Catcher – Danny Jansen .275/.390/.473 (MiLB numbers)
Jansen solidified his label as the Blue Jays Catcher of the Future with a good season on both sides of the plate, and earned a late season call up as a result.
Jansen has long been lauded for his leadership skills, and his ability to handle a Pitching staff. Over the last two years, he’s added a potent bat, and vastly improved blocking skills to go along with the tools he already has behind the plate, which include being able to set a good low target, and excellent framing skills.
With Reese McGuire joining him in more than a day game after a night game role, the Blue Jays will be able to keep Jansen’s bat in the lineup on occasion while giving him a day off from Catching duties in 2019. Barring injury, the team appears set at this position well into the next decade.
1B Ryan Noda .256/.421/.484
After a disappointing draft year showing, Noda slipped to the Jays in the 15th round last June. He led the Appalachian League in OPS, and continued his on-base ways in Lansing this year.
Noda led the minors in walks with 109, and his ABs continued to be a sight to see. Eschewing batting gloves, Noda grinds out plate appearances, plain and simple. His 20 HRs were 2nd best in the Midwest League, as were his 80 RBI.
With Kacy Clemens in the lineup for the first six weeks of the season, Noda had to split time with him at 1B, heading to LF when Clemens had a turn at First. His defensive skills in the Outfield were a work in progress – his numbers improved once Clemens was promoted to Dunedin, and Noda became a fulltime First Baseman. He finished the season in a flurry, posting a 1.130 OPS in August.
Noda will no doubt continue to work the count at High A next year, but he may have to become more aggressive. When he works the counts, he sometimes becomes vulnerable to off speed pitches on the outside edge of the plate. Pitchers with better command at higher levels may be able to exploit that.
2B Cavan Biggio .252/.388/.499
Biggio increased his SwStr% and Flyball rate last year in an obvious attempt to add some loft to the ball, but the humidity and Pitcher-friendly Florida State League ballparks conspired to keep many of his long balls short of the fences.
This year, he’s broken out in a big way. Biggio led the Eastern League in Homers, Slugging OPS. He also led the league in walks, and just missed leading in strikeouts, almost winning the three true outcome title.
Biggio played three infield positions, finding himself most often at 2nd this year (68 games). The Blue Jays also experimented with him in the Outfield late in the season, and will continue his trial there in the Arizona Fall League.
SS Kevin Smith .302/.358/.528
Smith was regarded as a glove-first SS when the Blue Jays took him in the 4th round last year, and that label seemed apt after a .271/.312/.466 season with Bluefield.
Except that if there’s one thing that drives Smith, it’s proving the doubters wrong.
An ardent student of the game and diligent worker, Smith set about last off-season to eliminate a loop in his swing in an attempt to catch up to high fastballs, and to improve his two strike approach. The changes paid off, as Smith dominated at Lansing, and earned a late May promotion to Dunedin.
Smith is probably the best defensive SS in the Blue Jays system – a clear evaluation on that is admittedly difficult. He split time at 3B and SS at Lansing, then played in the online streaming black hole that is the FSL for the rest of the year.
One thing is certain – Smith has worked his way onto the Blue Jays top prospect list. He is very likely to stick at SS,
3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr .381/.437/.636
The easiest choice by far. Not only did Guerrero have an offensive minor league season for the ages (possibly the best in Blue Jays prospect history), he made tremendous strides with his defence. While he may not supplant Brooks Robinson one day in terms of reputation, he has built on the skills he already displayed in abundance at the hot corner: footwork, sure hands, and a strong accurate arm. Guerrero has been working on his first step reactions, and this play demonstrates the progress he’s made:
OF – Harold Ramirez .320/.365/.471
Ramirez may have been in the shadow of more illustrious teammates this year like Gurriel, Guerrero, Bichette, and Biggio, but he was one of the most consistent hitters in New Hampshire’s lineup, winning an Eastern League batting title. In his third go round at AA after injuries interrupted his 2017 season, Ramirez was among the league leaders in Total Bases and Slugging.
Where does Ramirez fit in a now crowded Blue Jays Outfield situation? That’s hard to say, but his versatility and bat could help him force his way into the picture sometime next year.
OF Chavez Young .285/.363/.445
From 39th round pick to near Top 10 prospect in three seasons is a remarkable journey. Young was the only player in the minors this year with 50+ extra base hits and 40+ steals, demonstrating his power-speed potential.
At the plate, Young has a solid approach, and demonstrated that this year with a career-high walk rate. A plus defender who can play all three OF positions, Young was a solid presence at the plate and in the field for Lansing this summer. There are still some aspects of rawness to his game, but he smoothed off a lot of the rough edges in his first year of full season ball.
OF Cal Stevenson
Firmly entrenched at the top of Bluefield’s lineup, the 10th round pick led the Appy League in runs, walks, and OBP, and was second in Average and Stolen Bases. He was the catalyst in a lineup that nearly reached the Appy finals.
Ut – Otto Lopez .308/.399/.406
Easily Vancouver’s most valuable player, Lopez can play the OF, as well as 2B/SS/3B. He runs the bases well, and is a smart, high baseball-IQ player.
RH Starter – Patrick Murphy
Finally healthy for a full season for the first time in several years, Murphy was dominant in the Florida State League, leading the loop in Ks, and a nearly 60% GB rate indicates that when FSL hitters weren’t swinging and missing at this pitches, they had trouble squaring him up.
LH Starter – Zach Logue 12-4 3.15 ERA .259 OBA
Logue started the year at Lansing, and was promoted in May to Dunedin. Not an overpowering Pitcher, he relies on command and a four-pitch mix to keep hitters off-balance, which he did for much of the year. He uses his fastball to get ahead, and then relies on his improving secondaries to finish batters off.
RP – Travis Bergen 4-2 0.95 ERA .200 OBA
Another Pitcher who was finally healthy for a full season, Bergen was lights out at two levels in relief. Moved up to New Hampshire after starting the year in Dunedin, the left-hander fanned 74 hitters in 59 innings at the two levels. Bergen does not approach triple digits, but has command of all of his pitches – he surrendered only 15 walks this season.
DH – Alejandro Kirk .354/.443/.558
Kirk came within 3 feet of tying up what proved to be the deciding game of Bluefield’s semifinal playoff matchup with the Rays Princeton affiliate, but his game travelled a long way this season.
Coming into the season, Kirk was a C/DH (with emphasis on the latter) was a fairly unknown commodity. A late September signing in 2016, the Mexican had all of 2 ABs in the GCL in 2017 before being assigned to Bluefield this season. Kirk busted out in a big way, and was named the Appy All Star DH. With starting Catcher Hagen Danner in an out of the lineup with injuries, Kirk stepped in and from all accounts handled himself well.
Kirk swings hard and seldom gets cheated at the plate. He put up gaudy numbers at a Low Level, so he comes with the usually cautions as he moves up. That bat holds considerable promise, however.