The Toronto Blue Jays had a rough season (74-88) and that was after trading away most of their top prospects to get high-priced ML talent like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, etc. Without as much talent at the higher levels of the their minor league system, one would think that the Blue Jays’ contribution to the Arizona Fall League would be similar to last season, when the highest profile players that the Jays sent were outfielder Kevin Pillar (fresh of a Midwest League MVP and solid numbers in High-A Dunedin) and right-handed pitcher Deck McGuire (fresh off a horrible season in Double-A New Hampshire).
Well, the Jays are sending a group of very high level prospects although it’s a different group than what they had originally planned to send. With decisions made not to send Sean Nolin (who will be pitching in Winter Ball), reliever Tyler Ybarra and catcher A.J. Jimenez (complications from last year’s Tommy John surgery), three other young players get a chance.
RHP Drew Hutchison, 23, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery himself and got hit fairly hard at the tail end of his rehab season with the Buffalo Bisons. Hutchison is just looking to get some more innings in to help him recover his feel for pitching before getting a shot with the Blue Jays next year.
RHP Aaron Sanchez, 21, is still the team’s number one ranked prospect according to almost any list. After an injury-plagued season in High-A Dunedin, he’s looking to get some more innings under his belt in the AFL. Sanchez’s biggest knock is his control (and fragility) but his stuff takes a back seat to no one’s with a high-90s fastball and two devastating off-speed pitches (curve and changeup).
RHP John Stilson, 23, spent the season working out the bullpen mostly in Triple-A Buffalo. His stats tell the story of a pitcher who is on the cusp of being ready for the majors. Unfortunately for Stilson, the Blue Jays have a very deep, very good bullpen with plenty of arms ahead of him.
RHP Marcus Stroman, 22, was the club’s second first-round pick in 2012 (22nd overall). After pitching well last year and getting handed a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance (that was apparently in his post-workout supplement), Stroman got a late start to the season but dominated in Double-A New Hampshire with a 3.30 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings. Stroman’s biggest weakness is his tendency to give up home runs but the “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” campaigner (listed at only 5’9″) has major league ready stuff and should compete for a job in 2014.
C Derrick Chung, 25, was a late addition to the roster (after Jimenez couldn’t go) who is a defense-first catcher who was drafted in the 31st round in 2012. Despite being fairly new to the position, Chung has a great arm and is athletic behind the plate and makes good contact with a .287 average and only 30 strikeouts in 244 at bats this season in High-A Dunedin.
3B Andy Burns, 23, is trying to continue the hot streak he had at the end of the season. Hitting a combined .288 with 15 home runs between High-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, Burns is one of the team’s breakout prospects over the past couple of years. The 2011 11th rounder is likely looking to cement some adjustments to his swing after a slow start that followed his mid-season promotion to Double-A.
OF Kenny Wilson, 23, had high h0pes coming into the season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The speedy outfielder broke out last year with Class-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin and looked to be able to continue his strong play this year before an injury derailed his season. Still, Wilson had a .333 OBP and 16 stolen bases in just over 200 at bats this season and could be an up-and-comer in the next couple of years.
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