Feb 27, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie runs onto the field before playing the Philadelphia Phillies in a spring training exhibition game at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
A good team is characterized by its ability to win on the field and to keep a steady pipeline of developed players feeding the roster year in and year out. Now, the Toronto Blue Jays are a team that feels it can get better, but with the third oldest team in baseball with an average age of 28.2 years, they need that pipeline to be ready with the next wave of players.
Unfortunately, that next injection of youth doesn’t seem to be anywhere near on the horizon.
On Monday, Baseball Prospectus released their 25-and-Under Talent Rankings, which as you guessed it ranks each team by its 25 and under talent. The list was highlighted by teams with perpetually giving farm systems, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins holding down the top five.
So where did the Toronto Blue Jays rank?
A year after pillaging their farm system, the Blue Jays check in on the list at number 22, a far cry from where they had been in recent years and well below their #13 Farm System ranking. The Top 10 Blue Jays on the list were as follows:
1. Marcus Stroman (22)
2. Brett Lawrie (24)
3. Aaron Sanchez (21)
4. Alberto Tirado (19)
5. Daniel Norris (20)
6. Anthony Gose (23)
7. Sean Nolin (24)
8. A.J. Jimenez (23)
9. Franklin Barreto (18)
10. D.J. Davis (19)
As noted by BP, the news may not be encouraging, but it isn’t completely dire. The top three on that list includes one Major League building block in Brett Lawrie, as well as two potential members of the team’s future rotation in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. There are also a few high ceiling options on the list that could become potential stars in Alberto Tirado, D.J. Davis, Franklin Barreto, and possibly Daniel Norris. However, the remainder of the list if filled with mid-level talent that may or may not pan out for the Blue Jays.
The big issue is the space between these waves. While Lawrie is already here and Stroman, Jimenez, Gose, and possible Nolin are knocking on the door in 2014, there is no window as to when the remainder will arrive. Even Sanchez, he can be filthy, may not see Toronto until late 2015 unless he makes huge strides this season. Talents like Davis, Barreto, Norris, and Tirado are still a good three seasons from the show.
That leaves Toronto in a tough position for the near future. The team has obvious needs in the pitching staff, as well as two outfield holes to plug in 2015. That means a reliance on free agency or the trade market in the years to come, which is going to take a change of philosophy from the front office based on what we saw this winter.
In the meantime, it looks like more years of the glass being half full and the Blue Jays treading water in a tough American League East.