Feb 18, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Sean Nolin (35) throws as the Blue Jays workout at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
There are many gambles in baseball. In game, a manager could gamble with a steal, or a bunt attempt, or even just changing his pitcher. Drafting a baseball player is also a complete gamble. A Major League club never knows what they are getting in a draft pick. For example, Mark Prior was supposed to be the next Nolan Ryan when he was a prospect, and Greg Maddux wasn’t the first pitcher the Cubs selected in the 1984 draft.
Alex Anthopoulos showed he was a gambling man last off-season when he traded away many prospects for proven veterans. Most Jays fans do not want to relive that dice roll. AA traded away Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino all of whom are in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list. Keith Law of ESPN ranked the Blue Jays’ farm system 24th in all of baseball. Trading away four of the minor league’s top prospects would cripple any farm system.
But losing prospects isn’t the only reason that Toronto’s farm system is ranked so low. Toronto has a problem with not signing draft picks, especially first round selections. In the last three years, Toronto failed to sign two of their first round draft picks. Also, most of Toronto’s best prospects are at one position – on the mound.
There is no diversity in the minors for Toronto. According to MLB.com six of the top 10 prospects in Toronto’s farm system are pitchers. Toronto has very talented pitchers scattered through all levels of their minor league system. That can be attributed to the fact that they draft more arms in recent years than other clubs. In the last four drafts Toronto used 74% of their first five round pick on pitchers compared just under 50% for the rest of the Majors. Also, pitchers like Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Ricky Romero will be counted as pitching depth.
The weakness of Toronto’s minor system is their position players. Not one particular position, all positions. They lack a real power hitter that can come up and can hit homers in bunches. They have good fielders and speedy players like Ryan Goins and DJ Davis, but lack a real offensive threat that can hit for power. For time being that isn’t too much of a concern for Toronto as they have Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus. It was very evident that Toronto lacked depth in their lineup once Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, and Melky Cabrera went on the disable list and was replaced with Munenori Kawasaki, Kevin Pillar, and Goins.
If you were going to have a strength in your farm system, you would want it to be a lot of good pitchers. But in order to be successful you must be able to develop players at all positions. Toronto has two first round draft picks this year (for not signing their first round pick last year) and should take the best available player on the board. There is good news for Jays fans, With all the talent they have in the lower minors I see Toronto having one of the best farm systems in baseball within the next few years.