Troy Tulowitzki is a Blue Jay… TROY TULOWITZKI IS A BLUE JAY!!!
The reports started trickling in after midnight, personally, I didn’t find out until I made the mistake of checking my phone at 3am. Needless to say I didn’t get back to sleep until 4:30am. How the hell could I?! This was the closest I have come to feeling like a kid on Christmas Day in a long time!
TROY TULOWITZKI IS A BLUE JAY!!!
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t consider waking up the Mrs. or calling one of my “long time friends/part time contributors” at an ungodly hour in order to discuss this bombshell of a trade! Thankfully, in the best interest of my marriage and friendships, I decided against it.
Holy S*** though!
TROY TULOWITZKI IS A BLUE JAY!!!
This is even more shocking/surprising than the Donaldson trade this past offseason. This one is by far the most surprising of any of the trades that Alex Anthopolous has pulled off during his tenure, and that is with taking into account the unloading of the contract formerly known as Vernon Wells.
Being way too emotionally exhausted and excited to try and coherently arrange all of my thoughts/reactions into any semblance of a real post, instead I will be relying on (laziness) and bullet points to pick up the slack…
For my initial reaction, I will let the two text messages I received from long time friend/part time contributor, the Bird, speak for me:
- “JAYS LANDED TULO FOR REYES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
For those of you who aren’t fluent in Bird, he was a tad excited…
Knowing that the deal was DEFINITELY NOT Reyes for Tulo straight up, I made the mistake of going down the rabbit hole known as Twitter at 3am. Here were a few thoughts and reactions I had whilst feasting on any and all news available:
- Alex Anthopolous is the baseball equivalent of a ninja.
- Despite having a team that sports both a historically good offense and historically abysmal pitching staff and having been linked to nearly every single pitcher available on the market, AA and the Blue Jays came out of ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE to scoop up the most coveted bat available on the trade market in the Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki.
- My actual plea to the baseball gods… “Please don’t let Jeff Hoffman be part of the deal.”. I had a similar plea for Thor (Noah Syndergaard) not to be one of the “minor leaguers” included in the Dickey trade.
- “UGH…. F*** ME! Hoffman is part of the deal… OF COURSE HE IS!”
- As much as I love (LOVE) the trade and nothing against the 40+ year old LaTroy Hawkins, doesn’t it seem at least a little odd that we move two of our top 5 prospects without (really) addressing pitching?
Despite the hefty prospect price tag (Hoffman, Castro and Tinoco), the Jays were playing with house money. Both Castro and Tinoco were signed in 2011 as international free agents and Hoffman, selected 9th overall in 2014, was one of two first round selections we had. That being said, this move looks like a STEAL over the apparent Hoffman/Norris/Pompey for Carlos Carrasco trade that fell apart at the finish line on Sunday.
This trade is about more than just offensive and defensive upgrades. It is also a trade that comes with the business side of the game in mind. If you remove the $48mil that remains from Reyes’ contract from the remaining $98mil that Tulo is owed through 2020, you are looking at getting the (arguable) best SS in the game for 5 years at $10mil per.
Look at it this way, how much would GM’s have to dole out on a 5yr contract if Tulo were to hit the open market?
What the acquisition of Tulo also does is cover the Blue Jays from the (potential) loss of Joey Bats ($14mil club option next season) and Edwing ($10 mil club option next season) following the 2016 season. Both will be due a (significantly) large raise when their contracts end, and it will be near impossible for the Blue Jays to keep both of, if not one of them.
One interesting mindset, although most likely NOT to happen, would be for AA to potentially move one of them right now for pitching help (think Cespedes for Lester last season) or at some other point before their contracts end. This would be much easier said than done as both players have 5/10 status which gives them a virtual no trade clause.
Another aspect of this trade, and the Donaldson trade too, is it shows that the Blue Jays are more willing to add talent and upgrade their roster via the trade route rather than on the free agent market. The Russell Martin signing aside, Toronto is not necessarily the most attractive of free agent destinations and there was NO WAY that we were going to be able to sign the calibre of talent like Tulo and Donno as free agents, let alone trade say a Bautista or Encarnacion for them.
Emotions and excitement aside, realistically, this trade does come with some immense concerns for the Blue Jays.
Similar to Reyes, Tulo’s durability is also a cause for concern. He underwent surgery on his hip labrum last season and, for his career, has struggled to stay on the field. One has to assume that the switch to the (dreaded) Rogers Centre turf could and may add to those durability concerns. That being said, now playing in the AL, the Blue Jays do have the option of DH’ing him occasionally, not mention that Ryan Goins can fill in if and when needed.
I am sure a lot of people are going to hold all of his defensive miscues and shortcomings against him, but one area in which we will definitely miss Reyes is at the top of the batting order. The trade of Reyes now means that the Blue Jays have lost the table setter for their big bad offense. What it also does is takes away one of our (few) left handed batting threats, not to mention our only true base stealing threat. Another area where Jose will be missed will be in the clubhouse. Let’s hope that it doesn’t impact the morale too much.
- Many baseball insiders believe that this is merely the first shoe to drop. Rumours have the Blue Jays looking to potentially add a LF in addition to their hunt for pitching.
- Have to figure that a package of Mike Fiers and Geraldo Parra from the Brewers would be interesting?
- Personally, I still think the Padres are the best “fitting” trade partner. Padres possess numerous starting pitchers and bullpen arms that could be appealing. Not to mention the possibility of adding a Wil Venable, or dare I say, a Justin Upton?
- Don’t roll your eyes… after recent events, anything is possible with this team.
- Jon Morosi of the MLB network: “I’ve been covering the trade deadline for 10 years and this is the most surprised I have been in the final week of July.”
- Jeff Francis on Tulo (teammates in Colorado): “best athlete I’ve ever played with.”
Additional Reading and Reactions to the Tulo/Reyes deal:
Dave Cameron (fangraphs.com): http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/troy-tulowitzki-the-blue-jays-and-upgrading-strengths/
Matt Snyder (CBSsports.com): http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/25251909/troy-tulowitzki-traded-to-blue-jays
Prospect Pipe Line
It is very difficult to think of another season that rivals this one in terms of top prospects making their MLB debuts. The only year that really comes to mind would be the 1995 season which marked the first appearance of the Yankees “Core Four” (Jeter, Posada, Pettite and Rivera) and Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Hideo Nomo, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Mike Cameron, Phil Nevin, Brian Giles, Matt Lawton, Esteban Loaiza, Brad Radke and (current Rockies pitcher) LaTroy Hawkins.
Through 64 games this season, not only have we seen the arrivals of MLB.com’s Top 5 prospects (Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and Francisco Lindor), but we have also had the privilege of witnessing the MLB introductions of: Joey Gallo, Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki, Carlos Rodon, Archie Bradley, Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, Austin Hedges, Lance McCullers, Vincent Velasquez, AJ Cole, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Yasmany Tomas, as well as a trio of Blue Jays (Roberto Osuna, Miguel Castro and Devin Travis). And that is not even including the highly talked about debut of ambidextrous relief pitcher, Pat Venditte.
This year’s “bumper crop” of prospects is just the latest in a five year boom of young talent arriving at the MLB level. Since 2010 baseball fans have had the privilege of witnessing the arrivals of: Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, George Springer, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Michael Wacha, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Zach Wheeler, Matt Moore, Corey Kluber, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Craig Kimbrel and half of the foundation of the Kansas City Royals roster (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, Lorenzo Cain) to name a few .
And those are just players who were drafted through the MLB Draft; we’re not including players who were signed as International Free Agents like: Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Abreu, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Guerrero and the rest of the Royals roster foundation (Yordano Ventura, Salvador Perez and Kelvin Herrera).
The funny thing is that this recent prospect yield is far from over. Obviously in the coming years we will be privy to see the arrivals of numerous prospects, but with this year not even half way over, we may be in line to witness more (young) talent embark upon their career. Depending on how the division and wild card races play out down the stretch, not to mention the rosters expanding in September, we could see the likes of Corey Seager (LAD), Mark Appel (HOU), Steven Matz (NYM), Alex Meyer (MIN), Miguel Sano (MIN), Carl Edwards (CHC), Aaron Nola (PHI) and J.P Crawford (PHI) before all is said and done.
Thoughts on the Mid Summer Classic
With EIGHT Royals set to start for the AL in Cincinnati in just under a month’s time, a lot of bitching and moaning has been cast toward the fan’s ability to vote and decide the starters for the All Star team. Even the players have been sharing their two cents. Detroit Tigers starting pitcher and an All Star himself, David Price, tweeted that the voting system “is not funny but it’s kind of a joke,” and further chided “I wanna know how many votes Jeter has right now… I know people have written him in and voted… my guess is 1.5 million.”
Despite the American League All Star roster starting to look more like a regular season affair, some of the Royals own players weighed in on the voting process. Outfielder Alex Gordon, who is currently sitting as one of the starting OF in the game, had this to say when interviewed by USA Today Sports:
“To be honest with you, I’ve never agreed with the All-Star voting, I always thought that guys most deserving, and having the best years, should go, especially now that the All-Star Game decides who wins home-field advantage. But it’s a popularity thing now, and after getting to the World Series, we got popular.”
It is hard not to agree with Price, Gordon and the side who vehemently oppose fans having the final say on who starts the All Star game. In fact, I am one of those people who believe that the system needs to be changed.
Having the fate of All Star starters rest in a fan held vote robs players who DESERVE to be there! With a fan vote, a player who is having a career year or one who is a “feel good story” might not get the chance to be named an All Star because one fan base is larger than another and voted more often for their hometown players; regardless of the season they’re having.
With that in mind, I do believe that fans should still play a role in selecting players, just not the starters. Why can they not vote on who will take place in the Home Run Derby? I understand that not everybody is an option to take part, but why can they not vote out of those who are willing to participate? I also like the idea of fans selecting the last player to be named to the All Star game. It really tends to be a selection made more for depth in case of extra innings, so why can we not limit them to voting for that, or even expand it so they can vote for the last three roster positions?
All that being said, until the system is changed, I (unfortunately) have to side with Kansas City Royals manager, Ned Yost, on the fan voting and All Star selection… “If you don’t like it, go out there and vote.”
The Return of Thor and Bitching About the Blue Jays in Bullet Points
- Grantland’s Jonah Keri put out an incredible Blue Jays article and an accompanying podcast. The Blue Jays are discussed in the first twenty minutes of the podcast and Jonah is joined by Scott MacArthur from TSN 1050 for the segment.
- Move over Mike Trout, there is a new man crush in town. Josh Donaldson seriously makes me swoon like a high school student getting noticed by their crush. I just get butterflies looking at the dude…
- Apparently I am not the only one either… The Don (Don Cherry) made a televised plea to baseball fans to vote for the “Bringer of Rain”
- I am still reeling after that 11th inning loss to the Mets on Monday night that ended the 11 game win streak. Regardless of how many runs we put up on a nightly basis, it is losses like that that will define, and subsequently doom, a season
- That Noah Syndergaard kid looked pretty damn good (6 IP · 2 H · 1 ER · 2 BB · 11 SO), but hey who needs him when you got good ol’ Runs Allowed Dickey
- More impressive than his stat line was Syndergaard’s ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes in fastball counts, following the Bautista home run in the 1st.
- Gregg (Two G) Zaun made a decent point about our whipping boy Dickey during the pregame broadcast. He said that Dickey is effectively the same guy he was when he was pitching for the Mets, the main difference being that when he was with the Mets, he was pitching in a bigger ballpark, in a weaker division and against weaker lineups. I hate giving RA any benefit of doubt, but I do agree with Zaun’s analysis on this one.
- What I don’t agree with is anytime Zaun, or any Jays other analyst (I’m looking at you Wilner) for that matter, tries to defend trading Syndergaard and d’Arnaud for Dickey. Trading Syndergaard straight up for Dickey would have been egregious enough, let alone throwing d’Arnaud into the package. I am sure if you ask AA, he’ll agree this is one he wants a mulligan on
- I have said it before and I will say it again, but I have as much faith in Brett Cecil closing out a win, as I do in bargain bin folding chairs supporting my rotund frame
- Can we please (FINALLY) address our lack of pitching!? I fully understand that everybody fears making another R.A Dickey/Syndergaard type of trade, but you know what we really should fear?!?!? Not making the playoffs… AGAIN!!!
- I am totally on board with dealing some of our tomorrow for today! You have to be willing to take a chance in order to make it to the playoffs. It might work, it might not, but it is worth trying especially when the opportunity presents itself.
- The Giants for instance traded Zach Wheeler to the Mets for three months of Carlos Beltran in an attempt to win. Sure it didn’t work for them that season, but those are chances contenders and winning franchises make. Why can’t we?
- As much as I love prospects like Norris, Castro and Pompey, I wouldn’t hesitate to package them for a closer and a starter. You have to figure that those three (at least) get the conversation started on a Cueto/Chapman or Clippard/Kazmir deal? Hell, just one of them should be enough to land Papelbon from Philadelphia.
- If the prospects can’t contribute this season in helping us win, then why not use them via trade to help improve the roster and give us a chance this season? I completely agree with Scott MacArthur when he says that it is time to “bleep or get of the pot.”
- On a positive note, the Blue Jays have signed almost all of their draft class to contracts. This includes the top three picks, all of whom signed for or under slot value. For more info, check out the link from BlueBirdBanter:
With the MLB Amateur Draft now entering its third day it is time for us to take a quick look at how the Blue Jays have fared so far. With not having the best access to scouting information or video, I have relied heavily on scouting reports and break downs from MLB.com and the great Blue Jays community website, bluebirdbanter.com.
1st Round (29th overall): Jon Harris · RHP · 21 yrs old · Missouri State · 6’4 · 175lbs
- From MLB.com: “A 33rd-round choice by the Blue Jays out of a Missouri high school three years ago, Harris took a step forward in the Cape Cod League last summer and has continued to improve as a junior. He works comfortably at 92-94 mph with his fastball, and it plays up because it has run and sink and he uses his height to deliver it on a nice downhill plane. He has added some strength and his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame still has room for more, so he could pick up more velocity. His curveball, slider and changeup are all plus pitches at times. Harris has power and depth on his breaking balls, and he has made huge strides with his changeup and trusts it more than before. He also has improved his command and is doing a better job of pitching inside with his fastball.”
- Although not possessing nearly the amount of upside as 2014 first rounder, Jeff Hoffman, some scouts believe that because Harris is more polished and closer to being a “finished product,” that he could move quickly through the Blue Jays minor league system.
- Jim Callis of the MLB network said that the Blue Jays got a “steal” in Harris, who was rumoured to have been going in the first 15 picks. Needless to say he was not expected to be there when the Jays were picking at #29.
2nd Round (56th overall): Brady Singer · RHP · 18 yrs old · Eustis HS (FL) · 6’5 · 180 lbs
- From MLB.com: “Whenever a projectable high school pitcher shows a jump in stuff, he’s bound to move up Draft boards. That’s exactly what was happening with Singer in Florida, though some concern about mechanics was giving some scouts pause. Singer, a 6-foot-5 right-hander committed to the University of Florida, had always intrigued because of his frame and fairly solid idea of how to pitch. When he went from throwing his fastball in the 88-92 range to sitting closer to 92-94 mph and touching 96, his stock definitely jumped. He’ll complement the fastball with a slider that flashes average and he shows some feel for a changeup. Singer uses a three-quarter arm slot with a high elbow, a kind of unorthodox delivery that will make some scouts pause. Given the leap he’s made stuff-wise, a team is bound to look past that and nab him in the first few rounds of the Draft.”
3rd Round (91st overall): Justin Maese · RHP · 18 yrs old · Ysleta HS (TX) · 6’3 · 190 lbs
- From MLB.com: “One of the biggest pop-up guys this spring, Maese sent scouts scurrying to El Paso amid reports that he was hitting 96 mph with his fastball and 86 mph with his slider. While he only flashes that type of stuff rather than maintains it, it’s possible that he could sneak into the top three rounds. Though Maese’s fastball can climb into the mid-90s, he doesn’t tend to hold that velocity and often works at 88-92 mph. His slider has its moments too but he throws it too much and it often devolves into a less powerful pitch with slurvy break. Also a star quarterback for Ysleta High, Maese has the athleticism and frame to remain a starter. To do so, the Texas Tech recruit will have to become more consistent with his fastball and slider, develop a changeup and improve his control and command.”
4th Round (122nd overall): Carl Wise · 3B · 21 yrs old · College of Charleston (SC) · 6’1 · 215 lbs
- From MLB.com: “Lightly recruited out of high school, Wise has established himself as one of the most reliable power hitters in college baseball. He homered six times in seven games in March and has reached double figures in two of his three seasons at Charleston. Facing top competition in the Cape Cod League last summer, he tied for second with six longballs. Wise has good strength and excels at generating backspin on his drives from the right side of the plate. He can get pull-conscious at times but generally stays under control at the plate and manages the strike zone reasonable well, so he should hit for a decent average. Wise has enough arm strength for third base but almost certainly will move to a different position in pro ball. His throws lack accuracy at times and his hands and quickness are subpar for the hot corner. First base is his likely destination.”
5th Round (152nd overall): Jose Espada · RHP · 18 yrs old · Jose Collazo Colon HS (PR) · 6’0 · 170 lbs
- Okay so the above picture is clearly Cubs phenom, Kris Bryant. Why did I post this you ask? Well, two reasons really. The first, is that I could not find an actual picture of Espada, and the second, and much sadder reason is because the Blue Jays actually drafted Bryant while he was still in High School in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft and were unable to sign him… so yeah. Anyway, back to Espada…
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “Per Jim Callis on the MLB Network draft broadcast, the Blue Jays told him he was an ahtletic, projectible pitcher who they’ve had up to 92 MPH, flashing a plus breaking ball. It sounds like he’s an under the radar pop-up guy who’s taken significant steps forward in the last 6-8 months, someone who the Jays scouts really like and should be a quick and easy sign since you don’t go so far off the board for a guy you aren’t sure you can sign.”
6th Round (182nd overall): JC Cardenas · SS · 20 yrs old · Barry University (FL) · 6’0 · 185 lbs
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “pick is pretty far off the draft board, as neither Baseball America nor Perfect Game list him among their top 500 prospects. This past year, he posted a .352/.457/.519 triple slash line in 43 games, with 4 HR, 11 other extra base hits, and a 28/22 BB/K ratio. Career, his numbers aren’t quite as good, .312/.410/.426 with 9 HR and 25 other extra base hits and 74/88 BB/K. It looks like he took a nice step forward in the past year. Fielding percentage is a poor indicator of anything at the MLB level much less the amateur level, but his .920 mark this year and .921 career number is pretty poor.”
7th Round (212th overall): Travis Bergen · LHP · 21 yrs old · Kennesaw State (GA) · 6’1 · 205 lbs
- From MLB.com: “When Kennesaw State became the first NCAA Division I team in 21 years to win a regional tournament in its playoff debut last June, Bergen was named Most Outstanding Player after picking up two victories in the four days. He followed up with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League and has performed well again this spring. Bergen can hit 94 mph with his fastball, but he usually pitches at 88-92 mph. He lacks downhill plane because he’s 6 feet tall and leaves his heater up in the strike zone more than he should, but it’s effective because his extreme crossfire delivery produces run and sink and allows him to get inside against righties. Bergen’s breaking ball varies between a fringy slider in the lower 80s and a promising cutter in the upper 80s, and he may want to focus on the cutter in pro ball. His changeup has some sink and is an effective third pitch. He throws enough strikes to remain a starter, though his lack of a true plus pitch gives him little margin for error.”
8th Round (242nd overall): Daniel Young · LHP · 21 yrs old · Florida (FL) · 6’2 · 195 lbs
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “Young has been used as both a starter and reliever in his college career, though mostly as a reliever during conference play in the crucible of the SEC. This year he only started one game, posting a 2.42 ERA in 26 innings, striking out 23 against 9 walks, allowing 26 hits and one home run. In SEC play, he pitched 9.1 innings, posting a sterling 0.96 ERA. Florida perennially has extremely deep pitching, and so whereas at another school a guy like Danny Young would have a much higher profile role, maybe or probably being a weekend starter, he was buried as a complementary bullpen piece among a ton of quality arms. Consequently, there is actually very little in-depth information available about him (which is maybe what the Blue Jays are exploiting).”
9th Round (272nd overall): Connor Panas · 3B · 22 yrs old · Canisius College (NY) · 6’0 · 218 lbs
- From bluebirdbanter.com: “6’0”, 218 pound Etobicoke native Connor Panas as a senior out of Canisius College in Buffalo. Panas is listed on the Draft Tracker as a 3B, but has also played LF, CF and 1B for Canisius this year, so he has some utility ability. Over the last two years, Panas has absolutely mashed the ball for Canisius, posting a .379/.476/.633 line in 2015 in 290 PA, hitting 10 HR, 24 other extra base hits and showing strong plate discipline with a 31/37 BB/K ratio. Over his four years at Canisius, he hit .344/.447/.522 with 80 extra base hits and a 103/106 BB/K ratio. Keep in mind, as dominant as those numbers are, the MAAC conference is not a baseball powerhouse.”
10th Round (302nd overall): Owen Spiwak · C · 20 yrs old · Odessa College (TX) · 6’2 · 185 lbs
- From bluebirdbater.com: “…Catcher and Mississauga native Owen Spivak from Odessa College, a junior college in Odessa, Texas. The 6’2″, 185 pound left-hand hitting Spiwak was selected by the Mets in the 26th round of the 2013 draft out Cawthra Park Secondary.In 2015 for Odessa, he posted a line of .387/.445/.629 in 220 PA, hitting 8 home runs and 20 other extra base hits with a 17/20 K/BB ratio. On the MLB Network broadcast, Jim Callis said he got a message from a non-Jays scout describing him as having a sweet left-handed swing.”
Late Round Picks (11 to 15):
11th Round: Marrick Crouse · RHP · 18 yrs old
12th Round: DJ McKnight · OF · 21 yrs old
13th Round: Daniel Perry · SS · 18 yrs old
14th Round: Ryan Hissey · C · 21 yrs old
15th Round: Jackson McClelland · RHP · 20 yrs old
Further Reading on the 2015 Blue Jays Draft Class:
- Jeff Moore from Sportsnet.ca: http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/mlb-draft-what-blue-jays-top-picks-can-offer/
- Ben Nicholson-Smith from Sportsnet.ca: http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/toronto-blue-jays-select-2015-first-round-pick-anthopoulos-missouri-state-right-hander-jon-harris/
- From bluebirdbanter.com: http://www.bluebirdbanter.com/2015/6/9/8752441/blue-jays-picks-in-the-2015-mlb-draft
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.
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
- 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 · 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
- 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 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
- 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 · 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
- 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 · 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
- 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.