Blue Jays Top 10 Follow-Up: Who’s Close

Due to popular demand, here is one guy’s look at players who just missed the Top Ten list yesterday.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at some players who have fallen out of my Top 10, but for now, let’s start with the players trending up. These are players with plenty of upside and remaining projection, but haven’t quite advanced high enough to get a real feel on their ceilings.

1. Nick Frasso, RHP

Frasso came unbelievably close, and may still get there by season’s end. His 2022 campaign got off to a late start as he recovered from UCL Brace surgery. But the 2020 4th rounder has been electric, fanning just a hundredth below 14K/9. After beginning the season with Dunedin, he was promoted to Vancouver 3 weeks ago, and hit 99 in his first start with the C’s, fanning 8 in a row at one point. His best secondary pitch this season has probably been his change, with his slider next in line.

Frasso has something of a high-effort, over-the-top delivery, and has tons of athleticism. We have only had one opportunity to watch him online this season (just last week), but it’s easy to see what the excitement is about. Frasso’s four-seamer is an offering with some arm-side run, and is difficult for A-ball hitters to square up. He commands it well, but it’s most effective up in the zone. Frasso’s change is a promising pitch, with plenty of late movement. His slider wasn’t fooling hitters – he tried to get hitters to chase, and for the most part, they weren’t offering at it. He needs more time to build some deception into the delivery of that pitch.

There is a relief risk with Frasso if he can’t develop a third pitch, but with that heat there’s every chance he could be a back of the bullpen arm.

2. Damiano Palmegiani, 1B/3B

There were questions if the Surrey native could handle premium velo in pro ball, and for the most part, he’s answered that, slashing .262/.367/.510 at two levels.

Palmegiani has learned to put the ball in the air more. Last season, he managed only a 36% FB rate in the Complex League; this year, he’s just over 50%. A patient hitter, Palmegiani has good strike zone judgment, will take a walk, and makes decent swing decisions. His 38 extra base hits are second-best in the system.

The knock against Palmegiani is that he’s a below average defender. I haven’t had eyes on him enough to make a judgment, but reports from the west coast indicate he’s at least been adequate. Wherever he lands on the field, it will be his bat that carries him.

3. Leo Jimenez, SS

As I wrote yesterday, Jimenez’ inclusion on the 40 last fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft accelerated Orelvis Martinez’ development. Jimenez was sent to Vancouver where he could play SS every day.

Jimenez has had an up and down season, alternating good months at the plate with sub-Mendoza line months. But he’s put everything together in July, posting a .967 OPS, hitting 4 HRs, and driving in 23. There have been plenty of barrels this month:

I’ve written this several times, but it bears repeating. When Jimenez signed with Toronto, Andrew Tinnish raved about the bilingual up-the-middle guy, who hit lead off for the Panamanian national team at the age of 15. Tinnish felt right there and then that Jimenez could play big league SS. Maybe he’s more of a bottom of the order guy rather than the top of the lineup spark plug Tinnish forecast him to be, but if he can even be a league average hitter, Jimenez’ glove would be a huge addition to the Blue Jays lineup. Next year will be a crucial one in his development.

4. Hayden Juenger, RHP

When Juenger was drafted in the sixth round just over a year ago, few observers thought he would be in AAA, on the cusp of a big league job just over a year later.

But that’s where Juenger is – scouts view him as one of the best players in the Toronto system, and Baseball America agrees, ranking him 8th in the system in a mid-season evaluation.

Recently moved to the bullpen, Juenger had been stretched out as a 2-3 inning starter to accelerate his development. A few eyebrows were raised when he was challenged with an aggressive assignment to AA out of spring training, but Juenger met that head on, and was moved to Buffalo recently.

BA’s scouting report:

Juenger is sitting 94-96 mph, touching 97 mph on his fastball from a flat vertical approach angle, allowing him to miss bats on his four-seamer. He mixes two mid-80s secondaries in a changeup with heavy arm-side run that grades as his best bat-missing pitch and a slider in the mid 80s with sweep and slight ride.

Blue Jays Pitching Development Coordinator on Juenger:

We are viewing him as a guy who can get 9-15 outs in high leverage situations. His stuff is electric and he’s a bulldog on the mound. We’ve wanted to give him opportunities to start this year and have been really pleased with how he’s done.

If there’s one minor concern about Juenger, it’s his propensity to give up the long ball (13 HR in 60 IP to date).

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