Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.
The Blue Jays are usually cited as one of the best systems in baseball, and I’d say they’re in the top three along with Texas and San Diego. Like the Rangers, they have a ton of pitching depth, though the majority of Toronto’s arms have a lot left to prove. On the position player side, there are three of the game’s top 25 position prospects in Anthony Gose, Travis d’Arnaud, and Jake Marisnick, though things start to drop off from those three fairly quickly.
It’ll be very interesting to see how this talent coalesces and what it will allow the Jays to do in the AL East.
Position Player Upside: A
Position Player Depth: B+
Pitching Upside: A
Pitching Depth: A
System Grade: A
Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud. Some consider d’Arnaud to be a top 10 prospect, though that might be taking the hype train a bit too far–his approach at the plate isn’t great, he doesn’t control the running game particularly well, and he has a spotty track record of pre-2011 performance. That said, he’s an athletic, power-hitting catcher with a feel for contact, and he could easily evolve into one of the game’s top offensive catchers in the near future. Grade: A-
First base: David Cooper. Which is the real Cooper–the guy who had a low OBP but solid ISO in Double-A (and a brief MLB cameo), or the guy who walked far more than he struck out but only hit nine homers in 120 games in hitter-friendly Las Vegas? He did hit a ridiculous 51 doubles, so that’s a mark in his favor. Not the greatest bet to evolve into a solid MLB player, but he’s one of the few first base prospects with a solid chance at a career. Grade: C+
Second base: Jorge Vega-Rosado. A small 28th-round pick out of junior college who got an above-slot bonus, Vega-Rosado had a solid pro debut, hitting .317/.380/.470 in Rookie ball while also going 22-for-26 on the bases. He split his time between shortstop and second base and projects better on the right side of the infield. He could be a potential Ryan Theriot-style middle infield sparkplug, but is obviously a long way off. Grade: C+
Third base: Matt Dean. A big, projectable third baseman who already boasts excellent power, Dean got an over-slot bonus as a 13th-round pick. He could end up similar to Rangers prospect Mike Olt if things go well–a guy with great power and a solid glove who will strike out a fair bit. He’ll have to prove he can make consistent contact in his pro debut in 2012. Grade: C+
Shortstop: Christian Lopes. Another over-slot 2011 draftee, Lopes was a seventh-rounder who signed for $800K. He boasts a good approach and feel for contact that could allow him to be a top-of-the-order hitter, though the rest of his game is a work in progress. Grade: C+
Outfielder #1: Anthony Gose. An extremely physically gifted player, Gose could be a replacement-level hitter and still be a decent center field starter thanks to his speed and defense. And, of course, he’s showed some signs of excellence with the bat as well, taking walks and driving home runs. If it all comes together, he could be an All-Star; even if he can’t curb his strikeouts, he should be a very exciting center fielder. Grade: A-
Outfielder #2: Jake Marisnick. Marisnick was one of the most complete players in the Midwest League last year, hitting .320/.392/.496 and swiping 37 bases. He has room to fill out his frame and may end up in right, but should also grow into much more power. He has the potential to be Corey Hart 2.0. Grade: A-
Outfielder #3: Michael Crouse. One of the most underrated prospects in the minors, Crouse isn’t too dissimilar from Marisnick, with the same long, projectable frame, present plus speed and gap power, and improving approach. He strikes out more and already plays right instead of center (partially in deference to Marisnick), so he’s not quite the same grade of prospect yet, but he could have a similarly long and distinguished career if he can turn his tools into skills. Grade: B
Starting Pitcher #1: Drew Hutchison. Hutchison dominated three levels last year, reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old. He doesn’t have huge physicality, projectability, or stuff, but he has three pitches that rate average or better and a fantastic idea of how to employ them. He has a very high floor and could be the next Brandon Beachy/Cory Luebke type to sneak up on people. Grade: A-
Starting Pitcher #2: Justin Nicolino. Nicolino is sort of a lefthanded Hutchison who isn’t as proven. He posted a 1.33 ERA in the low minors in his first pro season, with a 73/13 K/BB, and he gets a ton of groundballs with his three-pitch mix. A good bet to be a mid-rotation starter who will move quickly. Grade: B
Starting Pitcher #3: Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard wasn’t quite as dominant as Nicolino was, but he was plenty great himself, and he may have the highest upside in the entire system thanks to his size and velocity. His offspeed offerings still need refinement, but there’s a lot of potential here, and Syndergaard could become one of the game’s elite pitching prospects with a big 2012. Grade: B
Starting Pitcher #4: Daniel Norris. Norris slots in behind Nicolino and Syndergaard due mostly to lack of pro experience, as he has yet to pitch in a pro game after being a second-round selection in 2011. Still, he’s more highly-regarded than many first-rounders, thanks to his projectable frame and two pitches that already are plus. He’s something of a risk, but boasts very impressive upside and could be a household prospect name in a year. Grade: B
Starting Pitcher #5: Adonys Cardona. So Hutchison was born in 1990, Nicolino in 1991, Syndergaard in 1992, Norris in 1993…Cardona follows the pattern, born in 1994. A prized Venezuelan signee, he was challenged with an assignment to the GCL and pitched quite well. He already operates with a solid fastball and curve, and while he’s not big, his 6’1″ frame has projectability left. He’s a long way off, but has significant upside. Grade: B
Relief Pitcher #1: Danny Barnes. Barnes has done nothing but dominate the low minors since being picked in the 35th round in 2010. He owns a career 152/33 K/BB in 103 2/3 IP, thanks to a very solid fastball and changeup. He’s not blessed with the sort of stuff or projectability that would suggest a shutdown late-innings role, but he’s a strong bet to make it to the majors and have a solid career. Grade: C+
Relief Pitcher #2: Ronald Uviedo. Uviedo pitched to a 3.99 FIP in Triple-A last year, so that’s something. He’s now 25 and looks the part of a fungible middle reliever, but it’s not hard to see him slotting into the 2012 bullpen. Grade: C
Best of the Rest
#1.) Aaron Sanchez, RHP. Another very projectable young pitcher who still has a lot of levels between himself and the majors, Sanchez stands out as the one who has had trouble consistently throwing strikes, largely thanks to his inconsistent mechanics. But a step forward in that department as he grows into his frame would elevate him into the top ranks of pitching prospects. Grade: B
#2.) Joel Carreno, RHP. Carreno is a weird prospect in this system, as a guy who is about to turn 25 and never saw Triple-A, instead getting MLB bullpen work late in the season. He always had great strikeout numbers as a starter, and few pitchers have a better breaking ball, but it looks like Toronto is comfortable with him in relief going forward. He’d be one of the game’s better relief prospects if moved permanently to that role, but gets a slightly higher grade from me because I feel he could also be a solid fourth starter. Grade: B
#3.) Deck McGuire, RHP. McGuire falls behind the pitchers in front of him because he has neither statistical dominance nor tremendous upside. He’s a big righthander with a four-pitch mix that works well and should allow him to be a quality innings-eating fourth starter in the major leagues as soon as late 2012. Not the greatest return on the 11th overall pick, but plenty have turned out worse. Grade: B
#4.) A.J. Jimenez, C. Overshadowed by d’Arnaud, MLB rookie J.P. Arencibia, and fellow prospect Carlos Perez (the last cut from this list, by the way), Jimenez hit .303/.353/.417 in the FSL at age 21, but more importantly, he’s one of the best defensive catchers around, routinely nabbing around half of basestealers. A poor man’s Yadier Molina. Grade: B
#5.) Joe Musgrove, RHP. The 46th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Musgrove has a similar build to McGuire, but his stuff is better, with a mid-90′s fastball and hammer curve. He had no trouble throwing both pitches for strikes in his pro debut, looking better than advertised. Yet another high-risk, high-reward arm. Grade: B-
#6.) Jacob Anderson, OF. Yet another 6’4″ outfielder with room to fill out his frame and turn doubles into homers. The 35th pick in 2011 could evolve into a prototypical right fielder. Grade: B-
#7.) Jeremy Gabryszwski, RHP. Another high pick in 2011 (2nd round), and another tall, lanky pitcher with room to grow. Gabryszwski already pitches in the low 90s and he has some interesting breaking stuff, making him yet another pitcher with excellent upside. He could use some mechanical changes, as he currently short-arms the ball too much, but he’s yet another breakout candidate in his first full season. Grade: B-
#8.) Dwight Smith, OF. The 53rd pick in 2011, Smith has yet to get into game action, but he boasts solid upside thanks to his feel for contact. Going forward, he’ll need to prove that he can either stick at center defensively or develop enough power to be useful in an outfield corner. Grade: C+
#9.) Sean Nolin, LHP. Nolin stands out as a classic pitchability lefthander in a system full of power righthanders. He dominated Low-A as a 21-year-0ld and could reach the majors before most of the higher-upside arms. He’s another huge, hulking pitcher, but he normally works in the upper 80s with his fastball, complementing it with a pair of solid offspeed offerings and keeping the ball down. An intriguing sleeper who would get more attention in most other systems. Grade: C+
#10.) Kevin Comer, RHP. Yet another high 2011 draftee (57th overall), Comer is a big, projectable righty with a fastball that already sits in the low 90s, which would be a lot more notable in a system that didn’t have a dozen others. Some believed him to be a very high-risk selection, but if he gets more consistent with his mechanics and stamina and fills out his frame, he could develop into a very intriguing power starter. Grade: C+
The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.
For more on the Blue Jays, check out Jays Journal.
Topics: A.J. Jimenez, Aaron Sanchez, Adonys Cardona, Anthony Gose, Christian Lopes, Daniel Norris, Danny Barnes, David Cooper, Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchison, Dwight Smith, Jacob Anderson, Jake Marisnick, Jeremy Gabryszwski, Joe Musgrove, Joel Carreno, Jorge Vega-Rosado, Justin Nicolino, Kevin Comer, Matt Dean, Michael Crouse, Noah Syndergaard, Ronald Uviedo, Sean Nolin, Toronto Blue Jays, Travis D'Arnaud