Let’s just get this out of the way: because the Blue Jays scouting focus when it comes to position players the past few years has been on up-the-middle guys, the pickings at the outfield spots is….on the slim side.
But that’s understandable, especially with the organization’s emphasis on run prevention. Branch Rickey famously once said he was interested in position players who could hit and run. As far as defensive skills were concerned, Rickey said, “we can always teach them to field.” The Blue Jays seem content to let their premium position players get as many reps there as possible during their development. They can always be moved as they reach the majors.
LF Samad Taylor
Yes, Taylor is one of those UTM guys, having played mostly 2nd in his minor league career. He again took most of his reps at the Keystone this year, with some SS and 3B action thrown in as well, but he also saw a considerable amount of time in LF, where his speed is an asset (a poll of AA Northeast managers by Baseball America named him the league’s best base runner).
After showing little pop through the first four years as a minor leaguer, Taylor erupted for a career-best 16 HRs in 87 games for New Hampshire this season. An off-season adjustment that had him load up more on his back foot allowed him to be on time more often with his barrel (Taylor had a chance to work on this in the ABL last winter). The strikeouts were still a little high (29.4%) as he obviously sold out for some power, but Taylor also posted a career-best .385 OBP, and 30 stolen bases.
The Blue Jays and Taylor may still think of him as an infielder, but the 34 games in he played in LF show that his future may lie there.
By the numbers:
Taylor’s SLG percentage, easily the best in his career, and a result of 34 extra-base hits in just over 350 plate appearances.
CF Chavez Young
Young has not been able to replicate his breakout 50+ XBH/40+ SB season of 2018, but he has steadily built a reputation as a superb defensive OF (he has the best arm in the organization) with some pop against right-handed pitching. His .265/.350/.409 line in AA makes him a fringe big leaguer at best, but there is potential for Young to crack an MLB lineup as a fourth OF/late inning defensive replacement/pinch runner role.
By the numbers:
Number of OF assists for the strong-armed Young.
RF Steward Berroa
A question was put to Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim a couple of springs ago prior to his ascension to the big club as a coach. Kim was asked which player(s) had stood out compared to the previous season, and Berroa’s name was one of the first he mentioned. Steward, it was felt, was on his way to a breakout season.
To date, it hasn’t happened. But Berroa posted a career high 15% walk rate en route to 55 stolen bases, third highest in all of MiLB. Of course, Berroa did benefit from rules implemented at Low A this year to encourage the running game, but that’s an impressive total just the same.
By the numbers:
Berroa’s stolen base rate
Honourable Mention: Cameron Eden
The 6th round pick in 2019, converted to CF at Vancouver this season, was on his way to some nice numbers (.785 OPS, 30 steals) before being sidelined by injury for the balance of the season in early July. If you’re looking for a sleeper candidate for 2022, Eden could be the one.