Who’s the Next Blue Jays Top 100 Prospect?

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Logan Warmoth – Clutchlings Photo

After some lean years in terms of elite prospects, these are heady times for Blue Jays fans.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr (4th), Bo Bichette (19th), and Anthony Alford (58th) cracked Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 list earlier today , and just a few hours ago, Fangraphs released their Top 100,  with Guerrero 3rd, Bichette 9th, Alford 36th, Danny Jansen 71st, and Nate Pearson 76th.

To be honest, this space has long been a booster of Jansen’s, and while we anointed him the Blue Jays Catcher of the Future 8 months ago, his inclusion was a bit of a surprise.  Fangraphs is all in, especially with his hit tool:

We’re buying that Jansen’s 2017, which included more walks than strikeouts across three levels of the minors, is a sign of real improvement, perhaps due to the new prescription frames he got before the season.

Earlier this month, Baseball America released what is regarded by many as the standard-bearer of prospect lists.  Guerrero was ranked 3rd, Bichette 8th, Alford 60th, and Pearson came in at 91.   MLB Pipeline had Guerrero 3rd as well, with Bichette 14th,  and Alford 47th.

By this time next year, it’s a safe bet that Bichette and Guerrero will occupy even loftier positions.  Alford will most likely graduate from the list, and Pearson will no doubt continue his ascent.  Who are the Blue Jays prospects most likely to break through can crack the Top 100, representing the next wave of talent in the system?

For your consideration, here are a pair of players – kind of a high/low scenario:

Eric Pardinho

It seems folly to get so excited about a 17-year-old (Pardinho’s birthday was shortly after New Year’s Day), and it may take a year or so before he cracks any Top 100 lists, but there is no doubt that the young Brazilian is headed there.

“A combination of athleticism, great delivery, advanced stuff and feel for pitching,” is how Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish described Pardinho in November.   “I’ve never seen a 16 year old kid with that combination of skills.”

Pardinho hit 94 as a 15 year old in a WBC Qualifier a year and a half ago, and according to Tinnish hit 97 in short outings in the Dominican prospects league this summer.  But it’s just not that fastball – it’s his mechanics, the ability to command that fastball, and complement it with secondaries and pitchability.

There is every reason to believe that Pardinho will begin his career stateside this summer, most likely starting in the GCL.  And while one should always be cautious with young International Free Agents, the Blue Jays have had a good track record with them – namely Franklin Barreto, Richie Urena, Roberto Osuna, and some guy named Vladdy Jr.

 

Logan Warmoth

While Pardinho may not make any Top 100 lists until 2020, there’s a good chance Warmoth may work his way into the back end of some a year from now.

You might walk away from watching one game’s worth of the 2017 1st rounder’s work and wonder what the fuss is.  Taking in a larger sample might change your mind.  According to Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders, the Blue Jays clearly got their man:

He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a prospect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Warmoth does not have one overwhelming tool  – BA called him a “bucket full of 50-grade tools,” in naming him the Blue Jays 8th overall prospect this fall, but he makes consistently hard contact and has a good approach at the plate.  In the field, scouts are split as to whether he sticks at SS or moves across to 2B, but there was plenty of promise in his footwork, arm, and reactions to ground balls to suggest he can stay there.

While none of this may scream Top 100 material, there’s plenty to make one believer that Warmoth will be a productive MLBer one day.  He had to fight a tendency to be a little pull happy last year, but otherwise there are no holes in his game.  His power will likely continue to develop, and he should make huge strides this year, most likely with Dunedin.

 

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BA Releases Blue Jays Top 10

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BA/Paul Gierhart Photo

Baseball America published their Top 10 Blue Jays prospects today, and the results are similar to many other versions, including FBJ’s.

There were some minor variations – BA included Lourdes Gurriel and Danny Jansen, but left Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley, and T.J. Zeuch off of their Top 10.

The detailed reports are behind BA’s paywall, and while I won’t list them all here, I will feature some highlights:

On Vlad Jr (no surprise at #1):

Guerrero is a prodigious offensive talent, with the combination of hitting ability, plate discipline and power in the mold of Manny Ramirez.

Bo Bichette (#2):

Bichette has the potential to be one of the most talented offensive players in baseball. Double-A New Hampshire is his next step.

Bichette and Guerrero, according to BA, form the best 1-2 prospect punch in all of baseball.  While we can argue that Anthony Alford may have an all-around higher ceiling, it’s hard to quibble with that.

After viewing Big Nate Pearson from the Vancouver pressbox, I can vouch for this assessment:

Pearson gives hitters an uncomfortable at-bat. He attacks them with downhill angle from his 6-foot-6 frame and pitches with a lively, heavy fastball that parked at 92-94 mph and touched 98 regularly in his college starts.

Having seen a fair amount (for a guy based east of Manitoba) of #8 Logan Warmoth, this is an apt description:

Warmoth is a bucket full of 50-grade tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, with no one true calling card but a high overall baseball IQ and no glaring holes either.

 

We’ll run a summary of BA’s accompanying Blue Jays Top 10 chat.

This is a decent list, and having seen a fair amount both live and online of all of the members of this group outside of Eric Pardinho (#6), I think the reports are accurate. It will be interesting when we eventually get a glimpse of the Brazilian youngster.  Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish could not say enough about him when we spoke a few weeks ago.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #7 Logan Warmoth

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Clutchlings Photo

When it comes to the MLB draft, many fans don’t realize that for some teams, selecting a player is the culmination of several years of patiently watching a player develop, and cultivating a relationship with that player, and hoping he’ll still be on the board when their turn to select comes.

The Blue Jays were thrilled to land North Carolina SS Logan Warmoth with their first of two first-round picks (22nd overall) in last June’s First Year Player Draft.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders said after the draft:

 He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a propsect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Prior to his final college season, Warmoth was considered a lock to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft.  With his customary work ethic, his development took another huge leap forward, and by June he was considered the top SS prospect in the draft.  Sent to Vancouver after the customary brief stint in the GCL, Warmoth was ranked the Northwest League’s 6th prospect by Baseball America.

I had a chance to watch Warmoth a number of times this summer, both online and in person at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, and even though he was in short season ball, Warmoth looks like a future Major Leaguer.   At the plate, he has what scouts call, “a feel for the barrel.”  And over the course of the games I saw him play, he did indeed square up a number of pitches, rarely having a bad At Bat.  In the field, Warmoth displayed good range, footwork, hands, and a strong arm, which scouts have rated as his best tool.  He lacks that explosive first reaction to the ball that separates pros from the amateurs, and there’s no doubt that the High Performance staff are working with him this off season to develop a quicker first step.

If you watch a small sample size of Warmoth, you may not come away impressed; he does not have one whelming tool.  Over the course of several games, however, you will see him do something special with the bat or glove, or on the basepaths.

Warmoth was called pull-happy prior to the draft, and with his bat speed and ability to recognize pitches, he does get out in front, but the Blue Jays worked with him this summer to use the whole field more, and it showed:

Logan Warmoth
MLBfarm.com

There are some who suggest that Warmoth may not stick at SS, and that he profiles better as a top third of the order offensive 2nd Baseman.  He has an ahtletic frame, and there is still some room for him to fill out.  The comp that has been made most often is to Orioles’ SS JJ Hardy, and that’s a reasonable one.  While there still is room for development (for someone with good strike zone management, Warmoth did not draw a lot of walks – 4% – at Vancouver this year), he profiles as a steady 2nd Division player.   Warmoth is a good defender, runner, and has a smooth, line-drive swing.  He should skip Lansing next year and being 2018 in Dunedin.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #7 Logan Warmoth

Warmoth2017
Clutchlings Photo

When it comes to the MLB draft, many fans don’t realize that for some teams, selecting a player is the culmination of several years of patiently watching a player develop, and cultivating a relationship with that player, and hoping he’ll still be on the board when their turn to select comes.

The Blue Jays were thrilled to land North Carolina SS Logan Warmoth with their first of two first-round picks (22nd overall) in last June’s First Year Player Draft.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders said after the draft:

 He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a propsect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Prior to his final college season, Warmoth was considered a lock to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft.  With his customary work ethic, his development took another huge leap forward, and by June he was considered the top SS prospect in the draft.  Sent to Vancouver after the customary brief stint in the GCL, Warmoth was ranked the Northwest League’s 6th prospect by Baseball America.

I had a chance to watch Warmoth a number of times this summer, both online and in person at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, and even though he was in short season ball, Warmoth looks like a future Major Leaguer.   At the plate, he has what scouts call, “a feel for the barrel.”  And over the course of the games I saw him play, he did indeed square up a number of pitches, rarely having a bad At Bat.  In the field, Warmoth displayed good range, footwork, hands, and a strong arm, which scouts have rated as his best tool.  He lacks that explosive first reaction to the ball that separates pros from the amateurs, and there’s no doubt that the High Performance staff are working with him this off season to develop a quicker first step.

If you watch a small sample size of Warmoth, you may not come away impressed; he does not have one whelming tool.  Over the course of several games, however, you will see him do something special with the bat or glove, or on the basepaths.

Warmoth was called pull-happy prior to the draft, and with his bat speed and ability to recognize pitches, he does get out in front, but the Blue Jays worked with him this summer to use the whole field more, and it showed:

Logan Warmoth
MLBfarm.com

There are some who suggest that Warmoth may not stick at SS, and that he profiles better as a top third of the order offensive 2nd Baseman.  He has an ahtletic frame, and there is still some room for him to fill out.  The comp that has been made most often is to Orioles’ SS JJ Hardy, and that’s a reasonable one.  While there still is room for development (for someone with good strike zone management, Warmoth did not draw a lot of walks – 4% – at Vancouver this year), he profiles as a steady 2nd Division player.   Warmoth is a good defender, runner, and has a smooth, line-drive swing.  He should skip Lansing next year and being 2018 in Dunedin.

Vancouver Places 4 in BA’s Northwest League Top 20

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Logan Warmoth – MLB Pipelin

You can forgive Vancouver Canadians’ fans for being a bit spoiled.

The team won three consecutive Northwest League titles after they swtiched affiliation to the Blue Jays in 2011, and just missed a fourth in 2014.

2015 and 2016 were lean, sub .500 seasons for the short-season club, and there were some grumblings that the Blue Jays were not sending top prospects to the Lower Mainland despite setting Northwest League attendance records both seasons.

2017 saw the team smash their own gate record once again, drawing an incredible average of over 6300 fans per game as the team returned to the post season, and won their fifth NWL crown in front of a boisterous home crowd.  More importantly for fans of the big club, according to Baseball America, five top prospects played at The Nat this season.

SS Logan Warmoth led the group, placing 6th on BA’s list.  The first of two first round picks the Blue Jays had last June, the 22nd overall pick did not disappoint, looking very much like a future big leaguer, despite some initial concerns about his eventual position:

Most believe Warmoth has the range and athleticism to stick at shortstop, with more than enough arm strength to handle the position, while others view him as more of an offensive second baseman. At the plate, Warmoth often looks to pull the ball, as most of his power is to his pull-side. But Vancouver manager Rich Miller said Warmoth did a better job of covering the outside part of the plate and hitting the ball to all fields as the season progressed. He’s smart hitter with a quick bat and has shown the aptitude to make adjustments.

Warmoth does not have one outstanding tool; you need to watch a larger body of his work to truly appreciate his skills.  In viewing him over a half dozen games this year, he showed that he makes a lot of solid contact.  His reactions to batted balls are good, although he seemed to lack that explosive first step to allow him to get to balls faster.  He may not profile as a first division player, but it’s easy to envision Warmoth as a big leaguer one day, and he adds to the Blue Jays’ depth at Short Stop.

The next Canadian to appear on the list was C Riley Adams at #11.  The June 2017 3rd rounder is an intriguing prospect.  Compared to Matt Wieters because of his 6’4″ frame, Adams is an athletic prospect who can be termed raw behind the plate.  His blocking and receiving skills are still a work in progress, but he made progress this summer.  His work with 1st rounder Nate Pearson in the C’s final home game showed an observer that his pitch framing is a part of his skill set most in need of work, although in fairness to Adams, he did not work with many Pitchers with Pearson’s velo as a collegian.

At the plate, Adams has some holes in his swing that make for some swing-and-miss, but BA feels he’s a potential middle-of-the-order bat.  Adams is rawer than Warmoth, and may not move through the system as quickly, but he too has the look of a future MLBer.

Two C’s checked in at the bottom of the list.  SS Kevin Vicuna, a 2014 IFA who was more noted for his glove, hit reasonably well at Vancouver (.280/.333/.307) and in a late-season promotion to Lansing , was ranked at 19.  At 20th was OF Reggie Pruitt, a 2015 24th rounder whose draft stock had fallen to his commitment to Vanderbilt.  Pruitt has struggled at the plate through his first three minor league seasons, but began to make more consistent contact in the second half.  A burner on the bases and a ballhawk in the Outfield, Pruitt led the NWL in steals.  His ability to make more contact (26% K rate this year) will determine his future.

One name was absent from the list, and that was RHP Pearson, who did not have enough innings to qualify.  Pearson and his triple digit fastball were no match for NWL hitters, and had he qualified,  he may have been one of the top three prospects.  Pearson is a legit top-of-the-rotation arm, depending on the development of his secondary pitches to complement his overwhelming heat.

*****************************************************************************

While we’re talking about the C’s, here are a couple of final thoughts…

much was made in the aftermath of the C’s final game about the Blue Jays letting Manager Rich Miller go.  Miller has been a loyal employee, stepping in to take over the reigns when Manager John Schneider had to take a leave of absence during the C’s first championship run in 2011.  Miller, a baseball lifer who has been in the game for 44 years, did not see the firing coming.  I made several attempts to reach Rich (I wanted to talk about his time managing a young Catcher by the name of John Gibbons in the Sally League in the early 80s as well as the title this year), and he was willing to speak, but after several missed emails/calls, it was obvious that he was done with the matter and ready to move on.  Turnover is a fact of life in minor league baseball, and the Blue Jays are no exception, frequently turning over some or all of their staffs at each affiliate from one year to the next.  Miller seems to have done a favour to the organization by stepping in during the 2011 season, and he really enjoyed his role as a senior adviser between Managing gigs.  It’s not so much a shame that he would not be returning after winning a title; it’s more unfortunate that he was let go by the organization after doing so.  Miller is a savvy baseball man, and he still wants to work – it’s highly likely another organization will pick him up.

-Blue Jays fans have gained quite a bit of notoriety for taking over Safeco Field when their team pays their annual visit to the Mariners.  While it’s quite a site to see, I would suggest that for any Jays’ fan’s bucket list, a trip to Nat Bailey to see the C’s should be on it.  The Nat is a quaint old ballpark, and while it pales to some other state-of-the-art facilities elsewhere in the Blue Jays system, there is no other atmosphere that compares to it.  And unlike Toronto, Vancouver is a relative urban oasis.  A short drive in just about any direction puts you in the wilderness.  Stanley Park, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain (the Grouse Grind climb is a must for Mrs C and I every time we visit, but is not for the faint of heat) all beckon.