Definitely one of the two weakest position for the Jays in terms of both talent and ceiling for prospects, the short stops of the Jays minor league affiliates fail to inspire even the most dedicated fans of the team. Everyone in baseball knows that the likeliness of any of the 5 players listed below in becoming the starting SS of the future any time soon is highly unlikely. They all have some level of potential, but each has shortcomings in development that have forced everyone to ask Alex Anthopoulos “how will you acquire the SS of the future for the Jays?” Alex has not once stated anything to the effect that they believe they have the answer in-house, which lets us speculate that he does not believe any of these players is the answer. Some could still surprise as this list will show, and that’s why lists such as this one are made,but I still expect Alex will add some real depth to this list in short time.
Almost everyone you will talk to who know Jays prospects very well will tell you that they expect Gustavo to move to 3B before he reaches MLB. Still, since he hasn’t played any other position yet as a pro, I have decided to include him on both my 3B and SS list because the Jays do have the option to use him in either role depending on what they have on the team and in terms of what they have as up-and-coming prospects. Gustavo is still too young to evaluate well, but he has shown some real potential in all areas of his game. He hits the ball with authority, with 18 extra base hits out of his 45 total hits in a short season, and also accumulated a decent .431 SLG. He hits RHP (.278) a lot more consistently than LHP (.195), not unusual for young hitters, so learning to hit lefties is definitely on his list of things to improve on. He also needs to learn how to walk, with only 3 walks and 45 strike outs in 2009. At 17 yrs old in the GCL, Gustavo did better than fellow international signed Balbino Fuenmayor who has progressed immensely since that time. Therefore, I consider Gustavo‘s first season a moderate success that he can build on in 2010. He should be the SS for the Lansing squad in 2010 and if all things go as planned, he should develop a lot of power and confidence as he grows stronger and more experienced.
2 – Justin Jackson, 21 yrs old, 6’1″ 186 lbs, drafted in 1st rd (45th overall) of the 2007 draft
Justin was part of what became one of the most active drafts in Jays history, when they had 7 picks in the first 2 rounds of the draft and actually signed them all. Most of them (Kevin Ahrens, Trystan Magnuson, Eric Eiland, and John Tolisano) have disappointed in development thus far, with Brett Cecil and J. P. Arencibia being the possible exceptions to those high picks. Justin had some injury woes in 2009, so that season was pretty much lost in terms of development. His stats reflect that with a .200 average versus RHP, .213 average overall, and way too many strike outs with 87 strike outs in 249 AB. More worrisome were his .269 SLG and .321 OBP, which are much lower than his 2008 levels of .368 SLG and .340 OBP. He did manage to steal just as many bases in almost half the ABs, taking 17 and getting caught only 4 times in 2009. Despite mediocre offense and a fair amount of errors each season, Justin has been pushed up to the next level and set up to fail because of it. I really do hope they let him begin the season in HiA Dunedin in 2010 and don’t push him up to AA. If he’s ever going to make it to the show and be an impact player, he needs to learn how to hit consistently and to get on base. I have a feeling Justin‘s injuries hurt his performance, and also believe that he was trying too hard to be a power bat, which hurt his chances to get on base. With his steal potential and overall abilities, Justin should be concentrating on hitting for average and letting the power happen on its own over time as he grows stronger. Hopefully Justin gets a full healthy season under his belt in 2010 and he could make it to AA by year’s end if things go well.
3 – Tyler Pastornicky, 20 yrs old, 5’11” 170 lbs, drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 draft
If it wasn’t for the injury woes that Justin Jackson endured and Gustavo Pierre‘s intriguing hitting potential, Tyler would have topped this list by far. He’s that pesky type of player that drives opposing teams nuts because he can hurt you in many ways. The biggest way he can hurt you is wit his dazzling speed, which he used to steal 57 bases in 2009. I always like to add those to the doubles total in order to get a taste of what a player’s impact really is, and if you add those 57 steals to his doubles count Tyler had 71 doubles. Now that’s an impact player. He gets on base a lot more than Justin, with a .331 OBP and struck out 57 times to his 42 walks in 2009, which is pretty good for such a young player. His fielding percentage is on par with Justin‘s at .951, but I’ve always believed that faster players have lower percentages simply based on their range and the number of opportunities that it adds to their totals. Tyler ended the year in HiA Dunedin, where Justin Jackson should begin the season, so there lies the dilemma, to send him to AA or send Justin instead. If it were me making the decision, Tyler needs to be pushed a little and go to AA instead of Justin. I’ll update this scenario at the beginning of the season, but if they send Justin to AA it could seriously hurt his chances of ever developing confidence, where as sending Tyler would provide the Jays with a better look at what they have in-house in terms of close-to-immediate help at the position. Tyler‘s definitely my favorite SS in the minors for the Jays, still, I have to respect Justin‘s and Gustavo‘s overall potential.
4 – Mike McCoy, 28 yrs old, 5’9″ 171 lbs, Acquired off waivers Colorado, was originally drafted by STL in the 34th rd of 2002 draft
Although he’s a little old to be considered a prospect, the Jays are lacking so much depth at the SS position that I decided to include him on the list. In this recent post, I looked at the immediate impact Mike McCoy could have for the Jays in 2010 and how he could end up being the bench king for the squad. Not only does he had extensive experience at all positions, but he has varying tools that the Jays desperately need in order to be successful in 2010. He has speed, something the Jays have lacked for a very long time, with 40 SB in 2009 in AAA. He gets on base a ton, proven by his .405 OBP in AAA last season. He fields every single position he plays at above average and can also fill the lead off hole in the lineup the Jays currently have. I’ll even go as far as to say this: if Mike McCoy has a very strong spring and proves he deserves to play every day, the Jays could wind up trading Alex Gonzalez earlier than any of us believe they would in 2010. He has the potential to be the 2010 version of Randy Ruiz and Garrett Jones, a player who just needed a chance to prove he can play in MLB. I certainly hope he gets that chance and does well, as he could set up the table for Aaron Hill and company very well. He should begin the year on the Jays bench if he does well in spring, if not it’ll be a return to AAA.
5 – Ryan Goins, 22 yrs old, 5’10” 170 lbs, drafted by the Jays in the 4th rd of the 2009 draft
You can catch the 2009 MLB draft video of Ryan here. Goins hit 14 doubles, 10 HRs, had a .357 average, and maintained a .404 OBP in his 2008 college season at Dallas Baptist University. From there, he upped his performance to 22 HRs and a .371 average in 2009 before the draft, when he was listed as a second baseman. The Jays drafted him and have had him play SS ever since in part due to his very strong and accurate arm. He played on 3 teams for the Jays in 2009, but oddly enough did not show any power at all during the season, while holding his own average wise with a .297 average in Auburn in 101 ABs. He seemed to struggle a little more in Lansing, with a .198 average and .258 OBP in 81 ABs, but should improve on that in 2010. There’s no question that Ryan has overall potential to become a good and perhaps slightly above-average SS, but he lacks the overall package to make him a top-rated SS right now. When asked about Goins before the draft, Baseball America’s Jim Callis said the following: “Still don’t think he’s a top-five-rounds guy. He has a plus-plus arm but he’s a below-average runner, so he’s going to have to be an offensive second baseman. He can hit, but the ball flies out at Dallas Baptist. I like him, but he might be only the fourth best college projected second baseman in this draft, behind Shaver Hansen (Baylor), Brodie Greene (Texas A&M) and Brock Holt (Rice).”
The biggest question the Jays have to decide on is who plays where in 2010. If Pastornicky and Jackson are to fill the SS position at HiA and AA, which one of Pierre and Goins gets the call in LoA? It’s either a call of allowing Pierre to spend one more season in the GCL and keeping Goins in LoA, or in moving Pierre to 3B and allowing both to play in LoA as a result. I believe the Jays are ready to move Pierre to 3B, so I vote for the latter option.