The Pulse on the Blue Jays: Futures Market – Top 5 Pitching Prospects

draft1

Believe it or not, but despite the Blue Jays opening the 2015 season with six rookies – Devin Travis, Dalton Pompey, Daniel Norris, Miguel Castro, Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez – on their 25 man roster, it hardly made a dent in the depth of their farm system.

Even with their less than stellar track record in ACTUALLY signing their first round picks (Tyler Beede and Phil Beckford, anyone?) and recent history of mortgaging the future in trades (Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Jake Marisnick etc…),  the Blue Jays front office has done a near spectacular job in restocking the farm system year in and year out.

It doesn’t matter how they go about it, whether it be in the MLB Amateur Draft or signing international free agents, General Manager Alex Anthopolous and the Blue Jays brain trust have been able to acquire an abundant amount of prospects that will be able to help the organization in the future. Only time will tell whether that impact will be felt on the actual field or via the trade market, but it is good knowing that you have that deep of a farm system at your disposal.

With the MLB Amateur draft right around the corner, we will be taking a look at the Blue Jays Top 5 pitching and positional prospects. With apologies to current Buffalo Bison teammates, Miguel Castro, Dalton Pompey and Daniel Norris, these “future reports” are only focusing on those Blue Jays prospects who HAVE NOT made their MLB debut.

Up first, we will look at the Top 5 Pitching Prospects currently in the Blue Jays organization.

hoffman

Jeff Hoffman · RHP · 22 years old · 6’4 · 185lbs

Acquired: 1st round (9th overall) 2014 MLB Amateur Draft

Current Affiliation: Dunedin Blue Jays (Single A)

Blue Jays Prospect Rank (MLB.com): #3

What You Need to Know:

  • Report from ESPN prior to the draft: While Hoffman doesn’t have the track record of [White Sox No. 3 overall pick Carlos] Rodon, the stuff is very comparable, and if he can pitch for East Carolina like he pitched over the summer, he is a legit contender to be the first player taken in June.”
  • His college pitching coach at East Carolina, who also coached Chris Sale while he was at Florida Gulf Coast, said that Hoffman has the stuff to be an MLB ace: “Big leaguers are easy to spot at that level, and Hoffman’s unbelievable work ethic, discipline, and 99 mph fastball give him ace potential.”
  • Baseball America: “At his best, Hoffman’s athletic body, electric fastball and ability to maintain his velocity evoke Justin Verlander.”
  • Hoffman on his strike zone approach: “I’m going to pound the fastball in there until the other team proves they can hit it.”
  • Even with having to recover from TJ, Hoffman should be considered an advanced pitcher and could climb through the minors quickly.

 

Scouting Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a5cGLTvn9w

 

Pitching Arsenal:

  • Fastball: Throws two fastballs (four seam and two seam). Four seam is a heavy fastball that sits in the mid to high 90’s and regularly touches 97-98. His two seam sits in the low to mid 90’s and features above average sink and runs inside to right handed hitters.
  • Curveball: Viewed as a plus to plus-plus pitch and as dominant as his fastball. The curve has good depth and biting action and sits in the 78 to 81 mph range.
  • Changeup: Not as good as his curveball, but he has shown to have a more consistent feel for it. The changeup is viewed as above average to plus and could continue to develop into another filthy weapon at his disposal. It sits in the mid to upper 80’s and has good, late movement down and in to right handed hitters.
  • Hoffman has also shown the ability to throw an average slider, but has seemed to put it in his back pocket for the time being.

MLB ETA: 2017

Sean-Reid-Foley

Sean Reid-Foley · RHP · 19 · 6’3” · 220lbs

Acquired: Supplemental First Round (49th) 2014 MLB Amateur Draft

Current Affiliation: Lansing Lugnuts (Single A)

Blue Jays Prospect Rank (MLB.com): #6

What You Need To Know:

  • Considered to be one of the best prep school pitchers available in the draft, the jays landed him in the supplemental draft and signed him at slot value.
  • Could be considered a steal as he shad potential to be among first 30 names called, not to mention having signed a college commitment letter.
  • Tall and athletic frame which could allow for more velocity as he ages. His athleticism also allows him to repeat his delivery with relative ease; even if it isn’t the most fluid of deliveries.
  • One cause for concern is in his pitching mechanics. Tends to throw across his body with a high arm slot and pitching elbow. The Blue Jays have been rumoured to potentially tweak his delivery as it could result in an elbow or shoulder injury.
  • If everything clicks, he projects as a mid rotation pitcher at MLB level.

 

Scouting Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uNZSBRahBY

 

Pitching Arsenal:

  • Fastball: Sits between the 92 and 95 mph range and can hit 97 on the radar gun. His fastball also has above average movement inside to right handed hitters due to him throwing it with his two fingers held in close proximity to one another.
  • Slider: Viewed as his second best pitch, the slider sits in the mid 80’s and has lots of spin with late biting action. ESPN wrote that: “his breaking ball is inconsistent and there’s some noticeable arm angle changes, but at its best it offers plus spin and late bite, and he has a good feel for the pitch.”
  • Changeup: Viewed as a work in progress and would currently rank as an average pitch at its best. Biggest issue with the changeup is his inability to throw it from the same arm slot as his fastball. This “tipping” of the pitch allow hitters to know that it’s coming and adjust accordingly. Until he gets a better feel for the changeup, he will be viewed as a predominant two pitch pitcher.

 

MLB ETA: 2018

Jairo

Jairo Labourt · LHP · 21 · 6’4 · 205lbs

Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent in 2011

Current Affiliation: Dunedin Blue Jays (Single A)

Blue Jays Prospect Rank (MLB.com): #10

What You Need to Know:

  • The Blue Jays have found great success on the international free agent scene and Labourt is one of many big arm high ceiling arms that they have managed to stockpile.
  • The big Dominican southpaw has an effortless delivery with clean arm action. Should bode well for his durability in the long run.
  • Struggled with his control in his first few seasons but a change to his pitching mechanics has resulted in better control and an elevated groundball %.
  • The biggest knock against the big lefty has been his inconsistent command of his pitches. He will need to continue to improve his control and hit the strike zone in order to continue advancing through the minor leagues.
  • Development of change-up could be the difference between him starting or relieving. Has projected as a “workhorse” starter due to his large frame.

 

Scouting Video: https://youtu.be/rMAWCMrNQ8U

 

Pitching Arsenal:

  • Fastball: Heavy with good sinking motion – aided further by Labourt’s downhill pitching delivery – that routinely sits in the 89 to 93 mph range and has hit 95 mph on the radar gun.
  • Slider: Considered the better offering of his two secondary pitches. He will throw his slider between 83 to 86 mph and it is prone to diving out of the strike zone and into the dirt as it approaches home. Definitely has the potential develop into a “wipeout” slider.
  • Changeup: Currently a work in progress and forces him to rely more on his slider as an off speed offering. Labourt’s changeup will sit between 77 and 79 mph but is rarely used in comparison to his other pitches. He will need to further develop this in order to stay as a starting pitcher at the major league level.

MLB ETA: 2017

Matt-Smoral

Matt Smoral · LHP · 21 · 6’8 · 220lbs

Acquired: Supplemental First Round (50th overall) 2012 MLB Amateur Draft

Current Affiliation: Dunedin Blue Jays (Single A)

Blue Jays Prospect Rank (MLB.com): #11

What You Need to Know:

  • Due to his enormous height, similar pitch arsenal and deceptive left-handed delivery, Smoral has (unfairly) been compared to both Randy Johnson and Madison Bumgarner.
  • Originally projected to be a first round draft selection but fell to the Supplemental 1st round due to a broken foot he suffered in High School. The injury could be a blessing in disguise as if he even remotely reaches his potential he could be a big time steal.
  • After dealing with an assortment of injuries in his first two seasons, Smoral made big strides in 2014 by appearing in 52.1 innings.
  • Despite this minor success, Smoral is still considered to be a work in progress. The main reason for this, aside from the injuries, has been his struggle to repeat his delivery and throw his pitches for strike.
  • Unfortunately for the 6’8 lefty, the primary culprit for his command and delivery issues is his enormous stature.  Since their size forces them to be releasing the ball practically on top of the batter, young pitchers with immense height tend to have more problems learning to hone their mechanics than their shorter peers.

Scouting Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjL2H_W2uTA

Pitching Arsenal:

  • Fastball: Sits in the low 90’s but has been known to hit as high as 95 mph on occasion. His fastball is graded as an above average pitch that could eventually develop into a plus pitch as he continues to progress. Smoral’s low ¾ arm slot and smooth delivery of the pitch also helps it to appear even faster to opposing batters.
  • Slider: When he has a good feel for it, the slider will appear more as a plus pitch than an average to above average one. Throws it in the mid 80’s, but does tend to struggle with his control and command which causes it to flatten out and appear more hittable. When it is on though, it has the makings of a true “wipeout” slider.
  • Changeup: Still a work in progress compared to his slider. Will sit in the high 70’s to low 80’s range and has good late sinking and fading action as it nears the plate. His changeup comes from a similar arm slot as his fastball which allows it to be more deceiving to batters. Despite it still being a pitch in development, he has shown to have a good feel for the changeup.

MLB ETA: 2018

ryan borucki

Ryan Borucki · LHP · 21 · 6’4 · 175lbs

Acquired: Selectied in the 15th round (475th overall) in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft

Current Affiliation: Vancouver Canadians (Single A)

Blue Jays Prospect Rank (MLB.com): #12

What You Need to Know:

  • Slipped to the 15th round due to an elbow injury which would eventually require Tommy John surgery. Missed the entire 2013 season, but came back to pitch 57 innings between two levels of Single A in 2014
  • Since being drafted and undergoing surgery, has worked to “smooth out” any mechanical issues with his delivery which has allowed for better control and command of his pitches
  • Even with his career being delayed due to injury and rehabilitation, Borucki has shown an advance level of polish and a high baseball IQ. This should only continue to advance and develop as he moves throughout the minor leagues
  • His tall and athletic frame could allow for more size to be added, which in turn would result in an added boost in velocity
  • Has drawn comparisons to former Blue Jays and current Miami Marlins pitching prospect, Justin Nicolino, due to their similar build

 

Scouting Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9utr39N8Z4

 

Pitching Arsenal:

  • Fastball: Mainly sits in the low 90’s but has hit as high as 94 mph on the radar gun. His fastball has shown to have good life to it and tends to run inside to left handed hitters. As mentioned above, he could add more velocity if he adds some more size to his frame.
  • Curveball: Not as polished as his changeup but has a pretty decent feel for the pitch. Curveball will sit in the mid 70’s and may have more of a “slurve” movement depending on how he grips it.
  • Changeup: The better offering of his two secondary pitches, Borucki’s change, like his curveball, will sit in the mid 70’s range. He has shown a better feel for the pitch and seems more comfortable throwing it in high leverage situations than his breaking ball.

MLB ETA: 2018

Honourable Mention: RHP Alberto Tirado

Coming up next… the Top 5 Toronto Blue Jay positional prospects.

– $

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