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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Love it or Hate it · Week Three · 2015 MLB Season

What We Loved:

Hamilton

  • An Arlington reunion. With the relationship between the Angels and Josh Hamilton in disrepair, it looks like the much maligned OF will be returning to the place where he experienced his biggest successes, Texas. With the Rangers, Hamilton already has an organization that is familiar with his struggles and has a solid support system already in place. This could turn out to be a move with mutual benefit to both Hamilton and the Rangers. If Hamilton can come back healthy and sober, he could be a big upgrade for a team that is struggling offensively.
  • A meaningful subway series. The Yankees and Mets clashed in the Bronx over the weekend in a weekend series that saw the Yankees take two of three and end the Mets 11 game win streak. Depending on how season plays out for both teams, their next meeting, in September, could be very interesting and very entertaining.
  • Mitch Harris’ debut. The 29 yr old Cardinals pitcher became the 1st Navy grad in 94 years to make his MLB debut. He wound up striking out the first batter he faced (Adam Lind) on four pitches, before going on to hold the Brewers scoreless through 1 1/3.
  • Adrian Beltre and Garrett Richards. We all knew that the dude didn’t like his head being touched for whatever reason. Now we know not to mess with his bats either. The Rangers 3B sent the Angels starter an invoice for three broken bats following their most recent matchup that saw Richards break three of Beltre’s bats, in three at bats. No word if the invoice was paid.
  • Slugfest between Brewers and Reds. Reds beat the Brewers 16-10 in a game that saw the teams combine to hit 7 homers, including 3 grand slams.
  • Early season overreactions. The Astros… ASTROS… are currently sitting atop the AL West with a 2.5 game lead over the 2nd place Angels. I know it’s early, but it’s hard not to like seeing the Astros sitting in any position that isn’t dead last.
  • Everything that is Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Witness

What We Hated:

yordano-ventura

  • The chip on Yordano Ventura’s shoulder. Ventura is listed as being and even “six foot,” yet that chip developing on his shoulder, is at least twice that size. I love this kid. I love his arsenal, his confidence and his swagger. What I cannot stand though is this “take on all comers” attitude that he has displayed thus far. I don’t hate him for throwing at batters in retaliation for his own players getting hit. What I hate is him running his mouth at Adam Eaton after fielding a routine comebacker. There is no one else to blame for sparking that melee than Ventura; he was the catalyst. This comes one week after Ventura was one of the prominent figures in the A’s/Royals brawl(s). Ventura is only 23 years old, and he is already becoming one of MLB’s most hated players.
  • Pitchers getting injured while batting. After jamming his thumb during an at bat, it was announced that Nationals pitcher, Max Scherzer, would not make his next start, but he would also miss a trip to the DL. The Nationals should consider themselves blessed to have received that injury update, it was abundantly better than the news that the Cardinals received in regards to Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals ace will miss the next 8-12 months after suffering a torn achillies tendon. The injury occurred as Wainwright ran up the 1st base line following an at bat. Luckily for the Cardinals, if there is one team that should have no problem in handling a key loss like this, it is the Cardinals.
  • Pitchers batting. After the Giants catcher, Buster Posey, suffered a broken leg following a collision at home plate, MLB wasted no time in altering the rules of how a catcher could block the plate. This was done to protect catchers from experiencing an injury like the one that Posey had suffered. Perhaps it is time MLB follows suit regarding pitchers batting in the National League. This isn’t my idea though, even players are advocating for it. Following his injury while batting, Max Scherzer was quoted as saying that he believes that it’s time that the NL follows the AL and adopts the DH rule. Scherzer wasn’t advocating for it because of his recent injury, but rather on the basis of improving offense and entertainment. This is what he said to Jon Heyman of CBS:

“If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit — Big Papi [Red Sox first baseman/DH David Ortiz] or me? Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules … Those kids, they want to see V-Mart hit,” Scherzer said, pointing out a group of children on the field at Marlins Park. “Those kids don’t want to see me hit. No one wants to see a pitcher hit. No one pays money for that … We keep searching for offense,” Scherzer added. “This would be the easiest way to add offense.”

Should be interesting to see how this plays out in the future; especially given new Commissioner Rob Manfred’s penchant for change.

  • The Angels front office. For the third week in a row, the Angels front office has publicly struggled with what to do in regards to Josh Hamilton. We now know that the Angels were more willing to ship Hamilton back to Texas, eat (almost) all of his remaining contract, and receive NOTHING in return, over dealing with Hamilton’s relapse. Must be nice to have the money to make mistakes like this go away…

miguel cairo

Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:

2B Miguel Cairo · 17 yrs · 1490 G · 3956 AB · 41 HR · 394 RBI · .264 AVG · .675 OPS

Blue Jays Love/Hate

What We Loved:

bautista

  • Bautista vs. the O’s bullpen. Another series against Baltimore and another O’s reliever throws behind Joey Bats. Of course, Bautista smashes the next pitch into the LF bleachers. Only thing that made it better was Bautista’s reaction following the homer.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/8877962/v83003983/baltor-bautista-thrown-behind-then-homers

  • Sweeping the O’s at the ‘dome.
  • Anticipating every upcoming O’s/Jays series.
  • The raw power of Edwin and Donaldson.
  • Devin Travis looking more and more like a steal!

 What We Hated:

Blue Jays Rays Baseball

  • Being swept by the Rays. 1-6 on the season vs. Tampa.
  • Knowing we still have 12 more games against the Rays.
  • Guys throwing behind Bautista… no matter what he does after.

http://m.mlb.com/video/?content_id=82997483&topic_id=8877962

  • Dalton Pompey’s defence of late.
  • Jose Reyes’ rib. Put money on this injury plaguing him ALL SEASON long.
  • Showalter pissing and moaning about the turf.
  • Inability to close out games. Castro/Hendriks combine to give up 4 earned in last game vs. O’s. Bullpen blows 2-1 lead in 8th against Rays.
  • The bullpen is who we thought it was…. it’s who we thought it was!

aquilino_lopez

Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:

RP Aquilino Lopez (2003-04) · 90 G · 94.2 IP · 2-4 W/L · 3.99 ERA · 1.33 WHIP

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