2020 MLB Draft Guide: Farm Report: Toronto Blue Jays (Free Preview)
Matt Selz gives you a break down of the top prospects and which ones to watch for the Toronto Blue Jays Farm System in the latest MLB Farm Report.
A lot of talk has been about the Blue Jays young studs that have begun coming up starting last year between Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette , Cavan Biggio , and Danny Jansen already in the majors. There is still an impressive collection of prospects down on the farm that is expected to make up a second wave starting in 2020 that will vault them into conversations about competing for runs at the AL East division title in short order. Though it won’t be immediate as the guys are so young and talented it’ll take a year or two for them to gel in the majors.
Top Prospects In The System
Pos. - RHP Ht/Wt - 6’6” 245 lbs. Bats: R Throws: R Age: 23
Level - Triple-A Drafted - 2017 (1.28) ETA: 2020
Grades: Fastball: 80 Slider: 60 Curveball: 50 Changeup: 55 Control: 55
Pearson shot up draft boards in 2017 after a heavily scouted bullpen session resulted in him hitting 102 mph on the radar gun. His 2018 debut was limited to 1.2 innings due to a broken forearm but he came back in impressive fashion in 2019 with the third-best ERA in the minors (min. 100 IP) at 2.30 and 119:27 K:BB ratio in 25 starts between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. The fastball is still sitting in the high 90s while touching triple-digits with regularity and it explodes out of his hand giving it late life in the zone. The high-80s slider is a power pitch with late glove-side run that works well to either handedness of hitter and curve and changeup round out the arsenal with both being above-average offerings and still some room to improve. There is no doubt that Pearson will be a true ace pitcher and the frame he has should keep him durable and pitching every fifth day. Downhill plane, big-time velocity, late life, and great movement all mean that the big righty will be striking out a ton of hitters and will be hard to square up regularly. Get your hands on him while you can as he should be in the rotation at some point mid-2020.
Pos. - SS/3B Ht/Wt - 6’3” 205 lbs. Bats: R Throws: R Age: 21
Level - Class-A Drafted - 2018 (1.12) ETA: 2022
Grades: Hit: 55 Power: 55 Run: 50 Arm: 60 Field: 50
Groshans has been as advertised in his team in the Blue Jays system so far as he was drafted as one of the top prep hitters in the 2018 draft out of the Texas High School ranks. Groshans made it to the Appalachian League in his first year in pro ball and hit .331 along the way. Unfortunately, a foot injury in May ended his 2019 campaign early despite a hot start at full-season A-ball. Adding loft to his swing and packing on some muscle to the still projectable 6’3” frame grades his power up a bit more than even the 55-grade portends and he could have plus power when all is said and done. He likely won’t stick at shortstop long term as the frame is generally too big to stay there but also his movements and range aren’t as fluid as they need to be the higher he climbs the pro ranks. The offense and plus arm mean he should move the third base long-term and despite Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being there right now, there is some thought that Guerrero could move across the diamond as the defense still remains a question mark at the hot corner. Groshans profiles as a .270-.280 hitter with 25-plus home run power and a guy who should sit in the middle of the order for years to come.
Pos. - RHP Ht/Wt - 6’3” 210 lbs. Bats: R Throws: R Age: 19
Level - A-Advanced Drafted - 2018 (2.48) ETA: 2021
Grades: Fastball: 60 Curveball: 55 Slider: 55 Changeup: 50 Control: 60
Woods-Richardson was taken by the Mets in the 2018 draft and had made it to Class-A before being involved in the Marcus Stroman deal and heading to Toronto. The Blue Jays promoted him to A-Advanced after the deal he finished the year with six starts in Dunedin pitching to a 2.54 ERA and 29:7 K:BB ratio in 28.1 innings and 0.88 WHIP. He is more of a command and control pitcher rather than outright stuff like Pearson is but that control is something to behold. He uses a fast arm and clean delivery to get great extension over his front side and that gives the fastball life that jumps at the hitters even though it’s in the low-90s velocity-wise. The two-seam heater has fantastic arm-side run that eats right-handed hitters alive as it gets in on the hands. The top-to-bottom curveball is an out pitch and misses a fair amount of bats for being in the upper-70s. The slider has tight break and works very well down in the zone to hitters on both sides of the plate. The changeup is thrown with the same arm speed as the fastball and shows signs of being a fourth above-average pitch for the young righty. For a kid that’s 19 years old still, the command and control are far beyond his years and that allows his stuff to play up and miss bats. Woods-Richardson profiles as a number two starter in a major league rotation.
Pos. - SS Ht/Wt - 6’1” 188 lbs. Bats: R Throws: R Age: 18
Level - GCL Rookie Signed - July 2018 ETA: 2023
Grades: Hit: 55 Power: 55 Run: 50 Arm: 60 Field: 55
Toronto wasn’t joking around when they targeted Martinez in the international signing class last year as the $3.5 million deal they signed him to was the second-biggest deal handed out that year. In 40 games in the Gulf Coast League, he slashed .275/.352/.549 with seven home runs, eight doubles, five triples, and 32 RBI which is a pretty good descriptor of how his offensive game profiles. There is plenty of XBH pop right now and as he cleans up his swing and adds some weight to the 6’1” frame, the power will improve and perhaps be a plus skill for him. There is a chance that his ability to hit for average drops a bit the higher he climbs if he doesn’t clean up the swing and keep the bat in the zone longer to keep the skill as above-average. There are some questions about his ultimate defensive home as a shift off of shortstop seems likely if he lose a step or two as he matures but second base could be the landing spot for him instead. The bat will be more than good enough to fit that profile as a shot to be a power-hitting second baseman in the majors. There is a fair amount of refinement and development needed for Martinez but his baseball IQ and approach at the plate should make those improvements happen a bit faster than normal.
Pos. - LHP Ht/Wt - 6’0” 218 lbs. Bats: L Throws: L Age: 24
Level - Triple-A Drafted - 2016 (1.31) ETA: 2020
Grades: Fastball: 55 Curveball: 55 Changeup: 50 Control: 50
Kay was selected by the Mets out of the University of Connecticut after an impressive Junior campaign, then last year was sent to Toronto as part of the Marcus Stroman deal. Kay didn’t make his pro debut until 2018 because of Tommy John surgery that was required after he was drafted and when on the mound again, he looked like the prototypical quick-moving college starter. The fastball sits comfortably in the low-90s with a very high-spin rate that gives it deceptive life and makes it harder to hit than a standard low-90s heater. The curveball has emerged as the better secondary pitch with its even higher spin rate that gives it impressive downer action that can just take off toward the dirt. The changeup has good sinking action and is thrown with the same arm action as the fastball but the control has been an issue on the pitch making it more hittable at times. In 2019 he hit nearly 150 innings making him a candidate to fill a rotation spot early in the year in 2020 and be an inning-eater mid-rotation lefty who has struck out just over a hitter per inning throughout his career.
Prospects To Watch For
RHP Age: 19 Short-Season A ETA: 2022
A high school teammate of Jordan Groshans, Kloffenstein went in the third round of the 2018 draft and then signed a well above-slot $2.45 million deal to forgo a TCU commitment. The big (6’4”, 243-pound) righty has an impressive arsenal of pitches already with four above-average weapons. The main one is a heavy sinking two-seam fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and acts more like a bowling ball rather than a baseball. He can hit 96 with his four-seamer that is straighter than the two-seamer but still hard to square up. The slider is above-average in its own right but he can change that to a big looping curveball or a harder, sharper, cutter depending on how he adds and subtracts from the speed and arm action. The changeup is deceptive compared to the two-seamer but has nice depth and should develop into a strong above-average pitch. Kloffenstein uses his size to be intimidating on the mound but he also controls and repeats his delivery well for such a young pitcher with this kind of height and that lets him pound the strike zone with regularity. A number two starter is his ceiling in the long-run.
RHP Age: 22 Short-Season A ETA: 2022
Drafted out of West Virginia University in 2019, Manoah was one of the more intriguing prospects in the class. His draft analysis was: “The first thing that will stick out about Manoah, when watching the clip, is his size. Manoah is 6’6” or 6’7” depending on where you look and 260 pounds. The other thing that stands out are his stats from his Junior year at West Virginia during which he pitched 102.1 innings over 15 starts posting a 1.85 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .186 BAA, and 135:23 K:BB ratio. The big right-hander leads his arsenal with a 94-97 mph sinking fastball, a plus slider, and a solid changeup. There aren’t many innings on his arm despite him being a college starter for three years meaning he has projectability left and development in his pitches while already showing number two starter stuff with the possibility of being an ace if he adds a fourth pitch.” The dominance continued in his first 17 innings of pro ball at Short-season A after being drafted with a 2.65 ERA and 27:5 K:BB ratio in that small sample size. There is a lot to like here as he keeps the delivery in sync despite the big frame and that allows him to pour in the strikes and should lead to him being a high-strikeout number-two pitcher in the majors with a lightly used arm given his college usage out of the pen for the first two years.
SS/2B Age: 19 Class-A ETA: 2022
Hiraldo was signed as a part of the 2017 international signing class and then made his debut stateside in 2018. So far over 121 games in the minors, up through three levels of rookie ball, he’s slashed .300/.354/.460 with nine homers, 87 runs, 73 RBI, and 29 steals and an additional 47 XBH aside from the home runs. The diminutive middle infielder (5’11” and 170 pounds) has an advanced approach at the plate and uses his quick, compact, swing to get the barrel on the ball and uses the great extension he gets to impart backspin carry on the ball for gap-to-gap power right now. He does have some trouble with spin and the swing can be too pull-happy at times but those are all traits common to young hitters who are raw like Hiraldo is. The subpar speed will reduce his stolen bases as he gets out of rookie ball and faces better pitcher-catcher duos who know how to control the run game but the power is real despite the smaller size of the middle infielder. Hiraldo likely moves to second base long term as the lack of speed and average defensive actions limits his range at short and with expected physical maturity coming as well, second base is likely the defensive spot for him.
C Age: 21 Advanced-A ETA: 2021
Kirk was signed out of the Mexican baseball ranks in 2016 and since then has been putting on a show with his bat, when he’s been on the field. The last two years have been solid years for him as he’s posted a .288/.395/.446 slash line with four homers and 25 doubles in 71 games in 2019 split between Class-A and A-Advanced. The 5’9”, 220-pound backstop is a hit-over-power type who will stay that way as he continues to develop and one with a keen eye as he has more walks than strikeouts in his career (89 to 60). The defense, receiving, and arm are all solid enough to remain behind the plate full-time and they’ve led to him throwing out 38-percent of would-be base stealers in 2019. He can be a bat-first regular at catcher but there are some wondering if he should be moved out from behind the plate, though the doesn’t have the power to profile at first base nor does he have the frame size for it either so Kirk will likely be splitting time with Danny Jansen in the near future.
2B/SS Age: 21 Class-A ETA: 2022
Lopez is a product of the Dominican Republic and moved back there after his family moved to Montreal when he was younger. Lopez then signed an international free agent deal by the Blue Jays in 2016. Since joining the Blue Jays, Lopez has been impressive with a .310/.374/.421 slash line in 217 games with nine home runs, 130 runs, 93 RBI, and 41 steals while playing a great brand of defense in the middle infield. At 5’10” and 160 pounds, he is a smaller guy and that profiles as a hit-and-speed type without a ton of power which is what he is right now. The Blue Jays have been experimenting with where he plays already as he’s played short, second, third, and all three outfield spots already though he needs some more arm strength if he really will fit a super-utility role though the hit tool and speed are certainly there to fit that role very well.
A key contributor for #BlueJays Class A @LansingLugnuts, INF Otto Lopez.— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) August 15, 2019
He’s been fun to follow this season. Still getting his feet under him defensively, but that bat plays, especially for 20 years old in the Midwest League. @TheAthleticTO pic.twitter.com/F9TEUTi1Wz