in 2020.
The Blue Jays rotation on paper certainly looks a lot stronger than it did at the end of the 2019 season. If injuries and/or inconsistency are an issue, though, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to see one or more of Patrick Murphy, Thomas Hatch, Joey Murray, or Hector Perez summoned to Toronto to fill a rotation hole – probably in that order.
The Blue Jays seem to be set for many years to come with the tandem of McGuire and Jansen behind the plate. The duo will likely share the workload – probably not evenly, but certainly more than most backstop combos do, which should lessen the risk of injury. If a replacement from the minors is needed to back one of them up in that event, the departure of Luke Maile from the organization suggests that Riley Adams, who split last season between High A and AA, would be the one (barring the acquisition of a veteran back up type between now and spring training). Like Espinal, Adams is not considered a top prospect (even though he made some big strides behind the plate last year), but he could provide some value in the long term in a reserve role.
And there is a host of bullpen arms at AAA who we could see, including Kirby Snead, Zach Jackson, Jackson McClelland, Rule 5 returnee Travis Bergen, and Bryan Baker. The performance of the relievers ahead of them will dictate where/when/if they make their MLB debuts.
The one complication with all of the above names beyond Pearson, Espinal, and Hatch is that space would have to be made on the 40-man, so their presence in Toronto would probably be due to an urgent and pressing need.
Beyond that, the system is full of youngsters you’re not likely to see until 2021, possibly even 2022 – or later.
But here is a quick overview of our best ETA’s for several top prospects:
– SS Kevin Smith – Smitty’s stock took a nosedive last year, but he had a decent August. There are issues with his swing and approach, but not his work ethic, and a bounce back year would not be a huge surprise.
-OF Chavez Young – Young also had a sideways 2019 facing tougher competition than he did in his breakout 2018, but he made adjustments. There is still upside, and an ability to play all three OF spots.
This is when it starts to get interesting. There are several names worth considering:
-P Simeon Woods Richardson
-P Alex Manoah
-P Eric Pardiño
-SS/3B – Jordan Groshans
-C- Alejandro Kirk
-C- Gabriel Moreno
-OF Griffin Conine
There is some risk here (see Pardiño and Conine), but with the rise of the Big 3 (Guerrero Jr, Bichette, and Biggio) to the majors, this is easily the highest upside group in the system. Groshans lost most of 2019 to a foot injury (which he says has healed), but still cracked a number of Top 100s. The Blue Jays may have some tough decisions to make when this crop graduates if they continue at their current pace.
-P Adam Kloffenstein
SS/3B Orelvis Martinez
SS – Leo Jimenez
3B/SS/2B – Miguel Hiraldo
A smaller group, but one with much upside. All four should start this season in Lansing, and will make a spring trip to Michigan a worthwhile endeavour.
P – Kendall Williams
P – Sem Robberse
P – Dahlian Santos
3B – Preniel Brito
IF – Estevien Machado
SS – Rikelvin de Castro
We’re really gazing into the crystal ball with this group, none of which outside of Williams (and Robberse’s 10 GCL innings) have any pro experience. And we can’t even factor in any 2020 draftees just yet, because they haven’t been selected. But it will be fun to follow these guys in the boxscores, and maybe get eyes on them in Vancouver in a year or two.